We hear the word terrorist and shiver. We hear the words white supremacy and groan. But we never hear both together.
Terrorism, by definition, is the unlawful use of violence or intimidation in the pursuit of a political goal. When we think terrorism we usually think 9/11 or more recently, ISIS. White supremacy, on the other hand, is a racist belief that the white race is superior to all other races. When we think white supremacy we think of the Ku Klux Klan or lately, of Charlottesville.
The recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia gathered hundreds of white supremacists from different groups such as the KKK, Alt-right, neo-Confederate and neo-Nazi members. Although differing in name, the groups all shared core beliefs of pre-existing white-supremacy, uniting them into chanting “blood and soil” throughout the streets of Charlottesville. “Blood and soil” is a 19th-century German nationalist term used during the Nazi regime that connects the ethnicity of an individual to the territory of their country. In other words, they are saying the immigrants and non-whites of this country do not belong on American soil.
The protesters unraveled a paralyzing wave of terror throughout our country proclaiming that the racist beliefs that once founded our nation should still remain in the country’s ideology. The horrifying protest injured 19 civilians and killed one 32-year-old woman. Most people would agree that the protest was both morally and lawfully wrong. But unlike other immoral crimes, this crime was an act of terror against our country. With the political goal of segregating our country, white supremacy is well alive in the United States and white supremacists are terrorists themselves. It’s about time our nation starts viewing them as such.
Families and individuals from all around the world have immigrated to the United States and were met with open arms from our country. Now, we welcome them with uncertainty while fully armed. Xenophobia has always been discretely present within the U.S.; it’s natural for individuals to feel hesitant about foreigners. Donald Trump’s continuous xenophobic rhetoric during his campaign and his presidency defied the social norm against attacking foreigners, making bigotry more socially acceptable than it was before. If the president was attacking Mexicans by saying: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists,” why can’t the Average Joe publically say that about the next foreigner?
For as long as he’s been in politics, President Trump’s stance on radical Islamic terrorism has been extreme. Both before and during his presidency, Trump continuously pointed at radical Islam as a major security threat to the U.S. In December 2015, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
With this bigotry, it is perceived that foreigners are a threat to our country, especially a terroristic threat. Even with all the extensive background checks during immigration, these immigrants are still speculated to be terrorists simply because they are not American. What we fail to recognize is that the biggest form of terror lies within our own borders.
In October 2015, Trump, in fact, called terrorism by its name. “These are radical Islamic terrorists…To solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is, or at least say the name.”
Many have criticized his statement today as hypocritical, especially after the Charlottesville protest. Although famous for being blunt, Trump was uncannily silent after the protest by failing to state the problem and call it by its name. White supremacy is the problem and terrorism is the name.
Between January 2008 and the end of 2016, there have been 201 terrorist incidents tracked on U.S. soil. Of these cases, 115 have been by right-wing extremists while 63 cases have been by Islamic extremists, according to The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal. Right-wing extremist attacks consisted of almost twice as many attacks as Islamic terrorism did.
Back in May, Trump froze $10 million in grants directed towards combating domestic terrorism. More than 30 organizations were given funding during Barack Obama’s presidency but the grants were put on hold when the Trump Administration took office.
The majority of our focus has been on radical Islamic terrorism within the past years. Since 2008, the government succeeded in interrupting the majority of Islamic extremist incidents with 76 percent of plots being dead-ended with a huge investment of government resources. With right-wing extremism, only 35 percent of incidents were interrupted with the majority of cases resulting in death, injuries or damage to property.
Acclaimed journalist David Neiwart told Huffington Post in June 2017 that right-wing extremists were “mostly men” and “almost purely white.” Different groups within right-wing extremism express “gradations of white supremacy” consisting of different variations while all holding onto the same racist ideological foundation.
But our media never seems to label these attacks as terrorism. The incidents are downplayed as mental illnesses or not given enough recognition. If domestic right-wing extremism is such a threat to our country, why do we constantly overlook it?
There is a consistent notion of “us” vs. “them.” “Them” is always the so-called terrorists: the Muslims, the immigrants, the Non-Americans. “Us” is always America: the hard-working middle class, the White-Americans, the ones born on this soil. It’s hard to label white supremacists as terrorists when they’re us … not them. Terroristic white supremacy beliefs reside within the men and women who teach at schools, work at grocery stores, hike with their families and march with their ideologies.
That’s not to say that radical Islamic terrorism is negligent, now that white supremacy is in the picture. We need to be aware that white supremacy is terrorism, not just an ideology. We need to start treating and condemning it as such.
The public needs to recognize that terrorists of any type and their beliefs are not us and not American. Regardless of religion or race, a person’s character is what separates an individual from “us” and “them.”