Image: A white stucco wall with the words Stop the Whitewash! spray painted across it. (Image by R. Ruth Adar)
The man I refuse to name is accused of setting three black churches on fire in Louisiana. There is strong evidence to suggest that he was the arsonist. He is young, he is white, and his father is a local law enforcement official.
Promptly after his name became public, Louisiana Fire Marshal Butch Browning confirmed that M had a “relationship” with the black metal community, which had an “association” with church burnings. CNN reported that “authorities said that M’s interest in black metal music may have influenced his behavior.”
Let’s get something straight: the bombing or burning of churches and other civilian targets are acts of terror. 9/11 was terrorism. The Sbarro restaurant suicide bombing of 2001 was terrorism. The Paris Terror attacks of 2015 were terrorism. The bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946 was terrorism. The 1963 bombing of a black church in Birmingham, AL was terrorism. The 1974 pub bombings in Birmingham, UK were terrorism. The ramming of a crowd with a car in Charlottesville in 2017 was terrorism.
In the United States, when a dark skinned person with a foreign-sounding name sets buildings on fire or sets off bombs, it’s “terrorism.” Strangely, when a white male does the same thing in 2019, targeting African American churches or church groups, he is characterized as being under the influence of something: mental illness, the internet or now, music. (Back in 1963, we made no such excuses. What’s happened to us?)
I propose a name for this squeamishness, this excuse-making that seems to apply only for white males in the United States. I call it “whitewashing.” Instead of calling murder, murder, or terror, terror, we make excuses: he spent too much time on the internet, he is misunderstood, he is frustrated, he is listening to the wrong music. Enough!
The burning of black churches in Louisiana in 2019 is an act of terrorism. The evidence points to a white man – he is a white supremacist terrorist.
It’s not some mystical musical thing.
It’s not mental illness.
It’s plain old hate.
Quit whitewashing it.