By Angie Speaks
The police arrested a suspect in a New York City subway shooting that left 23 people injured, 10 with severe gunshot wounds. The suspect, Frank James, is a 62 year old African American male who posted prolifically on social media and hosted a YouTube channel where he expressed Black Nationalist leanings and racial grievances.
But you wouldn’t know this if you got your news from corporate liberal media. Not only did they fail to cover the trail of hate James left on social media, but many hesitated to refer to him as Black at all, even while an active manhunt was underway for the would-be mass murderer.
And this despite an overall obsession with racial extremism from those same corners. The Biden Administration’s “war on domestic terror” announcement designated White Nationalism as the most ubiquitous threat to U.S. national security last year. Compare that with a headline from The Intercept last year: “The Strange Tale of the FBI‘s Fictional ‘Black Identity Extremism’ Movement,” which made the argument that Black identity extremism like Black nationalism is a racialized myth.
For the liberal establishment, extremism and terror are now a function of your skin color.
It’s no accident that the liberal establishment is willing to racialize extremism when it comes white Americans but downplays the same extremism that motivates acts of terror within minority communities. In the affluent liberal waters that New York Times and NPR consumers swim in, to be white is to be inherently guilty, while to be a person of color is to be innocent by virtue of your victimized status. Black Nationalism inverts the foundation of 21st century American liberalism.
Meanwhile, liberals can only profit off of extremism on the other side, which is why it sensationalizes White Nationalism and erases racial extremism from minority groups. The Manichaeism that is so prevalent within liberal racial discourse has created a homogeneous view that centers minorities as victims and white people, no matter their background, as potential aggressors.
This gross oversimplification inevitably deters critical examination by aggravating racial turmoil. Worse, it allows other forms of extremism to fester, especially if that form of extremism is not easy for the liberal establishment to sensationalize—and benefit from.
Of course, one can understand where the hesitancy comes from. America’s media has a long and sordid history of over-representing Black perpetrators and white victims, racializing crime in the ugliest way. American history is fraught with racial injustices, and much of the resistance to confronting forms of extremism that originate in the Black community stems from real historical abuses, like the nefarious FBI Counterintelligence Program and other hostile actions taken by the U.S. National Security apparatus against Black activist organizations and civil rights heroes.
It’s understandable that well-meaning, progressively-minded people would feel apprehensive about examining Black Identity Extremism or viewing it as a threat.
And yet, they are harming the very people they are trying to help. Despite the long and admirable struggle for African American civil rights, extremism and misanthropy proliferates in mentally disturbed Black individuals as they do in the white population under similar conditions of economic pressure, political polarization and other negative social influences.
Worse, there is a tendency in some to confuse the admirable, heroic historical pursuit of justice in the Black community with the more pernicious force of Black Identity Extremism, an ideology that has the same potential for hatred, bigotry and illiberalism as any other form of racial radicalization.
Take Kristen Clarke, President of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, notoriously claiming that the “Black Identity Extremist” designation should not exist and that it somehow distracts from White Nationalist extremism.
“We’re deeply concerned about the FBI’s ‘Black Identity Extremist’ designation,” Kristen Clarke, president and chief executive of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, told the House Judiciary Committee. “This is mere distraction from the very real threat of white supremacy that we face today… It is not real,” Clarke went on. “It hearkens back to the dark days of our federal government abusing its power to go after civil rights activists. There is no such thing as Black Identity Extremism.”
10 New Yorkers with gunshot wounds would beg differ.
But Clarke is not alone in erasing Black extremist terrorism and besmirch the legacy of the civil rights movement. Recall an ACLU tweet from 2019 that insisted that “The made-up ‘Black Identity Extremist’ label is the latest example in a history of harassing and discrediting Black activists who dare to use their voices to call out white supremacy.”
It’s this same impulse that leads liberal outlets to erase the identity of the New York City shooter as well as his clear motives.
The tendency to deflect and deny the potential Black Identity Extremism has to cause harm can be written off as fear when assessing the response of ordinary people, but it becomes dangerous when the establishment employs this approach. That’s when the real victims start to pile up, like those in New York.
The establishment and media’s failure to take forms of extremism that originate in minority communities seriously stems from the need to appease the sensitivities and worldview of a sheltered constituency of privileged liberal elites. That’s who they cater to. And yet, we see time and again how this prevents the due diligence that the media and government should be taking to combat extremism in all its forms to keep the population safe and well informed—particularly those who don’t have the means to espouse views like “defund the police.”
Racial sensationalism and the need to appease the ideological sensitivities of liberals is the driving force behind how extremism is now categorized and understood. Anything that doesn’t fit the racial binary that liberals ascribe to is erased.
When the identity of a mass shooter cannot be easily capitalized by the media and establishment, scrutiny and due diligence are far too often abandoned in order to save face and to prevent inquiry into areas of culture deemed too uncomfortable for polite liberal society. Without taking a universal approach to extremism, one that centers the social and economic forces rather than one that embraces a racialized paradigm, the tragic cycle of violence and division is given fertile soil to flourish.