Given the carnage and bloodshed in El Paso, Texas one week ago, the manifesto police believe was posted by the accused terrorist, and now the reported confession that he specifically target Mexicans, it is baffling how anyone could suggest that white supremacy is a “hoax,” as one prominent US cable news personality did this past week.
The evidence to the contrary is disturbingly overwhelming, so to what do we attribute such denial?
It could be simple ignorance. Perhaps it’s that acknowledging the problem means having a reckoning with one’s own bigotry or racism.
In many cases I suspect it’s a product of the tribalism of politics today. If there are people on the left who say that violent white supremacy is a problem, there will be some on the right who refuse to acknowledge that their political opponents might be right about something. There can be no conceding any points whatsoever.
It can cut both ways. Just as the political left has a blind spot when it comes to Islamic radicalism and jihadist terror, the political right has a blind spot when it comes to far right radicalism and white supremacist terror. But the reality is that both pose a threat, and both need to be treated as such.
There are some obvious parallels between jihadist terror and white supremacist terror. Both are ideologically motivated — a sort of ideology that is completely at odds with democratic, pluralistic societies such as ours. Both seem capable of targeting and radicalizing young men and spawning so-called “lone wolf terrorist.”
There are also those individuals and groups who share the goals and ideology of this movement but don’t necessarily commit acts of violence or even support of such tactics. They are part of the problem, nonetheless.
So, too, are the politicians and commentators who would pander to these elements. The hateful rhetoric expressed in the El Paso shooter’s manifesto was not all that different from the sort of rhetoric around immigration and minorities that has become, unfortunately, far too common.
WATCH: Coverage of the threat of white supremacy on Global News
We can debate the extent to which this threat exists, the degree to which it is worsening, or how best to address it. But there can be no denying its existence:
- In June of 2015, a white supremacist murdered nine black worshippers at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.
- In January of 2017, at a mosque in Quebec City, six Muslims were shot to death, and another 19 others were injured.
- In August of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia — following a weekend of rallies by the far right — a white supremacist drove a vehicle into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring several others.
- In October of 2018, a white supremacist murdered 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
- In March of this year, a white supremacist targeted a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, murdering 51 Muslims and injuring 49 others.
- In April of this year, a gunman opened fire in a synagogue in Poway, California, murdering one worshipper and injuring three others.
- And now we have 22 murdered in El Paso at the hands of someone who shares this same sort of ideology.
It’s a troubling statistic, but it’s encouraging that law enforcement is not in denial of the problem. It’s a similar story here in Canada where we are clearly not immune to the problem, but neither are officials unaware of it. Just recently, for the first time, Canada added a white supremacist group to its list of banned terrorist organizations. That’s an important step.
Those who are trying to bring about a white ethnostate by terrorizing and targeting ethic and religious minorities — or by targeting whites who are deemed to be insufficiently committed to the cause — are indeed terrorists and should be treated as such.
It might be easier or more convenient to pretend this is not a threat.
The ever-growing body count tells us otherwise.