The notion that a person’s race predisposes him to act violently is unequivocally racist. It’s also easily debunked by a cursory reading of history. Then again, in today’s environment, where identity politics often strips Americans of their accomplishments, ideas, and actions so they can be judged by their melanin, it’s an unsurprising thing to hear.
“I keep trying to point out to people and, not to demonize any one group or any one ethnicity,” CNN host Don Lemon explained to his colleague Chris Cuomo, before telling him that “the biggest terror threat in this country is white men,” adding that “there is no travel ban on them”
This isn’t a new accusation. Now, Lemon is right that the vast majority of white shooters are men. He’s also correct that men are more violent than women. The majority of men in the United States are white. So some quick back-of-the-envelope calculation informs us that most shooters are probably going to be white men, just as most murderers in Arab countries are Arab men and most murderers in Asian countries are Asian men and so on.
A terrorist is a person who uses illegal violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. This is not a movement. These white men have no palpable ideological or philosophical connection. They are not part of a concerted effort. They do not idolize the same people or subscribe to the same set of ideas. They do not share a worldview. Most of them do not kill in the name of “whiteness.” Few of them have a coherent message. I have as much to do with the Pittsburgh shooter as Lemon does.
The left-winger who yelled “This is for health care” before attempting to assassinate Republican congressional leadership in 2017 — somehow Lemon overlooked this event in his rant about angry white men — has nothing to do with the man who yelled “All Jews must die” when killing 11 innocent people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. There is no nexus between the person threatening Republicans with ricin letters and the person threatening Democrats with pipe bombs.
Whether travel bans from terror-ravaged nations are effective or necessary is a worthy debate. But unlike Islamic terrorists, who destabilize entire regions, enslave entire communities, and in engage in decades-long campaigns against civilians, white men only share a hue. There is no infrastructure to assist them in their murders. There is no nation-state egging them on and abetting their efforts around the world. There are no big-money donors funding them. There is no movement recruiting them to kill, then rewarding their families afterwards.
Moreover, there is no rational or decent person in America, on either side of the partisan debate, justifying their actions. No matter how hard Democrats try to smear half the country as a party of budding brown-shirts, there is no political base for their violent ideology.
Unlike Islamic terrorism—which is propelled by a set of ideas and beliefs that has been adopted by people of every color in every area of the world—random white shooters do not generate massive numbers of refugees whom other nations are compelled to deal with. Governments don’t have to spend trillions of dollars to protect their citizens from this constant threat.
It’s also true Islamic radicals haven’t been as successful at targeting Americans lately because, after a highly effective day of carnage back in 2001, we became vigilant. The price has been high, in treasure, and sometimes in civil rights—another negative externality of Islamic terrorism. Does Lemon demand a similar domestic effort aimed at white men for merely being white men?
Radical Islam is an ideology that’s quite popular in the world. White supremacy is a fringe belief that generates outsized coverage because of the horrible actions of some individuals and the political upside some in the media see in giving them attention. Stringing together every act of random violence in the nation—no matter how ambiguous, disconnected, and muddled the political motives of the perpetrators might be—does not make a terror problem. Even if it did, violence is not the monopoly of any group. In the past century, genocides have been perpetrated in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Some people feed off the idea of drumming people they find objectionable out of public discourse. I’m not sure someone who uses hyperbole in the heat of a national debate deserves this fate. But in an environment where people are (ostensibly) thrown off their TV shows for a dumb statement about Halloween costumes, it seems rather extraordinary that others can unambiguously refer to “white men” as terrorists without repercussion.