In aftermath of Charlottesville violence, NASW urges President Trump show leadership by condemning white supremacy in all forms

Photo courtesy of Getty.

Photo courtesy of Getty.



The white supremacist rallies and resultant violence in Charlottesville, VA on August 12 were a blight on American values and unacceptable. In the aftermath of this tragedy the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) calls on President Donald Trump to show leadership by naming and condemning white supremacy in all its forms.

NASW also offers its condolences to the families, friends and associates of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a white supremacist deliberately crashed a car into people who were protesting the rally, and Virginia State Police officers Lt. H. Jay Cullen and pilot Berke Bates, who died in a helicopter crash while monitoring the rally.

NASW recognizes and supports the right of all Americans to free speech. However, hate has no place in America. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are currently 917 hate groups in the United States and most are comprised of white supremacists.

At a moment when the nation needed presidential leadership, President Trump failed to meet that need.

The number of these groups has proliferated in the past 10 years and this trend must be reversed. The Trump administration must take immediate steps to closely monitor the activities of these hate groups. The administration also must aggressively respond to incidents of civil rights violations or acts of violence perpetrated by hate groups.

The statements made this weekend by President Trump on the tragedy were wholly inadequate. The president’s failure to explicitly condemn white nationalism and neo-Nazism is unacceptable. At a moment when the nation needed presidential leadership, President Trump failed to meet that need.

NASW calls on President Trump and his administration to immediately and unambiguously denounce white supremacy, hate speech and crimes, and the hate groups that have proliferated over the past decade. He must do so in the strongest possible terms. The president must also officially state that the deadly attack that occurred Saturday was an act of domestic terrorism.

As immediate steps, the president must also ensure that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigates the tragic events in Charlottesville as a hate-related civil rights violation. Similarly, President Trump must restore domestic terrorism surveillance as an equal priority along with international terrorism surveillance. Preventing future tragedies, such as what we all witnessed in Charlottesville, must become a top priority of this administration.



  1. Context is imp- most of these monuments were erected to convey a very specific message re: the “confederacy” as a reaction to growing civil rights mov’t. We do not typically celebrate people who fought against the United States (Robt E Lee led an insurrection/war against this country-treason but was pardoned after war so we could rebuild). To say just avoid those monuments is so simplistic esp because most are in very public, prominent and thus unavoidable places. But focusing solely on monuments is actually a diversion- there are more serious issues here. Please thoroughly research what groups/movements stand for before you form opinions. Read their mission statements and literature–BLM is not a mov’t espousing violence nor racial separatist group, nor does the SPLC count them as such. Free speech, even odious free speech is protected, as it should be-but there is a point when free speech is no longer speech….white supremicists standing in front of a synagogue with guns and chanting Nazi slogans while people are inside praying crosses the line to intimidation and threats.

  2. When I was in college in the late 70’s, my sociology professor said, “You can’t legislate feelings,” and that is what we have here. While President Trump can denounce hatred and/or hate groups, his job is to defend the constitution of the USA. This position certainly creates a double-bind and/or a “no-win situation.” Unfortunately, life is not perfect and our “need or quest for perfection” can cloud our judgment. To opposing groups, I say this, “Stay home and keep yourself safe. Show your opposition by boycotting these demonstrations. Find more productive ways to express your opinion. When you show up at a opposing rally with an opposing point of view, you have created a perfect storm for violence, injury and death — or all of the above.” To the press, I say, “Do not show up at these rallies and/or give legitimacy to these hatred doctrines. By attending these events and printing their rhetoric, you are helping the participants to spread their doctrine to other parts of the country. Make selling newspapers secondary to the welfare of citizens.” To law enforcement, I say this, “Have a very strong police presence at these rallies. Be prepared to create a safe line for protestors (and anticipate that they WILL SHOW UP) so that you are well-prepared to stop violence before it begins. In other words, anticipate the worse, and hope for the best!” These are my statements. While I definitely to do not support hate groups, I support the constitution and am glad that I live in a country where citizens are not persecuted for their belief system…………..even when I do not either support it or understand it. God Bless America!!

