Perhaps the best description comes from those on social media who are referring to “Vanilla ISIS”—a group of white people seemingly immune to the same fate that would await Muslims or people of color who dared to carry out similar actions. Even though the moniker “Vanilla ISIS” is tongue-in-cheek, it is a reminder to avoid constantly framing the concept of terror through an Islam-centric lens.
According to one count last year before the San Bernardino shootings that killed 14, since 9/11, “an average of nine American Muslims per year have been involved in an average of six terrorism-related plots against targets in the United States. Most were disrupted, but the 20 plots that were carried out accounted for 50 fatalities.” In contrast, a study released in 2012 found that “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.” A 2014 survey found that 74% of law enforcement agencies reported anti-government extremism as one of the top terrorist threats. Just 3% of those agencies viewed the threat from Muslim extremists as severe…
Our nation unfortunately has a long history of disparate law enforcement actions based on the race, ethnicity or religion of the perpetrators. One only has to recall the response to the Wounded Knee stand-off in the 70’s, the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia or the number of police shootings of African Americans, which led to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Implicit bias, stereotypes and racism too often determine decisions on the use of force by policy-makers and law enforcement agencies. These same factors also help determine media coverage of such incidents.