August 09, 2012

Sikh shootings reflect white supremacy

Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings

By Harsha WaliaWhen I heard about the shooting at Oak Creek Gurudwara, I happened to be facilitating at an immigrant and refugee youth camp. Dozens of young middle-school and high-school aged racialized immigrants and refugees from Latin America, Asia and Africa were describing being taunted and bullied at school, feeling discriminated against by their teachers, the hardships of systemic poverty, daily fears of detention and displacement, and feeling like “unwelcome and unwanted parasites.” As young people in British Columbia, Canada they were articulating an experience of racism similar to that which my family faces living in the Midwest of America.

While these murders were abhorrent, they were not “senseless.” The ad nauseum suggestion that the killings were senseless attempts to construct the shooting as random and without logic, when in fact racist hate crimes operate through the very deliberate and precise logic of white supremacy.

The local Sikh community in Milwaukee had been raising concerns about racial harassment, targeting, and violence for at least the past year. The Sikh Coalition has reported more than 700 incidents of anti-Sikh hate crimes in the U.S. since 9/11. One of those was 49-year-old Balbir Singh Sodhi, the first post 9/11 hate-crime fatality. He was shot five times on September 15, 2001 in Mesa, AZ and his murderer Frank Silva Roque admitted that he killed Sodhi because he was dark, bearded, and wore a turban. White supremacy is fostered, cultivated, condoned, and supported–in the education system and mainstream corporate media, from military missions to the prison industrial complex.

The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism. People of color face legislated racism from immigration laws to policies governing Indigenous reserves; are discriminated and excluded from equitable access to healthcare, housing, childcare, and education; are disproportionately victims of police killings and child apprehensions; fill the floors of sweatshops and factories; are over-represented in heads counts on poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, and high school dropout rates. Colonialism has and continues to be shaped by the counters of white men’s civilizing missions. The occupation of Turtle Island is based on the white supremacist crime of colonization, where Indigenous lands were believed to be barren and Indigenous people believed to be inferior. The occupation of Afghanistan has been justified on the racist idea of liberating Muslim women from Muslim men. Racialized violence has also always targeted places of worship–the spiritual heart of a community. In Iraq, for example, the U.S. Army accelerated bombings of mosques from 2003-2007 with targeted attacks on the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque, Abu Hanifa shrine, Khulafah Al Rashid mosque and many others. And so I repeat: the patterns of hate crimes have a sense, have a logic, have a structure–they are part of a broader system of white supremacy.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, notes that the 40-year Army veteran and gunman Wade Michael Page was the leader of a racist white-power band End Apathy. Potok further details Page’s involvement in a number of other white power bands and his attempts to purchase good from neo-Nazi websites. Media reports also note that Page was a psychological operations specialist in the Army, responsible for developing and analyzing intelligence that would have a “psychological impact on foreign populations.” While racialized cultures and religions are consistently held to task, the culture and system of white supremacy is never scrutinized by the state or media. What breeds white power movements? Who funds white power groups? How are people recruited into neo-Nazi groups? What is the connection between white supremacist groups and state institutions like the Army? These are the questions that will never be interrogated because whiteness is too central, too foundational to the state and to this society to unsettle.

White supremacy, as a dominant and dominating structuring, actually necessitates and relies on a discourse that suggests that hate crimes are random. Otherwise, whites might just have to start racially profiling all other young and middle-aged white men at airports or who are walking while white. Whites might have to analyze what young white children are being taught about in schools and in their homes about privilege and entitlement. Whites might have to own up to and seek to repair the legacy of racialized empire, imperialism, and settler-colonialism that has devastated and continues to destroy the lives and lands of millions of people across the globe.

Whites might actually have to start distancing themselves from white supremacy.
Why the Reaction Is Different When the Terrorist Is White

By Conor FriedersdorfHold the victims constant and give the perpetrator the last name Mohammed. Does anyone think for a moment that such an attack wouldn't still be the most discussed story at Fox News and National Review? And at various network news shows and unaffiliated newspapers for that matter?

Instead Wade Michael Page was the gunman.

Attacks like his are disconcerting to some white Americans for a seldom acknowledged reason. Since 9/11, many Americans have conflated terrorism with Muslims; and having done so, they've tolerated or supported counterterrorism policies safe in the presumption that people unlike them would bear their brunt. (If Mayor Bloomberg and the NYPD sent officers beyond the boundaries of New York City to secretly spy on evangelical Christian students or Israeli students or students who own handguns the national backlash would be swift, brutal, and decisive. The revelation of secret spying on Muslim American students was mostly defended or ignored.)

