The dramatic swell of domestic terrorist acts in the years since the election of America’s first Black president shows no signs of slowing down, experts say.
An intense election season, driven by the rhetoric of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, may be a motivating factor.
“A lot of the extreme right perceives Trump as being largely sympathetic to many of their views,” Mark Pitcavage, Anti-Defamation League historian, told USA Today. “They rather enthusiastically support what they perceive as anti-Hispanic attitudes on his part, anti-Muslim attitudes on his part and other similar ideas.”
Pitcavage also indicated the current surge has been an unusually long one.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s February 2015 report on the rise of leaderless resistance terrorism revealed that lone wolves were a greater threat to American safety than Islamic jihadist groups. The report found that a domestic terrorist incident took place or was averted every 34 days from April 2009 to February 2015. And 74 percent of those attacks were either executed or planned by one person operating entirely alone.
The SPLC study, backed by several independent studies, indicated that more people have been killed in America by non-Muslim homegrown terrorists than jihadists since 9/11.
Dylann Roof, accused of murdering nine Black churchgoers one year ago, maintained a website complete with disturbing photos of the 21-year-old posed with the Confederate flag and firearms and a racist manifesto targeting non-whites. Though Roof appeared to espouse the beliefs of white nationalist, neo-Nazi organizations, he was not determined to have official ties to any of these groups.
“We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me,” he wrote under a section titled, An Explanation.
SPLC President Richard Cohen believes similar acts will continue and noted the man responsible for 49 fatalities in Orlando during last Sunday’s attack on Pulse nightclub, Omar Mateen, possessed “all the earmarks” of a lone wolf terrorist.
Social justice advocates have long called on policymakers to elevate acts of violence perpetrated by U.S.-born, anti-government radicals to the same status as those carried out by extremist groups from abroad.
Though reports focus mainly on the years covering Obama’s historic presidency, some would argue that American Blacks have been subjected to appalling acts of domestic terrorism since their arrival to the country’s shores.
Notwithstanding the institution of slavery itself, the Jim Crow-era culture that allowed embittered Southern whites to terrorize, torture, rape and murder countless Blacks with no hope of judicial retribution was just as “barbaric” as any foreign threat in today’s world.
“There’s nothing you’re going to see today that’s not going to have already occurred in the U.S.,” David Pilgrim, founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University, told The Huffington Post last February. “If you think of these groups that behead now — first of all, beheading is barbaric but it’s no more or less barbaric than some of the lynchings that occurred in the U.S.”