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Letter to the Editor: Where were they radicalized?

By Craig Considine     2/1/17 9:00am

To the Editors:

The title of this piece popped into my head as I visited the Twitter page of the Vanguard Texas, the racist group said to have posted the white supremacist flyers around campus. Their page is filled with blatant anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and anti-gay hate. Their page is also brimming with outright lies on issues pertaining to race, ethnicity and religion in American society. None of this comes as a surprise. After all, hate and ignorance often go hand in hand.

The flyers raise several important questions that cannot go unanswered. How did members of the Vanguard come to form their white supremacist views? What kind of political or religious groups have influenced them? What websites have they visited? What are local, state and national leaders doing to counter the scourge of white supremacy? Why do we tend to discuss “radicalization” only in light of Muslims? Why aren't we taking these questions more seriously?

And why aren’t we talking facts more seriously? In the 14 years since 9/11, nearly twice as many people have been killed on American soil by white supremacists than by radical Muslims, according to a 2015 study by New America, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C.

David Sterman, a program associate of New America, called white supremacy the “ignored threat” woven in the fabric of American society. Sterman added: “Each time [white supremacy] violence comes up, there’s a tendency to dismiss it as lone action, mental health issues.” That tendency is both careless and reckless. White supremacists leave a social media trail of information to ideologies that they adhere to and social networks that they associate with. For example, Alexandre Bissonnette, who recently killed six Muslims inside a mosque in Quebec, admired Trump, supported other far-right political movements, called himself a “Christian crusader,” and trolled refugees on Facebook. Certainly, the fusion between political ideologies and religion can cause people — even white people — to act out violently.

It is no secret that white supremacists have hopped on board the Trump bandwagon. He has emboldened them. Perhaps the new president should, in his own words, “figure out what the hell is going on” with groups like Vanguard Texas before labeling Muslims worldwide as our biggest national security threat.

Craig Considine, Lecturer in the Department of Sociology

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