As if the coronavirus, which kicked off 2020, wasn’t enough of a scourge for society to deal with, white domestic terrorism apparently helped to bring the year to a close. Only one thing — nobody is calling it domestic terrorism even though two American-born white men in the past week have intentionally used weapons in acts meant to cause death and destruction.
The FBI identified Anthony Quinn Warner as the man who loaded his RV with explosives in downtown Nashville and detonated it Christmas morning, only to kill himself and no one else. Officials said they’re still looking for the 63-year-old’s motive for the explosion that destroyed 41 nearby buildings and his RV. However, chances are that if Quinn had been Black or brown or had, gasp, a Muslim name, the word “terrorism” would be getting tossed around a whole lot more than it has been in the ensuing investigation. Profiles of Warner, like the one published in the Tennessean, have been kind to his memory despite clear evidence that he was planning for a life-altering event at the expense of others.
Meanwhile, a little over 24 hours later in Rockford, Illinois, Duke Webb — a man who is no stranger to weapons of war — opened fire at a bowling alley, killing three people and injuring two teenagers and one elderly man.
Again, no one is referring to Webb, a white 37-year-old active-duty U.S. Army special forces sergeant, in terms of terrorism.
Instead — amazingly — police were able to show great restraint without firing off a single shot while apprehending and taking him into custody, a treatment that pales in comparison to how law enforcement approaches Black people suspected of doing far less.
Both Warner and Webb have been largely given the benefit of any doubt and called “lone wolves,” a privileged designation that has been extended to some other white males who have committed apparent domestic terrorism, including but not limited to:
- Seth Aaron Ator, who was mad he just got fired, shot and killed seven people and injured 20 others in Odessa, Texas, in 2019. He was later killed by the police.
- Patrick Crusius, a young white man whose social media activity showed support and sympathy for the president’s apparent white nationalist agenda, killed at least 23 people and injured at least 23 others in a ruthless public shooting in 2019. He left behind a manifesto that explained why he is “against race mixing,” supported the idea to “send them back” and predicted “genocide.”
- Connor Betts shot and killed nine people, most of whom were Black, in a shooting at a bar in Dayton, Ohio, in 2019.
- Around the same time, Santino William Legan killed multiple people attending the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. behind social media posts that show he may have been a white supremacist or at least sympathized with the racist movement.
- Investigators discovered a stockpile of weapons and illegal drugs in Christopher Paul Hasson‘s home that prosecutors alleged were part of a plot to commit acts of mass terrorism with a “hit list” that included prominent Democratic politicians and members of the media.
That list can go on much longer.
Perhaps even more damning are the statistics that have shown “White American men are a bigger domestic terrorist threat than Muslim foreigners.”
Since 9/11, some of the most horrific acts of terrorism in the United States have been committed by American citizens. This especially goes for the nation’s police departments that routinely kill unarmed Black people suspected of committing the same crimes white suspects survive — like in El Paso, where Crusius, armed with an assault rifle after killing nearly two dozen people, was able to be apprehended and arrested without being injured, let alone shot. From the Aurora movie shooting in 2012 to the Las Vegas shooter in 2017 and well beyond, terrorism is alive and well in this country — and the culprits have all committed domestic terrorism.
Of course, terrorism doesn’t have to only result in death. That much was clear in Louisiana when suspected white supremacist Holden Matthews was charged with a hate crime after leaving a trail of damning evidence appearing to connect him to three Black churches that were burned down in 2019. No one died, but the message of hate toward Black worshippers was clear to many.
But typically, the average neo-white male terrorist intends to kill, as the three shootings over the last week along with past incidents of domestic terrorism have more than shown. The same goes for everybody from Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof to Cesar Sayoc, who sent bombs through the U.S. Postal Service to Black people who included former President Barack Obama and current U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters.
To be sure, there is no evidence that either of the acts of clear and apparent terrorism in Nashville and Illinois was motivated by race — an important distinction to make as violent, warmongering far-right and white supremacists groups flourish around the country. However, there likewise shouldn’t be any doubt that what Warner and Webb did constitutes domestic terrorism whether their violence is linked to political ideologies or not.
What they did was effectively place fear into the prospects of everyday normal citizens who want to take a stroll in Downtown, USA, or enjoy their favorite pastimes, like bowling. Those two things have now been added to the growing list of things people can’t do without the possibility of being exposed to random, wanton acts of violence that statistics tell us have historically been waged by white men. That is, by definition, terrorism: violent acts that intimidate.
If there was a silver lining to be had here, it lies in the fact that a potential shift in Congressional power — depending on the results of Georgia’s Senate runoff races — coupled with a new presidential administration could actually result in Washington doing more than sitting on its hands and offering thoughts and prayers instead of taking restrictive legislative action to make domestic terrorism an existing and enforceable crime with significant ramifications.