This post by Mary Beth Maxwell, former HRC Senior Vice President for Programs, Research and Training, originally appeared on The Advocate.
Over the weekend, an attack on Casa Ruby — a drop-in center serving the LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C. — brought an alarming trend of violence close to home.
The incident there, which involved the assault of a staff member, followed a string of other anti-LGBTQ attacks nationally. Last week, 13 shots were fired at an LGBTQ center in Tulsa, Okla. In New Jersey and Florida, the offices of equality organizations were vandalized a little more than a week apart. Community centers in Minneapolis and Los Angeles have been defaced with anti-LGBTQ graffiti. And in the just the first two months of this year, at least seven transgender women of color have been brutally murdered.
This is part of a broader trend of disturbing and heartbreaking attacks spreading across the country. In just the last month, we have reeled from repeated bomb threats against Jewish community centers, the shooting of a Sikh man in Washington State and two Indian men in a Kansas City bar, which resulted in the death of one of the men, and the burning of four mosques.
While these crimes target people of many races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities, the perpetrators of this violence share a similar motivation — hate. And as we seek to combat not just this violence but also what fosters it, we must be honest about the central role political rhetoric and policies play in this culture of hate.
Words of prejudice breed policies of discrimination and policies of discrimination breed acts of violence. The political rhetoric we too often see — from the dog whistles to explicit racism, transphobia, and xenophobia — engenders a toxic environment that puts many within our communities in the cross hairs. Every hateful policy — a Muslim ban, an anti-trans measure, a draconian deportation order — sends a dangerous, emboldening message to those who harbor hate. And every act of violence emboldens another.
Hate violence is not new, but we’re witnessing an alarming upward trend in the frequency of attacks. The FBI reported an escalation in bias-motivated incidents in 2015, including a nearly threefold increase in reported hate crimes related to gender identity during that year alone. After the 2016 election, the Southern Poverty Law Center recorded more than 400 incidents of hate-based harassment or violence. A recent survey by the Human Rights Campaign of 50,000 youth found an increase in bullying since the election, and both the Trans Lifeline and the Trevor Project, which run hotlines for LGBTQ people, reported a “flood of calls” following the Trump administration’s decision to rescind vitally important guidance upholding protections for transgender students.
That’s why the Human Rights Campaign has partnered with allies to rally and march. Recently we joined with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and more than 150 human rights groups to call on Donald Trump and lawmakers to respond more quickly and forcefully to hate-motivated attacks.
We believe diversity is what makes our nation great, and these incidents are an affront to values we all share. The mosques, synagogues, shelters, and centers that have been targeted are places of sanctuary and solidarity. These actions are intended to instill fear and to intimidate. But if we stand together — as LGBTQ people, Muslims, women, people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities, and those living at the intersection of those identities — we will beat back evil and hate in all their ugly forms.
As Ruby Corado, the founder of Casa Ruby, said after this weekend’s attack, “No one has to live in fear. We are building dreams and no one is going to come here and destroy our dreams.”
Ruby is right.