The Word “Terrorism” in Light of Charleston

Dyne Suh

I do not oppose the word “terrorism” here, mainly because it breaks down the racist and xenophobic notion that “terrorists” can only be non-White and not U.S. citizens – Editors.

Dylann_Roof_mugshotI do not oppose the word “terrorism” here, mainly because it breaks down the racist and xenophobic notion that “terrorists” can only be non-White and not U.S. citizens. I am liking the trend of appropriating the label onto privileged White men with guns. If anything, I think by showing that anyone can be a terrorist, it dilutes the racialized nature of the word as it’s been in the wake of the Iraq wars.

I’m a big fan of all the humanizing that goes on in defense of these shooters (mental health issues, “just a boy”, soft-spoken, etc). But it is absolutely OUTRAGEOUS and UNACCEPTABLE that only White terrorists get this treatment (Batman movie shooter, Newtown shooter, UCSB shooter, Charleston shooter) while Black VICTIMS of violence like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin get characterized as thugs, as if they were the ones being prosecuted. As long as only people of color are labeled as “thugs” and “terrorists,” people of color will continue to get that treatment. Historically, it seems that it is only once White people are put into such situations that mainstream politics seems to care (ex. mass incarceration now that the drug war is turning to meth and therefore the midwest, so it is affecting White people now too). To even the playing field a little, or just to make a statement and challenge the use of the word “thug” and “terrorist,” we need to reappropriate those words, similar to the way that the face of drug users and drug dealers in the mainstream has changed from Black and Brown people to White people (meth, legalized marijuana).

On another note, just wanted to mention an interesting thread, at least between the Isla Vista/University of California-Santa Barbara and Charleston shooters, that they were both at least in part motivated by male entitlement in regards to owning women. The UCSB shooter went on long tirades about how he’s entitled to women and was angry that men who weren’t as wealthy as he was got to have sex with women while he couldn’t. The Charleston shooter shouted “you rape our women,” resurrecting (or just perpetuating, rather) the myth about Black men … though most of the victims were women … sigh. Just wanted to note that while there are racial motivations, there is a gendered one as well.

And … on a different note, it is tragic in retrospect that the Sikh community did not have the presence the Black community has, and that there weren’t enough allies speaking out with the Sikh community when they were also terrorized in their place of worship in Wisconsin not too long ago. Not enough of an outcry. Glad there is the outpouring n and that people have been retroactively acknowledging the tragedy alongside Charleston to show that racist violence does not recognize sacred places.


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