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This is Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, Texas.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images.


And if there's one thing Rawlings is certainly not afraid of, it's Syrian refugees.

In an interview with MSNBC on Nov. 21, 2015, Rawlings voiced concerns about how we're responding to the terror attacks earlier this month in Paris — namely, that some leaders are reacting in-line with how extremists want them to.

"ISIS wants us to be divided on this issue," he said, later noting that "ISIS is no more Islamic than the Nazi senior staff was Christian."

"ISIS wants us to demonize these Syrian refugees," he said.

In indirect fashion, Rawlings was referring to the several presidential candidates and governors (including his own state's) who've come out in support of a ban on Syrian refugees in the wake of the attacks.

But then, Rawlings said something truly ... well, out of the box.


Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

When asked if he had any safety concerns about allowing refugees to enter the country, he got candid:

"There is never a 100% guarantee [of keeping terrorists out], and safety is my #1 concern, as it is [Texas] Governor Abbott's. We've got to make sure [those entering the country] are safe. This is a 21-step process to get in. 18 to 24 months to jump through these hoops. This is a serious issue. I am more fearful of large gatherings of white men that come into schools [and] theaters and shoot people up, but we don't isolate young, white men on this issue." (Emphasis added.)

Yeah ... it's that last part that's really got the Internet abuzz.

And yeah. Rawlings actually ... he made a really great point.

Hear me out. I'm not saying anyone should fear all white guys (#NotAllWhiteGuys), and I certainly don't think the mayor is, either. But Rawlings is simply alluding to the fact that in the U.S., you actually are more likely to become the victim of a white male terrorist than an Islamic jihadist, statistically speaking.

Since 9/11, 48 people have died from radical right wing terrorist attacks while 26 have died from jihadists.

Throughout the past 14 years, nearly twice as many people in the U.S. have died at the hands of white supremacists or extreme anti-government terrorists (such as Dylann Roof, who murdered nine people at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, this past summer) than at the hands of jihadists (like the terrorists who bombed the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing four), according to a study released in June by the New America Foundation.

Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio hinted at that same statistic during a recent interview with NPR, according to CNN.

"I mean, since the beginning of the Bush administration when we were attacked, September 11th, we've not had any major terrorist attacks in this country. We've had individual crazy people ... they look more like me than they look like Middle Easterners — they are generally white males — who have shot up people in movie theaters and schools. Those are terrorist attacks, they're just different kinds of terrorists." (Emphasis added.)

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

In total, 48 people in the U.S. have died from radical right wing terrorists since 9/11 while 26 have died from jihadists. Although those facts may make some people uncomfortable, they certainly don't lie.

With his statement, Rawlings wasn't trying to imply white people are scary.

But white supremacists and extremists are just as much of a threat, if not more so. And yet, we do nothing to prevent all white men from accessing guns or even prevent white men with a history of extremism from accessing guns and weaponry. Rawlings was pointing out how ridiculous it is to fear (and ban) Muslims and Muslim refugees based on the harmful and false premise that many of them are extremists attempting to infiltrate the U.S. through our refugee resettlement program.

The good news is, there's no shortage of mayors from across the country who, like Rawlings, are committed to helping Syrian refugees.

Rawlings is one of 18 U.S. mayors, all part of the Cities United for Immigration Action initiative, who penned an open letter to President Obama, applauding his efforts to accept Syrian refugees and noting their cities will certainly accept more.

Mayors from cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Baltimore agree: Refugees aren't violent, and we should be doing more to help them.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

"It sends a horrible message to the world," New York's Bill de Blasio said of some governors' refusing to take refugees, according to CNN.

"It means we're turning our backs on the people who are the victims of terrorism. We're not going to turn our backs on children and families. It's not the American way. It's certainly not the New York City way."

In may have taken Rawlings making a bold statement to point out a surprising reality, but I'm glad he did.

After all, facts should be the guiding light of our policymaking. Not fear.

“This is a big issue, and we as a nation must step up and make sure we're secure," Rawlings told MSNBC. "But we must not do things that change the soul of who we are as well."

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Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.

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