The disease of white supremacy has plagued the United States since its inception. Over the last four years, Trump has emboldened white supremacists with inflammatory language and even elevated them to positions of power. On Jan. 6, his followers — domestic terrorists, not protesters or rioters — desecrated a pillar of our democracy, but their actions should not come as a surprise. Trump has sown lies and conspiracies for more than five years, fanning a flame that culminated in one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.
A resounding repudiation of their behaviors and ideology is long overdue. Many of us hoped that Trump’s failure to secure a second term would be that moment, but history proved us wrong. Now, following Trump’s most horrific abuse of power in four years, Vice President Mike Pence the Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. If they don’t, then Congress must once again impeach Trump.
White supremacist violence is the single greatest threat to this country and its people. Yet U.S. political institutions and elected officials consistently fail to recognize its perpetrators as the domestic terrorists they are. Their whiteness gives them a pass. The insurrection at the Capitol building laid bare the racial double standard that has always underpinned this country.
Plans to violently disrupt the counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6 circulated among Trump’s fans online for weeks. But somehow, Capitol police seemed caught completely off guard when thousands of people stormed the building. Had the police taken white supremacy seriously, the carnage could have been prevented.
It’s scary to imagine how the few officers who were initially on the grounds would have responded to a similarly large group of Black Lives Matter activists peacefully protesting against police brutality. But we don’t have to imagine. Just last year, Trump deployed tear gas, military vehicles and troops against peaceful protesters just to take a photo with a Bible. On that fateful day in Washington, Trump caused supremacist police violence directly, and throughout the rest of his presidency, he’s incited others to do the same.
Trump’s presidency is the product of the nation’s failure to recognize the white nationalism ingrained in every aspect of American society. From the moment he set out on the campaign trail, his time in the spotlight of national politics has been defined by racism. In just his first campaign speech, Trump disparaged Mexicans as drug smugglers and rapists. He’s denigrated and discriminated against Black Americans. The Ku Klux Klan endorsed him.
He also appointed high-ranking advisers, most notably Senior Advisor for Policy Stephen Miller and former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, notorious for their white supremacist views. For years, they repeatedly pandered to Trump’s alt-right following and allowed him to take the reins of the white supremacist movement. In 2017, when neo-Nazis protested the removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, Trump remarked that he thought “there were very fine people on both sides.” On that day, Trump reinforced a clear precedent: there was no accountability for white supremacists three years ago, and judging by his remarks, in which he told the insurrectionists, “I love you,” there will be none for the thousands who stormed and vandalized the Capitol.
Not only has Trump openly condoned white supremacy in fora as public as presidential debates, but he has also tried to erase it from American history. For months, he has told the country that he wants the country’s children to undergo a more “patriotic education.” Trump dangerously conflates patriotism and bigotry. His agitation against anti-racist education has prevented us from dismantling white supremacy.
Trump’s presidency encourages white supremacy, and with every moment he remains president of the U.S., our democratic values further disintegrate. Vice President Mike Pence should invoke the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and at least half of the Cabinet to temporarily remove Trump if they find him unfit to serve. If Pence does not act, Congress should hastily impeach Trump and ensure he can do no more damage to our democratic institutions.
Removing Trump from office is a dire necessity, but it won’t single-handedly erase white supremacy, which pervades every system of our country, every part of our government, every corner of our society. In his remarks on the Capitol attacks, President-elect Joe Biden said the mob’s siege does “not represent who we are.” While there is certainly hope — through antiracist organizing and activism nationwide — Jan. 6 pulled the curtain back on the worst of America.
White supremacy may not define us, but it is an undeniable part of this country. Trump did not create white supremacy; but as its most ardent apologist, he has enabled its expansion. We must call out, repudiate and combat white supremacy if we hope to progress beyond the Trump presidency.
The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board. The Editorial Board is composed of Sahar Al-Gazzali, Brammhi Balarajan, Viviana Barreto, Rachel Broun, Jake Busch, Sara Khan, Demetrios Mammas, Meredith McKelvey, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Leah Woldai and Lynnea Zhang.