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Deep Rai, a 39-year-old Sikh resident of suburban Seattle, was in his driveway working on his car when he heard the words.
“Go back to your own country,” the masked man said, or words to that effect, according to The Seattle Times. After an altercation, the man shot at Rai, hitting him in the arm, and fled.
It’s a phrase that is becoming an anthem of hate. The shooting came less than two weeks after three men were shot, one fatally, at a Kansas bar. The shooter, Adam Purinton, is alleged to have shouted, “Get out of my country,” before opening fire. Last week, a Latino man riding the subway in New York was punched in the face by a man who was insulting Mexicans and told to “go back to your country.”
These seemingly unprovoked racist attacks have shaken communities worldwide, from Washington state to Kolkata, India. The Seattle Times interviewed Jasmit Singh, a Sikh community leader. He said local Sikh Americans are witnessing “a kind of prejudice, a kind of xenophobia that is nothing that we’ve seen in the recent past.” Sikhs traditionally do not cut their hair, and most men and some women wear turbans. From the Times story:
To Singh, the number of incidents targeting members of the religion, which has its roots in the Punjab region of South Asia, recalls the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
“But at that time, it felt like the (presidential) administration was actively working to allay those fears,” he said. “Now, it’s a very different dimension.”
That fear is apparently being felt in South Asian communities nationwide.
BuzzFeed News reported over the weekend about a website that some Indian Americans believe is stoking hatred against them. According to BuzzFeed, the site, SaveAmericanITJobs.org, which campaigned against American companies hiring South Asian workers, featured photos and videos of families of South Asian descent relaxing in a park in suburban Ohio. Indian Americans, including American-born Bhavin Bavalia, told BuzzFeed they found the photos threatening.
“To think that there could be some weirdo filming my cousin’s kids as they’re playing at the park, and possibly fomenting resentment towards them, is just disturbing,” he said.
By today, however, the site and its inflammatory images appeared to have been taken down.
The recent spate of hate-related crimes has spurred some lawmakers into action.
With hate crimes reportedly spiking in New York, the state government is considering expanding its definition of hate crimes to include hateful graffiti, the Associated Press reported over the weekend.
The new legislation would target desecration of religious cemeteries or hateful graffiti in places of worship such as mosques, synagogues and churches.
Monday: ‘Unprecedented’ white supremacist recruitment on campus
The organization reports that there have been 107 incidents of white supremacists passing out or leaving fliers on college campuses since the beginning of the academic year in September. Here’s a snippet from the report:
White supremacists, emboldened by the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential campaign, are stepping out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
In January, (longtime white supremacist) Jared Taylor wrote, “It is widely understood that the election of Donald Trump is a sign of rising white consciousness. … Now is the time to press our advantage in every way possible.”
The New York Times interviewed the organization’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt:
“Fliers allow them to not only recruit but get public attention,” Mr. Greenblatt said, adding, “it’s not only part of the way they can identify sympathizers but terrorize marginalized communities.”
Meanwhile, in California, Joe Solis received a different type of hateful message, The Huffington Post reported Monday.
Solis found his 1971 Volkswagen van spray-painted with the word “illegal.” Solis was not only born in the United States, but, according to Los Angeles media, he is the sixth generation of his family to live in California.
“I’ve never had that done to me,” Solis told KTLA5. “I’ve never felt that feeling before, you know, when someone says it’s like a hate crime of some sort. It’s sad to see that someone might be picking me out or thinking I’m an illegal immigrant. I was born and raised here.”
Tuesday: Jewish centers and mosques face new threats
Jewish facilities and schools in at least eight states, as well as the New York and Washington offices of the Anti-Defamation League, were hit with a new threats of violence late Monday and Tuesday.
Anti-Semitic threats have been nearly constant over the last few weeks, leading the FBI to declare the trend a “top priority,” The Washington Post reported. On Tuesday, all 100 U.S. senators signed a letter to law enforcement officials in the Trump administration demanding increased action from the president:
We write to underscore the need for swift action with regard to the deeply troubling series of anonymous bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers (JCCs), Jewish Day Schools, Synagogues and other buildings affiliated with Jewish organizations or institutions across the country.
