Why the FBI moved white supremacist terrorism to the same threat level as ISIS
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In the wake of George Floyd's murder, this story has seen an organic uptick with our audience. In the effort to be transparent, Upworthy is adding this note up top to reflect that the story was originally published in February, 2020. The original story begins below.

Many people think of "terrorism" and immediately conjure images of ISIS or Al-Qaeda suicide bombers. But in the U.S., terrorism has another face—one that's far more familiar, but just as dangerous.


FBI Director Christopher Wray announced this week that the agency has raised racially-motivated and ethnically-motivated violent extremism to the same threat level as ISIS. At an oversight hearing with the House Judiciary Committee on February 5, Wray explained that race-based terrorism is now considered a "national threat priority," which means it will receive the same resources as international terrorism threats such as ISIS.

RELATED: Most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists, FBI tells lawmakers

"We're particularly focused on domestic terrorism, especially racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists," said Wray. "Not only is the terror threat diverse, it's unrelenting."

Wray also clarified last year that the vast majority of racially-motivated terrorist attacks in the U.S. are "fueled by some type of white supremacy."

In other words, domestic terrorism is as much of a threat to national security as international terrorism, and most domestic terrorism comes from white supremacists.

Despite a documented rise in race-based hate crimes and ample information on such threats from the intelligence community, the White House has been reticent to address it. In fact, the Trump administration spent its first few years canceling Obama-era grants that funded programs to help fight violent extremism, such as Life After Hate, a non-profit founded by a former skinhead that helps people leave Neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements. It also slashed the office that housed the task force for Countering Violent Extremism.

However, the FBI has been clear on the threat and has been working to address it. Wray says he has now created a "domestic terrorism and hate crimes fusion cell" that combines domestic terror experts and hate crime experts. "They're working together to not just focus on the threats that have already happened but to look ahead around the corner to anticipate where else we need to be," he said.

RELATED: A former white supremacist describes the time he changed his mind and 'life after hate.'

Wray says that domestic terrorists tend to be self-radicalized online. "They choose easily accessible weapons — a car, a knife, a gun, maybe an IED they can build crudely off the internet — and they choose soft targets," Wray said. "That threat is what we assess is the biggest threat to the homeland right now."

The problem is, racially-motivated terrorists are often "lone actors" who go can quickly from rhetoric to violence, so predicting an attack can be a challenge—especially since the FBI focuses specifically on violence, not ideology.

"Our focus is on the violence," Wray said. "We the FBI don't investigate the ideology, no matter how repugnant. We investigate violence. And any extremist ideology, when it turns to violence, we're all over it."

Terrorism of all kinds is, well, terrifying. But while the government pushes more travel bans and a good chunk of Americans equate terrorism with Islam—a religion that nearly a quarter of the humans on Earth belongs to—it's the white supremacist next door who poses the most immediate threat to our nation's security. This is why having white nationalists in the White House is legitimately terrifying. This is why it's wrong to say there are "fine people on both sides" of a rally with Neo-Nazis and protesters of Neo-Nazis. This is why we need to battle white supremacist ideology whenever and wherever we see it, before it has a chance to turn to violence.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.