noun \ ter·ror·ism
1. the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.
2. The use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce.
On the morning of Wednesday Feb. 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 people, including students, at a Florida high school. Cruz was a member of a White separatist paramilitary protocol-facist organization, the Republic of Florida, and trained with them often.
Our government responded with a wave of thoughts and prayers from officials and little more. The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organization formed to provide online public access to information on gun violence in the United States, reports that since Jan. 1 of 2018, we have had over 7,000 gun related incidents claiming a total of 1,968 lives and causing 3,400 injuries. To be clear, that is 1,968 deaths in less than two months. (See the most up to date numbers here.)
We now live in a country where parents are afraid to send their children off to school in the morning. Company sales of child sized bullet proof backpacks are skyrocketing. Meanwhile, our elected officials continue to fill their pockets from the NRA and turn a blind eye to the reality of these many terrorist acts. They wrongly inform the parents of the 17 children whose lives were taken last week that this wasn’t an act of terror. Tell it to the survivors who hid in closets and huddled under desks in nothing but fear, watching their friends and teachers lose their lives.
The politicians and media have already misinformed us. The headlines speak for themselves.
“Mom’s flu death may have sent Florida massacre suspect over the edge”
“Florida shooting suspect was troubled after mom’s death, neighbor says”
“Florida shooter, 19, may have had fetal alcohol syndrome that causes memory, learning, and behavioral issues, expert says”
The word terrorism is not part of the conversation because Nikolas Cruz is a White male.
This was not an isolated incident. In 2016 the United States had 15,086 gun related deaths, 30,617 injuries, 673 of which killed or injured were children between the ages of 0-11. In total there were 58,812 gun related incidents and 383 of them were mass shootings. There were 2,203 unintentional shootings, and 326 incidents in which law enforcement officers were shot or killed. In contrast, in 2016 the U.S Extremist Crime Database reported 49 deaths caused by terrorist attacks attributed to radical Islamic violent extremists.
But the media tells a different story. Violent crimes committed by offenders who are minorities are always magnified and hyper-reported using language designed to incite fear and anger. With regards to the Muslim community, this often leads to a backlash, characterized by an increase in hate crimes and an expectation for every Muslim to be apologetic about the incident, as if they were somehow guilty by association. Discriminatory policies are passed, threatening the civil liberties of Muslims, as we have seen in examples like the Patriot Act and the multiple versions of the Muslim ban. This also extends beyond the Muslim community. If the offender is an immigrant, we build a wall. If they are a person of color, there isn’t even a guarantee that they’ll be taken into custody alive.
Curiously, when the culprit is a White, straight, cis gender male we don’t get the same response. Our president unleashes a flurry of tweets of how tragic the incident was, and the offender is labeled “mentally unstable” and a “lone wolf.” Meanwhile, shooting after shooting happens all across the United States, claiming the lives of hundreds of individuals every year, yet we see no legislation passed to help prevent future shootings. It is now easier to own a gun than ever before.
The numbers are clear, reported by many different sources and organizations. There is a major threat terrorizing this country. And if we take a second to look beyond the double standard in how these crimes are reported, it is obvious. That threat is gun violence.