Aug. 14, 2018 – Thomas J. Rachko, Jr. is Associate, US Program
The sight of white supremacists calling for “white civil rights” in front of the White House on Sunday is one I’ll never forget. And while the group of white nationalists was tiny – less than 30 – the demonstration was a stark reminder of the perilous state of race relations under the Trump administration.
The truth is that this supposed concern for “white civil rights” is usually just a flimsy cover for racism, bigotry, and xenophobia.
The Unite the Right 2 rally comes at a time when polls suggest most Americans say race relations have worsened under President Trump. Since the first Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, where Heather Heyer was killed when struck by a car allegedly driven by a white supremist, Trump has advanced policies that have set back rights for minorities, refugees, women, and others.
Trump blamed “both sides” for violence between white supremacists and anti-racist counter protesters in Charlottesville. A year later, Trump refused to explicitly identify, condemn, and reject white supremacy, instead tweeting blandly that “We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence.” Some of the white supremacists outside the White House wore red, Trump campaign “Make America Great Again” hats.
The president’s words and actions on the question of race speak for themselves. He called undocumented immigrants “animals” and used such language to rationalize policies like “zero-tolerance” and increased funding for immigration detention. He has called African countries “shitholes”, expressing a preference for more migration from countries like Norway. He has tried through executive orders to ban travel from several largely Muslim countries. He has said NFL players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police killings “shouldn’t be in the country,” while, at the same time, his administration scales back police accountability mechanisms.
On Sunday, at Lafayette Square Park, the voices of the people championing “white civil rights” who have seen a friend in Trump were drowned out by the outpouring of messages of human rights and civil rights. Over a thousand anti-racist, anti-xenophobic protesters gathered to demonstrate that hate and white supremacy have no place in the White House or in US policies.