JOINT STATEMENT BY REV. DR. FRANKLYN RICHARDSON (CHAIRMAN, CONFERENCE OF NATIONAL BLACK CHURCHES) AND DR. JIM WINKLER (PRESIDENT AND GENERAL SECRETARY, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES)
The white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a stain on the soul and fabric of our country. The sight of protesters carrying torches and shouting white nationalist slogans and anti-Semitic chants and clashing with those demonstrating against racist and Nazi ideology reminds us of the darkest days of our country’s history.
President Trump’s failure to clearly and consistently denounce KKK and neo-Nazi actions at the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally is a shame upon this nation, its people, and a spectacle to the rest of the world.
US history is replete with examples of racist extremism: marches lit by flaming torches; lynchings, murders, and rapes of African Americans; large-scale police violence (such as fire hoses) aimed at people marching for their civil rights; hateful speech spewed by neo-Nazis during parades. The violence in Charlottesville, culminating in the murder of a young woman demonstrating against hate and the death of two state police troopers doing their duty to help quell the violence, is the latest incident in this long line of outrages.
Addressing the situation in Charlottesville requires moral leadership from the President of our Republic, particularly in light of our past. Unfortunately, President Trump has chosen to give sanction to racist actions, and that is unacceptable.
President Trump has blamed the violence on people on “many sides” instead of laying the blame directly on the white supremacists where it properly lies. He has stated his belief that there were “good people” mixed in among the “bad people” protesting in favor of white nationalism, as symbolized by statues commemorating the Confederacy, instead of identifying their views as being just plain wrong.
In effect, the President of the United States provided cover to those who shouted “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and Soil!” (a clear reference to Nazi ideology). He provided false equivalency to those who countered chants of “Black Lives Matter!” with shouts of “White Lives Matter!” as a way to silence the growing realization that racism is alive and well in our country. He legitimized those whose hate was directed toward the clergy and other faithful, some of whom are our friends and colleagues, who were there to demonstrate against hatred and bigotry.
As leaders of the Conference of National Black Churches and the National Council of Churches, we express our thanks and appreciation to Congregate Charlottesville for rallying the faith community together and we commit ourselves in the Name of Jesus Christ to work together to end violence and racism and hatred in our society.