Editorial

America should leave no room for bigotry

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

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It took him too long. However, US President Donald Trump has finally done the right thing by denouncing as “repugnant” the racism that was so evident in last weekend's deadly rally by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Having been criticised by both Republicans and Democrats for his feeble response to the violence on Saturday, Trump yesterday sought to recover, saying in a nationally televised statement that the people who spread violence in the name of bigotry “strike at the very core of America”.

“Racism is evil,” he said. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK (Ku Klux Klan), neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

He also vowed that anyone who acted criminally in Saturday's violence would be held accountable.

Looking on from this distance we get the feeling that the United States has taken a few steps backward from the inclusive society it had become when in 2008 Mr Barack Obama, a black man, was elected president by the overwhelming majority of the American people.

That historic moment in American history announced to the world that the United States had largely divested itself of its unpleasant past and had embraced its early motto e pluribus unum [Out of many, one]. And while President Obama, over his two terms in office, was subjected to a few instances of racism, we never got the feeling that it was on the rise. If anything, it appeared to be diminishing resistance to the reality that the Jim Crow era was at an end.

Unfortunately, over the past year we have seen a re-emergence of the type of rhetoric that feeds division, so much so that white supremacists saw it fit to march in protest against the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville.

That protest, as we all now know, has resulted in the death of a woman who was mowed down when a man, said to be a Nazi sympathiser, drove his car into a crowd of people protesting against the rally.

Up to yesterday, news from the University of Virginia Health System was that of the 19 people injured on Saturday, 10 remained hospitalised in good condition and nine had been released.

Just as unfortunate is the fact that two state police officers, who were on law enforcement deployment for the rally, also died Saturday in a helicopter crash. So three precious lives were lost because of narrow-mindedness and the unwillingness of a minority of people to accept that all humans are created equal.

America has made too much progress in the area of race relations to yield those gains to the actions of a blinkered few. The driver of the death car has been arrested, charged with second-degree murder, and was denied bail when he appeared in court yesterday. Hopefully that sends a signal to others who would harbour similar intentions of discrimination and hate.

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