Last weekend White Supremacist Nazis marched on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia culminating in one of them murdering an innocent counter protestor in the street. I think there are six words that explain who is to blame for these racists to feel emboldened and empowered: popular vote loser President Donald Trump.
It’s no surprise to any of us with a brain that these people are admittedly feeling enabled by Trump. Not only did he take three days to condemn white supremacy after the Charlottesville chaos, when he did, it was pretty clear he didn’t mean it. Too little, too late, Donald.
It’s not just Trump’s words that ring hollow in his lack of resistance to racist groups, it’s his past actions as well, such as eliminating an Obama era program that funded a group that counters such racism.
Founded in 2009, Life After Hate is run by former members of racist extremist movements who now work to counter and reform white nationalists. Under former President Barack Obama, the organization received $400,000 as part of its Counter Violent Extremism (CVE) program—the only anti-white nationalism group given funding under the program. After Trump’s election, Life After Hate reportedly saw a 20-fold increase in calls for help from those reporting signs of radicalization in themselves or others.
But that uptick seemingly did little to convince the president’s administration that Life After Hate’s work was valuable. Reuters reported in early February that the government was looking into shifting the CVE program’s focus, honing in on extremism connected to Muslim groups exclusively. The administration also froze $10 million in CVE funding. Only a few months later, Life After Hate was dropped from the program’s list of funded groups.
“It sends a message that white extremism does not exist, or is not a priority in our country, when in fact it is a statistically larger and more present terror threat than any by foreign or other domestic actors,” Picciolini said. “We have hundreds of thousands of homegrown sovereign citizens and militia members with ties to white nationalism training in paramilitary camps across the U.S. and standing armed in front of mosques to intimidate marginalized Americans.”
“This decision, if true, would severely harm or destroy any community-led efforts to helping people disengage from violent extremism and potentially stop future terrorist acts,” he said.
In a May report obtained by Foreign Policy, members of both agencies warn that white supremacists “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.” Entitled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence,” the report concludes that white supremacists “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016…more than any other domestic extremist movement.”
Tracking conducted by ThinkProgress indicates that violence perpetuated by white extremists has continued into 2017. In the first three months following Trump’s election, ThinkProgress documented 261 incidents of hate, the vast majority of which were aimed at Jews, Muslims, people of color, and queer people. Still, Trump’s rhetoric has centered almost entirely on extremism carried out by Muslims specifically. Prominent members of the Trump administration have made similar comments. White House adviser Sebastian Gorka has argued that “[t]here’s no such thing as a lone wolf” because “[t]here has never been a serious attack or a serious plot that was unconnected from ISIS or al Qaeda.” (Timothy McVeigh, a white U.S. citizen, killed 168 people when he bombed a federal building in 1995 in Oklahoma City.)
That rhetoric, coupled with a move away from funding efforts, can do real harm, Picciolini emphasized in an interview with NPR following the tragedy in Charlottesville.
“What people need to understand is that since Sept. 11, more Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by white supremacists than by any other foreign or domestic group combined by a factor of two,” Picciolini said. “Yet we don’t really talk about that, nor do we even call these instances of the shooting at Charleston, S.C., or what happened at Oak Creek, [Wisconsin], at the Sikh temple or even what happened in Charlottesville this weekend — as terrorism.”
There you have it: the President of the United States is actively dismantling funding for anti-hate crime/anti-racist groups.
If Donald Trump wants anyone at all to believe his words of condemnation of the racist groups are true, then he would start by undoing this action and firing Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.
I think we all know the chances of those things happening.