A terrorist motivated by white nationalist ideas gunned down peaceful Muslim worshipers last Friday. This sort of white supremacist attack is nothing new, and neither is its relation to President Donald Trump.
On the evening of Sep. 17, 2015, Donald Trump answered questions and listened to concerns at a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire.
“We have a problem in this country, it’s called Muslims,” one supporter said.
As Trump nodded along, the supporter asked, “When can we get rid of em’?”
Rather than telling the man that he had nothing to fear, Trump said, “We need this question,” and assured his supporters that, “We’re gonna be looking at that and a lot of different things.”
The President of the US didn't cause all of this. It's been around well before his tenure. But his rhetoric has certainly fueled and inspired these killers' sick minds. He needs to condemn this evil ideology and take real steps to fight it.
— John Legend (@johnlegend) March 15, 2019
I am not solely blaming Trump for this attack because the terrorist made his own decision to kill 50 people. However, Trump needs to be aware that his outspoken beliefs and constant vitriol of Islam and immigrants have an effect on both his supporters and white supremacists around the world.
When Trump tweets lies about American Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attack, or when he pushes for the surveillance of mosques and Muslims, or when he reiterates, time and time again the need for a Muslim ban, there are people out there listening and thinking to themselves, “I agree with this, and I’ll take matters into my own hands.”
Three and a half years later, a terrorist entered two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and decided to look into the problem that Trump described by taking the lives of 50 innocent Muslims.
The shooter released an online manifesto moments before the attack, filled with anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant language. The terrorist describes his hatred for Muslims and those who convert to the religion, and even defines his attack as “revenge” against Islam.
The manifesto describes how, “we must deal with both the invaders within our lands and the invaders that seek to enter our lands.” Overall, the shooter wants us to know that he committed this attack for “[his] people, [his] culture, [his] RACE.” The shooter even made sure to put “race” in all caps, just in case we didn’t grasp the idea that he was racist.
This type of rhetoric in the manifesto seems to resemble words from Trump. In February 2016, Trump recounted a false story to a group of his supporters about U.S. Gen. John Pershing and how he executed 49 Muslims with bullets dipped in pig’s blood and Muslims are prohibited from consuming swine. Trump said that this solved the terrorism problem for 25 years and that, “we better start getting tough, or we’re not gonna have a country.”
The shooter mentions in his manifesto how he praises Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” Trump has a position as the leader of our nation to condemn white nationalist behavior and show them their racist beliefs are not welcome. If Trump refuses to take responsibility, then these people will continue to think their mindsets are acceptable because they share it with their president.
My warmest sympathy and best wishes goes out to the people of New Zealand after the horrible massacre in the Mosques. 49 innocent people have so senselessly died, with so many more seriously injured. The U.S. stands by New Zealand for anything we can do. God bless all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2019
In response to the attack, Trump gave his “warmest sympathy and best wishes out to the people of New Zealand.” He played it safe with this reaction, but “warm sympathies” and “best wishes” just do not cut it.
When asked if he saw white nationalism as a mounting global threat, Trump replied with, “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.” This was the perfect opportunity as a leader to condemn these terrorists, but Trump decided to quickly move past the subject.
Michelle and I send our condolences to the people of New Zealand. We grieve with you and the Muslim community. All of us must stand against hatred in all its forms.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 15, 2019
Trump needs to open his eyes and acknowledge the rise of white supremacy. As president of the United States, Trump has a responsibility to look at the Charleston church shooting, the Charlottesville attack, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and the New Zealand mosque shooting and condemn these terrorists. He needs to put an end to his xenophobic rhetoric that acts as fuel to white nationalist beliefs and take action to help stop them from happening again.
Click here to read another reaction from Assistant Opinion Editor, AJ Melillo.