AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Meeting with The New York Times today, Donald Trump said the words many have been waiting for - I disavow and condemn them. He was answering a question about a gathering of the so-called alt-right a few days ago here in Washington. A video taken at the conference shows a speaker calling out hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory and the crowd responding with cheers, some with Nazi salutes. For reaction to Trump's remarks and to the spate of anti-Semitic incidents that have been reported since the election, we reached out to Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League.
DEBORAH LAUTER: I was very pleased to hear that he used the words condemn and disavow. We'd been asking him to do that over the course of the campaign and post-election. So yeah, I think he's going to need to continue to do it. It's an important statement for him to make, and it's important for the white supremacists who are touting him as their new leader to hear that he is not in their camp.
CORNISH: Some of our listeners may be going online and seeing some of the video from this meeting where people are doing Nazi salutes and slogans. Was that shocking to you?
LAUTER: No, it's certainly not shocking to the Anti-Defamation League because we've been monitoring these groups for decades. But it is shocking to most people. It should be. And in a way, it's good for people to understand that it still exists and that unfortunately, it's growing.
CORNISH: You know, regardless of what Trump says, there is reason to believe that his victory has emboldened a greater number of people to say things and do things they didn't feel at liberty to do before. Do you feel that way? Has the Anti-Defamation League, you know, really seen upticks in reports of hate speech or harassment?
LAUTER: Yeah, unfortunately we have. And that's probably our biggest concern, is that this mainstreaming of hate speech is something we never really thought we'd see in this country again. We've worked so hard over these decades to de-legitimize hate and to make it unacceptable.
CORNISH: And do you have any sense of actual numbers? I mean, is this two more incidents where there used to be one? What are we talking about here?
LAUTER: No. I mean, it's a definite dramatic increase. It's manifesting as vandalism - a lot of swastikas we're seeing. But it's also manifesting in diverse schools where, you know, some children, particularly immigrant children or families of immigrants, are being taunted and bullied. So the key is for people to continue to report those incidents because we can't address it unless we know about them and can provide support.
CORNISH: What's the concern if right now it is mainly graffiti or words?
LAUTER: It's a coarsening of our democracy. And it makes people who live here feel fear and insecurity. And that's just not what our country's about.
CORNISH: Does this feel like a turning point in some way?
LAUTER: I hope it's not a turning point. I would probably refer to it more as a wakeup call. You know, the Anti-Defamation League has always said we need to fight hate in a comprehensive way. And now that it's been exposed so graphically and in the public's face, I think what we need is for people to really heed that wakeup call and stand up to the hate.
CORNISH: You know, we're going into Thanksgiving. A lot of people may be having conversations that may touch on something like this over their dinner tables. What is your advice to people going forward? Like, if they want to speak out in some way or do something, what would that involve?
LAUTER: It's imperative that good people speak out. So if they do witness somebody who is being harassed or bullied because they have a hijab on, for example, they need to be an ally. They need to step forward and say, this is not acceptable. For people who see incidents in their community, whether it's a swastika or other bigoted incident, come together as a community and stand up and say, our neighborhood will not tolerate this.
There are things individuals can do, communities can do, but it's essential that we not be passive about it. And I think people who are doing this have a sense of pride that they are being part of something bigger and that they're helping this country return to normalcy of civility.
CORNISH: Deborah Lauter is a senior vice president for policy and programs at the Anti-Defamation League. Thank you for speaking with us.
LAUTER: Thank you.
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