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Barack Obama: Americans should reject leaders who 'normalise' racism

Obama did not mention President Trump by name.

Obama took aim at leaders who stoke racism.
Obama took aim at leaders who stoke racism.
Image: DPA/PA Images

FORMER US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has called on Americans to reject language that normalises racism and creates a “climate of fear”. 

The intervention comes after 31 people were killed in the US in two mass shootings over the weekend. 

“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments,” Obama said in a rare statement.

He did not specifically name President Donald Trump, who has been accused in the wake of the massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio of fanning the flames of intolerance through his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In 2015, Obama told the BBC that his failure to pass “common sense gun laws” was one of the biggest regrets of his presidency.

Obama singled out leaders who “demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people”.

Trump has faced criticism and accusations that his anti-immigrant rhetoric has fueled white supremacist beliefs. 

A gunman killed 20 people as they shopped at a crowded Walmart in El Paso on Saturday morning, while nine more people were shot dead outside a bar in a popular nightlife district in Dayton just 13 hours later.

A 21-year-old from Allen, a suburb of Dallas, surrendered to police outside the El Paso Walmart. US media identified him as Patrick Crusius, who is white.

Crusius wrote that the attack “is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas,” and made references to the Christchurch shootings in New Zealand, where a white gunman killed 51 mosque worshippers in March.

In the wake of the shootings, Trump said that “these barbaric slaughters are… an attack upon a nation, and a crime against all of humanity”. 

In a speech, he proposed almost nothing in respect to tightening access in the United States to the kind of powerful weapons routinely used in the ever more frequent mass shootings.

Trump had tweeted earlier on Monday that increased background checks at the time of gun purchases should be considered

“Our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” he said, adding that he had directed the FBI to use all resources to combat “hate crimes and domestic terrorism”.

“We must reform our mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement,” Trump said. “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”

© AFP 2019

Additional reporting from Dominic McGrath

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