The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Racist incidents on the rise, union for government workers warns

Some fed workers are “livid, and sadly, are afraid right now.”

President Trump and rapper Kanye West meet in the Oval Office on Oct. 11. (Calla Kessler/The Washington Post)

During this season of joy and merriment, beware of the racists.

Their presence is increasingly felt on federal government grounds.

So much so that the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) was compelled to warn of “an alarmingly growing trend” of racial incidents in federal facilities:

● The Environmental Protection Agency had to remind staffers that it “has no tolerance for racism,” reported, after someone felt comfortable writing several racist remarks on an Office of Public Affairs whiteboard this month.

● The African Burial Ground Monument, described as “a sacred space in Manhattan” by the National Park Service, was vandalized with the words “Kill n-----s” scribbled on a plaque with a black marker days before the EPA incident.

● A Department of Veterans Affairs official had a print of a Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan leader on the wall of his government office in Washington until he removed it last month.

● In Philadelphia’s U.S. Mint building last year, a white employee was caught on video surveillance putting a noose, as in lynching, on the workstation of an African American co-worker, according to

“Our members are livid, and sadly, are afraid right now,” said AFGE Labor Relations Specialist Doug Meyer, trustee of AFGE Local 236, representing National General Services Administration locals. “They are disgusted that we continue to see these racist and anti-Semitic attacks, especially on federal property. Nobody can believe that in 2018, we’re being subjected to such vile acts of vandalism and outward racism. It must be stopped.”

These incidents are in addition to a string of racist comments and actions by Trump administration officials listed in a Dana Milbank column last month:

● The chief White House economic adviser, who in August hosted a publisher of white nationalists.

● The White House speechwriter who resigned in August over his participation in a white-nationalist conference.

● The homeland security adviser who quit in August over his emails with white nationalists using Nazi terminology.

● Another homeland security adviser who called black people lazy and promiscuous.

● The AmeriCorps spokesman who disparaged blacks, Muslims, gays, women and immigrants.

● The counterterrorism adviser who wore a medal from a Hungarian nationalist organization with Nazi ties.

● The former deputy campaign manager who told a black man on TV that ‘you’re out of your cotton pickin’ mind.’

● The Energy Department official whose social media accounts called Obama a Kenyan and his mother a ‘fourth-rate p&*n actress and w@!re.’

● Other officials, at the departments of Interior and Defense, who championed the “birther” movement.”

Of course, it was Donald Trump who rode the racist birther movement in a divisive and successful bid for political prominence. It is Trump who speaks proudly of being a “nationalist,” then acts dumb about the link to white supremacists. It is Trump who repeatedly plays the racist card, setting the stage for the spate of racist incidents.

Trump administration officials in the Justice Department, the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management had no comment.

“Racism and anti-Semitism have no place in our country, and it disgusts me that we continue to see them rise under this administration,” said AFGE President J. David Cox Sr. “We must stand united against these acts and work to be the inclusive country and government we strive to be.”

Trump certainly muddies that vision. We’re going backward.

Complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission jumped 17 percent from fiscal 2016 to 2017. Hate crimes increased from 15,245 to 16,149, according to FBI statistics. About 49 percent of hate crime targets in 2017 were black (13 percent of the population); 17 percent were white (77 percent of the population). Hate crimes against Latinos increased 18 percent. Anti-Semitic incidents jumped 57 percent in 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. It is Trump who repeatedly has been praised by white supremacists and neo-Nazis.

All of this reflects “a really painful reality right now in the country,” said Vanita Gupta, president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, “about the degree to which the administration has emboldened forces of hate.”

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