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After Charlottesville, a calling out of claims on racial superiority

Shift in thought

The strong reaction of many Americans to the Virginia tragedy helps show the false claims of white supremacists about skin color.

Mourners listen to speakers in Savannah, Ga., at an Aug. 13 candlelight vigil for the victims in Charlottesville, Va.
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  • The Monitor's Editorial Board

Whether through peaceful rallies, prayer vigils, or family discussions, many Americans gave a strong reproof to the claims of racial superiority that were behind the Aug. 12 violence in Charlottesville, Va. Their president may have failed to quickly join the widespread condemnation. Yet the strong reaction to President Trump’s initial silence on the role of white supremacists helps illustrate a deeper national trend: Fewer people than ever accept that skin color is a measure of character or a reason for special treatment.

The popular rebuke of racial hatred after Charlottesville, however, seems hardly enough after so many high-profile cases of racially charged violence in the United States. Actions must speak louder than words. Each of the recent tragedies driven by false views about race requires even more potent examples of racial equality and the common good.

What binds Americans is more important than their joint condemnation of fictitious beliefs about race. First, they must acknowledge the progress already made on race relations to counter the illusions espoused by fringe right-wing groups. “Remember how far we’ve come,” said President Obama in one of his many speeches on race. This collective gratitude would then allow further dialogue on ways to keep racist radicalism in check and solve issues of social and economic inequality.

Such progress would be the best antidote to the mistaken views of the angry few who join white supremacist groups. The US has indeed made great strides related to race, so much so that Mr. Trump felt pressured two days after the Charlottesville tragedy to proclaim that any group that causes violence in the name of racism is “repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” Now perhaps he, like many others, can work on those commonalities that are “dear.”