US Elections: the "Trump Effect" and its consequences
A disturbing study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) entitled "The Trump Effect: The impact of the presidential campaign on our nation's schools", outlines the alarming effect the 2016 US presidential campaign is having on school children across America.
The study - based on over 5,000 comments from 2,000 teachers - details the anxieties and stresses of children largely from minority and immigrant and Muslim backgrounds.
At least a 1,000 comments included mentions of Donald Trump, the leading Republican nominee, who has been uniquely vociferous in his attacks on minorities throughout his election campaign.
Undocumented workers, the majority of whom come from neighbouring Mexico and Central America have been at the heart of the hotel business mogul's attacks. He has vowed to send back approximately 11 million people overnight and build a wall to halt illegal immigration from the South.
Trump has also proposed a ban all Muslim immigrants, "until [we] can figure out what is going on" and a database to register American Muslims.
America's history is rife with examples of the demonisation of minority groups, often for political gain, making the rise of Trump hardly a unique phenomenon. In the past decade or so, policies targeting minorities have conveniently set the stage for the likes of Trump.
Nearly two-thirds of teachers surveyed in the SPLC study said that children in their classes expressed concern over their future in the country, including American-born African Americans, whose families have been settled for generations in the US.
Although the authors admit their methodology took an unscientific approach, they claim it demonstrates the detrimental impact the current election campaign is having on those most vulnerable in American society.
|"Students who have undocumented family members and relatives are afraid of what other kids will think of them if they find out"|
"Students who have undocumented family members and relatives are afraid of what other kids will think of them if they find out", said one school administrator from Washington state. The administrator added that "One [fourth grade] student reported that she thought everyone hated her because her mother was 'illegal' and she didn't want to come to school. Over 35 percent of our students are Mexican. I've never had this… before this year".
Muslims who have also suffered the wrath of this electoral campaign are left to ponder their fate as Muslim-bashing and Islamophobia reach unprecedented levels. Teachers in the survey reported Muslim students being called "terrorists" by classmates. One teacher from New Hampshire, where Trump won the second Republican primary, reported that many of his students saw all Muslims as a threat to the country.
An ugly history
Building walls, banning Muslims and shooting families of terrorists may come as a shock to Americans who believe in the plurality of the US constitution. Unfortunately this intolerance at the highest levels of US politics has been a recurrent theme in US history.
In the aftermath of the Pearl Harbour attacks, considered to be the most devastating incursion into US territory of the 20th century, Japanese Americans were the first casualties of US politicking.
Images depicting Japanese men as treacherous, lazy and rapists were seen across the country. Films and songs scapegoating Japanese Americans were produced widely, including by the government itself, to propagate the myth that Japanese Americans were a mortal threat that should be dealt with accordingly.
Within months of the attacks a federal law was passed imprisoning thousands, mainly in the Pacific state of California.
Colonel Karl Bendetsen of the Wartime Civil Control Administration said in 1942, "I am determined that if they have one drop of Japanese blood in them, they must go to camp".
|The psychological and cultural effects of the post-internment era were profound, including for the children of internees who were born after the war had ended|
"A Jap's a Jap. It makes no difference whether the Jap is a citizen or not." said John L.Dewitt, a military commander on the Pacific coast during World War II, who was an infamous advocate of the internment policy.
Thousands were forced away from their homes, having to raise their children in prison-like camps. The majority of those interned were second-generation Japanese Americans or "Nisei" who had never set foot in Japan.
The psychological and cultural effects of the post-internment era were profound, including for the children of internees who were born after the war had ended, as their parents' tragic experiences left them with a lasting impression of sadness and shame. Many parents were also said to have avoided passing their Japanese heritage and language to their children as a way of protecting them from scrutiny.
Years in the making
Contrary to popular belief then, Muslim and immigrant-bashing, did not begin the moment Trump chose to run for President.
Since 9/11 Muslims have been routinely monitored under the guise of the Patriot Act which gave the US government unprecedented powers to monitor and hold alleged suspects in detention.
Throughout the country, Arab and Muslim populations have reported harassment by security agencies that has included the unlawful surveillance of their leaders and places of worship. In New York, one lawsuit filed against the NYPD claimed 250 mosques were being monitored by the institution.
This culture of suspicion has seeped into the mindset of the American mainstream population, as demonstrated by the Ahmed Mohamed case in September last year. Mohamed, a 14-year-old schoolboy living in Texas was reprimanded by his teacher for building a clock which the educator mistook for a potential bomb, leading to the child's arrest.
|This culture of suspicion has seeped into the mindset of the American mainstream population|
Though Trump's insistence that millions of undocumented workers will be sent home overnight represents something of new low, the current administration has deported more people than any other US government in history.
Often referred to as the "Deporter in Chief", President Obama is said to have deported over two million people during his two terms in office. The nightly raids planned by his administration that often result in families being torn apart and children being separated from their parents, have come under intense scrutiny.
Trump may be the face of bellicose anti-minority hatred in the US today, but he is not solely responsible for this phenomenon, far from it. While he is certainly the loudest, he is simply thriving in a pernicious environment, the scene for which was set long before his arrival.
Usaid Siddiqui is a Canadian freelance writer. He has written for PolicyMic, Aslan Media, Al Jazeera America and Mondoweiss on current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @UsaidMuneeb16
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.