By Rhodesia Muhammad and Bryan 3X Crawford, Contributing Writers
“Ya basta!” Estela Reyes-Lopez pleaded, which means “enough” in English.
“Twenty lives were taken from us because of some young man filled with so much hate, so much ignorance, so much hostility toward people he doesn’t even know,” said Ms. Lopez, the media and public information officer for Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe, the center for faith and family health, a non-profit social justice organization based in El Paso.
It was a hail of bullets that sent families who were back to school shopping, screaming and running for their lives, when a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, around 10 a.m. Aug. 3, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than two dozen.
According to authorities, Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old White male identified as the shooter, drove nearly 10 hours from his hometown of Allen, Texas, about 30 miles north of Dallas, to carry out an act of domestic terrorism and a hate crime against the Hispanic community. Mr. Crusius surrendered to police shortly after his reign of terror, leaving many baffled as to why he didn’t take his own life like many mass shooting suspects.
A manifesto apparently posted on social media by Mr. Crusius outlined his intentions and his racist and anti-immigration views, said authorities. Perhaps he surrendered that he wanted to be heard.
Just 12 hours later, another gunman opened fire in a crowded bar in Dayton, Ohio, early Sunday morning, on Aug. 4. Connor Betts, 24, killed nine people, including his own 22-year-old sister, in less than a minute, authorities reported. Thirty-one other people were reported injured. The suspect was eventually shot and killed by police. Authorities are saying the two shootings are not linked.
During an Aug. 5 press conference, President Trump said the nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and White supremacy. “These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” he added. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the shootings were clearly, at least in part, a result of Mr. Trump’s divisive, racist rhetoric and condemned the president’s proposed legislative fix for strong background checks for gun users and tougher immigration laws. Many questioned why Mr. Trump connected the two issues, especially since the shooting suspects are U.S. citizens.
Many social media users’ disdain for the U.S. government, including the president for hesitancy and refusal to call these mass shootings what they really are hate crimes and domestic terror.
Student Minister Abel Muhammad, Latino representative of the Nation of Islam, said, “President Trump’s rhetoric has emboldened and lit fire to many extremist groups. There is a hesitancy and a slowness in labeling this in what seems to be apparent to every one of us. So many of our Black and Brown brothers and sisters are being killed for far less. Yet, somehow these extremists who take the life of our people somehow always makes it safely to be arrested without incidence. But our people unarmed can’t seem to make it out of a traffic stop.”
“It’s absolutely a sign of the times as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan has been warning the American people for years now, that the injustices within the country create an imbalance and if not addressed the results of ignoring and not trying to create a remedy would be acted out in acts of violence. We see that coming into existence more and more as the times are getting darker,” Student Minister Muhammad said.
“After a tragedy like this, there is a time to be sad and there’s a time to mourn. But this situation that we are living right now in our community, this has been building for a long time,” said Ms. Reyes-Lopez, who shops at that same El Paso Walmart with her family. “These clouds have been circling. This thunder has been building and this lightening have struck. And we’re very angry about it. Many of the people I’ve spoken to in the last 24 hours have told me, friends, activists, people that have had their feet on the ground for a long time, said, we are talking about voting, we’re talking about legislation, and gun control.”
These mass shootings are happening more often. On February 14, 2018, 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a high school in Parkland, Florida. On May 18, 2018, 10 people were killed at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. On November 5, 2017, 25 people were killed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. On October 1, 2017, 58 people were killed when a mass shooter opened fire from a hotel room at the Harvest Music Festival, at a Las Vegas strip in Nevada. On June 12, 2016, 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
On June 17, 2015, 9 people were killed at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Dr. Abdul Haleem Muhammad, southwest regional student minister of the Nation of Islam in Houston said, God loved us so much, he set up a military structure and security apparatus for his servants, the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Farrakhan, and the Nation of Islam in anticipation of the current dark days. “If we love our people as much as Allah (God) loves us, we will be found teaching and training our people to make our neighborhoods and institutions safe places to live, work, play, learn, and pray. Offering thoughts and prayers or finger pointing is not sufficient today,” Dr. Haleem Muhammad stressed. “Love is a verb. We must show and prove the unequaled wisdom Allah has taught us through his Christ and Messiah.”
Student Minister Abel Muhammad agreed that this is not the time for finger pointing. “This is what has angered me, the response has been politicized, where Democrats are pointing at Republicans now trying to win the Latino votes by saying, ‘oh look what they’ve done, they’ve allowed this to happen because of their gun laws’ when for eight years the Democrats had charge of the Congress and the presidential office and they were not able to fix anything in terms of immigration or in terms of those things which ill-affect our people.”
