With about two months left before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, minority groups including immigrants, Muslims and women have been left feeling anxious and afraid, as the nation waits to see what policies the new president will put into place.
The days after the election saw a spike in hateful harassment, incidents that have included racial slurs, physical attacks and graffiti. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported more than 700 occurances of violence, hateful harassment and intimidation against immigrants, African Americans, Jews, Muslims and women in the week following Election Day, as well as approximately 30 anti-Trump incidents.
Nearly 40 percent of the incidents occurred in educational (K-12 schools and university/college) settings, with about 55 occurances being reported in New York.
Long Island has not been immune to this unfortunate epidemic; swastikas were found on the walls of a bathroom in Paul D. Schreiber High School in Port Washington and a theater storage room at Northport High School, and fliers promoting the Klu Klux Klan (KKK) were found on parked cars in Patchogue.
Dr. Faroque Khan, a member of the Islamic Center of Long Island (ICLI) board of trustees and one of the mosque’s founders, said since the election, the Muslim community has expressed a lot of anxiety and apprehension. During a recent hour-long forum at the mosque, parents and children expressed their concerns and fears. The mosque will also be hosting another discussion on Thursday, Dec. 1, where different ethnic group and law enforcement agencies are invited to talk about post-election anxieties, religious freedom and ethnic targeting.
“It’s just about the only conversation that’s going on now,” Khan said. “There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of angst.”
The last time this type of feeling dominated the community was during 9/11, said Khan. The anxiety and fear reverberates through all age groups, but Khan said women and children are the ones who are most affected by the harassment.
“The kids watch TV, they hear stories, bullying is going on,” Khan said. “And you hear about women on the train who are getting bullied and shouted at. It’s typically women who wear the hijab that are bearing the brunt of it.”
Immigrant children are also feeling the strain. With Trump promising to deport 3 million immigrants, the future is uncertain for those who are illegal, have undocumented family or are under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives children born in the United States to undocumented parents temporary protection to work and obtain a driver’s license.
“Children are the hardest hit. They are extremely anxious,” said Maryann Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, a nonprofit organization that provides online resources to educate people on immigration policy and their rights. “If you’re a little kid and your parents are undocumented, what happens to you?”
“Demonizing our differences injects a social poison into the fabric of our nation. Especially this country, because this is a nation built on differences.” –Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Since the election, Slutsky said they have had an uptick in visitors to the Long Island Wins website and Facebook page, as well as an increase in unsolicited donations. The organization has redirected their work to reassure immigrants on Long Island that they have support and help.
“We will do everything we can to support them, to provide information on what’s happening with any new policy and changes in policy and inform them of their rights,” Slutsky said. “That’s what we do anyway, but we have to totally focus on what will change in the realm of immigrant policy and how it will affect their lives.”
In the midst of the tension, there have also been moments of unity. Across the country, Americans are standing together to denounce acts of violence. When vandals defaced a park in Brooklyn with swastikas and graffiti, it was quickly painted over and replaced with paper hearts and flowers. Church members came together in Maryland to paper over a sign promoting a Spanish-language service that was defaced with “Trump Nation: Whites Only,” with a sign that said “Love Wins.” At the University of Michigan, 200 non-Muslim students stood guard around the Muslim Student Association as they held a prayer.
Law enforcement agencies and government officials have denounced the harassment and violence, with the New York State District Attorneys League of Immigrant Affairs reassuring immigrants that they have “the same rights under New York State Law as any other person, no matter what your immigrant status may be.” Governor Andrew Cuomo has also launched a toll-free hotline (888-392-3644) where people can report incidents of bias and discrimination, and file a complaint with the Division of Human Rights.
“Demonizing our differences injects a social poison into the fabric of our nation. Especially this country, because this is a nation built on differences,” Cuomo said in a speech in Harlem last week, where he called for unity in the fight for tolerance. “The separation is a poison and it has to stop and it has to stop now and New York is going to lead the way in showing the way for positive growth. We remember what made this nation the greatest nation on this earth. We are going to keep that dream alive and we are going to fight to keep that dream alive and work to make it a reality for all of us.”