Billed as Unite the Right 2, white supremacists marched in our nation’s capital one month ago to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The turnout? Fewer than 25 people.
Pundits largely painted the day as a loss for the cause of white supremacy. Some pointed to low turnout as evidence of a fractured and dying neo-Nazi movement. But these conclusions don’t consider the full story. They fail to consider a larger truth about the insidious nature of racism and its roots in our institutions, our politics, and our nation.
This kind of bigotry is hurting people and their families every day. In June, the University of California — San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism analyzed hate crime trends in the 10 largest U.S cities in 2017. They found that hate crimes had reached their highest number in a decade.
But the data understate the true volume of violence against communities. Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s approximately 16,000 law enforcement agencies do not submit hate crimes data to the FBI. This means our understanding of the magnitude and nature of the crisis is dangerously limited — even as the crisis worsens.
And with President Trump at the helm of our nation, it is worsening.
Mere yards from where the handful of white supremacists gathered on August 12 sits the White House, stately and manicured on the outside — and roiling with bigotry on the inside.
The president’s derogatory rhetoric against people of color — peddled on Twitter, in public appearances, and elsewhere — has emboldened white nationalists to emerge from the woodwork, armed with their hate and fear. It is no wonder that some of those two-dozen white supremacists marching wore Trump’s red campaign hats.
Beyond feeding his base, Trump’s rhetoric is an extension of a policy agenda that promotes white nationalism and discrimination.
Last summer, around the same time the president equated those who would end racism with neo-Nazis, he announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military. Tossing aside credible research that found little to no impact on unit cohesion, as well as statements of support for transgender troops from high-ranking military officials, the president marched ahead with his discriminatory ban. Thankfully, a federal judge temporarily halted the policy while the court rules on its constitutionality.
The white nationalist agenda is not limited to the White House. It pervades the entire administration. At the Department of Justice, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has turned back the clock on criminal justice reform and channeled new, malicious energy into the discredited war on drugs.
Sessions also positioned the federal government on the wrong side of history in a series of Supreme Court cases last term. Reversing the previous administration’s positions, Sessions put the government’s weight behind the erosion of voting rights and discrimination against voters of color. The department also backed a business owner’s license to discriminate against LGBTQ people and the dismantling of labor unions.
And, in a devastating setback for civil and human rights, the Supreme Court upheld the administration’s Muslim ban, one of many anti-immigrant policies churned out in the Trump era.
Preying on the economic anxieties of Americans and scapegoating immigrants and people of color is the main strategy behind Trump’s machine.
Within days of taking office, the president issued the first iteration of the Muslim ban. Months later, his administration announced an end to the DACA program, threatening to send young Americans to countries they’ve never known nor called home. And in an unconscionable self-made crisis, the administration ripped families apart at the southern border — and shrug as immigrant children experience drugging, sexual assault, and harassment in camps run by for-profit companies.
But the parade of horrors doesn’t end there. Now, the administration is targeting immigrants who have legal status in our country.
The bigotry driving these policies is plain. And the man behind the curtain is Stephen Miller, a white supremacist who serves as a speechwriter and senior advisor to the president.
Under any previous administration in recent memory, Miller’s position in the White House would cause an uproar across the political spectrum. But in this era of unceasing destruction and distraction, Miller is free to implement brutal policies that degrade and terrorize people across America.
There can be no doubt about the motivation behind these heartless policies. It is past time to hold the administration accountable and oust white supremacists from the highest seats of government. That begins with Stephen Miller. As part of The Leadership Conference’s campaign to end hate, we’re asking people to sign a petition to demand the president fire Miller.
Any government that entertains white supremacists and white nationalism is a friend to white supremacy. It is a betrayal of our nation’s highest ideals of justice, inclusion, and fairness.
America, it’s up to us to save our democracy — and save our soul.
Let’s get to work.