Arpaio is the opposite of a “patriot.” Over his 24 years as sheriff in Maricopa County, Arpaio brutally assaulted the civil rights of the Latino and Latina population, and subjected those he incarcerated to “sadistic punishments” that included “torture, humiliation, and degradation.”
This is what white supremacy looks like in policing. This morally and civilly degraded behavior, extended over nearly a quarter of a century, is the inevitable outcome of the belief that there is such a thing as the “white race” and that it should be dominant in society over those of other races.
The brutality of the reign of Arpaio is central to the ideology of white supremacy. White supremacy in the history of the United States has been relentlessly violent. Violence is not an accidental byproduct of white supremacy. It is intrinsic to its deep-seated hatred of the very existence of races other than what it considers white. Today’s younger white supremacists that carried torches in Charlottesville may have been wearing nice polo shirts and pleated khaki pants instead of white hoods and robes, but their intent was the same as their white supremacist forebears, to create fear and to incite violence. In the view of the white supremacist, other races have no rights, not even the right to live.
This is a profound offense, in my view as a pastor and theologian, to the God who created us all in God’s image and likeness. God created all of us. Every human being. No exceptions. And all have the right to equal dignity and respect, both civilly and morally.
Thus, no matter what Trump may decree and sign, there is no pardoning white supremacy.
There has been a long debate in Christian theology over whether some sins are intrinsically unforgivable, such as child murder. I do not agree that there are acts that by definition are unpardonable. Instead, I would argue, along with many others in the world’s religions, that genuine repentance and change make a difference.
That is what makes white supremacy basically unforgivable, that is, unpardonable. Far from being repentant, the white supremacist likes the sin, loves the sin, wraps him or herself in the perverted notion that they and their race are the only ones that matter. That is why, frankly, the white supremacist is so utterly and completely outraged and seeks to criminalize the movement #BlackLivesMatter. #BlackLivesMatter shines a spotlight on the fundamental moral mistake of white supremacy that only white lives matter. White supremacy is deeply mistaken about that.
Anyone, including a president, who aids and abets the idea that white supremacy has any legitimacy in this or any other nation is wrong in the most profound sense of the term.
Thus, while the presidential pardon of Joe Arpaio may be constitutional, it is an unpardonable act by Donald Trump.
Americans of conscience must condemn this unpardonable act and the white supremacy it defends with clarity and strength.
There is no pardon.