Trump, a former reality television host, beauty pageant organizer and businessman, rose to political prominence by publicly questioning the citizenship of the United States’ first black president, Barack Obama. Since his election, Trump has targeted Muslims, refugees, Mexicans and the media. He has also advocated for police brutality. These tactics have appealed to and emboldened white ethno-nationalist groups and domestic terrorist organizations.
After Charlottesville, Trump has largely refused to unequivocally condemn the actions of the white supremacist groups. In a shocking news conference Tuesday, Trump, fuming after consuming hours of cable television, doubled down on blaming “both sides” for the weekend’s violence. His remarks garnered praise from a former leader of a white terrorist group known as the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville,” Duke said on Twitter.
Beyond Trump’s coddling of white extremist groups, the emboldening of white supremacists and neo-Nazis raises questions about the state of the United States’ democracy 152 years after its brutal civil war over the rights of the white ethnic majority in its southern region to enslave members of the black ethnic minority. After the Charlottesville turmoil, more protests are expected around the country against the removal of Confederate monuments.
“Culturally, Americans are a curious lot,” said Andrew Darcy Morthington, an United Kingdom-based commentator who once embarked on a two-year mission trip to teach rural American children and therefore qualifies as an expert on U.S. affairs. “Donald Trump’s campaign message was that he would make America great again, and that there would be so much ‘winning.’ If America cares about being great, why has it fought so hard to keep monuments to the Confederate losers and enslavers?”
“The worst thing Britain ever did was letting go of our colony and thinking Americans were capable of governing themselves without eventually resorting back to tribal politics,” said Martin Rhodes, a shopkeeper in London. “I can’t believe a once-great empire would threaten everything it has built over generations just because a group of people give in to racism and xenoph…” Rhodes’s voice trailed off as he stared wistfully at a silent Big Ben.
Experts are also linking the weekend violence to the scourge of domestic terrorism carried out by white males, who have carried out almost twice as many mass attacks on American soil than Muslims have in recent years.
“This is the time for moderates across the white male world to come out and denounce violent racial terrorism, white supremacy and regressive tribal politics,” said James Charlotin, a Canadian national security expert. “Why haven’t they spoken out?”
European leaders have offered to convene the first-ever Countering Violent White Male Extremism (CVWME) summit somewhere in Europe, but critics have pointed out that Europe was the original exporter of many of the same colonial and white supremacist ideologies that have fueled misery all over the globe.
“This is just a recipe for entrenched disaffection from the state and further isolation and radicalization of American white males,” Charlotin said.
“The Americans on both sides of the political spectrum like to talk about identity politics, or white identity,” said Mustapha Okango, a Kenyan anthropologist based in Nairobi. “The Americans like to lecture us and other Africans about keeping tribalism out of our politics and putting country ahead of our ethnic groups. America’s institutions are strong. But when I saw the images of those white men in polos carrying Party City tiki torches and weapons, it’s pretty clear American white tribal politics are alive and well, explicitly fueled by President Trump’s regime. White supremacy doesn’t just hurt blacks or other minority groups, it hurts the whole country. Take it from us Kenyans, it’s a dangerous recipe. We had hoped better for America.”
A white nationalist and a counterprotester face off. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)
Tensions rise as white nationalists hold a rally in Charlottesville, Va.