On Wednesday, Feb. 22, at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, 51-year-old Adam Purinton shot two engineers from India, killing 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla and wounding 32-year-old Alok Madasani. He also wounded two other bar patrons who tried to intervene. One of them, 24-year-old Ian Grillot, who is white, was seriously wounded.
After Purinton had been kicked out of the bar for being disruptive, he later came back with a weapon, shouted racial slurs at the two Indian men, and began shooting, also shouting “Get out of my country.”
Whether he presumed them to be Muslims (and assumed them to be terrorists-in-waiting or terrorist sympathizers) or whether he simply hated them because of the furious hatred so many white people have toward immigrants right now, legal or otherwise, this was an act of terrorism.
And yet, authorities, and notably the Trump regime, have been reluctant to call this domestic terrorism. They say they don’t know enough about Purinton’s motivations. They say it’s too soon to name it terrorism.
It’s always too soon when the attackers are white. They are almost always called lone wolves, while brown-skinned and/or Muslim attackers are quickly assumed to be tied to terrorist groups. It’s never too early to call a Muslim or a Black person a terrorist. Even when non-white shooters are found to be acting on their own, somehow they aren’t “lone wolves” like the white people are. At the very least, they are assumed to have been radicalized by extremist Muslim groups or philosophies. And then Muslims in general are viewed as terrorists, despite the fact the overwhelming percentage of them are anything but, and groups like Black Lives Matter are labeled terrorists by many white people just because a handful of people act out violently every once in a while at a BLM protest or the like.
How quickly we forget that the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, which killed not only adults but children in a daycare facility there, was committed by two white men, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (and two white accomplices, Michael and Lori Fortier). It was one of the worst acts of terrorism on our soil, motivated by the perpetrators’ hatred of the U.S. federal government and its handling of the 1993 Waco siege and the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 (both of which involved actions against dangerous white extremists).
How quickly we focus on the 9/11 terrorist attack, which killed many more people but also is also the kind of thing that happens much less often…almost never, in fact, by comparison. Violence by white extremists…domestic white terrorists…is far more frequent and poses a much greater danger overall, especially to non-white people, Jews, LGBTQ people, Muslims and other groups that are marginalized by the government, society and/or large numbers of white, straight, supposedly “Christian” people in most cases. Shootings. Burnings of mosques or synagogues or Black Christian churches. Intimidation and beatings. And more.
Last year, for example, you were more likely to be shot by a toddler than harmed by a foreign terrorist. The fact is the 9/11 was a “lucky shot” by foreign terrorists. They killed so many but there’s never been anything like that before or since, nor much chance of something so dramatic happening again any time soon. Since 9/11, more people have been killed by white terrorists here in the United States than by Muslim terrorists.
Since Trump’s campaign to become president really heated up and since his election, terrorist violence against people in America based on racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is up sharply. To claim that has nothing to do with Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims, immigrants and non-white people is beyond ridiculous. The cause and effect is clear. Trump and his cronies are happy to rile up the radical right white people, and they don’t care whom they harm, as long as they continue to divide us along lines of race and religion. As long as they continued to sow chaos that helps right-wing power-brokers seize more control and gain more support from white people who can only see the terrorist evil when it wears brown skin or a twisted version of the religion of Islam draped over it. And so many white people are so willing to buy into the lies that foreign terrorists or that innocent and socially conscious movements like Black Lives Matter are the real threats.
Terrorism is awful no matter who commits it. But we are long past the time when we need to name white terrorists as such. Terrorism hurts us all. But in this country, the people it hurts the most are the non-white people, because they get the brunt of overreaching police actions, increased levels of suspicion toward them, and more radicalized white people targeting them when violence is committed by a Muslim or an angry Black person. These victims are all too visible, they are often unprotected by the government compared to white people, and they are fewer in number. Easily targeted. Easily demonized. Easily made the scapegoats. Easily killed, jailed or deported when they’ve done no harm.
Overwhelmingly, white people have little to fear overall from Muslim or Black terrorism, because it is such a small part of the picture of violence in America. But Black and Muslim people, and so many other marginalized groups, have much more to fear from white terrorists.
Name them for what they are. Punish them for what they are. In the land of supposed equality and justice, let them pay the same kinds of prices that Muslim terrorists do. Stop letting them get away with murder.
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