Skip to main content

Joe Sestak Statement on White Supremacy

I have zero tolerance for racism, white supremacy, and white nationalism. I’ll never forget the time when I was commanding a ship in the U.S. Navy that had just pulled into a port in the United Arab Emirates. As I walked the ship, I came across a terrible slur that begins with the letter “N”, scrawled on a bathroom stall door on the ship. It would be bad enough to see that word written on a wall at a movie theater, or a restaurant, but this was a United States Navy Ship — one I commanded, one where I had established and constantly reviewed in meetings our approach to equity in race and other areas. So I got on the ship’s loudspeaker and summoned the crew to assemble on the pier. I informed the crew what I had found, and told them: “I’m going to find you — and I’m going to kick you out of my Navy.” We never did find the culprit. But it never happened again — and the crew knew just what was acceptable in my command.

I still take a very important lesson from that day: that racism must always be confronted. It’s what I believe personally, and it’s also what I’ll fight for to ensure it will always be the policy of the United States. Frankly, there is a worrying trend by the Administration not only having failed to properly investigate the terror threat of white supremacists, but seeming to have no interest in doing so. The FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism Task Force was established to help fight against all violent ideologies, but a month prior to President Trump’s inauguration, the transition team announced its intention to have the Task Force stop dealing with white supremacist violence and focus only on “Radical Islamic Extremism.” Once in office, the administration reduced the staffing of the Task Force, and it now basically only exists on paper. The President has even downplayed the risk of white supremacist violence in public statements.

As President, I will treat white supremacist violence for the threat that it is — and this means the leadership, funding, and manpower to address this abhorrent activity. Tools like the Countering Violent Extremism Task Force must be both restored and reinvigorated, with the President directly engaging the public on the menace such an un-American and racist element presents to our civic society. People must be made aware of this danger to our values, and also of who we are and what we stand for when united together. To do otherwise only emboldens white supremacists or nationalists in a false belief that there is acceptance of their racist socio-political ideology, loosening the strictures against committing violent crimes based upon it. We must devote both national resources and the President’s leadership toward ensuring justice — and when I’m President, I will.