If the former Klu Klux Klan leader (who targeted and killed three at a Jewish School in Kansas) was named Assad, we would very likely be debating war against an Arab country from which he may or may not have hailed. Conservatives would at least blame President Obama’s weak support for Israel as cause for the violence. There would definitely be talk of closing our borders, military and airports to everyone who looked like him.
If he were an American-born Muslim, Neo-Conservatives would definitely use it to justify the National Security Administration’s domestic spying program, the still detained and untried dozens at Abu Ghraib, water-boarding, and just about every unthinkable thing this government does in the name of national security.
If his name was Leroy, just imagine Fox News’ diatribes on rampant black criminality and the epidemic of unwed mothers.
But what if Leroy or Assad targeted Christians? What if, on a laptop in some trailer park in rural America, authorities found numerous conspiracies to kill conservative Americans?
Frazier Glen Cross, yet another rabid old racist, targeted minorities. This time religious minorities and in the past, it has been ethnic minorities. Consequently, this country will not take his crime or his kind seriously. In fact, while some news outlets covered the shooting, Fox News was caught in a mid-idolizing frenzy of some antigovernment cook down in Nevada.
Here’s the reality, this country has done hardly anything to address the legitimate epidemic of homegrown terrorists since the tragic killing of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Shepard was a young gay college student pistol whipped, tortured, killed and then tied to a fence post in Wyoming back in 1989. James Byrd Jr. was a black man beaten then dragged to his death behind a pickup truck in Texas during the same year.
Even with passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 which finally added gays to the list of protected citizens (something the Republican Congress blocked and delayed for months as being unnecessary), there are still a handful of states that do not acknowledge “hate crime” penalty enhancements. Many others do not report or track those crimes. Even with limited reporting and even more lackluster enforcement, the FBI reported 6,222 hate crime incidents in 2011 involving 7,254 offenses. In 2012, law enforcement reported 5,796 hate crime incidents involving 6,718 offenses. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors and tracks hate groups and activities in the U.S., reports an unprecedented rise in activity since the financial collapse of the country, changing ethno demographics in the U.S. and the election of the nation’s first black president, Barack Hussein Obama.
But what is being done to address this issue, expose the terror cells behind this violence, address the root causes of this activity or even verbalize the fact that right wing Republicans are actively fueling the fire? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Conservatives are perhaps leery of alienating a small but vocal and politically active fragment of their base. But they are certainly showing a lack of concern for a large sector of the U.S. electorate.
As most criminal justice advocates know, deference applies to both suspects and victims. When minorities and women are the victims of violent crime fewer resources are spent on prosecution. There are fewer convictions and the sentences are shorter. That reality seemingly applies to our timid response and tepid concern with home grown terrorist groups.
The purpose of terrorism is not simply to kill but terrorize. When minorities and women for that matter are terrorized, either for playing their music too loud, being a Mexican immigrant in New York, or accessing health care services to which he or she is legally entitled, the assailants are often undercharged. In some cases, they are not even prosecuted at all.
Less than a week after Frazier Glenn Cross allegedly killed three in Kansas, another rabid old racist in Utah was charged by the FBI for threatening to kill an interracial family. The official charge was “interfering with the housing rights” of that family, and this guy will likely only serve a year if he gets any time at all. There was a rash of violent crimes against Hispanics in New York that spiked between 2010 and 2012. In one case, a Mexican immigrant was violently beaten and robbed all while being verbally assaulted by a group of younger men. In that case, one of the suspects received a five-year sentence while the other suspect received probation. The jury declined to file hate crimes. Just last November a black student at San Jose State finally stepped forward after being taunted by his college roommate. One roommate hung a confederate flag on the wall with the N-word sprayed on it, several others took to calling him “three-fifths” and at least two forced a bike lock around his neck. Those students were suspended. As of yet, none have spent a day in prison.
What if there were more than 1,000 black separatists groups in the U.S., calling for the killing of white people, then what would the response be? Let’s imagine for a minute, if Muslims were shooting people at Christian Schools? What if Hispanic immigrants were robbing and beating white youth? What if women were blocking men from getting Viagra? What if gay people drove around to sports bars and bashed straight people?
Those are ridiculous propositions right? Well, the opposite should be just as ridiculous.
Devona Walker is the politics editor for The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @DevonaWalker.