Over the past several days, most of the world has been completely enveloped by the massacre in Paris, France, that resulted in the slaughter of at least 129 people at the hands of terrorists.
As details emerge and suspects’ identities are revealed, leaders of many countries around the world have not only vowed to continue the war on terror but to rapidly intensify their efforts to combat it.
Days after the attack, French President François Hollande publicly declared “France is at war.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has intensified his country’s military actions in Syria. And, in the United States, Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush (to name a couple) are advocating an all-out, NATO-led, allied attack on ISIS.
Oh, and by the way, amidst all the attention being dedicated to foreign terrorism — this week, the FBI arrested three white men who were planning on specifically bombing black churches and synagogues.
The three white males, all residents of Chesterfield, Virginia, were arrested after meeting with an undercover FBI agent who was posing as an arms dealer. They were looking to purchase everything from silencers to bombs, in an effort to start a “race war.”
While it may be easy for some folks to write this off as another isolated incident of “crazy,” gun-loving rednecks filled with delusions of grandeur, let’s be clear in identifying them for what they truly are: terrorists.
Accurate labeling has been a huge issue in the past few days. Many Republicans are vexed at President Obama for not openly stating that America is at war with Islam (which would be an extremely stupid and bigoted thing to say). Yet these same folks have an incredibly difficult time calling terror what it is when it occurs, especially when the victims are black.
After the Charleston church massacre in South Carolina in June, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said, “I hear people say we’ve got racial problems. We don’t have a skin problem in this country, we have a sin problem in this country.”
That utterance is the height of abject cowardice, especially when the murderer left a complete, multi-page manifesto that detailed his hatred for people of color. To believe that the ideology of white supremacy didn’t execute the nine innocent AME church-goers is factually and undeniably incorrect.
Dylan Roof is a domestic terrorist. The fact that America averages more than one mass shooting a day so far this year is not just mental health issues or crazy lone wolf shooters — it’s the act of terrorism.
But in our ever-increasing state of Islamaphobia, we have decided that terrorists have a certain “look,” pray to a certain God, wear certain clothes and have certain names, all which point to Muslims.
While it’s fair game to believe that we must call radical Muslim extremists exactly what they are, it should also be fair game to point out that many domestic terrorists do not fit an Islamic model.
They are the white men, with blonde or brunette hair, who have names like Timothy McVeigh, Terry Nichols, Eric Rudolph, Wade Michael Page and Elliot Rodger. They are dangerous criminals who brazenly execute men, women and children of all ages, races and religions. Yet when we focus so much on foreign terrorism, we begin to demonize innocent Syrian refugees who are simply trying to escape the barbarism of ISIS, and we completely erase the identities of those most likely to commit terrorism on our towns and cities.
There are currently 939 active hate groups in America. There are 19 in South Carolina alone. Since the AME massacre, we’ve had discussions about “sin vs. skin” and other meandering and pointless conversations, yet when it comes to the horrors of foreign extremism, we’re all in.
That is profoundly counterintuitive to protecting the lives of all American citizens, especially African-Americans, who are being specifically targeted.
In an interview with Huffington Post, David Pilgrim, the founder of the Jim Crow museum, stated his frustrations about America’s collective shock post-9/11 that terrorism had finally “reached” America. He said:
That is ignoring and trivializing — if not just summarily dismissing — all the people, especially the peoples of color in this country, who were lynched in this country; who had their homes bombed in this country; who were victims of race riots.
And therein lies the problem with making Islam the sole face of terrorism.
It excuses the acts of savagery from the people we’re told we have no reason to fear.
While America needs to be vigilant about protecting its citizens from ISIS and other extremists groups half a world away, we can’t get so wrapped up in our overt nationalism that we fail to recognize the evil that lives next door.