WASHINGTON — A group of conservative black pastors and intellectual
leaders on Monday defended President Donald Trump amid criticism of his
initial response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last
While some, like Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer, have claimed that there is a "direct line" between
the events in Charlottesville and the choices Trump made in his 2016
presidential campaign, conservative African-American clergy members,
scholars and political activists decried such an argument in a Monday
press conference at the National Press Club.
by The Center of Urban Renewal and Education (CURE), a Washington,
D.C.-based nonprofit think tank founded by conservative political
commentator and activist Star Parker, the press conference was
originally scheduled for the purpose of praising the Trump
administration's plan to revitalize inner cities. But given the events
of last weekend — where clashes between white supremacists and
counter-protesters became deadly — Charlottesville and the related issue
of racial conflict dominated much of the talk in the news conference.
and the various African-American leaders standing with her at the
podium were asked whether it is "disingenuous to pretend that President
Trump is not the driver for a lot of the division we see now in this
The Rev. Derek McCoy, CURE's executive vice president
who also directs the CURE National Clergy Network, was the first to
respond to the question.
"One thing you need to understand — you
are saying that the president is the instigator and I think that is
absolutely wrong. No, it is not disingenuous," McCoy asserted. "The
president made his comments and we are not standing up here to say that
we are best friends with everything the president does but he is in an
office that we all respect. ... If we are looking about how we can move
our country forward, we are trying to make sure that we do that
Corrogan Vaughn, a political activist who
ran against Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland in the 2016
election, argued that those in the media who blame Trump for the racial
tension in the United States are trying to turn Trump into a "villain."
make our commander in chief a villain when in actuality it is more the
villainess of the media in terms of making something where nothing is,"
William Allen, a professor of political philosophy
at Michigan State University who formerly served as the chairman of the
United States Commission on Civil Rights, also responded, saying:
will say this about the repeated ascription of President Trump as the
driver of hateful speech in our country: there are two things wrong with
that view. The first thing wrong with it is we are pretending to hide
behind blaming President Trump for our failures."
Allen, who also
served as dean of James Madison College at Michigan State University,
added that Americans have gotten away from the principle of standing up
for the free speech rights of others.
He specifically recalled a
time in 1977 when the American Civil Liberties Union defended the right
of Nazi supporters to wear Nazi uniforms and display swastikas when the
National Socialist Party of America marched through the predominantly
Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois.
"There was a time when we
celebrated what we might call the 'Skokie principle' — when the
far-right marched through Skokie, Illinois, the left defended their
right to march and speak even hateful speech. We are no longer
celebrating the 'Skokie principle' in our country," Allen said. "We
stopped celebrating the 'Skokie principle' long before Donald Trump
announced his candidacy for the presidency."
"If we have a
problem, the problem is that we have lost our way. We have people that
are wandering in the desert ... who have lost their way," Allen
continued. "It is not going to do you much good to blame Moses. You
gotta ask 'why have the people lost their way, where did they lose their
faith and how can it be restored?' In short, I would encourage you and
all who embraced this particular meme to challenge themselves to find
better ways to express hopeful expectations of humanity."
syndicated columnist who ran for the House of Representatives in 2010,
added that some of the blame for the situation facing America today can
be placed on the "alt-left."
"I would like to see the discussion
continue because the president was accurate when he said there are both
sides," Parker said. "I would like for us to finally address the
'alt-right' and the 'alt-left' — the instigators that continue this
discussion that racism is so inherent in our society that they are going
to look for it endlessly to then spark the tensions of the 'alt-right.'
The 'alt-right' was sent underground. They have been emboldened because
of the 'alt-left.'
Parker warned that Americans have a "hard choice to make."
are either going to be biblical and free or we are going to be secular
in status. That is the cultural war. There is no need in us denying that
we are not in one," Parker said.
"It has been intensifying over
time and now it is coming to a culmination that can drag each and every
one of us into another civil war. We don't want that and the clergy will
stand up and support the president in his effort to make sure that we
have this discussion and we have it civilly."
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