If you have been paying attention over the last several years it is clear that American government and media has a word avoidance problem. The word avoidance problem exists especially in regards to white violence against black bodies. The avoidance of the phrase domestic terrorism impedes course-correcting action by America as a nation.
The American government and mainstream media shy away from the use of the phrase domestic terrorism. They avoid the phrase even when it clearly applies to acts of violence targeted towards people of color. The avoidance of the phrase and the lack of subsequent acknowledgment of the truth is appalling. It is especially appalling because the acts blatantly fit the government’s definition.
The definition of domestic terrorism by the FBI of goes as follows:
Phrase Avoidance & Its Impact:
Domestic terrorism isn’t new. It is for this very reason that the media and American government finally needs to call it what it is. Avoidance of the term domestic terrorism, when applied to the continuous acts of violence on black and brown bodies by white people, has the following effects:
- By avoiding the term, mainstream media, its consumers, and the government avoid negatively connoting the actions of the perpetrators. In doing so they avoid holding them accountable for their actions. This enables perpetrators to continue getting away with heinous acts while fortifying the belief that their acts are not problematic.
- The avoidance of labeling and connoting these acts negatively have several impacts on the psyche of the victims, black Americans, and further damage a psyche that some argue already struggles from the long-lasting impacts of slavery.
- Avoidance sustains a culture where the victim is perpetually falsely blamed leading to more acts of prejudice against them.
These reasons are certainly not all-encompassing. There are a number of outcomes and effects by America’s inability to recognize and therefore remedy its domestic terrorism problem. Word choice and word avoidance, albeit a small part of the much bigger scheme of things, shouldn’t be brushed off as minor. They should be focused on because the words we choose to address a situation helps determine the course of action.
One need look no further than the coded language used in political discussions that precede gentrification processes to know that coded language and word avoidance is just as crucial to enabling actions as the attitudes of their users. Word choice and word avoidance is a key indicator of biases of a user.
While people of color are often victims of American domestic terrorism it is important to note the growing trend of domestic terrorism in schools, workplaces, and public spaces that happen to non-people of color. School shootings, for example, are quickly becoming a staple on the nightly news. A new school or city appears as a trending hashtag every week or so. Yet the use of the term lone wolves or any variance of a phrase does not imply culpability by the perpetrators.
The language around school shooting perpetrators is changing rapidly. As citizens, we must keep track of the language surrounding mass acts of violence against people of color. We should do this to ensure that we are not erased from discussions of domestic terrorism. We must also hold those who can shape national conversations and policy on the topic responsible for their avoidance of the term and the subsequent lack of action around it as a result.
Changing the Conversation on Domestic Terrorism:
If you’re reading this piece right now you can play a small part in changing the dialogue. It can be signing up to vote in midterm elections this November. Choose candidates that use correct terms and that mirror your views on important topics.
Your action can be as simple as a hashtag, #domesticterrorismUSA or any variation of that. It can be choosing to use the words in any or all discussions where the term has been avoided although it is clear that it applies. By using the words we can effectively start having the discussions of the real root of the problem and start remedying the issue.
While we are not necessarily the cause of the problem and some may argue that it is not our problem to fix, we are the ones affected by it the most. If we are not insisting on honest discussions through correct word choices then we are doing future generations and ourselves a disservice.
The time has long passed for waiting for the American government and it’s mainstream media to lead the conversation on domestic terrorism. If we know anything about black twitter or the power of the Internet it is that it can transcend media and set trends. Think #blacknavy hashtag in 2017 or the more recent rise in popularity of Capriccio Sangria.
We can wait, perhaps an eternity, for American media and government to correctly label domestic terrorism by white perpetrators correctly, or we can take the reigns. The time has long passed for passivity in regards to the continuous murder of people of color and the language surrounding it. It is time for a change!