The typical mass shooter in the US is a heavily armed white male who is angry about something. The specific roots of that anger are not always the same, but in many cases the targets of that anger are Latinos, African Americans, Jews, Muslims, LGBT people or some combination of those groups. These acts of domestic terrorism are increasingly not simply meant to kill random Americans while frightening all of us, but to kill specific groups of Americans while sending a message to members of those groups that we are no longer safe in the US.
These shootings are not atomized individual actions, but are part of a pattern of a domestic terrorism that is deliberately tearing at the social fabric of the country. The racism and other bigotries at the heart of these terrorist activities are not new and, unfortunately, are as American as baseball or apple pie. However, the radical new development regarding domestic terrorism is that while not quite state sponsored, it is at the very least state nurtured and facilitated.
These shootings are not atomized individual actions, but are part of a pattern of a domestic terrorism that is deliberately tearing at the social fabric of the country
The President and the President’s party, at both the state and national level, are deeply committed to ensuring that these domestic terrorists have access to assault weapons that make these mass shootings so deadly. The Republican Party has, over the last decades, fought every effort to limit access to these and other weapons, thus ensuring that terrorists can get their hands on military grade weapons that should only be used on the battlefield. We see this every time a piece of gun regulation is voted down by the Senate or never makes it out of committee and when Republican controlled state legislatures support radical pro-gun positions.
An important component of the reality of guns and gun regulations in the US is that the Second Amendment, the Constitutional provision around which gun advocates and the Republican Party build their opposition to any gun regulations, has never applied to people of color. African Americans and Latinos are shot by police in America for having toy guns and cell phones that in bad light might look like guns, while white people can take advantage of open carry laws without having to worry about law enforcement at all. US gun policy is inherently racialized and therefore helps facilitate this uptick in white nationalist domestic terrorism.
US gun policy is inherently racialized and therefore helps facilitate this uptick in white nationalist domestic terrorism
Is it more than just bad gun laws that have contributed to white nationalist domestic terrorism? It is the encouragement by the President and the failure of anybody in the President’s party to take meaningful action against this encouragement as well. During his presidency, Donald Trump has not just engaged in racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric, religious bigotry, trafficked in anti-Semitic tropes and aligned himself with homophobic bigots, but he has frequently encouraged violence towards these targets of his enmity. He has in recent months stood quietly as his supporters have chanted “send her back” in reference to Muslim member of the House of Representatives and when other supporters suggesting “shoot them” was an appropriate response to what to do about immigrants seeking to enter the US through our southern border. The American president has previously indicated that he believes there is a moral equivalence between the KKK and Nazis one on hand and those who protest against them on the other. This is only a partial sampling of the racism that has been overt and unmissable since even before Trump became a public figure sometime in the 1980s.
Terrorists acts in the name of Jihad or any other political cause are, mercifully, relatively rare in the US, but white nationalist terrorism is a much bigger and growing threat. There are many online chatrooms and racist organizations that can radicalize Americans into white nationalism, but any discussion of radicalization in this regard must begin with Donald Trump. As president, he has the biggest media platform in the country and has chosen to use it to nurture hatred towards Americans who are not white, straight and Christian and to send a message that violence against these groups is acceptable. This message is amplified by a Republican Party that, with few exceptions, none of which are enduring or impactful, has consistently refused to do anything to reign in Donald Trump’s racism, bigotry and incitement to violence, making the party complicit in facilitating this spate of domestic terror.
The role of the state in enabling domestic terrorism is an unambiguous reflection of the state of American democracy, and of the cohesion of the American nation more broadly. While the hatred that motivates these acts of terrorism in El Paso, Pittsburgh, Charleston, Poway and elsewhere threatens the future of the US, it buoys the short term political fortunes of Donald Trump and slakes his almost infinite thirst for attention and admiration. Meanwhile, those in the media and pundit class who now turn to Trump to offer soothing words, denounce white nationalism or otherwise help hold the country together are asking help from the arsonist in putting out the fire.
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LincolnMitchell