Since the November election, reported incidents of overt hostility towards minorities and immigrants have increased. From physical altercations to poison pen letters and internet comments, some people seem to feel emboldened by the election results to express opinions that are at best unkind and at worst racist, misogynistic or homophobic.
Noah Michelson was on the receiving end of three quite ugly letters, all postmarked from Milwaukee. Michelson is originally from Racine, but has lived and worked in New York City for more than a decade. He is currently the editor/director of The Huffington Post’s Voices department and the executive editor of its Queer Voices subsection.
The writer of the letters objected to posts Michelson had made on his private Facebook account. Although he didn't sign his name, the letter writer described himself as an acquaintance and a fellow graduate of the Prairie School in Racine.
"It shocked me, I guess... I get a lot of hate mail, but I've never had one from, 1) from someone that I know well, or at least knew well at some point in my life, and 2) never that was quite so personal, and directed quite so vehemently against me," he says.
The letters were not explicitly violent, just hateful. Michelson didn't report them to the police, but he did post about them on his Facebook and then decided to write about it on the Huffington Post. Sharing his experience was not only cathartic, but also allowed him to connect with other people encountering the same kind of hatred after the election.
Although the letters initially made him worry that he had been too outspoken on social media, Michelson has become more determined to make his voice heard.
"I'm going to keep speaking out. I know there's so many people in this country who feel like they don't know what they're supposed to do right now," says Michelson. "I think for those of us who have the words and have the platform to say something, it's even more important because we're speaking for those people. We're giving those people a way to process their confusion, their grief, their fear."
"I feel like in the last 30 days, my job has become even more important than it was, you know, 60 days ago," he adds.