With a little help from Nelson Mandela.
Image by Pete Souza/Obama White House/Flickr.
Contrary to the current president’s strategy, former president Barack Obama firmly spoke out against racism on Saturday, just hours after neo-Nazis resorted to violence at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia.
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion,” Obama wrote, quoting former South African president Nelson Mandela, alongside a photo of him smiling at four small children. In the two tweets that followed, he finished the famous quote, writing, “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love … For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
As of Wednesday, the first tweet Obama posted in reaction to Charlottesville has been shared nearly 1.5 million times and liked more than 3.5 million times. According to Twitter, this makes his tweet the most liked in Twitter history, surpassing Ariana Grande’s heartfelt condolences in response to the Manchester bombing. Obama’s message also comes in fifth place (according to analytics site Favstar) when it comes to retweets.
Meanwhile, Trump has waffled on his stance on white supremacy, first equating social activists with Nazis in his now infamous “many sides” speech on Saturday. Following the expected onslaught of criticism, Trump finally spoke out against hate groups on Monday, directly condemning neo-Nazis and white supremacists, only to backtrack on Tuesday and defend his previous statement issued on Saturday. In modern American history, this is an unprecedented political move, setting the bar so low as to make condemning Nazis a brave statement.
It should come as no surprise then that another piece of media went viral shortly after the Charlottesville attack: a 1943 video the U.S. War Department released at the height of World War II warning and educating Americans about fascist rhetoric. “We human beings are not born with prejudices,” says a character in the video. “Always they are made for us, made by someone who wants something.”
What our current president wants is unclear, but if we as a country want to avoid history repeating itself, we have to be the ones to stop racist, fascist rhetoric from becoming normalized. As we’re beginning to find out, you can only set the bar so low.