By Janet Williams
Nothing says “hate crime” like the chilling events of last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Why else would a self-described white supremacist turn his vehicle into a deadly weapon and slam into a crowd of people protesting Nazis, the Klan and the other hate-mongers who congregated in that bucolic college town?
One dead. Nineteen injured, some severely.
Janet Williams, editor, TheStatehouseFile.com
Hate motivated the driver of that car. Hate motivated the Nazis, Klan and others to march in protest of plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a place of honor in a local park. Hate, pure and simple.
Nothing justifies violence, period. But let’s be clear — there is only one side of this ugly mess who live to hate and whose message is hate. They exist to disparage people with skin colors, cultures or religions different from theirs.
None of us should be surprised that we have a man in the White House who refuses to acknowledge that reality and call out the hatred that burns deeply within the white supremacists who unleashed so much violence last weekend.
This week President Trump again trotted out the “both sides” argument to justify his tepid reaction to the violence. White supremacist Richard Spencer and ex-Klan leader David Duke were among the few who applauded the president’s comments. That alone should tell us something.
And Trump’s rambling comments about whether we should take down statues of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson because they owned slaves are beyond absurd.
The issue is the Confederacy, which fought to shatter the Union and preserve that peculiar institution of slavery. Make no mistake that slavery was the issue then and the legacy of slavery remains the issue every time these hate groups carry the Confederate flag as their banner.
Mr. President, it’s not both sides.
I am curious about how our former governor, Mike Pence, might try to spin this latest development. How will our vice president excuse what President Trump said when he conjured that false equivalency between the alt-right hate mongers and the people who went to Charlottesville to counter their demonstration?
Since joining the Trump ticket last year, Pence has bent over backwards to explain away our president’s deplorable behavior. This is what I would say to Pence: I wish you luck trying put a positive face on Trump’s latest blather, but remember, your moral authority erodes every time you defend his words and deeds.
In a week when there seems to be no good news, there are three positive outcomes of the events in Charlottesville.
First, as others have noted, they show the world that the various groups of the alt-right are little more than sowers of hate and racism who breed violence wherever they go.
Second, we no longer have to pretend that President Trump will ever grow into the job and act presidential. He dispelled that notion once and for all in his Tuesday press conference at his hotel in New York City when he launched into a tortuous defense of his first statement casting blame on all sides.
Third, it seems that some of Indiana’s leaders were so offended by Charlottesville that they might be ready to pass a hate crime law. Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, an Indianapolis Republican, told a reporter for WFYI this week that the state needs a hate crime bill.
Remember, Indiana is only one of five states without a hate crime law. We are in the illustrious company of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming.
Hate crime legislation has been proposed in the Indiana General Assembly in past sessions, but died. The bills simply provided that when a crime is motivated by the victim’s race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, the judge can consider those elements as aggravating factors in sentencing a criminal defendant.
Virginia is one of the 45 states with a hate crime statute, demonstrating that such a law won’t cure the disease that leads to the kind of racial violence that erupted in Charlottesville. But it will go a long way toward making a statement that such hatred is not welcome in Indiana.
Janet Williams is editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.