Identity And Terror
March 23, 2018
For the past two weeks, Americans were being terrorized by an unidentified individual leaving bombs disguised as packages. For African Americas we watched as the national media failed to give proper context and coverage, seemingly going out of their way to avoid using the word terrorism. Interestingly enough for African Americans, this created feelings of both anger and anxiety. However, despite our feelings, we collectively understood why these acts were not being framed by the media as acts of terrorism. The easy and complicated answer is of course race.
America has always had an interesting relationship with the word terrorism. I guarantee you that if a certain segment of our population were to describe what a terrorist looked like. They undoubtedly would picture a brown skin individual, who may or may not be Muslim. This dangerous and improper mischaracterization has been peppered into America’s conscious over the last twenty-five years. Successfully conditioning Americans processing of terrorism. What has amazingly escaped the description of terrorism, is that of a white Protestant male; despite the fact that those characteristics are common among those who have committed more acts of terrorism on America soil than any other demographic of people. When you consider the number of mass shootings, lynching’s and other hate crimes. The statistic is staggering. The failure to designate these acts as terrorism often times seems strategic. Why the Ku Klux Klan was never designated a domestic terror group is amazing. Especially when you consider that the Klan has actual documented acts of terror ranging as far back to the Reconstruction era. The continuous and deliberate failure to recognize that most terrorists in America are home grown and often white male, all while pigeonholing people of color into associations of violence, creates an attitude of indifference and even worse ignorance. Imagine if we deemed mass shootings as act of terrorism. Gun reform would not be a controversial subject, our national focus (and resources) would be used to attack problems associated with gun violence, and the NRA would be persona non-grata to law makers.
The national dialogue surrounding the Texas bomber is disappointing. The identity of the terror suspect is important because it would start to change the conversation of what we as a nation consider terrorism. I get it, the subject of race causes great consternation. However, ignoring the issue of race in America or believing this country has moved beyond it, is the problem. Once we acknowledge that the subject of race is as embedded into our American conscious as apple pie, the easier it would be to identify the issues surrounding the subject and thus ultimately solving them. But we have to be willing to take the first step which is to identify the problem and then properly designate it. We could start by calling the Texas bomber what he is. A terrorist.