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Trigger warning: violence, murder, white supremacy and expletives
Fuck white supremacy. And fuck white supremacists.
Yes, I cursed, and yes, I’m angry. But we all should be angry.
Yesterday, a white supremacist brutally murdered innocent Muslim worshipers in a New Zealand mosque. He even live-streamed his reign of terror. (No, I didn’t watch, and no, you should not either.)
As made evident by his online manifesto and the internet communities he frequented, this murder was committed in the name of white supremacy. He explicitly pointed to President Donald Trump as a symbol of white supremacy and intended his attack to lead to a civil war in the U.S. and elsewhere. I will not give an extra platform to hate by linking to the manifesto or the extremist forums he frequented. Instead, here is a secondary source discussing the connection between the manifesto and bigoted, racist language by prominent people, as well as one discussing his connection to far-right online communities.
For all the rhetoric about the dangers of Muslims, it is white supremacy and right-wing extremism that is the major danger.
While cutting funds to target white supremacists and right-wing extremists, the Trump administration has instead been targeting “black identity extremists,” a move that former FBI agent Michael German describes as “[b]asically [targeting] black people who scare them.” This is of course on top of all the violent rhetoric and actions taken by the administration targeting Muslims, actions that make it more and more dangerous for Muslims to just live their lives. Even law enforcement officers are frustrated by the lack of support they have to target the real problems of white supremacy. We also can’t ignore the very real white supremacist presence in law enforcement, something that the FBI has been concerned about for over a decade.
And don’t forget the whole history of white supremacy that decimated the Indigenous population in the Americas, colonized much of the world, bombs other countries for oil, and exploits those who it claims to aid.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, every single extremist killing in the U.S. in 2018 was carried out by someone with links to right-wing extremist movements. Rates of hate crimes against Muslims in America are rising. Robert McKenzie, a scholar and anthropologist studying this cultural shift with New America, concluded that “political rhetoric from national leaders has a real and measurable impact.” In Colorado, the major growth in hate crimes has been those against Jews, with the number of anti-Semitic hate crimes doubling from 2017 to 2018.
As the Denver Post reported barely one week ago, Colorado ranks third in the country for white supremacist propaganda distributions, behind only population giants California and Texas. According to a Daily Camera story, white supremacy in Colorado is nothing new, with the Ku Klux Klan prominent in Colorado politics a century ago and Identity Evropa stickers seen on campus much more recently. And even Boulder County is seeing an increase in hate crimes.
(As discussed in a recent piece on hate crimes, rates are notoriously difficult to figure out and are certainly higher than official numbers.)
Despite evidence that violent, demonizing rhetoric does lead to increases in violence, parts of the CU Boulder community have been complicit in welcoming violent rhetoric on this campus. Last year Turning Point USA (TPUSA) hosted Ann Coulter, who, as reported by the Daily Camera , started her talk by “deriding immigrants as ugly rapists who depress wages.” In 2017, TPUSA, along with the CU Boulder College Republicans brought Milo Yiannopoulos to campus, where, among other things, he “offered anti-Muslim rhetoric.” I don’t know if it’s comical or depressing — probably both — that early research for this article led me to an ACLU of Northern California guide for “sorting through the bigots’ bag of tricks” that named Yiannopoulos and Coulter as two of their three paradigm cases of bigots.
If you’re curious about Coulter’s quote claims, they’re clearly off base, as you can see from sources as varied as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the libertarian think-tank Cato Institute, Politico, and the New York Times.
White supremacy and violent right-wing extremism is a far-too-real thing that infects all of society. We cannot continue to enable this violent ideology. We cannot fall into the trap of allowing any and all violent rhetoric due to some misguided allegiance to “real” or “free speech.” When speech is grounded in a denial of humanity or right to exist of others, it should not and cannot be tolerated.
To quote the great Angela Davis, “[i]n a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” We must stand in solidarity with those targeted by white supremacy. We must call it out when we see or hear it, in person or online. Because yes, online hate speech can spread to physical violence. We must be unwilling to give a platform to violent rhetoric that dehumanizes others or rejects their right to exist.
We’ve all heard the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” That’s bullshit. We know it’s bullshit. Psychologists know it’s bullshit.
We must start treating violent, racist, white supremacist language as what it is: violence. And we cannot allow such violence to fester.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alex Wolf-Root at Alexander.firstname.lastname@example.org.