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Racial tensions in America have roots in Russia

by Alexandra Weaver - Staff Writer
Tue, Oct 31st 2017 11:00 pm
Photo (above, left) courtesy of en.kremlin.ru

It has recently come to light in the long scandal between Russia and the 2016 presidential election that Russia indeed had its hand in many of the developments in this country. The latest update in the investigation shows Russia using social media to further racial tensions.
Photo (above, left) courtesy of en.kremlin.ru It has recently come to light in the long scandal between Russia and the 2016 presidential election that Russia indeed had its hand in many of the developments in this country. The latest update in the investigation shows Russia using social media to further racial tensions.

It seems Russian news is constant these days. Ever since Hillary Clinton lost the election, establishment Democrats and sympathetic news outlets have been talking about Russia nonstop. Right-wingers, as well as progressives like myself, were quick to dismiss the initial claims about Russian interference in the election as an attempt to rationalize how Clinton could have lost to a vile man who brags about sexually assaulting women. 

Establishment Democrats chose to overlook Clinton’s own unpopularity and difficulties increasing her poll numbers and hopped on the Russia bandwagon instead.

When the wave of Russia-related headlines first hit newsstands, there was very little evidence of Russian interference in the election. There were fake news stories from RT, a Russian state propaganda outlet, but there was no other evidence to go off. To many, it seemed the press was making a gigantic deal out of nothing. After all, the United States has its own sketchy news outlets which certainly influenced the outcome of the election as well, such as Breitbart and InfoWars.

NPR recently published a piece detailing the very real ways in which Russia did interfere with the election.

“In New York and elsewhere, agents paid personal trainers to lead self-defense classes aimed at black activists with the message that they might need to ’protect your rights,’ as part of the Black Lives Matter movement,” NPR wrote. “In Florida, they used Facebook and fraudulent websites to organize black rights protest rallies.” 

The Russian hackers also organized an armed anti-Muslim protest in Texas and organized anti-immigrant protests in Idaho.

Essentially, Russian accounts stirred the pot of racial tension that has been boiling since this country was founded on the genocide of almost an entire race. Given the U.S.’ checkered past, causing racial tensions to flare up isn’t that difficult of a task.

While foreign manipulation is certainly something to worry about, the issue runs much deeper. The fact is, they were able to get away with it because this country was divided before they even got involved. 

No one thought it was odd that people in Texas were holding armed anti-Muslim protests, and though the event was created and planned by Russians, Americans still showed up and brought guns to mosques to intimidate people who were just trying to pray. 

These actions may have enhanced pre-existing tensions, but they wouldn’t have worked if America wasn’t divided already.

Outlets like Fox do basically the same amount of damage to the country. Their anchors increase racial divides with inflammatory comments and gross generalizations on the daily. As of Nov. 17, 2016 a Gallup poll said that a record high of 77 percent of Americans perceive the nation as divided. 

According to The New York Times, the number of split tickets, or voters who vote for members of different parties and different positions, such as the Democratic presidential candidate and a Republican senator, is the lowest it’s been since the 1920’s. As of 1956 to as recently as 1996, the average rate of split tickets was 32 percent. 

Although hate crime tracking can be unreliable, CNN reports that the FBI’s data showed an increase in hate crimes in 2015. At the very least, there was much more attention brought to hate crimes, which can make it seem as if they were more prevalent even if they were just more publicized. 

Publicization may matter more though, as that’s all that influences the vast majority of people. The more we hear about hate crimes, bias and division, the more we think about it and in a way, it gets worse.

When people realize just how many of them there are in this country who hate them simply for their race, religion or sexual orientation, the less safe they’ll feel. It’s hardly surprising that people will be on edge when they live in a country where everyone seems convinced that others are out for their destruction, whether it’s logical to believe or not.

While any American should condemn foreign interference of any kind in our democracy, the fact is that the social climate in the country made it easy for Russia to manipulate us. Russia likely made the situation worse, but it’s not as if they’re wholly responsible.

 

 aweav3@u.brockport.edu

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