What does it take to call white men terrorists?
In America, terrorism is a color-coded proposition, and white people have the privilege not to be called terrorists.
The bottom line is that it is hard to label white men as terrorists, even when they are involved in terrorist activities. It all depends on the race of the perpetrators and the skin color of the victims. A case in point is the arrest of three members of the Crusaders, a militia group accused of a plot to bomb an apartment complex and mosque for Somali immigrants in Kansas.
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The three men — Curtis Allen, 49, Gavin Wright, 49 and Patrick Eugene Stein, 47 — face federal charges for their alleged plan to use weapons of mass destruction to blow up the complex in Garden City, Kansas. Their plan was to use bombs much like Timothy McVeigh, who carried out the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people in 1995. And these domestic terrorists were intent upon sparing no one, including the babies.
The anti-Muslim group referred to Muslims as “cockroaches” and was going to carry out their plot the day after Election Day in order to create a “bloodbath” to “wake up” the country politically. These arrests were the end result of an eight-month FBI investigation that led the feds “deep into a hidden culture of hatred and violence,” according to acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall.
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According to a federal affidavit, Stein said “the only (expletive) way this country’s ever going to get turned around is it will be a bloodbath and it will be a nasty, messy (expletive).” He added that “unless a lot more people in this country wake up and smell the (expletive) coffee and decide they want this country back … we might be too late. If they do wake up … I think we can get it done. But it ain’t going to be nothing nice about it.”
Stein frequently posted his rabidly Islamophobic views on social media. One day, while “on patrol” as the Southern Poverty Law Center, Stein screamed out the window at Somali women in traditional clothing, “f*cking raghead b*tches!” He also attacked Hillary Clinton for “rigging” the election. Sound familiar?
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The Crusaders — also known as the Kansas Security Force (KSF), an affiliate with an antigovernment coalition in various states called the Three Percent Security Force — had stockpiled explosives and firearms and also contemplated attacks on churches that housed refugees. A Georgia chapter of the group also threatened an armed protest against the construction of a mosque 35 miles east of Atlanta.
These hate-filled men should remind us of Dylann Roof, the white supremacist and neo-Confederate sympathizer who went into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. last year and gunned down nine people. But don’t call Roof or those of his ilk terrorists, some will say, because they lack the dark complexion necessary to make that connection. Because, after all, black and brown people are thugs, criminals, murderers, rapists and terrorists. But white men who shoot up or blow up a bunch of black folks are merely exercising their Second Amendment rights, or at worst are troubled loners, and it all came as a shock to everyone that this could happen.
Privilege. Black shooter = thug, Muslim shooter = terrorist, White shooter = lone wolf. http://t.co/c0kECTZhCN pic.twitter.com/fXf7EB4s8C
— Mason J Roberts (@MasonJRoberts) June 19, 2015
And certainly had a group of black or brown men occupied federal property and as Ammon Bundy’s militia group did in an Oregon wildlife refuge, resulting in a standoff with authorities, they would have been regarded as terrorists.
But when white domestic terrorists do what they do — which is to intimidate, hurt and kill people of color — we are told there is no cause for alarm. In a country that has normalized white terror against black people for 400 years, should we be surprised that terrorism is in the eye of the beholder? And as Donald Trump inspires angry and armed white men and encourages them to monitor the black community for “voter fraud,” will we be surprised to hear that the people who commit these crimes — including Trump himself — are not actually terrorists?
We need to get real. If these three men in Kansas were brown, the terrorism label would not be in question.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter @davidalove