After Trump’s inauguration, a flurry of hate crimes were in the news. Hailed as the beginning of “Trump’s America,” people reacted with fear and sadness believing that America’s vulnerable minorities were threatened. Trump voters, the narrative went, were emboldened by Trump’s victory and decided it was acceptable to harass, threaten, intimidate and spread hate speech.
What’s most troubling to me about these hate crimes is many of them did not occur at all and were fabricated by the alleged victims.
An Ann Arbor woman reported to the police that a white man threatened to light her hijab on fire if she did not remove it, brandishing a lighter. After reviewing camera footage, police determined the incident did not occur.
Jalen Mitchell of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, reported receiving a note containing racist and homophobic language as well as saying he was attacked by a knife-wielding man on campus. After submitting a sample of handwriting, investigators determined he wrote the note and Mitchell confessed to fabricating multiple hate crime reports.
An anonymous young woman attending the University of Louisiana reported being physically attacked and being robbed of her hijab and wallet by two white males wearing Trump hats. Police did not locate any witnesses or any evidence whatsoever to corroborate the story and the woman has since been charged with filing a false police report.
Ashley Boyer of Delaware reported on Facebook that charges were filed against four white men who harassed her and threatened her with violence outside of a gas station, but police stated that no report was made and no charges were filed. Boyer has since deleted the post and reportedly has disappeared from social media.
Taylor Volk, an openly bisexual student in Chicago’s North Park University claimed to have received anti-gay, pro-Trump notes and emails but after further investigation, the university determined the story was a fabrication.
One of the more ridiculous ones occured on Christmas Day when the Savoy Masjid Mosque in Houston, Texas was set on fire. The arsonist was captured and turned out to be a member of the mosque who had been attending daily for five years, and has since pled guilty to felony arson.
Now, I’m not saying that hate crimes don’t happen or that all reports of hate crimes are faked, but these faked hate crimes are wholly and completely unacceptable.
Fake hate crimes hurt everybody, the dangers of crying wolf is a lesson taught to all children at a very young age for a good reason. Those that fake hate crimes severely damage their credibility and those that believe the lies fall victim to propaganda and vilify generally decent people. Nothing at all happens except the widening of an already cavernous divide in the country. Shia LaBeouf claims “He will not divide us,” and he is right. Trump will not divide us, we will divide ourselves.
I can understand to a certain degree the need to fight against what people think is an oppressive administration. Propaganda is a powerful tool and I can see why someone would fake a hate crime to sway public opinion. However, when the propaganda backfires and is exposed as false, untold damage is done.
Attention is taken away from legitimate hate crimes, people who fall victim to lies become suspicious when the same story is repeated. The only reaction to a hate crime should be one of condemnation and support of the victim, not wondering if it was legitimate and not someone lying.
When faced with faked hate crimes, people will ask themselves just how vulnerable are these minorities when they have to make up crimes against them. Faking a hate crime makes people believe that those that need to be protected in society don’t actually need protection.
Hate exists in this country in many forms. Fighting against it is the duty of all, to eradicate it and bring about a culture of acceptance and tolerance. Hate crimes do happen and should be fought against with all the energy that people have, but faking hate crimes cannot bring about any good in any circumstance.