Since the events of September 11, 2001, our nation has been obsessed with the thought of another terrorist attack on our soil by the hands of a foreign enemy; consciously or unconsciously perceived to be a Muslim Arab. So much so that we have virtually erased from our national memory the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that was the work of an American, Timothy McVeigh. Until the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the Oklahoma City bombing stood as the worst terrorist attack ever on our soil.
New leaked intelligence reports now force us to turn our attention back home, and rightly so. No one can deny the United States remains a target to foreign extremists who seek to make a political statement through acts of violence. What should not be dismissed is the very real threat that American bred extremists pose to our country. Too often, the telling of the tragedy in Oklahoma City downplays or outright excludes the fact that McVeigh had been linked to right-wing extremist groups that harbored hate toward Blacks. Those groups still exist, just scan the Internet, and they should be under the constant surveillance of our national security apparatus. Unlike many groups that simply espouse racist views, many of these terrorist cells are known to have access to firearms and actively recruit and train members for the sole purpose of committing violent acts.
According to published reports, the threat that the intelligence report cites is borne from the nation’s current economic crisis. These groups are playing upon the fears of people, most likely lower-income whites, and using Blacks and immigrants as scapegoats for the country’s current troubles. It is an old trick – that always works. One reason racism won’t die in this nation is because white supremacy is fueled by ignorance, and a belief that one’s own degraded condition is the fault of someone Black, brown or speaking a foreign language. History teaches us that slavery and Jim Crow were rooted in an irrational fear of Blacks among some whites that was rooted in the deliberate stereotyping of Blacks in academia and popular culture, resulting in our being dehumanized to the point of being regarded as dispensable, objectified “things.” Apparently, now that economic insecurity is on the rise there is a need to find someone or some group to blame.
Domestic violence targeting Blacks is nothing new. The Ku Klux Klan, by today’s definition, was a terrorist organization at the height of its run during the Jim Crow era. The many offshoot white supremacist groups that exist today and mimic the Klan’s hateful message, borne out of ignorance and economic insecurity, should be of great concern to law enforcement agencies and the Black community. No longer hooded with white sheets, today’s extremists use the latest communications technology to foment hate and can casually blend in with the so-called “mainstream” and remain inconspicuous and relatively undetectable. Tim McVeigh, a clean cut soldier, hardly looked the part of terrorist but certainly played the role effectively.
Now, there are conservatives and gun rights advocates who are taking issue with the report, claiming that it casts the net too wide and unfairly stigmatizes law-abiding citizens. The House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) went so far as to demand an apology from the Department of Homeland Security for casting veterans as “potential terrorists.” No doubt, the political rhetoric is always heightened when the toxic mix of guns, patriotism and veterans is served up in public discourse. Still, we should not allow the hyperbole to distract us from the central point of the report: a very real threat exists to our national security from right-wing extremist groups.
To suggest that this report is an attack on veterans is downright silly. At the same time, we do need to confront gun violence in this country and once, and for all, face down those who believe their right to own a firearm outweighs our collective right to safety. The truth of the matter is that there are more people who do not own guns than do. We must make those voices heard in the corridors of Congress. The groups referred to by this report are only as powerful and dangerous as their access to firearms. The same standards we apply to international terrorist groups should be imposed upon domestic groups that engage in terror. The seeds of hate have already been planted in the United States and we need to exterminate it at its root.