Can the Face of Terrorism Ever Be White?
This past weekend – dating from the 11th to the 12th of August, 2017 – has marked a dark couple of days in the history of the United States of America. White supremacist/racist protesters took the streets of West Virginia by storm. According to the New York Times – and several other news sources – these kinds of protests are not the the first of their kind. These protests have been primarily motivated by the City Council’s decision to remove several Confederate memorials, starting the months of April and May, 2017.
The City Council’s decision came following an attack, where a white supremacist killed 9 African-American churchgoers back in 2015; the City Council wanted to no longer honor the historical symbols of the confederacy, as they viewed them as symbols of a racist South that should be long gone.
The trigger behind this weekend’s protests and rallies was the removal of the Robert E. Lee Memorial Statue, located in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr. Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, stated on Saturday that the protesters were “going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump and take our country back.” Indeed, Saturday’s protests and rallies – under the slogan “Unite the Right”- have attracted the historically racist and extremely violent Klan, alongside members from several neo-Nazi organizations.
The rally, however, quickly turned into chaos, when counter-protestors arrived at the scene, and clashed with the white supremacists. The white supremacists were nothing short of extremely violent towards these counter-protesters. Video footage -like the one shown below- has revealed that the white supremacists beat up the counter-protestors. The counter-protestors were Black Lives Matter activists, religious leaders, and anti-fascist groups known as “antifa”.
At one point a car even plowed into a crowd of counter protestors, causing the death of a 32-year old woman, and 19 injuries (video shown below).
On Saturday afternoon – whilst speaking at the beginning of a veterans’ event, taking place at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersy – President Donald Trump described the events as “terrible.” Trump denounced the general concept of bloody protests, but did not specifically either attack and/or condemn the white supremacists who were chanting things like “You will not replace us” and “Jews will not replace us.” In fact, Trump blamed the “bigotry, hate, and violence on many sides” for these awful events.
The US Department of Justice’s also announced that it was opening a civil rights investigation into “the circumstances of the deadly vehicular incident.” An official state of emergency has been declared in the state of Virginia.
The truth is, however, things are not being called for what they are. I do not see a single headline which describes these acts as ‘blatant acts of terror’, nor do I see an official who is willing to call these acts an iteration of an extremist and terrorist ideology that must be met with force.
While I understand that white supremacists are racists, and that their attacks reflect bigotry and hate, I can never understand how a faction of any society behaving in this manner towards another faction of society is not described as ‘terrorists.’ Has terrorism become so extensively, racially, and culturally intertwined with Islam and the Middle East, that we dare not think that the face of terror(ism) can be white at times?
This is not a small issue, words are never just words. When one utters the word ‘terrorist’ a Middle Eastern man with a beard is the first thing that pops in your head. These associations are neither coincidental, nor are they benign in their impact on how said other is created, and/or perceived. These associations have been deliberately constructed, and it looks like they won’t be deconstructed anytime soon.
The face of terrorism is brown, and that is not something any media entity nor American official is willing to negotiate. Moreover, if the exact same scene were photographed in the streets of Cairo or Pakistan, I can tell you for a fact that western media and officials would focus on how much these countries are saturated with danger and terrorism. I can also tell you for a fact that the religion of the perpetrators of such violent protests would suddenly matter.