By Kevin Seraaj, OrlandoAdvocate.com
America is as divided today as it was during the Civil Rights Movement, and perhaps even the days of the Civil War. Hate crimes have grown exponentially since Donald Trump took up residence in the White House. There is danger in the air– mostly unspoken but tangible. Almost palpable. And a cause of real concern for all of us.
Trump’s supporters bristle at the thought, but the President has serious culpability for the state of the nation’s racial and class divide. According to the Brookings Institute, while Trump supporters will never admit it, “there is substantial evidence that Trump has encouraged racism and benefitted politically from it.”
Former KKK leader and avowed white supremacist David Duke does not support Joe Biden. He supports Donald Trump. Why, pray tell, would he do that?
The Proud Boys– mentioned specifically during the first presidential debate– also support Donald Trump. Of course, if asked directly if they are racist, they are quick to say they are not.
“We are aligned with Trump in that we believe in America First,” one Proud Boy called ‘Nate’ told the Colorado Times Recorder. “And ‘America’ means everybody that’s here in America,” he added. “We’re sick of people dividing each other across lines of race and ethnicity.”
Despite their protestations to the contrary, however, the Proud Boys are listed by the FBI as an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” The FBI is an agency under the jurisdiction of the executive branch of government– the branch that the President heads up.
To be fair, the Proud Boy manifesto says the group (which was formed in 2016 by Gavin McInnis and one other person), is “socially liberal and welcomes gay members.” They also say in the document that, “We disavow Nazis and don’t want them at our meet-ups. We disavow racists and don’t want them at our meet-ups. We allow weak, beta male virgins to join because our fraternity is about helping men improve their lives and that includes all men.”
It’s a great soundbite, of course, but the group advocates violent confrontation. If there is no division as they claim, it is not clear exactly whom they preach violence against. Still, group members have been photographed flashing the “OK” hand symbol—which is a gesture where the fingers arguably spell out WP (for white power). (The OK hand gesture was added to the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hateful symbols in September 2019.) Maybe there is a disconnect between the organization and its membership.
One could argue that people who espouse white power aren’t necessarily racist. On the other hand, “White Power” has been the clarion call for the KKK and Neo-Nazi groups with devastating consequences for blacks in America for far too many years. Still, two of their leaders are actually men of color. Go figure. Dante Nero, who the Proud Boys call their “Pope” because he helped found their “religion,” according to the manifesto, is Black. (Anyone remember Dave Chappelle’s ‘Black Klansman’ skit?) Another leader, Enrique Tarrio, the International Chairman of The Proud Boys, is Afro-Cuban. Deluded, as well?
Unless both of them are merely “fronts,” their positions as leaders are admittedly confusing. But one thing about the Proud Boys is certain: they are aggressive and they advocate violence.
After Trump told the far-right group to “stand by” during the first debate, McInnes (who left the group in 2018, but not the alt-right movement), communicated to group members and followers by reposting an earlier clip of him telling a crowd of supporters that violence is a “really effective way to solve problems.”
“We need more violence from the Trump people, Trump supporters,” he says in his video. “Choke a m**********r, choke a b***h, choke a t****y, get your fingers around a windpipe,” McInnes can be heard saying.
According to their manifesto, in order to move up through the ranks to become a full-fledged, “4th degree” Proud Boy, a member must “engag[e] in a major conflict for the cause.”
Such a major conflict could be just around the corner.
In a video posted by a Proud Boys supporter, he warns that there will be a “civil war” if Donald Trump is not re-elected, and he advises people to stock up on guns.
When asked how the Proud Boys reacted to Trump’s “stand back and stand by” comments, the man said the group took that to mean the president was telling them to “wait for my orders.”
“And that’s exactly what we’re waiting for,” he said.
That’s kind of scary, because the Neo-Nazis, the KKK and the alt-Right may also be waiting for that word. For this president, who asks Black Americans to trust him, the real question is: Can the friend of my enemy be my friend?
For Trump, the real enemy is not the radical right, but the radical left. At a rally in North Carolina on Thursday, Trump bragged about U.S Marshall’s killing a member of the group– getting cheers from his supporters– in describing what sounded an awful lot like a planned execution by the state:
“We sent in the U.S. marshals, took 15 minutes and it was over,” Trump said. “They knew who he was, they didn’t want to arrest him, and 15 minutes, that ended.”
Sounds sort of like Obama describing how Seal Team Six went in and killed Osama Bin Laden, except Trump was talking about an American no more guilty of domestic violence as the groups he tells to “Stand By.”
Part of what fuels the speculation about post-election violence is Trump’s refusal to commit to peaceful transition if he loses. It’s clear he doesn’t plan to lose, but the question being asked is: Could Trump simply refuse to step down if he loses the election? It would be unprecedented, of course, but the President has already laid the foundation for a post-election claim that a Trump loss could only be the result of “massive voter fraud” and/or a rigged election. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has refused to directly commit to keeping the military out of the election, saying only say that “the U.S. military has acted, and will continue to act, in accordance with the Constitution and the law.” And Attorney General Bill Barr has taken up the voter fraud mantra, as well, signaling that his office might not be so vigorous in prosecuting anyone holding similar beliefs in the event of civil conflict.
The idea of indiscriminate violence breaking out– with or without another word from the President– is alarming.
Case in point: In June of this year, three Wilmington, NC police officers were fired after one of them accidentally turned on his squad car’s dash cam while they engaged in a one-and-a-half hour violent, racist rant about black people (including the Chief of Police, who is also black). One of the officers says a civil war is coming and that he is “ready.”
“We are just gonna go out and start slaughtering them f—— N—-s. I can’t wait. God, I can’t wait.”
The same officer then says that society needs a civil war to “wipe ‘em off the f—— map. That’ll put ‘em back about four or five generations.”
Maybe this cop– out of all the cops in the country– is the only one to think such things. If I were a gambling man though, I’d say “not.”
The fact that this election might provide a catalyst for releasing all the pent-up hate brimming in America is more than concerning. Assault weapons are being bought up all across the nation. Bullets are flying off the shelves and are now almost impossible to find. America is teetering on the edge today. While I certainly don’t want to be an alarmist, perhaps the Proud Boy’s warning should not be completely ignored.