On Christmas morning of 2020, a 63-year old domestic terrorist completed a suicide bombing outside of AT&T’s central office in Nashville, Tennessee. Many outlets are saying this man “died during the blast” because he was a white, American male, but he was no less of a terrorist than anyone else, born here or not, who tried to end American lives because of an unrelenting belief in what he was taught.
What is a Terrorist?
As defined by Webster’s Dictionary, terrorism is “the unlawful use or threat of violence, especially against the state or public, as a politically motivated means of attack,” and according to reports from CNN, FOX News (sources only used here when showcasing their shared bigotry), and many others, there isn’t enough evidence of Warner’s political motives to label him a terrorist.
Had he been wearing a thawb, however, I’m sure the “political motive evidence” would have been plenty to “label first and ask questions later,” and that in and of itself is a much deeper issue that should be discussed. As more information on the suicide bomber, Anthony Quinn Warner (don’t remember his name), the time seems right to do just that.
What is Political Motive?
The September 11th attacks were carried out by an organization called al-Qaeda. They consider themselves “an Islamic Militant Group,” though almost anyone in the United States, including myself, would label them a “terrorist group,” but by definition, that wouldn’t quite be a fair label, as their motive was to kill Americans, which is up for discussion as to whether or not that is “political.”
What is certainly unfair, from a purely stereotype standpoint, however, is that if anyone from al-Qaeda just blew up an RV in Nashville, no one would be saying, “Well let’s wait a daygum minute before we go using that-there word terrorist, now!” and individuals who are easy to scare would once again interchange that word “Islamic” in the al-Qaeda description (that also includes “militant” in case you forgot) with the word “terrorist” in the domestic description of the group.
Terror shouldn’t need a color or a religion to make it easier to define an event in a country literally built on a foundation of freedom from prosecution for religious beliefs.
Due to a very influential system of news outlets in the United States, however, Islamaphobia is trending the opposite way of other forms of bigotry in the U.S. (e.g., the very powerful and appropriate push across the country against implicit biases against African Americans that result in disproportionate cases of police brutality and murder, among many other things, led by the BLM movement).
The same man who sees a do-rag and thinks “thug” sees a turban and thinks “terrorist,” but the difference between the two is that the news and society are constantly (and finally) reminding him that the former is wrong, while simultaneously strengthening the “Islam = terror” implicit biases that cause the latter, by not shouting at the top of the proverbial mountain that “ANTHONY QUINN WARNER IS A TERRORIST” and, instead, giving him some sort of Get-Out-of-Label-Jail Free card for having white skin and not waving a bunch of political flags in his yard.
Islam in the United States
Islam is the third-largest religion in the United “Freedom of Religion Rocks” States, with an estimated 3.5 million Muslims residing here. Given the very biases this article is speaking to, there are probably more who chose not to check that box on the Census, however. Not a lot of Jewish people around Germany in the 1940s made it abundantly clear what religion they practiced, I’m sure.
What is more interesting about the Islam stereotype, however, is the fact that this religion has no majority race in the U.S., and it’s definitely not Middle Eastern. In fact, the highest racial percentage of Muslims belongs to African Americans, with the second largest being Caucasian, both at ~25%. American Muslims of Middle Eastern decent only make up 18% of the religion in the United States, making the U.S. Middle Eastern stereotype even more asinine than most stereotypes… which are already some of the most asinine things in existence.
Adding to the harsh reality that America is a country still sodden with white supremacy, almost 20% of slaves brought here were Muslims , yet society never hears “slave” and thinks “Muslim,” and it’s a good thing or their heads may explode from all of the incredibly misplaced, and truly unintelligible hatred.
How to Fix it
Love (or even hate) everyone equally, until they give you a reason not to is the easy answer, but making a conscious effort to rid yourself of any and all implicit biases is the hard-but-doable answer. For the Islam-terror stereotype in the U.S., however, it should be easier than most, because its truly idiotic and only made stronger by countless films and television shows labeling brown bombers “terrorists” and white bombers “crazy.” Start to notice this and speak up.
If someone is trying to harm Americans based on them simply being Americans, that someone is a terrorist. Hate does not have a color nor a religion, it is fueled by beliefs in misinformation, and is a scary “chicken or the egg” situation that simply breeds more hate. Does the U.S. hate al-Qaeda for harming our people, or does al-Qaeda hate the U.S. for harming theirs? Regardless of how you feel about that question, the hate only has a motive, not a color.
The U.S. news and societal narratives have created their own negative motives that allow people like Anthony Quinn Warner to avoid being labeled a terrorist, while someone sitting on a bus on their way home from voluntarily coaching a softball team can still be labeled one, at least mentally, by many members of this country, simply for their appearance. Notice it, fix your own biases, and encourage others to do the same.