On Tuesday, presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a plan to combat the increasing threat of white supremacist violence and terrorism.
The plan, called “Fighting Back Against White Nationalist Violence” asserts that Warren would make the issue a top priority should she be elected president.
Warren’s plan cites the 2015 Charleston shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church, the 2017 Charlottesville rally, and the 2018 murder of Jewish worshippers in a Pittsburgh synagogue, as prime examples of white nationalist violence, saying they have “no place in American life.”
Warren’s plan includes some of the following action steps:
- Prosecute and investigate white nationalist violence, utilizing the resources of the Department of Justice and Homeland Security.
- Prevent individuals convicted of hate-crimes at every level, including misdemeanors, from being able to purchase firearms and expand background checks. “I’ll work with Congress to permanently prevent any individual convicted of a hate crime from owning a gun — full stop,” Warren says.
- Designating hate crimes as domestic terrorism, to account for the harsher punishments Black and brown people disproportionately receive from prosecutors.
- Address the presence of white nationalist groups in the U.S. military, by directing the Pentagon to enhance background checks and track Neo-Nazi affiliations.
During a week when White House official Stephen Miller has been exposed for ties to white nationalist media and far-right extremism, the need to address the issue at the highest levels of government is increasingly urgent.
The FBI recently announced hate crime murders hit a high in 2018, with the majority, 57.5% being motivated by a race and ethnicity bias.
“All the way through the Bush years because of 9/11 and the Obama years, this just hasn’t been a priority,” says Heidi Beirich, Director of the Intelligence Project at the SPLC, in an interview with theGrio. “It’s only in the last year or so that the FBI has started getting serious about white supremacists.”
Beirich says Warren’s plan specifically around monitoring online activity and collecting hate crime data, mirrors what many activists have wanted for awhile.
“We don’t even know how many domestic terrorism arrests there are in a year,” says Beirich. “That’s how bad our data is.”
African-Americans, have consistently found themselves the target of hate crimes and hate speech at every level of American life- from schools to the workplace, with a growing list of victims of hate, including Lt. Richard Collins III, 23, an ROTC student who was stabbed to death at University of Maryland, Nia Wilson, 15, who was stabbed on a train in Oakland, and Timothy Caughman, 66 who was stabbed with a sword by a white supremacist in NYC.
“When we fail to prosecute hate crimes, we send the message that the victims are less valued,” Warren says. “And when our neighbors are being persecuted, or attacked, or treated unfairly, that impacts all of us.”
Warren held no punches in giving President Donald Trump credit for fanning the flames of division.
“Donald Trump wants to divide us — to pit worker against worker, neighbor against neighbor,” Warren wrote. “But America can be better than that.”
Beirich points out that while white nationalist violence isn’t new, new commitment to solving the problem matters.
“This threat has been with us… and it will be with us for a long time,” says Beirich. “It was born and bred in the United States. So I’m just glad people plan to do something, and there seems to be an understanding now of how serious it is.”