Terrorism is not alien to the American way of life; as a matter of empirical evidence it is deeply engrained into the fabric of the nation. Before terrorism became a global phenomenon, terrorism was the everyday experience of Native Americans, Africans and other communities of color in America for centuries. African-Americans have grappled with terrorism of all forms such as lynching, being set on fire, and gunned down simply for existing. But as a result of the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, the terrorism that had been heaped upon people of color for centuries became America’s national experience. Our government reacted with lightning speed to designate Al -Qaeda a terrorist organization and in a twinkling of an eye, hyper-aggressive military invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan followed.
Although the 9/11 attacks were carried out by a few radicals, the U.S. Corporate media constructed a narrative that made Islam and terrorism synonymous. No doubt Al-Qaeda deserved that designation, but what confused me was the United States designation of the African National Congress as a terrorist organization. ANC is the anti-apartheid organization that vehemently resisted white supremacy in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, a Nobel Peace laureate, was a part of that organization and subsequently on that list. And yet, the systems that have sanctioned the institutional killing of black and brown bodies in America have yet to be placed under the same canopy of terrorism. (Note: after much pressure from within the Bush’s administration, Mandela was finally removed from the U.S. terrorism watch list in 2008.)
The trillion dollar question remains: who is a terrorist? Someone who calls himself a terrorist? Whoever the Unites States government designates as one? Whoever has a Muslim name/identity? Whoever opposes the stances of the U.S. or its allies? The United States has always done poorly when presented with a choice of choosing between its conscience and strategic interests. At the height of the Cold War, the United States chose its strategic interests of being victorious over the Soviet Union and sided with the South African apartheid regime, as such the Reagan administration designated Nelson Mandela and African National Congress as terrorists.
What is incredibly ironic is that Mandela and his buddies took their cue from George Washington, the so-called father of our beloved country who fought for freedom from the British. What Mandela and Washington had in common was that they were both fighting for the recognition of their humanity – inalienable rights, equality, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, all of which are America’s cherished ideals. The unbelievable irony is that while George Washington was celebrated and idolized for fighting for freedom, Nelson Mandela and the ANC were tagged terrorists even though they operated from the same values.
Our double standard of the application of the law for whites and blacks in America is legendary. Ku Klux Klan, one of the oldest terrorist organizations in the world responsible for the death of thousands of innocent blacks is yet to be called a terrorist organization in spite of the untold lives it has claimed. During reconstruction the Ku Klux Klan, an organization with White Supremacist ideology, used violence as a tactic against blacks to carry out its opposition to the Emancipation proclamation. According to the Tuskegee Institute, from 1882 – 1986 the Klan lynched 3,446 blacks on the watch of the United States government.
Living in fear for African-Americans in this country is intergenerational. Every 28 hours a black man, woman, or child is killed by police, security guards or self-appointed vigilantes yet these killings are not referred to as terrorism against blackness by the United States government. The horrendous terroristic act carried out on a predominantly black Church in South Carolina by a racist white male which left 9 people dead – Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson, Daniel L. Simmons, and Depayne Middleton Doctor – was dismissed as an accident by one of the Republican Presidential candidates Rick Perry. In like manner the FBI Director, James Comey refuses to categorize Charleston shooting as terrorism. Adding insult to injury, groups such as the KKK enjoy and exercise their ‘constitutional right’ to protest and march openly in the street, continually mocking the humanity of black people in America.
White Supremacy is terrorism! Those killing us may not have been designated as terrorists but we know and the rest of the world knows that we are being terrorized. The imperialistic narrative/rhetoric that was elevated as our noble reason for invading Libya was to stop Muammar Gaddafi from killing civilians – his own people. Our government supposedly has international responsibility to protect Libyans, but is suddenly paralyzed in the face of police brutality toward communities of color. Given this juxtaposition and the fact that there hasn’t been any policy change to address police brutality, while there was certainly policy that addresses the killing of innocent lions, I can’t help but think that terrorism is relative, and is only defined as such if it supports the interest of the monied and powerful.