By Charles Bryant 10-11-2017

Truth often makes us uncomfortable. It forces us to look at ourselves for what we really are, instead of skewed versions through rose-colored glasses. Truth calls upon us at difficult times, to ask difficult questions. We all should encounter, grapple with, and ultimately accept truth. But the U.S. seems to have a fleeting relationship with it.

According to Nevada state law, a white man perpetrated a mass terrorist attack in Las Vegas last week.

Many will immediately feel that statement is an attack on their whiteness. It is not. It is simply the truth. 

The definitions of terrorism differ slightly at the federal level and in FBI definitions — it is too soon to know whether Stephen Paddock had "intent to intimidate or coerce … in furtherance of political or social objective.”

But Nevada law is clear: "Any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to ... cause great bodily harm or death to the general population.”

Yet Nevada's Clark County sheriff responded to the question of whether this act was terrorism by saying, "No, not at this point … We believe it was a local individual. He resides here locally. .… We don’t know what his belief system was at this time.”

A large portion of white America does not acknowledge this truth of white terrorism, and will go to great lengths to make themselves feel good about the atrocities of the past, present, and — I am certain — the future. This means creating a fictitious narrative to perpetuate a false state of happiness and pride.

But white America must begin to tell the truth. The first truth that must be told: When white American men with guns murder large numbers of civilians for political or social purposes, they are terrorists. Not a “lone wolf,” not “troubled,” not “a good guy,” and not “someone/something never saw this coming.”

In order to accept this truth however, we must accept a few others as well.

White Europeans who left Europe and went into Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to spread Christianity while murdering large numbers of Indigenous people were not crusaders — they were terrorists.

White Europeans who went to Africa and kidnapped men, women, and children, and put them on boats to come to a land that they might be sold, were not slave traders conducting business — they were terrorists.

White Americans who participated in the sale and ownership of slaves were not slave owners — they were terrorists.

White Americans who participated in the practices of lynching and cross burning were not just Klansmen or willing bystanders. They were, and are, terrorists.

White Americans who hit peaceful protesters with cars are not “fine people” — they are terrorists.

Timothy McVeigh was a terrorist.

Adam Lanza, terrorist.

Jared Loughner, terrorist.

Dylann Roof, terrorist.

In no instance that I can recall have these white American men been called consistently by mainstream media what they are. We must on all levels call this what it is: domestic terrorism. Terrorism is not limited to those who do not look like you. In fact, more terror attacks have been committed by white men on American soil than by any other race.

We cannot begin to have greater discussions around this horrid problem until we are willing to call it what it is — terrorism. Regardless of who the perpetrator is, these acts are terrorism. White men can be terrorists too, and more often than not in these situations, they are.

C. Anthony Bryant is a resident of New York City, and a native of Washington, D.C.  Bryant, a vocalist, musician, and instructor, is a graduate of Morehouse College (B.A.) and the Manhattan School of Music (M.M.).  A subject of BET’s documentary, Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay In The Church, Bryant is an LGBTQ Activist, and serves as Music Visionary at First Corinthian Baptist Church, Harlem, NY. 


Don't Miss a Story!

Get Sojourners delivered straight to your inbox.

Have Something to Say?

Add or Read Comments on
"White Terrorism Is an American Problem"
Launch Comments
By commenting here, I agree to abide by the Sojourners Comment Community Covenant guidelines and acknowledge that my comment may be published in the Letters to the Editor section of Sojourners magazine.

Must Reads