The president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, says that, after a bitter campaign, and an election in which Donald Trump won the electoral vote but Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, “our nation remains deeply divided,” with the president-elect “only adding to the climate of fear.”
In an email message to members, Weingarten warned that “the division seems to be worsening,” stating that, in the 10 days immediately after the election, “the hateful rhetoric of the campaign has spread and even turned violent.”
Weingarten noted that in Trump’s victory speech and during his “60 Minutes” interview, he urged Americans to come together as one united people “to take on the challenges before us.
“But his actions tell a different story,” she said, adding that, by appointing Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — “three men with long and disturbing records of bigotry and racism — Trump is only adding to the climate of fear.
“It is our moral imperative to fight the normalization of hate, and while we will take actions in our schools, work sites and communities to protect our kids and fight bigotry and bullying, as so many of our members already have, Trump has a unique and moral responsibility to denounce these hateful and intimidating actions,” said Weingarten, disclosing that, last week, she sent Trump a letter signed by the AFT and the Southern Poverty Law Center calling on him to speak “clearly and loudly against the hate.” She said more than 100 groups, representing millions of people, have also signed the letter.
“In the months leading up to the election, Trump’s campaign rhetoric found an audience with those who would use our differences to divide us,” Weingarten said. “And in the days following the election, we have seen people — seemingly emboldened by his victory — committing harassment, vandalism, property destruction and even assault based on those differences.
“We know that millions of his supporters would never participate in these actions, but the campaign rhetoric has created an environment that enables and encourages those who wish to harm others,” she added.
Personally, Weingarten said she is “especially troubled by incidents taking place in schools and on college campuses—places where we do everything we can to ensure our children are safe and nurtured, and have the opportunity to grow and learn free of intimidation and hatred.
“But now we are hearing reports of disturbing behavior: children chanting ‘build the wall’ at their Latino classmates, Muslim students and educators harassed for their clothing, male students intimidating their female classmates, LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer] kids threatened and harassed, and swastikas being painted on classroom doors,” she continued. “Many of these hateful acts have been carried out in his name. And while Trump may not condone this behavior, his silence gives tacit permission to those who carry out these acts.”
The teachers’ head that while Trump has said he will be the president for all Americans, “we ask that he keeps that promise by loudly, forcefully, unequivocally and consistently denouncing these acts and the ideology that drives them.
“We must all send a clear message that hate has no place in our public discourse, in our public policy or in our society, starting with our next president,” she said.