By Abby Ramirez
On September 29, I dreaded watching the presidential debate. I knew that it would be chaotic and stressful, but I didn’t know how terrifying it would be until the moderator, Chris Wallace, directly asked Trump if he was willing to condemn white supremacists and militia groups. The President denied any knowledge of right-wing extremist groups, only to tell the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
I sat on my couch, in shock, but not surprised by Trump’s response. In the entirety of his life, Trump has proved to the world that he is racist and is complicit to acts of racial injustice and white supremacy. His comment was not what terrified me. It was the reaction that followed. Soon after, the Proud Boys responded with comments like “Standing by, Sir!” and even incorporated his statement into their logo.
They were elated. They were ecstatic. They were fired up. The President of the United States encouraged an extremist group who acts in the name of white power to take arms and stay vigilant, and I had no doubt in my mind that they would take it seriously. Whether he meant it or not, Trump’s history of racist comments and inability to condemn white supremacist groups in the last four years has caused America to regress to a state all too similar to a past we have been working to move on from.
After President Obama was elected into office, many Americans believed that the country was moving in the right direction towards equality and inclusion. However, after Trump’s presidential campaign announcement speech on June 16, 2016, many became scared we would lose that progress. In his speech, he explained that it was “just common sense” that immigrants from Mexico, South and Latin America, and the Middle East were causing problems in America.
By saying that making such racist remarks was logical, Trump opened the gates for hundreds of thousands of Americans to believe that racism is justified. His promise to build a wall at the Mexican border and “make America great again” made it seem like discrimination was the solution, when it never is. After gaining a massive following, Trump continued to run his campaign on xenophobic and racist ideals that predominantly attracted and appealed to one demographic: white voters.
According to Pew Research Center, Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest margin in exit polls since 1980: 67 percent of white Americans without a college degree and 49 percent of white Americans with college degrees backed Trump in 2016. Only 12 percent of his voter base consisted of Hispanics, African Americans, or those identifying as another race. To compare, Hillary Clinton’s voter base was 60 percent white, and 40 percent Hispanic, African American, or other.
Demographics are similar in the weeks leading up to the election. According to Pew, only 8 percent of African American, 29 percent of Hispanic, and 22 percent of Asian Americans polled are voting or leaning toward voting for Trump. That comes in stark contrast to the 89 percent of African Americans, 63 percent of Hispanics, and 75 percent of Asian Americans standing with Biden. Whereas, Trump leads Biden with white voters.
Trump did not in the 2016 election and does not in the 2020 election have a large number of voters who were people of color (POC) because he made it clear he did not plan on fighting for them, but rather against them. Although he claims to be the “least racist person in the world,” his stereotypical rhetoric and hatred of immigrants repelled many Americans and set the tone for the rest of his presidency. Instead of proving these voters wrong, he confirmed their fears just over six months after his inauguration.
In August 11, 2017, a group of alt-right white supremacists, some being members of the KKK and Proud Boys, marched on the University of Virginia to protest the removal of the late Confederate general, Robert E. Lee, shouting things like “blood and soil,” “you will not replace us,” and “white lives matter.” After hours of fighting and violence between the white supremacists and counter protesters, Trump went on to condemn and blame both sides for their acts of violence, only to say that there were “very fine people on both sides.”
Instead of condemning their hateful actions, Trump defended the white nationalists who threatened the very principles that all President of the United States swear to defend: equality and justice. For years, politicians have been condemning the actions of racist groups like the KKK because they are homegrown terrorists who threaten the well-being of our country. By calling them “fine people,” and speaking out against counter protesters, Trump subtly excused the actions of the most notorious hate group in American history, ensuring that their actions would not bear consequences.
In the following year, 55 fewer recorded hate crimes were committed, but the amount of violence against individuals rose to the highest point in 16 years, according to data released by the FBI. There is a clear correlation between Trump’s comments and the rise in violence. This is especially apparent now with the rise of violence against Black Lives Matter protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Any President has incredible influence over the country, and in Trump’s case, he is exploiting it to encourage his followers to commit acts of hatred that cause America to regress to a time before the Civil Rights Era.
America is historically known to be a “melting pot” of people from all places; SchoolHouse Rock even wrote a song about it. Trump wants us to be a pot full of clam chowder. He believes that people from third world countries are less civilized and undeserving of American citizenship, reinforcing the idea that white people from any country are superior to POC, and fueling hatred throughout the US.
People can debate all day whether Trump truly means what he says, but at the end of the day, the conclusion is irrelevant. The President is guilty of stating racist and xenophobic comments both before and during his presidency, and inspiring hate groups to spread hatred and white nationalism across the country.
In America, equality is supposed to transcend ethnicity and gender, but in the last four years, Trump has once again tried to make it a privilege of only a select few. If he is reelected, racial injustice and gender inequities will become more common, and the progress we have made in the last two centuries will become inconsequential.
In order to set the country on the right path towards a better tomorrow, the federal government must persistently condemn the behavior of those who act in the name of white supremacy and racism.