In a press conference held yesterday afternoon, President Trump spoke at length about the heinous acts of white supremacy that took place in Charlottesville, VA and assigned equal blame to “both sides” for Saturday’s violence. When our nation needed outright condemnation, the President offered a shockingly immoral response. He spoke of “very fine people on both sides,” when clergy marched on one side while the other brandished torches and swatsikas.
Decrying fascism and white supremacy is not an ethically Herculean effort. It is the bare minimum, and yet our President was unable to clear this very lowest of bars. When it comes to neo-nazis there is only one side: Either you vigorously oppose them or you stand complicit in their evil. The president’s failure — once again — to condemn hatred by its name is utterly reprehensible.
And yet, none of this should be at all surprising. Donald Trump ran for office on a platform of ethnocentrism, bigotry and xenophobia. He has repeatedly endorsed the viewpoints of white supremacists, and amplified their voices. His recent comments are but the latest sins in a life defined by racism and discrimination. However, while his remarks may not be surprising, we cannot cease to be shocked by them. We cannot allow his repugnant views to become further normalized. People of conscience must give his racism no quarter in our hearts or political life.
At Union Theological Seminary and Episcopal Divinity School at Union, we belong to a variety of faiths. While religions may differ in the contents of their beliefs, almost all are united in their opposition to racism. Whether you look to Genesis’ description of humanity as made in the image of God, Paul’s admonition that in Christ all earthly divisions fade away, or Quranic texts that label a diversity of colors and languages a sign of God’s greatness, nearly every faith holds sacrosanct the innate worth and dignity of all people. White supremacy violates this most cherished belief, it is an offense against the God that created us. For too long, our country has let this sin fester; its corrosive effects could not be clearer.
Our country needs our President to be a moral leader, a guiding light that emboldens our highest values, not our inner demons. Our President should bring out the best qualities in our citizens, but Donald Trump has repeatedly shown himself capable only of stoking resentment and bigotry. With each passing day, we witness further evidence of his amorality seeping throughout our civic life. If you cannot condemn white supremacists, you cannot lead our nation. There is no middle ground.
Rev. Dr. Serene Jones
President, Union Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas
Dean, Episcopal Divinity School at Union