On the radio this evening they were arguing about the murders of the three Muslim students down in North Carolina, or rather how to refer to the crime. Was it terrorism? Or simple good old American gun violence over nothing at all?
If we judge by how other Muslim Americans report feeling, it was an act of terror. It made many Americans feel less safe. If we judge it by the scale of the atrocity and it’s likely long-term affects on Muslim Americans, I’m not so sure.
In the time that the three kids were murdered in NC, thousands in the Mideast were murdered, many in the name of religion and terror. In France the prisons continued to be populated 50% by Arabs/North Africans. In the U.S., black women were raped, black men were assaulted by representatives of government, and prisons continued to fill up with young African Americans.
Terrorism isn’t a simple thing. When Timothy McVeigh blew up the Federal Building in OK, most Americans were able to shrug it off as some crazy white dude. On 9/11, we all felt less safe, and allowed our government to make us so by engaging in domestic spying and unjustified foreign wars. I’ve spoken to Chaldeans whose families in Iraq are under threat by ISIS and are living in terror.
Terrorism is subjective. There are the individual acts, and the direct effects on the victims. There is the wider effect. And there are the imbalances of power.
What the discussion allows us to do is to identify systemic problems. Muslims are often demonized in the US. This leads to small-scale acts of terror, and to larger ones, some that we call wars. And these distract us from one of our biggest acts of societal terror: the continued subjugation of African Americans through our school-to-prison pipeline, our ghettoization of education, the Jim Crow job ceiling (which is not a “southern thing.”)
I’m no expert in race. I’m obviously not black, nor a scholar. But if we wish to make sense of the murder of the Muslim students in the south it makes sense to evaluate or domestic and foreign policy that is springs from. The only steps we’ve made toward our domestic terrorism is to ignore it. The only steps we’ve taken to avoid wars in the Mideast…well, we haven’t. We have a really big hammer, and everything from the Med to the Indus is a nail.
If we really want to make sense of terrorism, let’s clean house a little. That will only make us stronger to deal with very real external threats.