American Terrorists

Try this exercise.  Yesterday morning I thought about terror attacks here in the United States and as the day went on I wrote them down.  I ended up with two lists:  One of Muslim perpetrators, one of white males.  Guess which is longer.  The lists are in no particular order and are by place not shooter.

Muslim Killer:

-Boston Marathon Bombing (one US Citizen, one green card)

-Fort Hood Shooting (US Citizen)

-Chattanooga Recruiter Shooting (US Citizen)

– San Bernardino (one US Citizen, one legal resident)

– World Trade Center


White Male Killer:

– Charleston AME Church

– Oregon Community College

– Aurora, CO movie theater

– Atlanta Olympics (plus his other bombings)

– Colorado Planned Parenthood

– Unibomber

-Murrah Federal Building

-Lafayette, LA movie theater

– Gabby Giffords and others

– Sandy Hook Elementary School


-California McDonald’s

-Texas Tower

– Boston, MA Planned Parenthood


These lists are not the result of any research except to see which Muslim perpetrators were citizens and to confirm the race of the shooters when I wasn’t sure.  I know I haven’t remembered all the incidents as there have been too many.  Some who read this may not remember some of them like the Texas Tower sniper as they are not recent, but I remember them.  I have not included the SDS/WeatherUnderground incidents as I believe the only people killed were the bombers themselves.

Do your own list.  Let me know what I have forgotten.

And most of all, remember this list when Donald Trump and others start talking about excluding Muslims.  Many of the Muslims involved were citizens.  Do you think the way we talk about their religion had anything to do with their becoming violent?Remember who actually dominates these lists.  I am not saying there is no danger from Islamic extremists, but I am saying that our own disaffected white men are also a danger.  Our culture perpetuates violence.  We need make the guns and ammunition less available not scapegoat a particular group and stir up hatred.

Mourners near the Charleston AME Church.

Mourners near the Charleston AME Church.

Photograph:  Travis Dove for The New York Times





7 thoughts on “American Terrorists

  1. Glad you’re back. On my toolbar. Virginia Tech — white male.
    Comments do suggest a question about the definition of a “terror attack”. How are the “reasons” to which we attribute the actions of the killers related to how we feel about them (actions &/or killers) and what we think can or should be done?
    We did essentially go to war over the World Trade Center, which seems in a different category from the other attacks. Maybe we now tend to view all attacks by Muslims as similar acts of “war”, whereas attacks by other shooters (or bombers) are treated as individual crimes with more varied and less certain motives.
    Maybe if we saw all of them as tragic attempts to meet needs we all share we could find more effective responses.

    • Thanks, Dabney. Lots to think about in your response. Maybe we do view San Berndadino as an “act of war”, but movie theater shootings as just some mentally ill guy acting out.

  2. I live in a country that doesn’t even have the population of NYC. Of course the more people in a place, the number of bad ones is higher. But to exclude a specific group is against everything America ever stood for. You can no more exclude Mexicans or Muslims than you can exclude those white males.
    It breaks my heart to know so many support his statements. It is so us vs. them, it is scary. How long before everyone slightly different is Them?

  3. I don’t really see the point of this exercise. There are 80 times more whites in the US than there are Muslims (63% vs 0.8%). There are obviously going to be overwhelmingly more white males among the killers than there are Muslims if both groups are similarly violent.

      • I should add that maybe we need to be more worried about the kid next door instead of the Muslim family that lives down the street. Not to say that either or both has the capacity for violence.

      • I saw the statistic that white Christian terrorists killed seven times more Americans than Muslim terrorists. That would seem like white Christian terrorists are a bigger threat to an average American – but at the same time, the 70 to 1 disparity between the white Christians and Muslims does not exactly make it too flattering to Muslims. I don’t think every Muslim is a terrorist, and I’m not scared of Muslim terrorists, because we have a smaller chance of being killed by a jihadist than be struck by lightning or of dying from falling in the shower. Finally, all terrorism deaths are a drop in a bucket, when compared to deaths from firearms.
        So I don’t have a problem with, say, 10,000 Syrian refugees coming to the US (other than the fact that the US government is planning to vet them while these lucky refugees have to remain in these refugee camps for 18-24 months of the vetting process, which kind of defeats the purpose of helping them.) But there’s no benefit in ignoring the inconvenient fact that a Muslim is more likely to radicalize into a violent terrorist than a white Christian. We’re talking about one in thousands, and that doesn’t really change anything for me, but still.

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