On Terrorism and White Men

CNN anchor Don Lemon is taking some heat today because he said that white men are the biggest terror threat to this country. (https://www.businessinsider.com/don-lemon-says-on-cnn-the-biggest-terror-threat-to-the-us-is-white-men-2018-10) This he said as a Jewish community in Pittsburgh reels from the actions of an angry white man who killed 11 people who were worshiping in their synagogue, and as families of two black people grieved the murders of their loved ones by a white man who is said to have said to another white man who tried to stop him, “whites don’t kill whites.”

Don Lemon

In spite of the pushback, what Lemon said is true. According to data compiled in a February 2018 article which appeared in Mother Jones, (54 percent of 97 mass murders committed since 1980 were committed by white men.)

Entire cities inhabited by black people were destroyed by mobs of angry white men, including the Greenwood community of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Elaine, Arkansas. While some of the attacked cities managed to survive the attacks, the fact is that many blacks were killed in cities including Rosewood, Florida (https://timeline.com/all-black-town-rosewood-wiped-off-the-map-by-white-mob-73ca6630802b) and East St. Louis, Missouri.

Angry white men murdered African Americans, many still in uniform, when they returned home after their tours of service. The horrific beating of Isaac Woodard is one of the best-known attacks which fall into this category. He was beaten by a mob which included law enforcement officers because he dared ask a bus driver to stop so that he could go to the bathroom. In Elaine, Arkansas, an African American soldier, Leroy Johnston, who had spent nine months in a hospital recovering from wounds he received in the war, was pulled from a train and shot to death by angry white men. (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/death-hundreds-elaine-massacre-led-supreme-court-take-major-step-toward-equal-justice-african-americans-180969863/)

White men lynched black men (and women as well) with impunity, knowing they would most likely never be held accountable. White men lynched a young teen named Emmett Till, who reportedly whistled at a white woman. Thousands of black men were killed by mobs of white men. (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/emmett-lynching-america/)

Records show that nearly 4000 blacks were lynched in the South from 1877 to 1950 (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/10/us/history-of-lynchings-in-the-south-documents-nearly-4000-names.html). White men attacked the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Between 1982 and 2018, 59 of 104 mass killings, which I consider to be acts of domestic terrorism, were committed by white men. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/). The targets were not always black people, but the facts show that it has been white men who have been the primary assailants in mass killings.

It is disingenuous for anyone to raise an eyebrow at what Don Lemon said, given the available history. White men were known to lynch black people at will, for “crimes” including registering people to vote or being out too late at night. These are not made up stories; they are recorded history.

It is baffling as to why white men in this country have been so angry for so long. The world is at their fingertips, or so it seems, but maybe the anger comes because “the American dream” eludes so many Americans, including white men. Maybe they are angry because they have not been able to benefit from what they believe is their right as white men. Again, it is notable that they have not always targeted people of color; they have killed many of “their own” as they have expressed their rage through mass killings.

As bitter a pill as it may be to swallow, Don Lemon was correct. In these days of heightened racist and hateful rhetoric, it is very possible that this country will so more white men lashing out.

Our society has basically looked the other way when it has come to acknowledging how radicalized white men have terrorized and killed so many people. It is and has been domestic terrorism. Rather than criticize Lemon, perhaps we should all do a careful study of history and work to understand why what he said is true.

A candid observation …

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