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Biden calls on the country to unite against white supremacy at a summit on hate

President Biden arrives with Susan Bro, mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, to deliver a keynote speech at the "United We Stand" summit to counter the effects of hate-fueled violence in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.
MANDEL NGAN
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden arrives with Susan Bro, mother of Charlottesville victim Heather Heyer, to deliver a keynote speech at the "United We Stand" summit to counter the effects of hate-fueled violence in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.

Updated September 15, 2022 at 5:07 PM ET

President Biden said Thursday that America can't remain silent when it comes to combating white supremacy and hate in an address at a White House summit on hate-based violence.

The event, called the "United We Stand" summit, gathered experts and survivors and included bipartisan local leaders. It also honored communities that have been through hate-based attacks, including the mass shootings that took place at gay nightclub in Orlando in 2016; at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, where the assailant said he was targeting Mexicans; and the expressly racist shooting that killed 10 Black people in a Buffalo, N.Y., supermarket earlier this year.

Biden was introduced by Susan Bro, whose daughter Heather Heyer was killed during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017. The rally, Biden has said since 2019, is the reason he decided to run for president.

"We need to say clearly and forcefully, white supremacy, all forms of hate... have no place in America," Biden said. "As to those who say, we bring this up, we just divide the country — bring it up, we silence it, instead of remaining silenced. For in silence, wounds deepen."

The president added that too much oxygen has been given to hate in politics, media and online.

"It's about power and profit. Too much hate that's extremist violence has been allowed to fester and grow," he said, noting that intelligence agencies have determined that white supremacist violence is the greatest domestic terrorist threat today.

Thursday's summit included remarks by Vice President Harris, a presentation on the state of hate-based violence in the United States and a conversation with a former neo-Nazi who has since disavowed the white supremacist movement.

The summit pushed a message of "unity" which has been central to Biden's agenda in office — though some voters appear skeptical on whether Biden can accomplish the task.

The event also came just weeks after Biden's speech in Philadelphia where he sent a warning message about how extremist Republicans are a threat to democracy.

"America must choose: to move forward or to move backwards. To build the future or obsess about the past. To be a nation of hope and unity and optimism, or a nation of fear, division and of darkness," Biden said on Sept. 1.

"MAGA Republicans have made their choice," he added. "They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies."

White House officials, though, say the summit was not about political violence and that hate-based violence is an issue everyone should be able to agree on.

Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration's special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, told NPR in May that there's an increasing percentage of the American population who think America's identity is under threat.

"Whether they read it online, whether they hear it in the media, whether they hear it from certain politicians — but they believe it," she said. "People have to recognize that it's this panoply of hatreds that constitute this threat to our democracy and threat to our country and to national security and foreign countries as well."

In addition to the summit, the White House is announcing new actions from across the government that tackle hate-based violence as well as actions from tech companies like YouTube, Twitch, Microsoft and Meta.

"Every tech company should be thinking about what they can do," a senior administration official said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.