By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
I would wager that you have had this experience. It has happened to me on more than one occasion. I am going through security at an airport, standing behind a White person. They go through screening, and perhaps they are pulled over for an extra inspection. Frustrated by the situation, they either say – explicitly or implicitly – that this whole process is ridiculous because they – the passenger – do not look like a terrorist.
Actually, the situation is a bit more complicated and the truth is that they actually might look more like a terrorist than they believe. The New America Foundation, for instance, determined that 34 people have been killed by (White) right-wing violence in the U.S. since September 11, 2001 compared to 21 killed here by Muslim extremist groups. The Southern Poverty Law Center, in a 2011 publication on right-wing violence, found that since the Oklahoma City terrorist attack by Timothy McVeigh, et.al, there have been 32 law enforcement officers killed by right-wing terrorists. They also went on to identify 688 right-wing terror groups in the U.S., including those associated with the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazi, White Nationalist, Racist Skinheads, Christian Identity, and Neo-Confederate movements.
This reality forces us to ask a critical question regarding perception and reality. If there is more likelihood for there to be right-wing, White terrorist attacks in the U.S. than attacks by Muslim extremists, why do we equate terrorism and Muslim extremism? Why do so many of us envision an Arab, Central Asian, or North African, when the word “terrorist” is used, rather than a picture of someone who looks like Timothy McVeigh?
This quandary goes to the heart of the U.S. To use another example, why are police not rampaging through Italian American communities seeking gangsters when there is a history of the Mafia in Italian American communities, compared with the lawless aggressions carried out in African American and Latino communities by police in the name of fighting crime?
The so-called mainstream media and education establishments draw no conclusions about the activities and attitudes of White people based either on the actions of a few, or, for that matter, the actions of many. If White men are more likely to commit mass killings than any other demographic, why are there are no public warnings or even suggestions about the dangers of dealing with White men? There are no special measures taken when White men go through security zones, e.g., at airports. Each act is treated in isolation, a fact that ironically leads to a failure to achieve a broader grasp of actual social trends.
To put it another way, in looking at each case in isolation it not only distinguishes such an approach from a racialization of all information, but equally discourages the study of any actual scientific trends. One such trend, when it comes to violence, has been the growth and further militarization of white, right-wing populist movements.
As uncomfortable as it may be for many White people to accept, right-wing (and White) terrorism is more of a threat in the U.S. than any other form of terrorism. Once we begin to understand that simple fact, we may be on the road to understanding and disentangling a few other realities about life in our nation.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Facebook and atwww.billfletcherjr.com.