Swanson: Stop Calling Trump a White Supremacist, It’s Not Helping


By Gavin Swanson, Opinion Writer

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month, you’ve heard about what happened in Charlottesville, VA on the night of August 11. Protesters armed with tiki torches and clad in polo shirts marched the University of Virginia campus, united by the cause to spread their message. This message was highlighted by quotable chants such as “Jews will not replace us” and the old Nazi slogan of “blood and soil.” It didn’t take long for this to gain the media’s attention and for people to realize that this was an organized protest that was being led by neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Many found this display rightfully disturbing, taking to social media to voice their disdain and disgust of the ideals that fueled this event. “The views fueling the spectacle in Charlottesville are repugnant. Let it only serve to unite Americans against this kind of vile bigotry,” tweeted Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. “Racism, bigotry & hate are wrong — in Charlottesville & anywhere else in this country. We should be a better people than that,” tweeted Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren. It seemed the American political system on both sides was pretty much united against the rally in Charlottesville. All except for the big cheese himself, President Donald Trump.

When Trump took to the podium to voice his opinion on Charlottesville, he caught immediate hostility from the public and from the media for saying, “We condemn in the strongest most possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.” The difference between the president’s statement and that of the rest of the political establishment is that instead of just targeting the white nationalists who incited the protest, he also criticized the counter protesters who arrived at the scene, eventually leading to violent confrontations.

In reaction to the outrage that he received from his initial commentary, Trump clarified his stance against the Charlottesville protesters with a new statement that directly targeted the white supremacist groups in attendance, “Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” With this newly updated stance, Trump stood with the rest of his peers in condemning the Klan and their compatriots in Charlottesville. Now being on the universally accepted side of the fence, all Trump had to do to avoid further flack was to keep this stance and let the rest of the news cycle out.

However, as we should all expect from our president at this point, the further controversy could not be avoided and the day after making the previous comment he went back and stood by his original sentiments. “I think there is blame on both sides. You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent,” he stated. This, of course, did not go over well with the rest of the world.

That is the rest of the world aside from his massive group of supporters — which people for some reason often forget that he has, even though it takes up quite a chunk of the population. The narrative now being pushed by Trump is that the actions of the white nationalists were intolerable, but so was the violence perpetrated by the counter protesters. Unfortunately for us, the counter-protesters did return hostilities with the protesters and some became violent. Hopefully, everyone is against political (or really any) violence, even if it is against neo-Nazis. When political violence against a certain group is openly tolerated, it creates a slippery slope where the gray area of acceptable violence against other groups begins to widen. I would like to live in an America where there is no gray area and any violence against anybody for their political beliefs, no matter how repugnant, is not tolerated.

To step off the soap box, the fact remains that Trump is still technically right about the counter-protesters being violent. When he is criticized for pointing the finger at them for causing violence along with the protesters, it’s easy for him to turn it around and spin it as a narrative about how he is being unfairly scrutinized by the media and by the left. When opponents take his statements and tell the tale of how he is defending neo-Nazis, it’s easy for him to stand behind a podium in Phoenix and say, “ I hit ’em with neo-Nazi, I hit ’em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got ’em all,” and still be right. When he can turn the tables on the left and the media like that, it rallies his supporters and proves further to them that he is being unfairly treated. When you put Trump on the same side as the KKK and neo-Nazis, you’re not helping your cause, you’re only emboldening his.

If your agenda lies in defeating the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists, then it’s time to grow up and stop trying to attach this to Trump. It’s true that some of the supporters are inspired by his election, but attempting to directly connect Trump to the white nationalists and pin responsibility to him avoids the actual threat to your ideals, the ones rallying with tiki torches. If your agenda is to really get on Trump’s case and prove to the world how big of a fool he can be, then at least go out and criticize the other dumb things he said in response to Charlottesville. And to prove that this isn’t a defense of Trump, I’ll point the laughable parts of his comments.

“I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups. Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch,” said President Trump. And while it is true that not every one of the protesters was neo-Nazis, they did think it was in their best interests to align and stand with the white nationalists. I believe those protesters’ choice to associate themselves with the white nationalists is grounds enough for us to associate them with the white nationalists.

“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee. So this week, it is Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” questioned our president. Apparently, someone needs to point out to Trump why it is Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson whose statues are being called for deconstruction and not the founding fathers.

To conclude, attaching Trump to the Charlottesville protesters and criticizing him for also going after the counter-protesters is the wrong approach to those who want to solve the issues of both the rise of white nationalism in America and of Trump himself. It’s time for us to stop acting childish and end the name-calling and petty insults and take to actual action to those who wish to impede on our American ideals.