Hate Crimes: An Early Legacy of Donald Trump

Donald Trump didn’t divide the country. He didn’t introduce racism, bigotry or xenophobia. What Trump and his rhetoric have validated the racism and bigotry already present in many of his supporters. Trump made it “okay” to be stupidand meanand a bigot.

A Muslim, Off-Duty Cop

Officer Aml Elsokary thought it was another average day when she dropped off her 16-year old son. After finding a spot for her car, she turned to her son and found him being elbowed by a white male in his 30s.

As Elsokary, a resident New Yorker, overtook the man, the assailant said, “ISIS shit. I will slit your throat. Go back to your country!”

Elsokary, who was wearing her hijab, didn’t let the bigot know she was a cop. She was unarmed, and the suspect left. As of Christmas Eve, the NYPD was still working to hunt him down. The Hate Crimes Unit is still investigating the incident.

Elsokary, who wears her hijab as she works as well, was called a hero in 2014 when she rushed into a flaming home to rescue an old man and a baby. She and her co-worker took a call to a smoke filled structure on Scholes St. Elsokary ran up the steps, wrapped her hands in her jacket to twist a red-hot doorknob, entered the apartment and snatched the crying child from the flames. Along the way, she also guided the baby’s grandmother out to safety.

New York Mayor de Blasio called her a hero at a dinner given at Gracie Mansion to observe the conclusion of the yearly Ramadan fast.

The Controversy of Hate

Hate crimes are a controversial topic.

A hate crime also called a bias-motivated crime is a prejudice-instigated criminal act where the offender marks a victim due to the membership — real or perceived — in a particular social group.

Examples may include sex, race, disability, language, nationality, physical appearance, creed or gender orientation. Noncriminal actions triggered by these motivations are called “bias incidents.”

As hate crimes are crimes against protected classes, they tend to result in longer sentencing — or amplification.

Amplification is a boost in a sentence as a result of some condition(s) being met. In addition to hate crimes, examples of amplification include:

  • “Three strikes” laws,
  • Armed vs. unarmed crimes, and
  • In some jurisdictions, having a gun is more severe than being armed with a knife

Long History

Although most people believe hate crime laws are new, the first hate crime laws were passed following the Civil War with the Civil Rights Act of 1871. The current age of hate crime laws started in 1968 with the passage of the federal statute, 18 US 245, a port of the Civil Rights Act making it illegal “by coercion or by menace of force, injury, intimidation or hinder” anyone involved in six defined covered activities.

Donald Trump’s Impact on New York

Following the 2016 Presidential election on November 8, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo  cited “ugliness and divisiveness” following Donald Trump’s victory.  Cuomo announced a new state law enforcement agency to investigate hate crimes and spoke about the rise in hate crimes following Trump’s election.

In announcing the formation of the Hate Crimes Unit, Cuomo said:

“I come here today with a heavy heart. The vicious political dialogue of the election did not stop on Election Day. It has gotten worse. It now challenges our very identity as a state, a nation, and as a people.”

Since Election day, racist incidents have risen nationally, and some perpetrators have invoked Trump’s name during their attacks.

In New York City, the level of hate crimes rose almost a third covering the same time in 2015 according to New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill.