Call It What It Is

Let’s start with a few facts:

Stephen Paddock is a terrorist. Dylan Roof is a terrorist. Adam Lanza is a terrorist. These men all have a few things in common, they are White males who have conducted acts of terror in the United States yet are not recognized as a terrorist. It seems that this is another privilege that comes with being white in America – being able to commit heinous crimes that terrorize the masses and not having to worry about the media tarnishing your name.

Terrorism, by definition, in the Oxford Dictionary is described as, “The unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” More specifically, looking at the horrible event that took place in Las Vegas Sunday night, Nevada law defines terrorism as being, “any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion, or violence which is intended to: a) cause great bodily harm or death to the general population,” which is exactly what took place. Stephen Paddock is the man responsible for the worst modern-day mass shooting, killing over fifty people and injuring over two-hundred. His actions fall directly in line with what is classified as a terrorist act, on a national and local scale, but the media will not acknowledge that because of the connotation that it will bring to the white population in America.

 

There is an obvious double standard present here. Anytime a tragedy like this happens, and the suspect is brown or Middle-Eastern, the first thing everybody does is try to find how that person has any ties to ISIS or if they belong to the Muslim faith in order to label it as an act of terror and the person as a terrorist. When the suspect is a white male, the exact opposite occurs.

They try to find everything to highlight about the individual that will normalize and humanize them and keep them far away from the label of a terrorist. Another tactic frequently used is attributing the actions of the individuals to mental illness. Whether they have a mental illness or not is one thing, but this claim is just used to disassociate the actions of one individual from the whole.  By doing this it ensures that white people don’t generalize and put themselves into the same category that they so easily throw any other racial or religious group into.

The way the media handled the massacre in Vegas is a prime example. A tweet by Daily Mail US was posted emphasizing how Paddock had no prior criminal record. An article covering the story published by The Washington Post followed the same narrative, featuring a headline saying, “Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock enjoyed gambling, country music, lived quiet life before massacre.” In contrast during the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, The Washington Post published an article with headlines reading, “He was not a stable person: Orlando shooter showed signs of emotional trouble,” and then during the San Bernardino attack, they publish an article entitled, “Report offers new details on San Bernardino terrorist attack.” All three events were terrorist attacks but only two were labeled in that manner.

Another example of this double standard in America is present with even how the FBI identifies groups. On Friday, October 6, 2017, Foreign Policy Magazine released an article about how the FBI has labeled “Black Identity Extremists” (also known as BlackLivesMatter Activist) as a domestic terrorist threat. This happened after the Charlottesville protests that took place in August, but neither white supremacist nor the KKK is being classified as domestic terrorist groups, only “Black Identity Extremists” are.

Let’s just call everything for what it is. Racism is still prevalent within multiple institutions throughout America. Labeling a Black racial activist group, a terrorist threat, when their mission is to get people to understand Black people’s lives have value and deserve to be treated as such just doesn’t make any sense. Especially when the KKK has been able to go around without any restrictions because of “freedom of speech.” Then we have individuals who will go to great lengths to protect white individuals who are terrorist, from being labeled as such in the media. When in fact the largest group of domestic terrorists in the United States are white males.