Back in the day, people said that my hometown of Milwaukee was known for two things: obesity and serial killers.
That’s unfair, of course, because it also possesses the distinction of having brutally cold winters, and of being the most racially segregated city in America.
OK, maybe those traits aren’t so great.
But I still love the place. And that is why I will rush to its defense even if, for example, its sports teams collapse, or its economy struggles, or it’s the scene of a horrific acid attack.
Wait a minute, let me check my notes on that last one.
Hmm, unfortunately, this is true. Recently, Milwaukee police arrested a 61-year-old white man who called a Latino man an “illegal” and told him to “get out of this country” before throwing acid in his face. The Hispanic man, who happens to be a U.S. citizen, suffered second-degree burns.
Now, you might wonder what kind of homicidal lunatic carries acid around with him, just looking for a reason to toss it into somebody’s face.
Well, keep in mind that Wisconsin is a swing state, with plenty of white male Baby Boomers who seethe with revulsion for Latinos and immigrants.
Further note that studies have shown that hate crimes tend to increase during “times of tense political fights over issues such as immigration or national security.”
I’m pretty sure that we are living in such times.
But to get even more specific about it, “hate crimes targeting people in 2018 surged to their highest levels in 16 years,” and once the data for 2019 is crunched, we can expect to see more of the same.
As we all know, hate crimes have escalated ever since America elected a loud-mouthed xenophobe to the White House (which I’m sure the GOP insists it’s just a coincidence).
What’s most interesting, however, is that the targets of hate crimes have changed. Back during the Iraq War, thugs routinely went after Muslims. But recently, “the number of crimes targeting Muslims cratered,” which just goes to show that bigots need constant reminders of who they’re supposed to hate the most at any given time.
And in further good news, anti-Semitic crimes dropped. But — and I’m sure you saw this coming — hate crimes “targeting Latinos increased for the third year.”
So Hispanics are back to being the most loathed group among nativists. As I’ve said before, it’s like we have fucking targets on our backs.
Experts say that none of this is random. For example, “you can look at the year 2016 and see a spike in hate crimes, or look at the increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent years, and see an increase in anti-Latino crimes.”
Still, you don’t have to be a statistician to notice what’s going on. According to many polls, a majority of Americans say Trump is racist. And over half of the country believes “Trump has been bad for Hispanics, Muslims, African Americans, and women.”
Another way of saying this is that the president has been good only for white men and the occasional Asian American.
There is simply no doubt “that Trump’s rhetoric has legitimized expressions of prejudice.” But if you need proof, consider that one study found that racist statements “were considered more acceptable after the election. And a second study showed that reading Trump’s statements targeting ethnic or racial groups made people more likely to write prejudicial things themselves.”
So is there a sliver of positivity in this dire compendium of racism, hate crimes, anti-Latino bias, and acid attacks?
Well, there is a theory that “Trump’s election did not make Americans more racist; instead, it may have emboldened those who were already prejudiced.” So what we are seeing is an intensification of racism rather than an upsurge of bigotry overall.
And looking at this further, there is some evidence that the frequency of racist behavior is actually going down in America. And long-term trends “suggest a decline in both professed racist views and racist acts.”
This means, therefore, that eventually we will not have to worry about angry old men assaulting Hispanics, or be afraid that a fistfight will erupt when we speak Spanish, or witness Nazis happily marching in the streets, or suffer through any of the myriad bigoted, hate-filled actions that we have had to endure over the past few years.
No word, however, on when that day will come.
Featured image: 42-year-old Mahud Villalaz, a Peruvian-born U.S. citizen, was attacked with acid in Milwaukee by 61-year-old Clifton Blackwell (NBC News)