Khaled A Beydoun writes: The colour of violence often dictates what and who qualifies as a threat to national security. In the United States, the list of dangers to national security and the American way of life is topped by an Islamic menace, but excludes the proliferation of white supremacist groups. This movement not only openly espouses racist and xenophobic goals, but has also effectively executed the most savage attacks on innocent Americans during this past year.
In the American imagination there is a one-dimensional portrait of terrorism – one that adorns turbans, beards, and brown skin. However, white terrorism, driven by racial supremacy and xenophobia, should rank as the greatest threat to national security in America today.
The recent attack in Oak Creek, and the mosque burnings across the country are evidence that white supremacy is far more than merely a veiled threat, but a realised one.
There is little that is more American than viewing a blockbuster release on its opening night. Scores of teenagers waited anxiously for their seats in Aurora, Colorado’s Century 16 Movie-Plex on Friday, July 20, and filed into the full theatre. Among the crowd of moviegoers was James Holmes, a 24-year old graduate student armed with a semi-automatic rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. Holmes, who the FBI stated had “no ties to any terrorist groups”, was prepared and poised to kill innocents. And he did so, only miles away from the Columbine tragedy of 1999, executing twelve and injuring 58.
The national news sweep that followed the Aurora massacre was saturated with headlines calling it an “American tragedy”, yet silent on branding it precisely what it was – an act of terrorism. Americans of colour, particularly Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African-Americans, collectively questioned what the tenor of the news coverage would sound like if Holmes was Muslim or Black, and also, if the media storm would have reached national proportions if the majority of the victims were not white.
The questions of these viewers were answered, in large part, nearly two weeks later after a white supremacist killed eight Americans inside a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.
Weeks later, Wade Michael Page entered the Gurdwara Temple in Oak Creek on August 5 with a premeditated agenda to kill Americans. The congregation of worshippers, like the moviegoers in Aurora, could never imagine or anticipate that their lives would be in jeopardy as they were steeped in prayer. Page, a forty-year old tattoo-clad Army veteran who played with white supremacist heavy metal bands with the names “Definite Hate” and “End Empathy”, trespassed into the Temple with a gun and a heart full of hate.
Wade saw turban and beard-clad Americans. They fit neatly, but fallaciously, into the constructed caricature of the Muslim threat. His victims were Sikh. For Page and the white supremacist and xenophobic ideals he represented, the religion or ethnicity of the victims was negligible compared to the markers of difference they believe justifies violence. They were not white, and according to his worldview, not American, regardless of the taxes they paid, the votes they cast, and the contributions to the country they made. The ultimate aim was of course to terrorise, to spread fear, in furtherance of a political vision of a white America. [Continue reading…]