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NAACP: Blatant Racism On Display In Charlottesville Is Disgusting


We're spending much of this morning talking about the racist violence over the weekend in Charlottesville, Va. President Trump condemned hatred, quote, "on many sides." And many felt the president was letting the extremist groups in Virginia off the hook. Fighting racism is at the core of the NAACP. And its interim president and CEO, Derrick Johnson, is speaking out. He tweeted on Saturday, when Trump gives permission for hate to thrive, this is what happens. Sick. Derrick Johnson joins me on the line from Tunica, Miss. Good morning.

DERRICK JOHNSON: Good morning. How are you today?

GREENE: I'm good. Thanks for taking the time for us this morning. Your tweet does not leave much to the imagination. You believe the president was, in some way, responsible for growing racism in the country today. Why is that?

JOHNSON: Well, if you look at his campaign rhetoric, if you look at his cabinet appointments, if you look at his unwillingness to wholly denounce what has taken place, it leaves little room for your - for our understanding of where he stands when it comes to the question of race and racial hatred. We shouldn't have a president - we shouldn't have a country that tolerates this type of situation. We have lived through this. We should've learned from our history. And there's no reason for us to repeat this history again.

GREENE: Is the White House getting it right in your mind now? We've heard from Vice President Pence. The president's daughter tweeted specifically, pointing to the KKK and these groups. Are you satisfied now that they're reacting in a way that you think is appropriate?

JOHNSON: Well you still have individuals within the Cabinet, who are advisers, who sit there to provide the president with information - Steve Bannon and others. The problem with this presidency is its lack of understanding that the United States is inclusive of many, many individuals - African-Americans, Latinos - the rhetoric around building a wall. All of this leads to a culture of intolerance. And we should not stand idly by as an association, as citizens and accept the rhetoric we've been hearing over the last seven months during this presidency.

GREENE: I want to ask you about something Vice President Pence said yesterday. He said many in the media are spending an awful lot of time focusing on what the president said instead of actually criticizing those who brought hatred and violence to the streets of Charlottesville. Does he have a point there that you might agree with? - that maybe it's worth focusing more on dealing with the central problems and not so much the president's words.

JOHNSON: This is the president of the United States. He's the chief spokesman for this country. And if this president, through both his actions and his statements, is not willing to fully understand the gravity of what's taking place in this country, what took place in Charlottesville, then that's a problem. And we should focus on not only the words but the action of the chief executive officer of this country. It's vitally important.

GREENE: You know, President Obama liked to quote one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s favorite sayings - the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. Could the torch-bearing crowds with racist chants be a last gasp from a dying ideology?

JOHNSON: Well, there's last gasp or the beginning of a new norm. An individual died Saturday. And so that should not be tolerated. If it is towards the end of the arc, let's accelerate the arc and allow for this country to be the country it should be, not the country it used to be.

GREENE: That is the NAACP's interim president, Derrick Johnson, joining us this morning from Mississippi. Thanks for the time.

JOHNSON: Thank you for the opportunity. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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