What occurred in Charlottesville is just another reminder of how volatile racism and extremism can be in the US today. Many fear that modern racism is coming back to its original out-in-the-open form.
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Narration: August 12. A tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia… A car plows into a crowd, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others… A painful end to a clash between white nationalists protesting the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue and counter-protesters...
Shortly after the violence, Donald Trump tweeted, "We all must be united and condemn all that hate stands for." But it was what the president said later in the day that got the most attention.
SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, US President: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.”
VOX POP [English] Local resistance of Charlottesville: “I'm here today because my country is very divided and I'd like to be on the right side of history.”
“I think we used to be the beacon of hope in the world and now I think we're just an embarrassment.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Protester: “We're here tonight to commemorate a life of an American that was killed by a Nazi on American soil. Let's say her name so Donald Trump can Hear.”
Narration: The president's response to the white supremacists was deemed tepid. David French, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, wrote: "If there ever was a time in recent American political history for an American president to make a clear, unequivocal statement against the alt-right, it was today. Instead, we got a vague condemnation of 'hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.' This is unacceptable."
Former Governor Mitt Romney also called on the president to apologize, state forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame. On his Facebook, he wrote: "Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn." Meanwhile, the UN issued a rare warning over 'alarming' racism in the US.
The fact that US president couldn’t denounce Nazism has spurred heated debates.
SOUNDBITE [English] Protesters: “No Trump, no hate… No Trump, no hate…”
SOUNDBITE [English] clergyman: “It is just amazing that the president talks about 'fire and fury' to North Korea that is almost 7,000 miles away from Washington, D.C. Why he didn't condemn, he didn't talk about 'fire and fury' about the tragedy that happened almost 100 miles from the White House.”
Narration: But this is not the first time Trump failed to confront white nationalists. This is eight months ago, during his presidential elections.
INTERVIEW [English] Donald Trump, US President: “- Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote of that of other white supremacists in this election?
Would you see or understand. I don’t know anything about David Duke, ok? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. I don’t know. I don’t know did he endorse me or what's going on because you know, I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about white supremacists and so you're asking me a question that I'm supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.”
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Narration: But why is so? Why cannot Donald Trump properly respond to the recent violence triggered by a bunch of white nationalists? Analysts argue because they put him in the White House.
SOUNDBITE [English] Protester: “Trump, Bannon, Kushner, Miller, Ivanka - they are all failing the American people and putting all of the citizens in jeopardy. We're inclusive, we are to stay in solidarity [and] we deserve to be safe. In order to empower the KKK, the current administration is standing for Nazism, [it] is defending David Duke and his cronies. And he [Trump] has the responsibility, the responsibility to make us safer; this is not what's happening in this country.”
Narration: During the election season, Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux helped the Republican billionaire as an ally to their vision of a white nationalist society; one that could expel and diminish minorities.
SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, US President: “They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on..”
Narration: It took the U.S. only eight months to go from a nation that voted for a black president to one that is suffering from race riots and killings, with officials having to send troops out on to the streets and declare a state of emergency.
What occurred in Charlottesville is a horrific example of hatred unleashing itself on American streets in 2017; hate, bias and racism have been taken from the margins into the mainstream since Trump came to power.
SOUNDBITE [English] Protester: “This is the moment for folks across the country to look at what? happening in Charlottesville as something that could happen in your community. The folks of Charlottesville are rising up in opposite to Nazi and white supremacists and white nationalists who are coming into this community, who are fueling hatred and violence and who are getting their instructions from folks who live and work inside the White House.”
Narration: Now the US nation must come to terms with the fact that their president has played a role in emboldening these hate groups of all stripes to come out of the shadows.
David Duke, a former grand wizard of the KKK and avid Trump supporter, thanked the president for defending those marching alongside white supremacists at the rallies over the weekend.
Hate crimes, and xenophobia have all been steadily rising within the US for years. The only difference after Trump's election, is the same white supremacists now feel they have a friend in the Oval Office. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in February, “The radical right was more successful in entering the political mainstream last year than in half a century”. The organization documents more than nine hundred active and growing hate groups in the United States.However, as some experts argue, it's a mistake to give Trump too much importance.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Steppling, Political Commentator: “Trump is a symptom of what is happening. He is not the cause of what is happening. He's certainly exasperating much of the anger out there. I mean Trump is not really an ideological guy. He's almost too stupid to be ideological.”
Narration: The fact is the racial divide didn’t just happen when Donald Trump got elected. It has been in United States’ DNA.
SOUNDBITE [English] John Steppling, Political Commentator: “You have to look at white supremacies from a perspective of four hundred years and a kind of European and American colonial project. Again, America was founded on you know the genocide of the indigenous people, 600 tribes… nobody knows how many million died in slavery.”
Narration: Trump once boasted that he could shoot someone in the street and not lose voters.
SOUNDBITE [English] Donald Trump, US President: “I can stand in the middle of the fifth avenue and shoot somebody and wouldn’t lose any voter. Okay? It's like incredible.”
Narration: Someone was just killed in the street while Trump has refused to specifically condemn the responsible group. Whether he will lose or win voters in the next election, many think Trump has already lost his moral compass and authority.
All in all, what occurred in Charlottesville is just another painful reminder of how volatile racism and extremism can be in the US today. Many fear that modern racism is coming back to its original out-in-the-open form.