Thursday, June 30, 2022
June 30, 2022

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In Our View: Recognize white supremacy; reject it by voting

The Columbian

Threats to American democracy and support for white nationalism are not limited to places far from Washington. Actions that undermine our nation are percolating in the Northwest, not solely in regions we might mistakenly believe are less enlightened.

Witness a series of recent headlines.

A father and son from Battle Ground have agreed to plea deals for their roles in the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. A father and two sons from Puyallup have been arrested for taking part in the Jan. 6 riot. A man from the Auburn area has had the charge of seditious conspiracy added to other accusations related to Jan. 6. And 31 members of Patriot Front, described as a white supremacist group, have been arrested in Idaho near a rally supporting LGBTQ people; they face charges of conspiracy to riot.

Each of those articles has appeared in the past week, demonstrating the pervasiveness of attitudes that are potentially violent. The Associated Press reports that in the weeks leading to Patriot Front’s planned riot, “a fundamentalist Idaho pastor told his Boise congregation that gay, lesbian and transgender people should be executed by the government.”

Such rhetoric mirrors — and fuels — a growing trend.

In 2017, at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and wielded Nazi symbols; then-President Donald Trump insisted there were “very fine people” at the rally. Given Trump’s coddling of white supremacist groups — and the fact that white supremacist flags were prominent during the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — it is impossible to separate the rise of white nationalism from the attempt to overthrow the government.

In addition, studies indicate that online hate speech doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic. And incidents categorized as hate crimes have spiked over the past two years. Most prominent among them was a mass shooting last month at a grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, N.Y., where an avowed white supremacist killed 10 people.

Americans who are appalled by racist, bigoted attitudes are unable to prevent them. One of the strengths of this nation is that we reject the notion of thought police, leaving people to their own beliefs.

But there are a few things Americans can do to strengthen this nation’s ties to its creed that all people are created equal.

One is to be aware that actions deriving from these attitudes present a threat to the United States. As an official in Trump’s Department of Justice wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times: “white supremacy and far-right extremism are among the greatest domestic-security threats facing the United States. Regrettably, over the past 25 years, law enforcement, at both the Federal and State levels, has been slow to respond. … Killings committed by individuals and groups associated with far-right extremist groups have risen significantly.”

Another is to reject hateful speech when we hear it. Violence and threats of violence are not spontaneous; they are nurtured and cultivated over time.

But most important is for people to vote. White supremacy and other hateful attitudes are not limited to the corners of the internet; they have gone mainstream and often find voice in political candidates. With a primary election seven weeks away, voters should examine what those candidates truly believe and decide whether those beliefs reflect their own.

And then they should vote to protect our nation from those who desire to destroy it.

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