Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday he “stands with the president” on statements President Donald Trump made at a press conference, during which he called white nationalists at a Charlottesville rally “very fine people.”
In the aftermath, Democrats and many members of the president’s own party have condemned Trump’s response, explicitly addressing him by name and denouncing white supremacists and neo-Nazis. Even conservative members of Congress tackled the issue with tougher, more specific rhetoric that avoided the “both sides” messaging Trump used during his first address.
Pence, however, has remained one of the few politicians to defend Trump’s statements, which shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given the former governor of Indiana’s own history with race.
As a 2016 piece in Salon pointed out, if dealing with race in the United States were a horror film, Trump is like the “maniac armed with a chainsaw” while Pence is the “gentlemen serial killer.” Pence doesn’t make wild, accusations about minority groups from the podium at press conferences, but rather institutes public policy that aides in the oppression of these groups, which is just as scary.
In February of 2016, the predominantly white town of Greentown, Indiana was facing a huge problem with lead-contaminated drinking water. Then-Gov. Mike Pence responded almost immediately, even comparing the situation to that of Flint, Michigan. After just two months, the problem was remedied. The residents of the majority-black city of East Chicago, however, were not as lucky.
City officials there ordered the relocation of a housing complex due to lead contamination. The soil on the property was found to have had some of the highest levels of lead contamination on the country. It was later revealed that both the state government and the EPA had known about this problem for decades, but did nothing about it. Eventually, the entire city of East Chicago was categorized as having contaminated drinking water.
Pence, however, did not visit East Chicago, like he did Greentown. Nor did he make any statements on the crisis.
Additionally, Pence has been very clear on his beliefs about systematic racism. While activists across the country were protesting the deaths of unarmed black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina last year, Pence instead told a group of pastors at a roundtable meeting that there was too much talk of “institutional racism and institutional bias.”
“Police officers are human beings,” Pence said, adding later that they were “not a force for racism in America, they are a force for good, they stand for our families, they protect our homes and they deserve our support and respect.”
Pence asserted this position once again at the vice presidential debate in October. He claimed people “seize upon tragedy in the wake of police action shootings” and “use a broad brush to accuse law enforcement of implicit bias or institutional racism and that really has got to stop.”
Study after study, however, proves Pence wrong.
“The only thing that was significant in predicting whether someone shot and killed by police was unarmed was whether or not they were black,” Justin Nix, a criminal-justice researcher at the University of Louisville and an author of one recent study, told the Washington Post. “Crime variables did not matter in terms of predicting whether the person killed was unarmed.”
Another study by Ryerson University found that that police more likely to disproportionately to shoot at black individuals in communities where white residents have stronger implicit racial bias.
Pence has stood behind Trump as noted racists like Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions influence the administration in one way or another. Just because he is not as blatant in his racism as they are, does not make him any less dangerous.