OUR OPINION: City Must Be Vigilant Against Hate

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SHARING CHARLOTTESVILLE’S PAIN – and the nation’s – was a crowd gathered at this Center City vigil Sunday night for the three people killed during the Unite the Right rally and its aftermath this past weekend. Photo by Salvatore Patrone

Any equivocation vanished during President Donald Trump’s eye-popping press conference on Tuesday, when he essentially legitimized white supremacists by putting their actions on the same level as those of the counter-protestors last weekend and, Q.E.D., with their actions and philosophy. He did not just legitimize them in Charlottesville, Va.; he legitimized them in Philadelphia as well.

Despite being many news cycles after the horrific demonstrations and violence, our vigilance needs to be constant. When the office of the president of the United States, long considered one of the country’s moral compasses, can’t bring itself to condemn groups that celebrate defeated foes of liberty – when those that fetishize the eras of Jim Crow and slavery, as well as the genocidal bloodlust of the Nazis – we need to take action.

This is the City of Brotherly Love, but it is so much more. It is the home of a Black population that comprises almost half of our citizenry; the sixth-largest Jewish population in the U.S.; an LGBTQ community making up 4% of the population; 187,000 Hispanics – fully 12% of the city; and 50,000 undocumented immigrants.

Every one of these groups was targeted in Charlottesville, and every one of them will continue to be in the bullseye, especially now that white supremacists have been emboldened by dog whistles that have metastasized into clarion calls of tolerance for their abhorrent beliefs and behavior. And with demographics like these, what better place to launch an offensive than here? You can be sure that hate group leaders will take a page from successful military campaigns and realize that the injury and loss incurred by some of their members will be far outweighed by the acolytes gained. If this sounds familiar, it should: it’s textbook terrorist recruitment of the same variety practiced by ISIS.

It’s fitting that a voice that the Nazis were unable to silence should have the last word. Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel noted, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

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