Throughout his campaign for the U.S. presidency, Donald Trump’s rhetoric and policy proposals frequently drew upon negative stereotypes about many groups to gain voters. Following the election, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) received over 400 reports of intimidation and harassment between November 9th and November 14th alone. In terms of targeting specific groups, anti-immigrant incidents constituted the highest number, followed by anti-black, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, anti-Woman, and anti-Semitic incidents.

Fear of the unknown

The number of reported cases did decrease each day after November 9th. Nonetheless, uncertainties also remain, including the possibility of new upsurges in incidents, as well as ones that have not been reported.

Another is whether a Trump presidency will implement the kinds of policy proposals that have caused concern, and even fear, among many people. After all, when asked by Chris Wallace if he would accept the election results if Hillary Clinton won, Trump replied by saying, "I'll keep you in suspense." One cannot help but think that he will continue a similar pattern into his presidency.

Ideas from the Axis and Allies

Although exact parallels between a Trump presidency and the rise of the Nazis in 1930s Germany, there exist too many similarities not to give one pause. Along with singling out specific groups of people as potential threats, Trump has received the enthusiastic support of various far-right groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. However, a tragic chapter from U.S. history has now emerged as a precedent, and presumable justification, for setting up a registry of Muslims coming from "terror-prone" countries.

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In an interview with Megyn Kelly, Trump supporter Carl Higbie stated that something similar had been done before "during World War II with the Japanese". More specifically, Higbie referred to the incarceration of Japanese-Americans in "internment camps" due to their heritage. This occurred in both the U.S. and Canada, both of which were fighting the Nazis. As pointed out by Koji Steven, although such camps did not have the same genocidal purpose as the ones set up by the Nazis, they were similar in overall concept; people of Japanese heritage were concentrated into specific locations and deprived of their liberty, with reasons of national security acting as a cover for racist ones. Considering these kinds of connections between past and present, as well as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics indicating a 67% increase in anti-Muslim incidents throughout 2015, it is little wonder that Muslims living in the U.S. have profound concerns about an impending Trump presidency.

Learning from history

The emergence of Trump as a figurehead and lightning rod for frightening ideas; the support he has received from far-right groups (along with a fair number of the electorate); the recent increase in hate-motivated acts; and the historical precedent cited by Higbie for a Muslim registry all demonstrate the importance of understanding history and learning from it.

We need to apply such lessons to make sure that the U.S. lives up to the ever-higher set of standards established throughout its history, building upon achievements by those who fought to increase and maintain the delicate balance between liberty and equality. And to ensure both justice and safety for all.