Why the FBI moved white supremacist terrorism to the same threat level as ISIS
John Kittelsrud/Creative Commons

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.

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

Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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

Racist jokes are one of the more frustrating manifestations of racism. Jokes in general are meant to be a shared experience, a connection over a mutual sense of humor, a rush of feel-good chemicals that bond us to those around us through laughter.

So when you mix jokes with racism, the result is that racism becomes something light and fun, as opposed to the horrendous bane that it really is.

The harm done with racist humor isn't just the emotional hurt they can cause. When a group of white people shares jokes at the expense of a marginalized or oppressed racial group, the power of white supremacy is actually reinforced—not only because of the "punching down" nature of such humor, but because of the group dynamics that work in favor of maintaining the status quo.

British author and motivational speaker Paul Scanlon shared a story about interrupting a racist joke at a table of white people at an event in the U.S, and the lessons he drew from it illustrate this idea beautifully. Watch:

Keep Reading Show less
True

*Upworthy may earn a portion of sales revenue from purchases made through links on our site.

With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

Keep Reading Show less