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Politics

We already know why no one will call the Austin bomber a terrorist

March 22, 2018

By Arielle Gray*, AFROPUNK Contributor

We’ve all seen the scenario play out over and over again, splashed across our television screens and timelines. White man commits mass murder and incites terror. White man is caught by authorities. Media labels white man “lone wolf” or “solitary”.

Austin bomber Mark Anthony Conditt, who terrorized the city of Austin with his homemade explosives throughout the month of March, was identified this week by authorities. After his identification, Conditt took his own life after leaving a 25 minute long “confession video”. In the tape, Conditt confesses to building the bombs but doesn’t elucidate on his motive, interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley told news outlets Wednesday.

Last week, there were speculations that the bombings were racially motivated and while the media at large has been quick to point out that Conditt’s last two victims were white males, Conditt has yet to be labeled as what he truly is- a domestic terrorist. Whether or not his attacks were racially motivated, his end goal was certainly to incite fear and paranoia in his Austin community while enacting bodily and mental harm on its residents.

The Patriot Act defines domestic terrorism as an attempt to “intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion…” Time and time again, white domestic terrorists aren’t placed in the domestic terrorism category because of so called “lack” of known motive or political agenda. What people fail to realize is that white supremacy and misogyny are motives in themselves.

The media goes through great lengths to position white terrorists as singularities, as exceptions to the rule rather than a disturbingly growing trend. Most of the headlines are describing Conditt as the bomber but almost always in conjunction with descriptors like “frustrated” “loner” or “no criminal record” or “home schooled”. Multiple published articles delve into his background and his family life, humanizing him in ways never afforded to POC offenders. Last year, outlets called mass shooter Stephen Paddock a “lone “wolf” , some even asserting he had no “known ties to terrorism”.  Parkland, FL shooter Nikolas Cruz was afforded the same benefit of the doubt and was described as “depressed” , “solitary”. Many outlets made it a point to emphasize that Cruz was potentially “mentally ill”. When James Field drove his car into a crowd of protesters marching against white supremacy, killing Heather Heyer, he wasn’t labeled as a domestic terrorist because of political dogmatic loopholes.

In almost every case where the mass murderer is white, we can expect humanization of the suspect, and then attempts to extract the killer from the fabric of White supremacy by describing them as solitary “lone” incidents.

White killers are always distanced from their racial group in an effort to maintain the idea that white supremacy and American culture do not directly feed into violence. We are supposed to believe that a predisposition to violence and hatred is not intrinsic in White American culture but that it is in others.  For POC, we’re described in animalistic terms, depicted as “packs” or “mobs” and we are almost always poised as representatives of our entire race and religion. Our behavior is seen as systemic reflections of our culture. When the offender is Muslim, Islam is labeled as the source of violence. When the suspect is Black, dehumanizing coded language like “thug” or” drug user” is used and the invariable topic of black on black crime arises. Despite statistics proving time and time again that mass murderers are predominantly white males, the media continues to put distance between the symptoms of White supremacy and the outcome we all experience in reality.

We all already know why the Austin bomber won’t be called a terrorist because we’ve seen it time and time before. We’ve seen the media move more quickly to pull apart the carcass of a brown body than to label a white man a domestic terrorist. Federal law makes it increasingly difficult to label hate groups as domestic terrorist groups and allows for loopholes Taking the mask off of domestic terrorism to reveal its true face would expose the United States’ long history of excusing and participating in domestic terrorism, of reframing white perpetrators as exceptions to the rule instead of the rule. Taking off the mask would mean white Americans coming to terms with the fact that the culture is to blame, not just the individual.

* Arielle Gray on Twitter: https://twitter.com/bonitafrobum

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