By Nicholas Jain
Evelyn Momplaisir’s eight-year-old son was crying in her arms. Earlier that day, two classmates in his Northern Virginia school said he would be deported when Donald Trump became U.S. president — because of the color of his skin.
His tears were not a mere reflection of his young age. They stemmed from a larger issue that has concerned much of America since the day Trump announced his candidacy: the spread of bigotry and hate crimes.
According to the immigration reform group America’s Voice, since Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, thousands of hate crimes have been committed in his name in more than two dozen states across the country.
Throughout the campaign, when Trump resorted to racist, sexist or homophobic remarks, a common retort was that it was all talk, and that it would not emerge in policy once he took office.
But it appears that Trump’s rhetoric has incited widespread violence, even in the absence of new policy initiatives.
In this day and age, is the impact of a politician defined by political discourse instead of policy ideas?
One professor describes Trump as a verbal terrorist.
In a 2007 article in the European Journal of International Relations, Patrick Thaddeus Jackson and Ronald R. Krebs concluded that “language has a real causal impact” on the behavior of listeners.
The authors discussed the concept of rhetoric coercion — the use of language to belittle others’ arguments and to spur certain emotions in observers.
Law professor David Cohen has argued that Trump uses “stochastic terrorism,” a strategy of rhetoric coercion used by extremist groups around the world to incite violence among followers.
Through suggestive language, stochastic terrorists inspire people to carry out violent acts without giving explicit instructions.
Cohen argues that, just as terrorists’ words can trigger violence through subtle encouragement, Trump’s utterances incite brutality even in the absence of explicit directions or policy initiatives.
“Nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?”
Trump may never have told people to deface mosques or to commit hate crimes against Muslims, yet a Muslim taxi driver was shot after a passenger, who supported Trump, discovered that he was Muslim and spent the trip advocating Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the United States.
At a rally in St. Louis in March, Trump said that “part of the problem … is nobody wants to hurt each other anymore, right?” Outside the event, supporters screamed anti-Muslim rhetoric at one another, and a bloodied protester required medial treatment.
While Trump may not have told people to harm Hispanics, in September 2015 one of his body guards responded to a Hispanic protester, who had grabbed the security guard from behind, by hitting him in the face.
Hispanic high school students have been choked and grabbed for holding up signs protesting Trump’s opinions towards their homeland of Puerto Rico.
Trump has legitimized acts of violence.
While Trump may never have stated that African-Americans should be treated as inferior to white people, he has been endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of African-Americans.
In November last year, a Black Lives Matter protester was thrown to ground and kicked by supporters at a Trump rally as the Republican presidential candidate shouted: “Get the hell out of here!”
Three months later, Trump urged supporters at a rally to “knock the crap” out of any hecklers.
While some citizens, Democrats and Republicans alike, note that Trump has not explicitly incited violence, his words have had violent consequences.
Even before he assumes office, Trump has legitimized acts of violence that have caused screams of agony heard across the nation.
(The views are the author’s.)
Nicholas Jain is in his final year at Princeton Day School, a U.S. high school. He is vice president of his grade; senior vice president of Event Planning, Campaigns and Merchandizing at Redefy; and chief operating officer of JÜV Consulting. He is passionate about social justice and politics.