President Joe Biden gets a hug from a young boy whose father was killed at the Tops market shooting during an event at Buffalo’s Delavan Grider Community Center on May 17, 2022. The president and First Lady placed flowers at a memorial outside of the Tops market and met with families of victims. Scott Olson/Getty Images
In March, a U.S. judge here in Georgia sentenced 48-year-old Larry Foxworth to 20 years in federal prison for firing multiple gunshots into two late-night convenience stores in Clayton County.
Foxworth’s shooting binge wasn’t an act of random violence. It also wasn’t personal. It had a purpose, a motivation, an ideology behind it.
“Foxworth told officers that he had targeted the stores because he wanted to kill Arab and black people, and he believed that there were people inside the stores who belonged to those groups,” federal prosecutors said after his sentencing. “Foxworth expressed hope that he had killed his targets, and professed belief in white supremacist ideology.”
If you happened to miss that story, I’m not surprised. I did too.
These days, such mundane acts of racist violence tend to be overshadowed by those that come with a high body count. In Texas this month, a white supremacist went on a shooting spree that killed eight. A year ago, a white supremacist drove three hours to a grocery store in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo and murdered 10 people, all of them Black. In Pittsburgh, a white supremacist attacked a synagogue, killing 11, including several Holocaust survivors. In El Paso, a white supremacist attacked a Wal-Mart in a heavily Hispanic community, killing 23.
Again, those were the headline grabbers. We don’t hear as much about less spectacular outbursts of white supremacy, such as the three Georgia white supremacists who conspired to murder a Bartow County couple, or the woman in Indiana who was knifed because she was Chinese, or the man in West Allis, Wisconsin, who “vandalized a black woman’s vehicle parked outside her apartment by slashing her tires and smashing her windshield,” and then “left a note on her car, filled with racial slurs, threatening to slash her throat and demanding she move out of West Allis.”
Again, we don’t hear much about such cases, because that’s just life in these United States.
But it shouldn’t be.
Last weekend, in a graduation ceremony at Howard University in Washington, President Joe Biden took note of the ongoing and rising tide of racist violence, accurately pointing out that “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland is white supremacy.”
Biden is not alone in that assessment. Back in 2020, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report to Congress that “those advocating the superiority of the white race likely would continue to be the most lethal category of the (domestic terror) threat to the Homeland,” and that has proved to be the case.
Biden’s statement, in other words, should not have been controversial in the least. It was an accurate, data-driven, expert-backed assessment of where we stand in this country. He simply stated fact.
Yet to many conservatives, the notion that white-supremacist violence is the most dangerous form of domestic terror was received as an insult and provocation, as an effort to drum up fears of racism when no such fears are justified. Biden’s statement created a major backlash on social media and conservative media.
“Nobody stokes more division than Joe Biden,” tweeted a researcher for the Republican National Committee, linking to a video of his speech.
“What the left wants to do to restart race challenges in our country,” complained Peter Hegseth on Fox News. “They want us to not get along, when our default right now as Americans is to want to love each other, want to work together, want to be together.”
Really? Is that the default these days? Because that’s not the world that I’m witnessing.
I’m witnessing a broad, concerted media campaign intended to incite white fear, a campaign in which Fox News has played a major role. I’m witnessing a world in which white Americans are warned that they are being replaced, that they are victims of persecution, and that it’s time to fight back. The rising tide of white supremacist violence is a direct consequence of that campaign.
The thing is, we’re not supposed to take notice. We’re not supposed to admit it, to see it, which is why Biden’s statement drew the backlash it did. The idea seems to be that if we refuse to notice racism, even violent racism, if we don’t mention its impact, if we pretend it doesn’t exist and that “our default right now as Americans is to want to love each other,” then by pretending racism has disappeared it will in fact disappear.
The effort to ban discussion of racism from public schools and even colleges and universities is an extension of that attempt at willful blindness.
But that’s not how life works. If condemnation of violent white supremacy makes you nervous or uncomfortable, if it offends you in some way, I suspect you’re telling yourself something that your better self may not want to hear.
If you can’t bring yourself to join that condemnation of white supremacy, why is that?
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