Living in a predominantly white country that built itself on the backs of black, and brown people, it comes as no surprise that the narrative of crimes, and those who commit them is viewed hugely through the lens of racism. An offence committed by a white person is seen as a solitary act, despite the fact that the majority of mass shootings, and acts of terror in America have been carried out by white men. However a suicide bomber can go off thousands of miles away from north america, and every Muslim, or person with a head scarf on, be it a hijab, turban or keffiyeh is put on alert as being a potential terrorist. Even though a terrorist is by definition someone who uses terror, or intimidation for political aims.
This denotation is suitable for people who subscribe to the rhetoric of the extremist group ISIS. As well as all of the folks of the united states who belong to the “alt right” white supremacy group. With that said, you wouldn’t see a Muslim person being described as good people by the leader of America if they took to the streets with the intention to do harm.
So why is it so one sided?
Demonizing people of color from the natives, to the slaves, to the neighboring Mexicans, have been a way of the descendants of Europe since their journey across the pond. Using it as a means to justify mass murders, theft, and vile crimes against humanity, they needed to paint the picture that the victims of their crimes deserved it. It started off with the depiction of first people as savages, blacks as monkeys, and now Mexicans as rapists and murderers. So of course a terrorist would be synonymous only with brown people. This impression was put in place to butter the way, and the conscious of all of those who wanted precedent to embark on a war that resulted in the deaths of millions of people.
Another word re-purposed to villainize an entire group, to meet the needs of someone’s agenda, sounds a lot like terrorism to me. Yet, you will not find this description underneath the picture of Christopher Columbus in history books. Or even in the headline of any newspaper detailing the horrific terrorism of Stephen paddock or Devon Kelley. It is reserved solely for the use of one group of people who are largely not to blame for the mass murders taking place around the world.
Why is this such a problem?
When we use words to paint pictures that are held up against an entire group of people, we lend to a dangerous practice that can lead to stereotyping, hate crimes, and systematic racism. When black men were portrayed as the perfect criminal in order to fill cash prisons, words like thug, and gangster were reformatted from indicating men like Al Capone, and John Gotti, to only being used in reference to the African American people. This helped initiatives like the “War on Drugs” and the three strike laws to target only one group and to further devastate the black community. Soon enough, all cops needed to stop a minority, was the false advertisement of an ideology of what a law breaker looked like.
Statistically white people participate in the use of drugs more than any other community living in America, yet they make up a small portion of the people doing crimes for it. Simply because their skin tone is not synonymous with offender. The narrowing of a word’s perspective has already led to one great divide in the United states that still results in adversity and unfair treatment in the media and in the justice system, and once again we come face to face with the same problem.
Terrorism, needs to be thrown under the name of any person who thinks it is their right to kill mass amounts of people. It should highlight the agendas, and beliefs of more than just one group of killers. It needs to have more than just the one face we have given it. So that the people of Syria can flee to safety and not be held accountable for crimes they did not commit. So that every person can practice any religion they want, safely, as is their constitutional right. So that we can come to realize that as a society what we face, is not an issue of race, or even religion, but of mental anguish and instability.
A likelihood to commit a crime is not determined by your level of melanin, and terrorists aren’t specific to one region or country.
So what now?
Children are not safe in school, and being afraid to leave your house, and even attend church is a reasonable fear in this day and age. Banning Muslim people is not the answer, because they are not the problem, and until we recognize that our idea of terrorism was built on a terrorist tactic we can’t expect anything to change. We have to effectively use words universally, call Dylan, Stephen, and any person who dares come after them what they deserve to be called. Acknowledge that difference is not synonymous with separation. Take note of how politicians and the media try and shape our reality. Stop letting terror brew in hate, that is only ever ignited by fear. Most of all,
Call a Terrorist a Terrorist!
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