So A White Guy Flies Into A Federal Building …

By Erin Matson, NOW Action Vice President

Joseph Stack flew a plane into an IRS office in Austin, Texas. On purpose. That’s terrorism. Calling it anything else, because he was white, is racism.

Earlier today, Nihad Awad, the national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said: “The position of many individuals and institutions seems to be that no act of violence can be labeled ‘terrorism’ unless it is carried out by a Muslim.”

The hypocrisy smacks clear in the U.S. definition of terrorism, which is “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents.”

That’s Joseph Stack’s suicide bombing. He used a plane, people.

Even the radical right, as embodied by today’s Tea Party movement (95 percent white, give or take three percentage points, according to a very recent poll), isn’t calling this fella a terrorist. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), the pride and joy of those socialism-fearing people, went so far as to use this opportunity to say:

“Certainly, no one likes paying taxes, obviously.”

Beyond Mr. Awad, few public figures have labeled this attack terrorism. The media certainly hasn’t. The White House is reserving judgment until an investigation of the crash is completed (imagine if a previous administration had applied that logic to 9/11!). A lonely few, including Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), have gone so far as to call it “domestic terrorism.”

I have long bristled at the term domestic terrorism, and for a few reasons. Terrorism is terrorism. It seems unnecessary to offer an implicit reminder of those “foreigners you should fear” every time a homegrown militant starts bombing and assassinating. Certainly the news media doesn’t use “foreign terrorism” to remind everyone that abortion clinics get firebombed by white men.

In fact, the terrorism/domestic terrorism dichotomy seems to be used only to make clear on what side of the violence you’ll find the less-privileged. (Even the Oklahoma City bomber affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan before attacking the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.)

Beyond the blatant racism in refusing to call the Austin attack terrorism, I remain deeply uneasy. The evening of the attack, I drove past a house with one candle lit in each window. We can only hope this observation is as anecdotal and off-target as Senator Brown’s.

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