By Guy Nave 7-21-2015

When will we as a nation develop the social, moral, or political resolve to declare a war on racism?

There is a long history in America of campaigns of eradication, identified as "wars" — a "war on crime," a "war on drugs," a "war on poverty," a "war on terrorism," etc.

An interesting commonality of many of these so-called "wars" is that the perceived enemy is often portrayed as people of color.

Why is it that we as a nation do not seek the ending of racism with the same urgency we have sought the eradication of crime, drug use, or terrorism? Is it because the perceived enemy in a "war on racism" is not primarily people of color?

24/7 Wall St. published a special report this month on the ten states with the most hate groups. Using data from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the report states that there are 784 active hate groups nationwide.

The report also asserts,

White nationalist or white supremacist groups, including the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and neo-Confederates, are by far the most common hate groups in the United States. And African-Americans are by far the most victimized group of people by hate group activity and other, less extreme forms of discrimination.

The data reveals that black people as a group face more hatred than groups hated on the basis of sexual orientation or other racial and/or religious affiliation.

Is the reason we as a nation have never declared a war on racism after nearly four hundred years of slavery, Jim Crow laws, racial segregation, and discrimination because the perceived perpetrators of racism are predominantly white? Asked another way: if the "victims" of racism were white and the perceived perpetrators black, would we declare a "war on racism" the same way we have declared a "war on terrorism?"

In the aftermath of the killing of nine black parisioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., the burning of predominantly African-American churches, the long history and legacy of violence against black people and black churches in America, the recent debates regarding the role and place of Confederate flags in American society, and the ongoing debates about voter suppression laws and the Supreme Court’s decision to strip the Voting Rights Act of one of its strongest provisions, it seems somewhat obvious that we as a nation need to develop the courage, compassion, and strength to name and eradicate societal conditions that have fostered and promoted racism, discrimination, and the terrorizing of black people in America for nearly four hundred years.

After examining the list published by 24/7 Wall St regarding the ten states with the most hate groups, I noticed that current or former governors and senators from six of the ten states are "declared" or "exploratory" 2016 presidential candidates. The following represents the states, their ranking, and the 2016 presidential candidates:

10 — Louisiana: Bobby Jindal

9 — Virginia: Jim Gilmore

8 — Kentucky: Rand Paul

6 — South Carolina: Lindsey Graham

4 — New Jersey: Chris Christie

2 — Arkansas: Mike Huckabee

As the nation prepares for the election of the 45th president of the United States of America, the issue of racism and racial terrorism needs to be an issue addressed by every presidential candidate.

The bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church recently stated that on September 2 of this year the church will announce its action plan to end racism. The church leadership also stated that at its General Conference, scheduled for July 6-13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pa., church members want to hear from both party’s presidential nominees.

As we move toward the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I cannot help but wonder what the six presidential candidates from states with the most hate groups have done in their own states to confront and challenge racism and racial terrorism — and what can we expect them to do, if elected president, to help eradicate racism and move our nation beyond racial hatred, violence, and terrorism.

As we continue to seek "a more perfect union," every 2016 U.S. presidential candidate needs to be able to articulate what his or her action plan is to help end racism and racial terrorism in America. Furthermore, we as American citizens must demand each candidate develop a strategy for implementing such a vision.

Rev. Dr. Guy Nave is professor of religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, focusing on the topics of Christianity, the New Testament, and race. 

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