Why, in many instances of social unrest, do we look the other way; that we do nothing? But before we offer some possible answers, last week’s rampage in Washington gives us some context, a starting point.
Like millions, I watched in disbelief thousands of “protesters” (or whatever you choose to call them) converge on the Capital building. The images of them scaling walls, overwhelming police and breaking windows while lawmakers cowered in hiding or were rushed out for their safety will be etched into my memory forever.
FBI Director Christopher Wray recently told Congress the following about hate groups: “A majority of the racially motivated violent extremist domestic terrorism is at the hands of white supremacists.”
Hate crimes increased by nearly 20% in 2017, according to the latest FBI data. The actual numbers are likely larger because many hate crimes go unreported or are misclassified for various reasons.
Another study on hate crimes among 30 big cities nationwide, by The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, states the following: “Hate crimes rose 9 percent in major U.S. cities in 2018, for a fifth consecutive increase, to decade highs, as cities with increases outnumbered those with declines two to one. In contrast, crime overall in major cities has declined in both of the last two years.”
It was painful waking up to the terrorism news that suicide bombers in Sri Lanka had targeted hotels and churches during Easter services. Hundreds of people were killed and hundreds more were injured. At first, officials pointed to the perpetrators as a local group of radical Islamists espousing a terrorist ideology. Then they announced that international connections had helped design the attacks. At this point, Sri Lanka shut down online social networks, a move that would limit conspiracy theories, copy cat attempts, and violent revenge attempts. Was the ban prompted by guilt that warnings had been ignored, or by the experience days before in Paris?
I used to write about terrorist destructors in the U.S. every spring. My articles began with the domestic terrorism of the Oklahoma City bombing more than twenty years ago on April 19. That’s when I became the community/media liaison for Oklahoma’s Tulsa Jewish Federation. It was shortly after the bombing destroyed the Murrah Building and so many lives were affected. I felt compelled to investigate what led to the deadliest bombing, prior to 9/11, on our native soil. The violent hatred that I saw has not only continued, but has expanded globally, and now, it encompasses the entire year.
The traffic was fierce on Martin Luther King Boulevard as people flocked to the community-wide interfaith service at Mount Olivet Baptist Church. Olivet, had grown from humble beginning in the 1920s to one of the city’s largest African-American churches. Yet, the church was packed, overflowing with elected officials, police officers and FBI, military veterans, and media among the diverse crowd of Black & White, Christians, Jews, and Muslim. Together, we prayed over the loss of four marines and a wounded sailor, who would die just hours later. We prayed over the trauma to our entire community inflicted by lone gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez.
Nine people were killed by Dylann Storm Roof in Charleston’s historic black church and the debate about how to categorize his actions is fierce. Is it domestic terrorism or mass murder? Is it a case of drug-induced mental illness or a hate crime? The debate embraces some of the most controversial issues of our time: guns, race, alienated young men, and the confederate flag. The question before us should not be which of the labels and issues are relevant and correct. Rather, the question should be how to address the volatile mix now surfacing in terrifying blasts with increasing frequency.