by Beau Grosscup
The arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. by Cambridge police again raised the issue of racial profiling of People of Color in North America.
As evidenced in President Obama’s attempt at a ‘teaching moment,’ the idea of racial profiling produces heated debate.
Most African Americans remain convinced that law enforcement agencies routinely use their race as criteria in criminal investigations while a majority of Whites and police vigorously dispute this claim.
Yet, since the 9/11 attacks, racial profiling of People of Color has become an accepted component of the so-called War on Terror. Given the perpetrators of 9/11 were assumed to be members of Al Qaeda, anyone looking ‘Middle Eastern’ or Arab or Muslim was/is racially profiled as suspicious.
This may be useful when conducting the War on Terror in foreign lands, although White-based terrorism (Irish, Russian, Jewish and Italian mafia, German neo-Nazis etc) is a constant historical and contemporary reality. But in combating domestic terrorism, racial profiling of People of Color runs counter to reality.
According to 20 years of FBI domestic terrorism accounts and recent Homeland Security (DHS) reports, individuals and groups listed as responsible for domestic terrorism are overwhelmingly White. Indeed, the FBI says the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) are ‘of particular concern.’ The same is true of DHS lists of current (and past) Rightwing domestic terrorism.
Indeed, most counter-terrorism in the United States is said to be ‘militia-watching’ but for ‘other reasons’ rather than the ‘Whiteness’ of militia members. Officially their ‘race’ disappears as a factor of their terrorism. Not so People of Color where in determining their terrorism link, race matters a lot.
To prove this point, let’s engage in a little racial profiling of those the FBI lists as domestic terrorists.
Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front ELF = White
People for the Ethical treatment of animals (PETA) = White
Earth First = White
Coalition to Save the Preserves (CSP) = White
Militia Terrorism =
Michigan Militia = White
Montana Militia = White
Racist Terrorism =
Aryan Nations = Whitest of White
Ku Klux Klan = Whitest of White
National Alliance = Whitest of White
Religious Terrorism =
Jewish Defense League = Righteous White
Christian Identity = Righteous White
Not listed by FBI but documented as engaging in terrorism =
Wise Use = White
Sahara Club USA = White
Yellow Ribbon Coalition = White
Anti immigration terrorism =
Minutemen = Whitest of White
National Socialist Movement = Whitest of White
This list is the tip of the iceberg of White, overwhelmingly Rightwing (just add militant survivalists, gun rights advocates, anti-New World Order conspiracists, anti-tax advocates, anti-Choice groups and anti-government (Left and Right) groups linked officially and unofficially to domestic terrorism.
It is no wonder Rightwing media and these ‘citizens’ groups complained so loudly at the recent DHS warning that President Obama’s election would fuel a resurgence in Rightwing membership and violence.
The chance that they and their Whiteness would become part of the visible landscape of domestic terrorism was contrary to their belief that being White is not a race issue, but the norm of objectivity, fairness, indeed patriotism. (This attitude was vividly apparent among conservative senators in Judge Sonya Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings.) To them, terrorism is the work of the ‘others,’ thus racial profiling of ‘them’ is necessary.
Yet, reality (and the FBI and DHS) tells something very different. If law enforcement officials at all levels continue to use racial profiling as a central element in domestic terrorism investigations, it is a reality that must be made visible and accounted for.
Beau Grosscup teaches at a California State University at Chico as a Professor of International Relations. He was a very good friend of our very good friend and fellow OB Rag blogger, Rick Nadeau, before Rick passed last fall. Grossup is also the author of “Strategic Terror: the politics and ethics of aerial bombardment.”