On the same day 50 Muslims were murdered in New Zealand by a white nationalist who ranted against “invaders” in his manifesto, Donald Trump stated the following in the Oval Office as he prepared to veto the congressional resolution overturning his border declaration:
“Last month, more than 76,000 illegal migrants arrived at our border. We’re on track for a million illegal aliens to rush our borders. People hate the word ‘invasion’ but that’s what it is. It’s an invasion of drugs and criminals and people.”
When Trump demonizes people of color as “invaders and criminals” he appeals to white nationalists’ racial and ethnic fears and resentment both at home and abroad. And as long as he paints them as “the other” he makes them a target. People of color in America hear Trump’s message of racial, ethnic, and religious bigotry loud and clear while many white Republicans appear not to.
During his press conference, Trump was asked if he sees white nationalism as a rising threat around the world and his response was, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems, I guess.”
His response is in direct contrast with the facts as white nationalism is certainly a rising threat in the US. Just in the last two years there have been a number of high-profile incidents involving white nationalists, including Charlottesville; the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; and the recent arrest of a Coast Guard officer, an alleged white supremacist, who was planning an attack.
According to organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the FBI, among others, the data suggests these are all part of a broader rise in white nationalism across the U.S.
Where are the voices from white Republicans seeking to hold Trump accountable for his bigotry? They appear to be few and far between as his approval rating among Republicans currently sits at 90 percent. But after a military career and another 20 years in law enforcement and public safety, I refuse to live in fear in my own country. So I encourage my fellow white citizens to find their voice and have the courage to speak truth to power. I remind them of the words of Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Michael E. Waters