making sense of white domestic terrorism
the role of white entitlement in violence
There’s a reason you don’t see Black folks as the primary suspects committing domestic terrorism: Black people have too many people relying on us and too much to lose to do the shit that white domestic terrorists do. Alternatively, when we consider our own histories we simultaneously have nothing to lose. Seriously, white folks need to talk to their people about this shit. The steadily increasing rate of white domestic terrorism should not just be frightening for those of us who have historically been marginalized, it should scare white folks as well. A state of fear or anger is not enough, but sometimes it can push us toward taking necessary action, and action can take many forms. We won’t get anywhere if we keep coddling white feelings.
The legacy of white domestic terrorism begins with the broader colonialism and imperialism committed all throughout the world, expands with hate groups like the ku klux klan, and narrows down to individuals (the “lone wolf”) or small groups like the unabomber (1980s-1990s), those who committed the columbine massacre (1990), the Charleston massacre shooter (2015), the Planned Parenthood shooter (2015), and more recently the Portland Islamophobe (2017). And to add to it, all of this is only fueled further by the so-called “Alt Right,” or the renewed white nationalist and white supremacist movements led by 45 and his merry bandits.
“Black people have too many people relying on us and too much to lose to do the shit that white domestic terrorists do.”
What do Black kids do? Misdemeanors? Yes. Definitely.
Drug related crimes? Yes. Definitely.
Violent crime? Yes. Definitely.
The difference is that while Black folks and whites use drugs at similar rates, Black folks are disproportionately caught, punished, and sentenced. Even the reporting and research on whites is more sympathetic, discussing “economic anxiety” as a justification for racism or a “sea of despair” that must be solved, as opposed to many times the United States government willingly lied about drug use among Black folks. In their own words (don’t skip past this quote):
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
The history of Black folks committing crimes like robbery, theft, and even and what some folks like to call “Black-on-Black” crime — a misnomer, as crime is most commonly intraracial — is often related to economic fights over resources. This is not to excuse what we classify as a “crime,” as the category itself requires much interrogation. For example, not paying money bail is a crime punishable by jail time, essentially criminalizing poverty. We need to reconsider and decolonize our understanding of what crime is, what the sources are, and why folks commit crimes.
We need to think about why a gang member would shoot a rival gang member over something that could be seen as small. Our judgement around theft, particularly when it is for basic needs for oneself or one’s children, requires a new perspective. How are people pushed into crime? What alternative opportunities do they have? How does gentrification and housing displacement fuel poverty, violent crime, theft, and houselessness?
Black youth need therapy, but they need it for a whole different reason than some of these white kids sippin’ on the wine of white supremacy do. Most, if not all, Black Americans deal with general anxiety disorder and many deal with PTSD. Pulling off the stunts white folks pull requires comfortability, or as my friend Joel writes, “it takes an immense amount of privilege and security to function in a vacuum.”
“The steadily increasing rate of white domestic terrorism should not just be frightening for those of us who have historically been marginalized, it should scare white folks as well.”
I’m no psychologist, but it seems to me that folks like the Charleston shooter seek martyr or even vanguard status to show that they will not let “their women” be taken by Black men, or that they will no longer stand by as folks ruin “their country.” A cursory examination of white domestic terrorism in the U.S. reveals that it is often not rooted in a need — food, shelter, water — but instead in violent ideologies that do not help them, but instead hurt others.
In comparison, a Black American person would rarely attempt the sorts of feats white American domestic terrorists successfully achieve for many reasons. The primary reason, in my assessment, is that we are afraid of becoming the next modern day lynching. As a Black queer man I wept for Orlando, and as that same Black queer man I broke down as I followed the case of Sandra Bland, even after learning about her homophobia. In other words, why the fuck would a Black person gonna even attempt any of these stunts when we know that the police kill us for everything from a hand to a turning signal.
Whiteness works as a shield that works across all economic classes to embolden the spectrum of white humans from dirt poor to mega rich. Class shifts the way whiteness is experienced, as a “trailer trash” white person is not the same as a wealthy white capitalist. They do not possess the same opportunities or socialization, but they do still maintain the white entitlement that leads to dangerous consequences. That is how whiteness protects both the “redneck” and the proud bourgeois alike, giving them a sense of unearned security. It’s wild that white folks have everything at their fingertips and yet they still hunt down ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities. Or shoplift, not for necessity, but for the thrill of it.
Black folks and many more historically marginalized groups across the entire globe have a lot to be angry about, but we are often remain quiet. But it doesn’t matter if there is 1 or 1,000: there are a number of white folks that truly want to exterminate non-white, non-straight, non-cis gender, non-American, and/or non-Christian folks for merely existing. This should not just concern Black folks in America, but everyone. Needless to say: we are tired.
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