Photo courtesy of Brian Snyder, Reuters
During a heated debate between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden in September, moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he was willing to condemn white supremacist groups.
“Proud boys, stand back and stand by,” Trump said when further prompted on an organization called the Proud Boys, a known white supremacist group.
Though some argue that Trump simply mixed up his words and others state that these white supremacist groups have a right to freedom of speech, there should be no room for hate speech in a country that preaches equality as one of its core values.
One common idea among Trump’s supporters justifying his refusal to condemn white supremacist groups is that he may have just slipped up with his words. They say that Trump is not an experienced politician, so it is understandable that he will often not be as articulate, or that he’ll be misunderstood. However, his response to this question should have been simple. If he truly wanted to condemn these groups, he could have easily agreed and said that he does not support white supremacist groups or white supremacy in general. Instead, he chose to avoid directly denouncing white supremacy, turning the blame on other groups.
“Somebody's got to do something about Antifa and the left, because this is not a right-wing problem,” Trump said.
While freedom of speech should be supported, terrorism should be easy to denounce.
By shifting the blame to the left, Trump passes on an opportunity to address a major problem in America at the moment. In fact, he avoids the issue of white supremacy completely – although he seems to have no problem condemning other prominent groups within the nation.
People say that Americans have a constitutional right to freedom of speech. They attempt to abuse the first amendment to justify their poor treatment of minority groups, stating that by condemning white supremacist groups, the president would be infringing on their freedom of speech. According to the New York Times, the Department of Homeland Security has identified white supremacy as the "most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland.” While freedom of speech should be supported, terrorism should be easy to denounce. People’s lives being taken should not be excused, and this issue has become more than about freedom of speech. White supremacists that feel like they are supported by the president will only incite more hate crimes, resulting in more people losing their lives or the lives of their loved ones.
“Standing down and standing by sir,” the Proud Boys tweeted
Since the debate, the Proud Boys have taken Trump's remark, turned it into merchandise and celebrated it on social media like Twitter. If the group that Trump supposedly condemned feels supported and empowered by what he said, he did not do enough.
“Standing down and standing by sir,” the Proud Boys tweeted, seemingly referring to Trump as their leader in a tweet following the presidential debate.
The Proud Boys also used the statement as a recruitment tool to get other extremists to join their cause and to grow their influence.
Overall, Trump’s statement on white supremacy and refusal to condemn it was unacceptable and should not be tolerated in America, especially because it was counterproductive and furthered the agenda of the white supremacy groups in the end.