Michael D Lintner: The “other” homegrown terrorism: As American as apple pie
The term “homegrown terrorism” is used by news media outlets to describe domestic acts of terror. Think the Orlando nightclub shooting or the San Bernadino attack. When we turn on the news and hear this oft-applied term, we are assuming they are speaking of radical Islamists or jihadi groups. We then must admit, that intentionally or not, the news outlets have corrupted our interpretation of this term. We have also allowed ourselves to be influenced by a negative view of Islam. We have become complicit in the interpretation that “homegrown terrorists” are, or have been inspired by, radical Islamists.
Yet there are numerous examples of terrorists acts that do not receive that label:
• Dylan Roof entered the Emmanuel AME Church in South Carolina on June, 2015. After praying with some of the congregation, he opened fire. Nine black worshippers lost their lives that day, including Pastor Clementa Pickney.
• Three Muslim students were shot in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in February 2015 by a man who had posted anti-religious messages online.
• Earlier this year in Quebec City, six were killed and 19 wounded in a mass shooting at one of the city’s mosques.
According to the Southern Poverty Law center, the number of anti-Muslim groups has tripled since 2015. In that same year, there were 78 attacks on mosques throughout the United States, the highest that had been recorded to date.
The term “homegrown terrorism” isn’t used when reporting on these heinous acts, groups or individuals. Instead the terms “acts of hate” or “hate crimes” are used. For some reason we are reluctant to identify this “other” homegrown terrorism as acts of terror, which raises many interesting questions. Why is “homegrown terrorism” used when one group of people (radical Islamists) attack another group (Americans or Westerners) but not when white racists/supremacists attack other groups (in this case minorities)?
The answer becomes apparent when we consider the historic treatment and persecution of the Black Panther group, compared to the KKK. I am not condoning one group over the other by any means, but one can certainly not ignore the hypocrisy of allowing the KKK to march through towns claiming First Amendment rights. And let’s not forget that President Donald Trump, who has pledged to fight “terrorism” and eliminate ISIS, refused to disavow David Duke’s (former KKK leader) support during his presidential campaign.
So what is “homegrown terrorism?” According to the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007, “homegrown terrorism means the use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual born, raised, or based … within the United States to intimidate the … government, the civilian population … or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Certainly then, “homegrown terrorism” should apply to the aforementioned cases, in which individuals committed crimes of terror against their fellow citizens. Right? But why hasn’t it been applied, and why hasn’t this sounded any alarms? If we are so concerned about our national security, we need to ensure the security of all peoples within our borders.
Who is speaking up for the mosques that are being burned? For the Somali-American woman in Minnesota who had a beer mug smashed across her face by a white woman demanding she “speak English.” A white man opens fire in a restaurant in Kansas, targeting two Indian men, killing one, and injuring the other, and we hesitate to call this man a terrorist. Why is it that attacks on minorities by white supremacists are not viewed as acts of terror? Furthermore, why are white terrorists suddenly so emboldened to act on their hate? To quote the late and great Gil-Scott Heron, from his song “Bicentennial Blues:” “Well, America (and the new White House administration) provided the atmosphere.”
It is time we stand up and protect the rights of all our neighbors, regardless of faith, nationality, gender. If we are going to use the term “terrorism,” we should not be afraid to use it wherever applicable, including when the perpetrators are white.
Dr. Michael D Lintner lives in Carbondale.
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