The Haaretz newspaper in Israel detailed how Jewish centers are taking security into their own hands.
The facilities are holding meetings and drills to prepare for quick evacuations in the case of threats, Haaretz reported. An organization called the Secure Community Network is also consulting with Jewish centers to help them ramp up communications and security.
But it’s not just Jewish sites that continue to face threats and violence in 2017.
A mosque in Lexington, Kentucky, reported that it had been subjected to a bomb threat sent by letter from England. The imam of the Masjid Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque, Shahied Rashid, told a local radio station that he has come to a conclusion that is becoming familiar across America:
“I feel like an environment is being cultivated that encourages this kind of behavior,” he said.
Wednesday: Bathroom walls and hate crime laws
On Wednesday, The Oregonian reported that hateful messages had been scrawled on the wall of a gender-neutral bathroom at a progressive Portland high school.
The messages were written a week after President Donald Trump rolled back guidelines that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice in schools. The graffiti threatened that people who used the bathroom “are gonna get shot” and will “burn in hell.”
Meanwhile, in Kansas, two weeks after the fatal bar shooting, lawmakers looked unlikely to pass a new state hate crime bill, the Associated Press reported.
Kansas has borne witness to other high-profile hate crimes in the past, including a 2014 shooting spree (in the same county as the attack last month) in which white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller killed three people outside Jewish facilities.
Hate crime laws typically impose higher sentences for crimes that are motivated by race, disability or sexual preference. All but five states have specific hate crimes statutes.
While Kansas’ current hate crime law allows a judge to impose a stricter sentence for such crimes, it doesn’t impose mandatory higher sentences, the AP reported.
The new bill (which failed) would have imposed a mandatory doubling of a sentence in which a judge or jury found the crime was motivated by bias.
Thursday: Stolen flags and a bomb threat at a children’s museum dedicated to tolerance
In Seattle, a Venezuelan restaurant has had its flag stolen three times since January, which the restaurant’s owner attributes to anti-immigrant hate.
The flag first was ripped down by an angry customer the day after Trump’s inauguration, Univision reported. The customer yelled insults as she tore down the flag.
Shortly afterward, another woman pulled down the flag, the restaurant’s co-owner Felix Valderrama told Univision:
“She told me that Trump was going to take care of people like us and that he did not want us in this country, that we take everything we own and get out of here,” Valderrama says.
Jewish and Muslim sites across the country continued to receive threats. A children’s museum in Brooklyn, New York, received a detailed bomb threat by email Thursday morning that claimed there were several pipe bombs hidden throughout the building. The museum was evacuated immediately.
The museum was built as a memorial to a 16-year-old Jewish boy who was shot in 1994 by a sniper who opened fire on Jewish students on the Brooklyn Bridge, neighborhood newspaper the Brooklyn Paper reported.
The paper quoted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo:
“This is one of the cruelest ironies yet in this rash of anti-Semitism that we’ve been experiencing,” said the governor, who visited following a press conference he’d been holding at nearby Medgar Evers College. “This is a museum that is a monument to tolerance.”
The same day, the Hindustan Times reported that five mosques across the United States received intimidating messages, including a bomb threat. The story mentions the threat in Lexington, as well as others in Atlanta, Maryland and New Jersey.
Friday: Which religion faces the most discrimination? White evangelicals say they do
Which religious group faces the most discrimination in America today? Well, it depends who you ask.
In a poll conducted in February by the Public Religion Research Institute, an overwhelming majority of respondents said Muslims face more discrimination than any other religion.
People of all religious affiliations acknowledged this fact except one group: white evangelical Protestants.
White evangelicals responded that Christians, not Muslims, are more likely to suffer from discrimination than Muslims. The Atlantic reported:
Among this group, 57 percent said there’s a lot of discrimination against Christians in the U.S. today. Only 44 percent said the same thing about Muslims. They were the only religious group more likely to believe Christians face discrimination compared to Muslims.
As Vox points out, studies don’t back up the white evangelicals’ view.