Dee Woo, operations manager of KTEP FM, El Paso, a public radio station, commended the residents of El Paso for being a strong community that bands together in times of need. She believes parents are the root of the hatred that leads to mass shootings. “Parents need to stop teaching racism and hatred at home. And, they need to address it with their children as early as two and three years old, because as we’ve seen, children will play with other children because they want to play with other children and for no other reason but to have fun. And it doesn’t matter who it is or the color of their skin. So, stop teaching the children racism and prejudice and instead start teaching them universal love, which is respect for one another and being able to help one another,” she told The Final Call.
Others say separation is the only solution. That there are already two Americas, one White and one non-White.
Jay Hernandez, a resident of El Paso, noted, “Some in the Latino community in El Paso may have been injured but didn’t seek treatment because of their lack of citizenship and I think that’s hurtful and disgraceful. This is America, yet we don’t have the freedom to shop for school supplies for our children.”
“I think it’s a wakeup call,” added Student Minister Abel Muhammad. “I hope ultimately, the only good that can come of this is that perhaps our people will awaken to the fact that these people do not see us as their brothers, they do not see us as their equals. They have no desire for truth, or fairness, or equity or justice with us if they’re not in a position of superiority, not based on truth or goodness, but simply on their Whiteness and we as subordinate and subservient to them. They don’t even want us alive in their presence. Hopefully, as harsh as that may be, I think it’s waking up people to understand and to look at what is it that the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan are offering, which is the best and only solution, separation from these people.”
There has been an average of one mass shooting every 12 days in 2019, with the total so far being 18.
All told, as many as 102 people have been killed this year in mass shootings, with many of them being committed by White men; all of whom adhere to and embrace the ideology of White nationalism.
Compounding the issue is the reluctance to paint these men as what they are: domestic terrorists.
The emergence of Donald Trump on the political scene in America has brought feelings of White pride mixed with concern about Whites acting out in public spaces every day. Videos capture White men and women berating, harassing, insulting and even calling the police on Blacks and other non-White people. Social media is flooded with clips showing the differences in the way law enforcement treats White perpetrators of crime, versus treatment of non-White people who don’t have to be committing a crime to be forcibly attacked—or even killed at the hands of police officers.
All of this could, and should, be very easily categorized as acts of terrorism. But in a society where the thought appears to be only Muslims can be terrorists, White domestic terrorism gets softened to “mental illness.”
“No one is safe. And the days of thinking something like this can never happen to me are pretty much over,” political commentator and activist Mark Thompson, told The Final Call. “[White people’s] fear of genetic annihilation, as Dr. Frances Cress Welsing described it, is enabled by Donald Trump. He can dismiss these mass shootings as mental illness. But White supremacy is a mental illness. To believe that you are a superior race that is supposed to be separate and distinct above every other race, is a form of mental illness.”
“In America, the dangerous are seen as endangered,” Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, wrote in an op-ed for The Atlantic. “Leaders treat white-nationalist terror, not as a broad social ill, but as a fringe problem that will become extinct on its own. To portray white terrorism as an outlier is to ignore America’s entire racial history, not to mention its present.”
Technology and media are part of the phenomenon with White terrorists able to amplify their views through mainstream and social media. And on these platforms, the idea that only Black and Brown people are dangerous can spread like wildfire.
An FBI bulletin disseminated through the agency’s office in Phoenix, Arizona, found conspiracy theories, like people from South America are invading the United States, can contribute to domestic terrorist threats.
“The FBI assesses these conspiracy theories very likely will emerge, spread, and evolve in the modern information marketplace, occasionally driving both groups and individual extremists to carry out criminal or violent acts,” the memo read in part.
“White folks are upholding a slavery amendment—the 2nd Amendment—that was meant to use violence to keep Black and Brown folks in check. But the 2nd Amendment is now being used in the killing of White folks themselves,” Mr. Thompson explained, adding, “Firearms are an instrument of White supremacy and the enforcement of racist oppression.”
In May, testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, officials from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department, that there are more than 850 open cases of domestic terrorism in the United States; 40 percent of them have involved racially motivated violence. However, there is no law on the books in America against domestic terrorism. Perpetrators of these crimes, who are labeled as homegrown terrorists, are often prosecuted using other statutes. This makes it extremely difficult to even prosecute someone as a domestic terrorist in this country.
Thus, charges can be left to the whims of prosecutors dealing with those who commit acts of extreme violence.
After the most recent tragedies, the possibility of making mass shootings, which authorities describe as shootings with four or more victims, capital crimes was raised.