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Is White Supremacy Synonymous with Terrorism?

Protesters gathered at the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th, where the chaos that followed led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. PHOTO/ Patrick Morrissey – Flickr Creative Commons
Protesters gathered at the “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 12th, where the chaos that followed led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. PHOTO/ Patrick Morrissey – Flickr Creative Commons

By Stephanie Farrier

Published: September 14th, 2017

Although certainly not the first offense of its caliber, the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia raise the question of whether or not white supremacy should be categorized as terrorism, and, if so, why neither the media nor President Donald Trump has yet to call it out as such.

On Saturday, Aug. 12th, a planned “Unite the Right” rally erupted to protest the decision of Charlottesville City Council to remove the statue of a confederate general, Robert E. Lee. What resulted was a police helicopter collision that killed two state troopers, a gray Dodge Challenger that barreled into the crowd killing a 32-year-old woman named Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others, as well as a barrage of screams from white nationalists, supremacists, and Ku Klux Klan members yelling, “You can’t replace us!” “Blood and soil!” and “White power!” What was perhaps equally as troubling was the insufficient response from President Trump.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It has been going on for a long time in our country…it has been going on for a long, long time,” Trump said. The issue with the “it” President Trump is referring to is a larger word, a word that sums up those actions ensued from hatred, bigotry, and violence. A word that the mainstream media, as well as the leaders of our country, seem to have been unwilling to use for a “long, long time.”  

Terrorism, defined as the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims, is a term Trump seemed very familiar with during his campaign. In fact, he stated several times that, “They won’t even mention it,” in regards to President Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton’s failure to use the term “Radical Islamic Terrorism.” Trump went on to say, “Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name”—a sentiment that could hardly be considered disagreeable. The only exception in this instance is that this particular “problem” happens to be in the form of some of his biggest supporters, which leaves President Trump with quite the conflict of interest on his hands. One could only imagine the difficulty presented with being expected to unite a country and ensure its safety and prosperity as a whole, while at the same time fulfilling the needs of extremist groups whose insatiable desires were heavily pandered to throughout the duration of the campaign. The inconsistent tone and nature of his tweets and statements definitely magnified this bind. The president jumped back and forth between mentioning that “the K.K.K, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” to “I don’t know if you know – [white nationalists] had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.”

While Trump dances around denouncing the acts of terror associated with these groups, the media also seems apprehensive about calling a spade, well, terrorism. News headlines about Charlottesville, with the exception of a few, including a CNN article titled “Charlottesville Killing was an Act of Domestic Terrorism,” seem to only mention the specific events, what Trump has said about them and what groups were involved. However, the media’s failure to categorize these attacks and others like them as terror based—including the nine murdered at the hands of self-declared white supremacist Dylann Roof in 2015—prove to be problematic to the public in identifying the difference between a jihadist attack or an attack by citizens of the U.S on citizens of the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has recorded that over the past ten years, domestic extremists of all kinds are responsible for the deaths of 372 people in the United States, 74 percent of those deaths were at the hands of right-wing extremists. Our leaders and our news sources must, with the same amount of vigor, exclaim from their positions of influence that white supremacy is as much a threat to American society as any other terrorist group both foreign or domestic. 

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