There were several important political issues missing from Tuesday night’s Republican debate in Las Vegas. Most noticeable was the repeated overlooking of recent acts of terror in this country committed by White men, namely the mass killing last month at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood, and the murder of nine Black congregants at Emanuel AME this summer. This is particularly confounding since the debate topic was specifically about national security and terrorism.
The nine Republican candidates in the second debate of the night, chose to focus on 9/11, the Paris attacks from last month, and the murders of 14 Americans at a San Bernardino, California health center in November to make their cases as to why the United States needs to go after “foreign terrorists.”
In fact, Donald Trump took the opportunity to double-down on his assertion that the US should “take out their families,” an outright call for the intentional murders of women and children. He reiterated this over and over again even after getting booed, asking “so they can kill us but we can’t kill them?” This was accompanied by his suggestion that we simply “penetrate the internet” of suspected ISIS members. Whatever it takes to get the bad guys, amirite?
Not to be outdone, Senator Ted Cruz went into great detail about how the US should use carpet bombs – a technique using excessive amounts of explosives to wipe out entire areas or regions – to eradicate the “Islamic State.” All this, he said, was the best way to the “kill the ISIS terrorists.”
Ben Carson, a retired US neurosurgeon who no doubt has taken the Hippocratic Oath to preserve life and use ethical medical approaches, cosigned the feckless killing of women and children. He even used his experiences as a doctor to justify lethal force abroad. Suffice it to say, these candidates mean business when it comes to terror. Or, do they?
At no point were the names Robert Dear, the Planned Parenthood killer, or Dylann Roof , the Emanuel AME murderer, mentioned. It was almost as if those events never happened.
The fixation on “evil Muslim terrorists” committed to killing Americans is seen as the only real threat to United States citizens. This also suggests that the title of “terrorist” is synonymous with Islam and White people, in particular, are immune from the trope. This is a known falsehood given the number of mass murders which have taken place at churches, colleges, clinics, high schools, movie theaters, and other innocuous locations in the US and were committed by White gunmen. Let’s not even get to the fact that one’s religious affiliation is in no way indicative of one’s nationality, race, or any other demographic information. But, what we have seen is that the vitriol against Muslims has made these fallacious analogies not only more common but seen as legitimate.
White men are the greatest terror threat in this country, bar none. There is no doubt about that fact. It’s a reality that many White people refuse to acknowledge because their privilege precludes them from responsibility for the system of White Supremacy. Instead, they can move away from the “bad guys” and the “sketchy neighborhoods,” gentrify communities by making it less and less affordable for minorities to live in them, and focus on international “threats of terror” as if they aren’t perpetuating the exact hatred that causes violent insurgents to turn their focus toward the American monolith.
Meanwhile, the implicit racial hatred that many White Americans possess and maintain sustains the domestic terrorists who often kill women, people of color, children, queer folks, and many others on the margins of society. White people, especially those who espouse the viewpoints seen on last night’s debate stage, are – at least in some way – responsible for terror in this country and abroad. Again, these facts are undeniable.
That not one of the debate moderators mentioned these events of domestic terror last night is quite telling. There is this collective agreement in this country to never hold Whites accountable for their own mess, to always ignore their criminal behaviors and justify them whenever possible. The debate rhetoric on Tuesday did just that. It was yet another disappointing display of White privilege and bigotry masked as concern for the safety of the American people.
I’m not here for it though. You shouldn’t be either.
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