Labor, civil rights and faith leaders and others called on President-elect Donald Trump to unequivocally denounce the hundreds of hate-fueled acts of harassment, vandalism, property destruction and even assault that have happened since his election.
During the campaign, Trump's style was to bully, intimidate and use racist, bigoted and sexist language. He made proposals and used language that helped create a divisive and polarizing environment, which found an audience with those who would use differences to divide Americans. Trump's victory has further emboldened people, leading to daily reports of individuals and groups committing hate incidents.
Speaking at a Nov. 18 news conference at the AFT were AFT President Randi Weingarten; the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II; Maureen Costello of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Nancy Zirkin of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Henry Reichman of the American Association of University Professors; Austin McCoy, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan; and Scott Kasten, a Minneapolis teacher.
More than 100 groups, representing more than 10 million people, have signed on to a letter to the president-elect from the AFT's Weingarten and the SPLC's Costello calling on him to denounce the hate acts and the ideology that is driving them. The letter was delivered to the president-elect on Nov. 18. Individuals and organizations can still sign on.
"While you spoke against bullying, intimidation and hate crimes in your '60 Minutes' interview, the appointment of 'alt-right' hero Steve Bannon as your chief strategist, which has been cheered by the Ku Klux Klan, the American Renaissance and other white supremacist groups, sends the exact opposite message," the letter said. "We ask you to use you position, your considerable platform and even your tweets to send a clear message that hate has no place in our public discourse, in our public policy or in our society."
AFT President Weingarten said, "This is not a political matter; this is a matter of moral responsibility. Acceptance, inclusion and the right to live without fear of bullying, intimidation or assault should be a common bond for all of us. America in 2016 can't allow the normalization of hate. That is why we stand with so many others, calling on the president-elect to act and to demonstrate leadership and moral responsibility by vigorously and unequivocally denouncing these acts of hate to help end the dangerous and divisive environment that was created during the campaign and in its aftermath."
Weingarten said the AFT plans to set up a support and resource hotline for people to report incidents and be directed to experts for guidance and counseling. She also said educators and others can find lessons and other materials on topics including bullying, grief, and the election and its meaning, for free on the AFT's Share My Lesson website.
The Rev. Barber, president of Repairers of the Breach and architect of the Moral Mondays movement, said Trump must repent and take responsibility.
"Mr. Trump's campaign has been one of unbounded vulgarity against people of color, immigrants, women and people of different faiths. He must repent, take responsibility and challenge those who have been emboldened by his words, and he must also change the direction of his policies that undermine the cause of justice and civil rights. Anything less than this will continue the deep distrust and apprehension we have regarding his presidency," Barber said.
Maureen Costello, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance program, said, "There's no denying it—the election has had a profound and lasting impact on our nation's schoolchildren for the worse. Now is the time for educators and anyone who cares about kids to repair the damage and ensure that all children feel welcome in their schools and communities."
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, said, "Educators are witnessing firsthand the hate speech and hostile acts inspired by Donald Trump's rhetoric directed at our students. All students have a right to feel welcome and valued in our schools and deserve safe learning environments. Trump must call for an end to the toxic rhetoric and violent incidents now and commit to the values that unite us: respect, kindness and dignity."
[AFT press release/photo by Michael Campbell]