  3. First they came for the Communists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Communist
    Then they came for the Socialists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Socialist
    Then they came for the trade unionists
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a trade unionist
    Then they came for the Jews
    And I did not speak out
    Because I was not a Jew
    Then they came for me
    And there was no one left
    To speak out for me

    Martin Niemöller was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian born in Lippstadt, Germany, in 1892. Niemöller was an anti-Communist and supported Adolf Hitler’s rise to power at first. But when Hitler insisted on the supremacy of the state over religion, Niemöller became disillusioned. He became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler. In 1937 he was arrested and eventually confined in Sachsenhausen and Dachau Cncetration Death Camps. He was released in 1945 by the Allies. He continued his career in Germany as a clergyman and as a leading voice of penance and reconciliation for the German people after World War II. His statement, sometimes presented as a poem, is well-known, frequently quoted, and is a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy.

    Do nothing in the face of hatred and bigotry and eventually you will become its victim as well.

  4. By agreeing to remove the monument of Robert E Lee, the hate groups were given an opportunity to spread their venom. Removing the monument does not change history so why give white supremacists, neo-Nazis and other similar groups an opportunity for violence? Peace loving individuals can avoid a monument or statue as a means of protest instead of allowing these hate mongers yet another forum for hateful, harmful protest.

  5. Little Falls Mayor and Township Council to Host a Vigil at Wilmore Road Park to Denounce Racism, Bigotry and Anti-Semitism on Friday, August 18th

    Mayor Damiano and the Township Council members invite all residents of Little Falls to come together on Friday, August 18 at 7:00 pm at the Wilmore Road Park to denounce any form of racism not only in the aftermath of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia but at all times.

    To receive more information about the vigil, please contact Councilwoman Maria Cordonnier at (917) 846-3064 or Councilman Chris Vancheri at (973) 865-5516.

  6. Now that the President has retracted his earlier comments, will NASW be revising their statement? And will there be training for people on the ground who are working to support people (and fellow professionals) traumatized by these events? Social Workers should be at the forefront of creating safe spaces for marginalized groups.

    • “Safe spaces”? There is no such place. People will disagree, some will hate, and feelings cannot be legislated by any government of a free nation. We, as Social Workers, must condemn the violence of all hate groups, including white supremacists, Antifa, BLM, Occupy, anti-semitic groups ,Islamic extremists, and similar ilk who attack others whom they hate. We must encour age what is unique in every individual and every culture. We are the profession to do this, not the government.

    • Beth,

      I have a couple of clarifying questions. You said “We, as social workers…” Are you a social worker?

      Also, do you believe Black Lives Matter is a hate group?

    • Any separatist group that incites violent behavior (including assasinatuis of multiple white law enforcement officers in multiple cities), fits my definition of a hate group. The tribalism promoted by these groups is tearing away our identity as U.S.Citizens. In answer to your other question, yes I am a 37-year experienced Social Worker who has held multiple elected offices in NASW, and served on the local state and national levels. I have been teaching the 3 hour Ethics course for NASW for over 10 years. BTW, I am no longer a NASW member, as of last year, following almost 30 years of membership. Until our profession can create, own, quantify and publish effective interventions (instead of useless political posturing), I will remain in my current status.

    • This does not serve as a ringer endorsement for NASW. This person was in leadership and taught ethics?

    • Beth, Black Lives Matter is NOT a hate group. They have never endorsed the assassination of police officers! The murders of policemen in Dallas and other parts of the United States were done by people acting alone (not BLM members). Black Lives Matter are fighting against the unfair treatment of African Americans by policemen and you can’t use the excuse that the ones brutalized always resisted the police because some offered no resistance at all and were still brutalized. There have also been lots of situations where white men have put up a tremendous amount of resistance and were not shot or killed. This is why Black Lives Matter gave themselves this name because too often when there is interaction between law enforcement and African Americans, black lives don’t seem to matter as much. I doubt that any of your African American clients would agree that Black Lives Matter is a hate group if you would even dare to ask them. There are also other forms of systemic racism besides police brutality.

    • Be really careful about allowing articles like this influence your value system or your work with clients.

    • Beth,

      I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said here. I don’t believe I could have said it more eloquently either.

    • I’ve been a social worker for 28 years and couldn’t agree with you more. Thank you Beth!

  7. Debra Nelson-Gardell

    @Carl Bailey, agreed on the better question: What are we to do?

  8. When the President denounces white supremacy and the KKK and 15 minutes ago today on CNN retracts his previous commendation what are we to think ? A better question.. what are we to do ?

  9. The President has now called out the KKK and white supremacy hate groups, denouncing them. The Southern Poverty Law Center website breaks down the various types of hate groups by categories, iincluding racial separatist groups. Law enforcement needs to be empowered to protect the safety when the right to free speech is practiced, even when we disagree with views that we find horrendous.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.