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.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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