Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

When politicians use terrorism as a tool for swaying voters, they usually mean a specific kind of terrorism. This became clear in the 2016 election season when then-candidate Trump falsely accused President Obama and Hillary Clinton of refusing to use specific words to describe it.

Say it with me, everyone: "Radical Islamic terrorism."

But there's another face of terrorism in the U.S. that often gets overlooked—one that looks, on the surface, like more than half of the U.S. population.


FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress this week that most of the domestic terrorism arrests made so far this fiscal year have been associated with white supremacy. He pointed to about 100 arrests of "homegrown violent extremist terrorists" (these are generally the "radical Islamic terrorists") and about the same number of "domestic terrorists" (violent Americans with some kind of domestic beef), clarifying that the latter were mostly white supremacists.

In other words, there appear to be just as many all-American terrorists as there are "radical Islamic terrorists" in the U.S., and most American terrorists are white supremacists.

FBI Director Christopher Wray: 'Majority' Of Domestic Terrorism Cases Are White Supremacy | NBC News www.youtube.com

This is nothing new. A database compiled in 2017 by The Investigative Fund (now Type Investigations) found that between 2008 and 2016, plots and attacks by right-wing terrorists—which includes white supremacists, militias, and sovereign citizens movements—actually outnumbered Islamist plots and attacks by a ratio of 2 to 1.

And it's not like the government is unaware of the fact that white supremacists pose a major threat to American citizens. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security has warned of the threat of white supremacist terrorism since early in Trump's presidency. Wray referred to white nationalist extremist violence a "persistent, pervasive threat" in April of this year.

And yet, how often have we heard the president warn Americans about the threat of right-wing or white supremacist terrorism? Why has he never harped on "white supremacist terrorism" with the same fervor as "radical Islamic terrorism"?

One could try to argue that perhaps the president is tackling this issue quietly, behind the scenes, but that argument wouldn't hold water.

RELATED: A troll demanded a Muslim man show examples of 'Christian terrorists.' He delivered.

Despite his intelligence agencies warnings, Trump slashed the office that housed the task force for Countering Violent Extremism and canceled Obama-era grants that funded programs to help fight violent extremism of all kinds, including religious extremism and white supremacy. One organization that lost its funding was Life After Hate, a non-profit founded by a former skinhead that helps people leave Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements.

This administration has also taken an extreme hard line on immigration and refugee resettlement, citing the risk of terrorism as part of its reasoning. Indeed, a new study from a researcher at Columbia University shows that terrorism does increase as immigration increases—but only domestic, right-wing terrorism.

"There is little evidence to support the common claim that letting in more immigrants means letting in more terrorists," wrote study author Richard J. Alexander in the Washington Post. "Immigrants don't pose a security risk. Rather, right-wing extremists who hate immigrants increase the threat of terrorism."

(This is where one could make the argument that by curtailing immigration Trump is stopping white supremacist terror attacks, because violent racists get less pissed off when there are fewer brown and black people entering the country. One could make that argument—but seriously?)

Interestingly, Wray told Congress he still feels that homegrown violent extremist terrorism is the bigger threat to the homeland. Perhaps this is due to the more organized nature of Jihadist groups or their access to funding. Or perhaps—just perhaps—it's because people like Wray are not the target of white supremacist violence.

I have to wonder: Are my fellow white Americans simply so accustomed to white supremacist violence, which has been happening in our country a lot longer than "radical Islamic terrorism," that we see it as not as big of a deal? Or do we ignore it because we are not the targets? Is a person of color in the U.S. in more danger from a "radical Islamic terrorist" or a white supremacist American? Are terrorists who commit violence against their fellow citizens while claiming to be American patriots really less of a "threat to the homeland" than the violent religious extremists who make it clear that they hate America? If it were discovered that the majority of domestic terrorism arrests were associated with "black supremacy" groups, how would America respond?

So many questions, but the fact remains that white supremacists are a significant threat to our nation's safety.

To be clear, I'm not suggesting we start banning white people from traveling to the U.S. like we did with the Muslim travel ban, or set up a hotline for victims of white supremacist crimes like the one the administration created for immigrant-perpetrated crimes. I'm suggesting we take the tack that Adam Serwer suggested in the Atlantic:

"The correct response to the rise in right-wing terrorism is not a nationwide panic that mirrors those that accompany terrorist attacks by religious or ethnic minorities. It is to extend the same benefit of the doubt, the same proportionate, measured response with which Americans meet attacks from right-wing extremists, to attacks of all sorts. It is to recognize that the constitutional rights of minorities are no less inviolable than the constitutional rights of white Americans, and that anyone who would run on a platform of disregarding those rights is not fit to hold public office."

We need to take the threat of white supremacist violence as seriously as we do other terrorism. We need to recognize that stereotyping any group of people based on the violent actions of a radical minority is wrong. And we need to challenge this administration to put its money where its mouth is when it talks about protecting Americans and reinvest in programs to counter violent extremisms of all stripes.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

Keep Reading Show less