When is terrorism not terrorism? When it’s White

By Hannah Newbury

We’ve all seen ‘lone wolf’, ‘mentally challenged’ and innocent people ‘on aggressive medication’ in the media. Recently, they’re just special nicknames for white terrorists. Given the recent Las Vegas tragedy in America, two controversies spring to mind: the reluctance to enforce gun control, and the racial ambiguation of when terrorism is terrorism. Stephen Paddock, an old white man, injured over 500 and killed over 60 people in what is being deemed as one of the worst shootings of all time (for about the third time since 2017 begun). So why is this man, who fits every legal and statutory description of a terrorist ever, not being called out as such? Likely because the fact he isn’t Muslim leaves the hateful narrative with nothing to politically gain from using such a word. The recent emphasis on how being a ‘local’ man somehow means Paddock evades such words is a sickening representation of how the rhetoric a terrorist must be ‘foreign’ is reflected in every form of modern media today.

Las Vegas. Source: Don McCullough (Via Flickr)

Conflicting with the first amendment, Paddock’s acts without obvious regional or religious affiliations would probably be indicted under domestic terrorism at best – a crime that fails to convict in accordance with the seriousness of its name. However, foreign terrorism brings about the real penalties. Unfortunately, America seems to think it’s still acceptable to just have lists drawn up of organisations or people to watch in growing Muslim countries, while ignoring the hateful epidemic that is thriving on their own soil. While travel bans are ready to deem any ideology that the right are not satisfied with as a ‘security threat’, we forget to pray for those who are victims themselves – those who lose family, friends, and places of worship to white supremacists, but are dismissed because their God was the alleged culprit.

Ingrained Islamophobia is a growing problem, especially when the justice system in many developed countries doesn’t reflect our intelligence or ambition at all. Instead of convicting and responding to more gun crime than there are days in the year on a regular basis, the government is too busy deciding whether ISIS are responsible for a random American white guy opening fire. Is it any surprise that their own citizens can see the lenience the law is willing to give in return for racial division, recrimination and a sad back story along the line?

It would be so much easier if there genuinely was a singular religion, or ideology, to blame for why we spend our days repeatedly gobsmacked at the same tragedies. Unfortunately, the only resolution is rejecting the doctrine that tells you there’s only something to fear when someone of colour decides to enact the same crime.

Stephen Paddock was a terrorist, and the fact there’s no discussion on gun restrictions, on the danger of white men committing crimes instead, or on why domestic terrorism and foreign terrorism are handled so divisively and xenophobically shouldn’t give you much hope for the future.

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