What happened in Charlottesville, Virginia should never have happened in America. Unfortunately, we must also recognize that it could happen only in America. The rawness, the crassness, the disregard for civilized norms that Donald Trump has brought to American politics in combination with the long history of racism and slavery and the simmering hatred beneath the superficial multiculturalism of our society has led to the eruption of hate in Charlottesville.
Given the long and contentious history of race and domination in America and the West, it is important that all responsible Americans do their best to assuage the past memory of this hate and do as much as one can to reduce, even eradicate racism from our present.
Racism (and slavery) is our original sin, and the fact that we are now facing another outbreak of this vile sentiment, should alert and galvanize all those who love this country and who value equality, human dignity and social justice.
In this essay, I want to scream the anger and agony I have been experiencing since I saw the images of Charlottesville. I also feel deeply wounded by the betrayal of President Trump.
WHITE SUPREMACY IS A CANCER
Remember the biggest war in world history was fought against white supremacists and Nazis, and the biggest civil war in our history was also fought against white supremacists and slavers. Given this past, no one in America should adopt a casual or indifferent attitude towards racism and towards individuals and groups who incite violence and hate based on racism.
White Americans, given their privilege, their numbers and the many positions of power and authority they enjoy are key to the direction and substance of our nation. White Americans are very simply the heart of America and if they go rogue, then we have no future. White supremacy is a cancer that is subverting the heart of America and unless the nation wants to have a cardiac arrest, we must arrest the spread of this evil within the most important community in our country.
White supremacists are not the weakest link in the chain that holds us together, it is a weakness in the strongest link in that chain.
PRESIDENT TRUMP AND WHITE NATIONALISM
My early reflections on the racist violence in Charlottesville
White nationalism is now emboldened by the victory of Donald Trump and his demonstrated sympathies for their cause. With overt racism through white nationalism and covert racism from those who silently support and fan it, we are indeed facing perilous times as our democracy and social cohesion is tested.
And unfortunately, it does not appear as if America can rely on its president to do the right thing while facing the biggest threat to its democracy. Believe me, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and intolerance for diversity are bigger threats to us than Russia, ISIS, Iran and North Korea combined. While the latter are far from us, hate is metastasizing inside us.
Trump’s reluctance to name the evil of white supremacy, the insincerity in his eventual denunciation of Nazis, and then the shocking demonstration of sympathy for the racists’ point of view was astonishing. He unveiled his heart to the nation and showed us how dark it is. How far it is from the values on which our nation has been built. America became great by overcoming racism, slavery and intolerance, and it will only wither away if we allow those same evils to thrive and spread.
President Trump, could have in one inspired moment of statesmanship denounced hatred and white nationalism unequivocally, announced a series of to rallies to “bring America together again,” fired white nationalists in his administration and forever extinguished the hope of white nationalists that now is their opportunity make significant gains.
But alas, not only did he not do that, but he has also send signals that he shares some of the sentiments of the white nationalists. Trump failed America, when it needed him. Trump’s biggest failure was moral. He equated advocacy of racism with opposition to racism. And in that one moment he not only confessed his inability to tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong, but also normalized hate.
His moral failure was so palpable that even Fox News commentators were cringing at the president’s claim that there are “fine people” among the racists. Charles Krauthammer the dean of Fox News pundits called it a “moral disgrace!”
It is time for all Americans, liberals, conservatives and others to come together and unite against the dividers. We face an uphill battle against the evil of racism and we must fight this war without our commander in chief. We have defeated this evil globally and at home in the past, we will do it again. May Allah Bless America.
Dr. Muqtedar Khan is Professor at the University of Delaware and a Senior Fellow of the Center for Global Policy.