‘The presidency is about many things,’ groups declare in letter to president-elect. ‘Chiefly, it is about setting an example through your leadership.’
Facing increased reports of hate-fueled harassment, vandalism, property destruction, and assault in the wake of Donald Trump’s election last week, more than 100 faith, labor, and civil rights groups on Friday sent a letter to the president-elect, urging him to “loudly, forcefully, unequivocally, and consistently” denounce such acts.
The organizations, which represent more than 10 million people across the United States, call particular attention to the number of incidents taking place at schools and college campuses—like in Michigan, where middle school students chanted “build the wall” at classmates, or in Pennsylvania, where parents received a letter about swastika graffiti in student bathrooms.
“There’s no denying it—the election has had a profound and lasting impact on our nation’s schoolchildren for the worse,” said Maureen Costello, director of the Teaching Tolerance program at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which coordinated the letter along with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“Many of these acts have been carried out in your name,” reads the letter (pdf), signed by groups including the Human Rights Campaign, Badass Teachers Association, Muslim Community Network, and National Organization for Women. “Though you may not condone this behavior, your silence gives tacit permission to those who perform these acts.”
And while Trump “spoke against bullying, intimidation, and hate crimes” during his “60 Minutes” interview on Sunday, his appointment of alt-right “hero” Stephen Bannon to chief strategist “sends the exact opposite message,” the letter charges.
“The presidency is about many things,” it concludes. “Chiefly, it is about setting an example through your leadership. You have said that you will be the president for all Americans, Mr. Trump. We ask that you keep your promise by loudly, forcefully, unequivocally, and consistently denouncing these acts and the ideology that drives them. We ask you to use your 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.”
Added Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, architect of the Moral Monday movement and another signatory to the letter: “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.”
AFT president Randi Weingarten said her union 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 and grief, as well as the election and its meaning, for free on the AFT’s Share My Lesson website.
And as Rethinking Schools noted in a recent newsletter, “racist and xenophobic celebrations were not the only response to Trump’s election.”
“In San Francisco, more than a thousand students walked out of class to join protest marches,” Rethinking Schools editors and staff wrote. “As one student said, ‘We’re trying to inform people about white supremacy, racism, homophobia, everything.’ And in the New York City high school where Rethinking Schools editor Adam Sanchez teaches, the art club hosted a ‘No Allegiance to White Supremacy’ t-shirt-making gathering, while the Feminism and Black Lives Matter clubs held a joint emergency meeting to discuss the election.”
“These responses are also harbingers,” the newsletter declared, “anticipating our schools and classrooms as sites of resistance to everything that Trump stands for.”
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