Since Donald Trump was elected, the Jewish and immigrant communities in the United States have experienced a deeply troubling series of events. Jewish communities have been rocked by anti-Semitic graffiti, graveyard desecration, and bomb threats. Immigrant communities, too, have faced a surge in hate-based incidents, while immigrant families also fear being torn apart by the Trump administration’s cruel, heartless deportation and detention policies.
The rise in incidents of hatred and harassment has a clear source. Following a presidential campaign in which the president used both explicit and implicit racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-immigrant rhetoric and symbols, white supremacists in our country feel newly emboldened. They were further encouraged by the appointment of Steve Bannon, the former CEO of Breitbart and a purveyor of white nationalism, to be Trump’s chief strategist. As if that wasn’t enough, they also saw Jeff Sessions, the nation’s most anti-immigrant Senator with his own record of racial intolerance, become U.S. Attorney General.
Trump’s strategy—divide and conquer—is an age-old tactic that’s used to maintain control over people by splitting them apart. By sewing dissent among allies, the conqueror maintains power over his or her opponents. In these first two months of the Trump administration, we’ve seen how his policies have the potential to divide our country. But immigrants, Muslims and other persecuted groups, along with allies in the Jewish community, are turning the tables; we are using the threat Trump poses to bring us together.
In the face of hatred, our communities are organizing to demonstrate our resistance and resilience. We are working with local elected officials to take action and send clear signals that bias and prejudice have no place in America. We are coming together every day to teach one another about our rights and how we can protect one another—both from hate incidents, and, for immigrant communities, out-of-control immigration enforcement.
We have already seen tremendous moments of solidarity—including the nationwide rapid response protests at airports to fight the first Muslim and refugee travel ban, where Latino immigrant and Jewish organizations played critical roles alongside Muslim and refugee groups, and the inspiring effort led by Muslim leaders to raise tens of thousands of dollars to repair a desecrated Jewish cemetery outside of St. Louis.
In addition to these examples of unity, we are continuing to resist the Trump administration by calling for the removal of Bannon and Sessions. The recklessness and scapegoating exhibited by Trump and his top advisers and officials have grave consequences. When leaders signal that expressing vile behavior is appropriate in the public sphere, others who harbor these sentiments in their hearts believe that acting on them is permissible, leading to the threats against our communities that we see today. Such behavior is completely unacceptable from those tasked with representing the interests of all Americans.
We also continue to insist that President Trump denounce attacks and threats against our communities and other groups—and cease using all inflammatory rhetoric and symbols that egg on such hatred.
Nonetheless, the president’s past behavior gives us little reason to hold our breath. After refusing to mention Jews in his Holocaust Remembrance Day speech, President Trump’s administration failed to properly recognize this preposterous omission. Following the terrifying spate of bomb threats against JCCs across the country, Trump took days to denounce anti-Semitic violence. Simply put, the white supremacists in his administration will not cede power easily.
At this treacherous moment in our country’s history, we must not allow Trump’s divide and conquer strategy to win the day. We must approach the actions of this administration with the mindset that an attack on one of us is attack on us all. Our communities are here to stay, and we demand to be treated with respect. We will continue to show up and stand up for one another as we work to build a society rooted in compassion, dignity and a deep appreciation of our diversity.
Javier H. Valdés is the Co-Executive Director of Make the Road New York, an immigrant rights organization. Stosh Cotler is the CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadNY @Bend_theArc