Washington, D.C. — On Wednesday, members of Congress and experts on national security, faith, technology policy, and civil rights issues called for a renewed national commitment to combat white supremacist violence.
The comments came during a joint event sponsored by the Center for American Progress and the McCain Institute for International Leadership. CAP and the McCain Institute also issued a comprehensive strategy on Wednesday with recommendations across the government to address the root causes that fuel racist extremism and hate.
Recommendations in the new blueprint include requiring tougher background checks to prevent extremists from infiltrating the military and federal workforce, developing measures to discourage military members from joining these groups, using the U.S. Treasury Department to disrupt the financial networks of white supremacist groups, investigating online companies that refuse to address violent content, and making it a bigger priority for the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute white supremacist violence.
Rep. Andy Kim (D-NJ) said a look at the statistics shows that white supremacy is a much bigger concern in the United States than most people realize. “The trajectory is one that is terrifying in terms of where this could lead,” said Kim. “I worry we’re going to get to a place where we normalize extremism in our country, and that is certainly unacceptable.”
Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL) said a comprehensive federal strategy is critical to dealing with the threat of white supremacist violence. She said Congress is committed to allocating the resources needed to keep communities safe. “I absolutely do support any effective intervention that will keep Americans safe from violence, regardless of who the perpetrators are or what their motivations may be,” said Underwood. “The facts and the data just happen to point to extremist violence, and in an overwhelming sense, it shows that the No. 1 threat is white supremacist violence right now.”
Bishop Garrison, the U.S. Defense Department’s senior adviser on human capital, diversity, equity, and inclusion, said the vast majority who serve in the military do so with honor and integrity, but “we would be remiss if we didn’t admit that there isn’t a problem with extremist behavior in the military. One extremist is one too many in our ranks.”
“We want the American people to understand and know that we see this behavior as a problem. It goes against our values, and as I said, it goes against our oath,” said Garrison. “It’s important for us to reject extremism in all forms, whether that be what is often referred to as unlawful or unregulated militias, anti-government extremism, as well as extremism based on immutable traits, whether you’re talking about race or gender or ethnicity.”
Antonia Hernández, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation, said it’s time to address the issue of white supremacy “knowing and understanding that’s its embedded in the very institutions that are supposed to protect us. We have to admit, accept, and then put our resources into controlling it.”
Jessica González, co-CEO of the racial justice group Free Press, said Facebook and other social media platforms are being exploited by a very organized and sophisticated international network of white supremacist leaders to normalize hate and violence, as well as to recruit followers and raise money.
“Frankly, they haven’t done enough to interrupt white supremacists organizing, normalizing violence, and recruiting through this mechanism,” said González. “I think we’re going to need some regulatory and legislative interventions here that really get to the heart of the hate-and-lie-for-profit business model and the way that our privacy is being violated and then used to violate our civil rights.”
Sim J. Singh, senior manager of policy and advocacy at the Sikh Coalition, said more than a quarter-million hate crimes take place annually, but many of these are not tracked by law enforcement. He noted the recent shooting in Indianapolis that left four Sikh workers dead. “If you’re a Sikh, or in fact any minority living in the United States, it’s impossible to look at the tragedy that unfolded in Indianapolis and not immediately consider the possibility that bias might have been a motivator,” said Singh.
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