By refusing to quickly and explicitly condemn acts committed by far-right extremist groups, the American president has offered up a platform demonstrating an irresponsible attitude while racial tensions remain severe in the U.S.
The outcry triggered by Trump’s reaction to the tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, once again brings to light his reluctance to condemn far-right extremist groups. A 32-year-old woman died when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters. The driver, a 20-year-old neo-Nazi sympathizer, has been accused of murder. Trump came under fire for initially insinuating that both parties were equally to blame for the weekend’s violence.
His reserved reaction – a statement denouncing the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides," instead of a clear and strong condemnation – has provoked a wave of backlash. Only later did the White House attempt to put out the fire, stipulating that the denunciation included the “KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups.”
The attitude of the American president is dangerous and irresponsible. Dangerous, because by failing to explicitly denounce the despicable acts committed by hate movements, Trump is bestowing upon them a certain legitimacy in a country where racial tensions are high. Irresponsible, because it allows individuals like former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke to openly announce his intentions of fulfilling Trump’s promise of making America great again. Far-right extremists are no longer containing their excitement with Trump’s presidency.
During the election campaign, Trump was already struggling to distance himself from white supremacists, who today pride themselves on having brought him to power. Now, he’s cultivating ambiguity, going so far as to keep company with fervent defenders of white nationalism, such as his controversial chief strategist Steve Bannon.* Vice President Mike Pence had a hard time calming the dispute once the damage had already been done.
Since the 9/11 attack in 2001, 62 of the 85 recorded extremist attacks in the U.S. have been the work of white supremacists. If Donald Trump continues to dangerously evade this issue while so-called alt-right nationalists continue to weasel their way into the White House, and if he continues to undermine racist and murderous acts through his xenophobic rhetoric, one thing is certain: he will provoke yet more tragedies like Charlottesville.
*Editor’s note: This article was written before White House strategist Steve Bannon resigned from his position at the White House on Friday, August 18, 2017.