[WASHINGTON] Former US president Jimmy Carter is decrying the resurgence of racial tensions coinciding with the rise of Donald Trump, warning that the billionaire tycoon's White House candidacy has tapped a reservoir of "inherent racism."
Mr Carter told The New York Times on Monday that he was disappointed about a recent spike in racism, "except for one thing: I think the country has been reawakened the last two or three years to the fact that we haven't resolved the race issue adequately."
Republican animosity toward President Barack Obama has had "a heavy racial overtone," Mr Carter told the daily, adding that the presumptive Republican nominee's stunningly successful presidential campaign had "tapped a waiting reservoir there of inherent racism." "I think there's a heavy reaction among some of the racially conscious Republicans against an African American being president," Mr Carter said.
The 91-year-old politician-turned humanitarian aims to address such issues of when he convenes the New Baptist Covenant Summit 2016 on race relations and social inequality.
Mr Carter is seeking to bring together white, black Hispanic and Asian Baptists to the Atlanta gathering in September in part as a way to heal the racial divide and ease tensions in the country.
The former president last year began treatment for cancer that originated in his liver and spread to his brain. In December, he announced that he was free of cancer but was still receiving treatment.
Mr Carter, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for helping promote human rights and democracy, told the Times that Mr Trump had violated "basic human rights" when he referred to some Mexican immigrants as criminals and called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.
"When you single out any particular group of people for secondary citizenship status, that's a violation of basic human rights," Mr Carter said.
Mr Carter grew up on a Georgia farm, where he was raised a Southern Baptist. He was also the first US president to describe himself as a born-again Christian.
Asked why polls show many American evangelicals are backing Trump's candidacy, Mr Carter said: "They have a heavy orientation to right-wing political philosophy, and he obviously is a proponent of that concept."
Mr Carter left the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 as the denomination shifted to the right politically.
In 2007, he brought together several black and white Baptist associations and founded the New Baptist Covenant. The group is holding a summit in September in Atlanta.