In the name of counterterrorism, many Americans have given their assent to indefinite detention, the criminalization of gifts to certain charities, the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, and a sprawling, opaque homeland security bureaucracy; many have also advocated policies like torture or racial profiling that are not presently part of official anti-terror policy.

What if white Americans were as likely as Muslims to be victimized by those policies? What if the sprawling national security bureaucracy we've created starts directing attention not just to Muslims and their schools and charities, but to right-wing militias and left-wing environmental groups (or folks falsely accused of being in those groups because they seem like the sort who would be)? There are already dossiers on non-Muslim extremist groups. In a post-9/11 world, Islamic terrorism has nevertheless been the overwhelming priority for law enforcement, and insofar as innocents have suffered, Muslims have been affected far more than any other identifiable group, because the bulk of the paradigm shift in law enforcement hasn't spread beyond them.

Would that still be true if the next terrorist attack on American soil looks like Oklahoma City? How would President Obama or President Romney wield their unprecedented executive power in the aftermath of such an attack? Who would find that they'd been put on no fly lists? Whose cell phone conversations and email exchanges would be monitored without their ever knowing about it?
Right-Wing Terrorism Spotlighted By Sikh Attack Not Taken Seriously, Expert Says

By Andrea Stone"Hindsight is always 20-20, but if DHS had a domestic terrorism unit today, we would definitely have sent out a warning, a threat assessment (to) Muslim-Americans being attacked. I know this was a Sikh temple, but he mistook them for Muslims," Johnson told The Huffington Post in an interview. Despite repeated reports of arson and other violence against mosques, "not a single intelligence report has warned these communities. ... Someone's not connecting the dots," Johnson said.

Saying, "I hate to be right under these circumstances," Johnson had warned in a 2009 DHS report about the growing threat of right-wing extremists. He said many would be motivated to become violent by the election of the first black U.S. president and an ailing economy. He also said right-wing extremist groups viewed military veterans as "lucrative recruits." It's unclear when Page, an Army veteran, became radicalized.

Johnson's report was blasted by conservatives, including Newt Gingrich, who insist only Muslim extremism poses an existential threat to the nation.

Pummeled from the right, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano withdrew Johnson's report and soon slashed the number of analysts devoted to domestic, non-Islamic terrorism. Today, said Johnson, just one DHS analyst is assigned full time to track neo-Nazis like Page as well as violent anti-abortion activists and militant environmental and animal-rights groups.

"That just baffles my mind," said Johnson, whose book “Right Wing Resurgence: How a Domestic Terror Threat Is Being Ignored” will be published in September. "Why hasn’t DHS increased its capabilities to analyze and assess these groups?"
DHS’s right-wing terror blind spot

After Oak Creek, two former DHS analysts tell Salon how their ex-employer gutted the right-wing terrorism unit

By Rania Khalek
The New Yorker’s Steve Coll recently cited a statistical analysis of 302 domestic terrorism incidents since 9/11, undertaken by researchers at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy and the New America Foundation, which found:Of the three hundred domestic-terrorism cases studied, about a quarter arose from anti-government extremists, white supremacists or terrorists animated by bias against another religion. And all of the most frightening cases—involving chemical, biological and radiological materials—arose from right-wing extremists or anarchists. None arose from Islamist militancy.This should come as no surprise given that the Southern Poverty Law Center reports a record 1,018 known hate groups in the United States, a 69 percent increase since 2000. Among them are “neo-Nazis, Klansmen, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes,” with the largest growth seen in the Patriot movement. “The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, grew by 755 percent in the first three years of the Obama administration—from 149 at the end of 2008 to 1,274 in 2011.”

According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START, “Between 1990 and 2010 there were 145 ideologically motivated homicide incidents committed by far-right extremists in the United States.” One hundred of those attacks, including last week’s Sikh Temple massacre, are listed in detail in the SPLC’s report “Terror From the Right.”
Comment:  From what we've learned, Page was a gun nut, an Obama-hating conservative, and a white supremacist. No surprises there. As usual, right-wing beliefs, racism, and violence go together like peas in a pod.

Conservatives feed on this nexus of hate. That's what their Tea Parties and talk radio are all about. Same with their worship of the Founding Fathers and the "original" Constitution without the later amendments. It's all about hating the loss of (white) power, and halting it.

For more on American violence, see Aurora Shooting Shows America's Pathology and Bullying Becomes Boilerplate.

Below:  "Members of the Sikh congregation mourn their dead." (Reuters)

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