Trump, Charlottesville, and White Supremacy

August 24, 2017


The events that transpired last week in Charlottesville are a natural consequence of what happens when our elected officials willfully turn a blind eye to the rise of violent white supremacists. We will continue to see violent uprisings by the far right as long as President Trump surrounds himself with advisors who have a history of advancing white supremacy, when our leadership ignores DHS and FBI statistics that show an alarming rise in white supremacist terrorism, and when community resilience programs that counter hate are undermined and defunded.

Hate Has a Friend in the White House

After Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it came as no surprise to many when he brought in advisors who have long been associated with prominent white supremacists and are the architects of racist movements.

For example, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller is linked to notorious white supremacist Richard Spencer, who sees Miller as an ally of the movement. Former White House Chief Strategist Stephen Bannon, who came from the white nationalist Breitbart News, says that Islam “is the most radical religion” in the world. Both of these individuals are the architects of the Muslim travel ban. And then there’s Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka, who is associated with the Hungarian Nazi-tied group Vitézi Rend. Gorka argues that admitting Muslim refugees is “national suicide” and claims that Islam and the Qur’an inspire terrorism. Gorka purports to be an expert on Islam when he has zero qualifications or training in Islamic studies.

Racists and bigots are emboldened to rally and march openly as a result of the President inviting this hateful ideology into the White House. Hate is being normalized by Trump and violence is bound to ensue.

Persistent Threat of White Supremacist Violence

The President and his advisors judge violence based on the perpetrator rather than on the act itself. Thus, when questioned about lone wolf terrorists in the U.S., Sebastian Gorka claimed there is “no such thing as a lone wolf” and insisted that there “has never been a serious attack or a serious plot that was unconnected from ISIS or al-Qaeda.” Just days before Charlottesville, Gorka said white supremacists were “not the problem.” Trump continued to blow a racial dog whistle when he blamed both sides for the violent clashes and defended white supremacists, saying they included "some very fine people."

The FBI and DHS warned months ago that white supremacists "were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016... more than any other domestic extremist movement." According to the Investigative Fund, these kinds of attacks outnumber Islamist incidents by about 2 to 1. These statistics cannot and should not be ignored.

Prevented From Building Community Resilience

Weeks before Charlottesville, the Trump administration revoked a grant to Life After Hate, an organization that works to de-radicalize neo-Nazis. DHS Policy Advisor Katharine Gorka, wife of Sebastian Gorka, met with DHS officials in December to relay Trump’s opposition to President Obama’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) funding guidelines. By re-prioritizing CVE funding guidelines, Trump undermines community-led programs and weakens our national security.

To ensure our domestic national security, Congress needs to take the dangers of white supremacy seriously. It must take action by enacting legislation that specifically targets the threat. Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) have called for a hearing on the dangers of white supremacist terrorism.

Government leaders cannot afford to ignore warnings issued by experts on looming threats. Unfortunately, the White House plan to revamp the federal CVE program into one that would focus solely on Islamist extremism is an example of willful negligence of the threat of far right domestic terrorism. Implementing that change would be a win for far right violent extremists.

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