Since the beginning of 2017, there have been eight terrorist attacks in the United States. The death toll from these events has ascended over 100, with hundreds of more individuals seriously injured from these atrocities. Although each of these incidents were horrific and barbaric acts of violence, the American public is unfortunately becoming desensitized, as these tragedies are sadly becoming commonplace. As a 22-year-old woman, I have had the sobering experience of living through the “worst terrorist attack in modern history”, multiple times.
Although one would expect these tragic events to function as a catalyst for our country’s leader to bring the American people together, President Donald Trump has used these incidents as an impetus for anti-Muslim rhetoric. Through differential coverage of these attacks, he has aimed to exemplify to the public exactly who fits the stereotype of a “terrorist” characterizing Muslim perpetrators as such, while referring to white attackers as merely “mentally ill”.
As we all know, on November 5th, 2017 Devin Patrick Kelly, a 26-year-old white male opened fire on a congregation in Sutherland Springs, Texas killing 27 innocent people. Numerous warning signs could have alerted the police to Kelly’s potential for mass violence from Facebook posts of assault rifles, to previous convictions for rape and domestic violence, as well as the brutal abuse of a child. Still, Kelly was unsurprisingly able to slip through the gaping cracks created by our severely lax gun control laws, obtaining an AR-15 assault rifle which he used to unload 15 rounds of ammunition into the Sutherland Springs church.
However, in reaction to this tragedy, President Trump claimed that the root of the problem lies not in gun control laws, but rather that the shooting was the product of a “mental health problem”. Conversely, On October 31st 2017, when Sayfullo Saipov, a Muslim Uzbek national drove a bus down a bike lane in Manhattan, NY killing eight, President Trump immediately took to Twitter calling this man an “animal” who should “get the death penalty”. Trump also cited this incident in his promise to terminate the visa lottery program through which Saipov was able to immigrate to the U.S., advocating for intensive vetting of all immigrants. Compared to Kelly, Saipov had virtually no prior criminal history. If Kelly had been vetted with even a fraction of the vigor with which Trump advocates for Muslim immigrants, one could argue the Sutherland Springs attack may never have occurred at all.
Rather than encouraging the American people to stay united in the aftermath of these tragedies, President Trump has been using these incidents to further scapegoat the Muslim community as the face of terrorism in America, while white terrorists are given a pass on the grounds of diminished mental health. We as a nation must come together to understand that this differential coverage is not rooted in any fragment of fact or reality, but rather functions as a strategic method for dividing Americans, in aims of receiving support for anti-Muslim legislation. If the perpetrators of these numerous acts of violence have taught us anything, it is that the face of terrorism has no race, color, or national origin.
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