It’s 2014. I’m sitting in the second row, first seat in my global history class. Ms.Semakwaitz is walking back and forth in front of the smart board. Our new topic is national safety. The question: to what length should the government be allowed to invade our privacy in exchange for our safety? Class discussion shifts from one argument to another until we arrive at the topic of terrorism.
Side note: Every single time, no matter how casual the conversation, the word “terrorism” makes my heart sink. I instantly feel guilty and apologetic for an inhumane act that I had no relation to. It’s a burden that was never mine to hold. Maybe because when it comes to terrorism I’m supposed to be a second class citizen.
An eager kid from the back of our class shoots his hand up and confidently states, “a foreigner, usually from the middle east, who disturbs peace, and harms American citizen like ISIS.” I’m not exaggerating, those were his exact words.
I hesitate and reconsider opening my mouth.. “Um. According to Webster’s dictionary a terrorist is someone who unlawfully uses violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. The word isn’t reserved for Arabs or Muslims…”
The same kid, “I didn’t know that it didn’t have to be an immigrant.. sorry man.”
There are certain moments in life that resonate despite how big or small. This was one of them. I’m not one to be at loss for words. But when I describe this particular memory I can never get it across the way I want to. The way that it made me feel, the anger, the frustration, the hurt, the embarrassment, and the guilt, all rolled up into one.
The white man that opened fire on a crowd of more than 20,000 people in Las Vegas was a terrorist.
The white man from Ohio who sped his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a woman and injuring at least 19 others was a terrorist.
The white man who was harassing Muslim teenagers on a train in Portland, telling them “We need Americans here!” and then stabbed and killed two other men who intervened was a terrorist.
The white man who opened fire in an elementary school was also a terrorist.
According to a study conducted by New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington D.C., there are far more Americans killed by right wing extremists than immigrants or radical religious groups. Yet when I say terrorist, it’s not a white man that crosses your mind.
And truth be told it’s not a white man that crosses my mind either…