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The Double Standard With the Term ‘Terrorist’

In recent days, with all of the polarizing talk of terrorism, there is one statistic people love to ignore; 90% of terrorist acts in the USA, between 1980 and 2005, were perpetrated by non-Muslims. This seemingly obvious fact is one that you most probably won’t catch your local news station citing.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, the definition of terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Why is it though that we rarely ever see the word used except to describe Muslim extremists?

Whenever a Muslim, Middle Eastern, or Middle Eastern-bypassing individual or group commit a crime, the media loves to jump to label them as terrorists, which in some situations is simply not the case. The problem is not just in the systematic labeling of Muslims as such, but also in the media’s failure and hesitancy to do the same with white people who commit the same heinous crimes.


Terrorist Attacks on U.S. Soil by Group, From 1980 to 2005

A chart compiled by Princeton University’s Loon Watch from the FBI’s data.


We’ve seen everything from ‘gunmen’ to ‘white power pagans’ used to describe white terrorists as the media uses any other description to avoid using the word

The blatant sugar coating the media commits is nothing less than sickening. One of the most popular examples of this was the media’s persistence to convey the fact that Dylan Roof, the man behind the Charleston church massacre, had black friends. As if that in any way takes away from the fact that it was a racially motivated hate crime.

The media attempting to humanize this white supremacist is just another example of perks afforded to white people. Are PoC and Muslims given the same privilege? Are a Muslim attacker’s white friends ever mentioned in the wake of a tragedy? No, and yet people still have the audacity to argue over the legitimacy of white privilege when the media discusses terrorists.

Take a moment and think of the first image that pops into your head when you hear the word terrorist. It’s probably your stereotypical image of a brown bearded Muslim man, or a woman in a burqa. The good news is, these stereotypical images are not what you actually believe, but what you’ve been conditioned and taught to think. With a little rewiring and a touch of enlightenment, we can learn how to leave outdated double standards at the front door.

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