The statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Combating Hatred with History

Since US President Donald Trump’s election in the US and the Brexit referendum in the UK, hate speech and crimes against ethnic minorities have started to become normalized across the West. To reverse this trend, all citizens should be encouraged to reflect on the not-too-distant past.

BRUSSELS – After a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which anti-fascist campaignerHeather Heyer was killed, and many others injured, US President Donald Trump notoriously blamed “both sides” for the violence. By equating neo-Nazis with those who stood against them, Trump (further) sullied his presidency. And by describing some of the participants in the Charlottesville rally as “very fine people,” he gave a nod to far-right bigots worldwide.

A few weeks thereafter, just as Hurricane Harvey was bearing down on Texas, Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona. Arpaio had been convicted of contempt of court in July for defying a federal judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos. But the way Trump sees it, Arpaio was “convicted for doing his job.”

Arpaio once boasted that the outdoor jail where he held undocumented immigrants was akin to a concentration camp. And he is now a leading exponent of the Tea Party and other xenophobic right-wing movements that rallied behind Trump in last year’s election. By pardoning Arpaio, Trump was, once again, implicitly embracing white supremacists and nativists worldwide.

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