What the outcome teaches us and our enemies about vulnerabilities in our response to terrorist attacks within the U.S

(Originally published in the AfroSapiophile on Medium)

The terrorist attack in downtown Nashville exposed significant logistical impairments in the security of our infrastructure. The blast was effective in impeding emergency services from 911 to interagency communications up to 180 miles away. It disrupted the timely flow of critical information to the public by crippling Internet and communications services for residents while also shutting down the Metropolitan Nashville Airport and disrupting flights for more than a day.

In the face of a growing culture of domestic terrorism, it’s difficult to ignore that this was a home-grown terrorist attack. Most White folks, however, have simply shrugged it off as they often do when terrorists are White; something else that’s difficult to overlook. In addition, the broad public support for hate groups and extremists is reminiscent of the support for the hateful ideologies of the 20th century when the seeds of modern systemic racism were planted.

Their support systems are expansive incorporating social media, online message boards, and secure messaging services that drive extremist ideologues to become more brazen. Online communities that validate hateful ideologies are easy to find. Recruiting and converting young White men (a prominent target demographic) to adopt extremist ideas has never been more efficient. As a result, we are seeing an explosion in hate group membership and activity.

While the authorities downplay any more threats after a mass shooting in Illinois was labeled as a “completely random act” and the Nashville bombing is regarded as an “intentional explosion,” we can’t ignore that there exists a continuous threat of domestic terrorism. Behind the motivations of each given act lie countless supporters and like-minded proponents of such acts both online and off. We can’t look away from the millions of Americans who harbor real hate and continue to expose themselves every day. Nor can we ignore those that are indifferent to it all.

Indifference is not calling out the narrative that avoids the word “terrorism” because a suicide bomber was White. Indifference is allowing your racist Uncle to get away with hateful rhetoric knowing he will later contribute to the spread of hate. Indifference is watching your boss target Black employees with petty complaints and saying nothing. Indifference makes those who remain silent as complicit as anyone else who supports hate. Within the silence of indifference lies approval. The silence of indifference is unacceptable.

Terrorist rhetoric has been growing online for two decades. In the last decade, hate has become an industry. Hate has been monetized and many are profiting handsomely from it. From t-shirts and merchandising to podcasts to dark money, hate groups and anti-government groups provide another layer of protection for the elitists that fund them. No different than a terrorist in a foreign land; cheering them on and tossing them piles of cash only strengthens their resolve.

Authorities can try, but there is no downplaying the threat of continued terrorist attacks. White America must stop shrugging its collective shoulders at the idea of domestic terrorists driven by White rage. When America declares a White terrorist a “lone-wolf” and ignores the larger issue of extremism and hate, it shows a level of complacency that exemplifies the systemic racism even some so-called allies uphold. These not so subtle examples represent how the knee-jerk reactions of White Americans maintain white supremacy. Labeling a movement for justice like Black Lives Matter as terrorists while humanizing actual terrorists who are White is another.

Whiteness is always telling on itself.

37-year-old Duke Webb, of Florida, as the suspect in a mass shooting that took place at the Don Carter Lanes bowling alley on December 26, 2020

The Nashville Test

The bombing in Nashville was a test on many fronts. It wasn’t long ago that we started having a conversation about racial justice. It’s supposed to be a learning experience that opened the door to a sort of racial reckoning for White America. To help open people’s eyes to their own implicit biases and how to address myriad issues regarding race. Instead, we’ve gotten platitudes and watched corporate America find a way to capitalize on the movement for racial justice.

Socially, America proved that nothing has changed. The rhetoric that softens the impact of domestic terrorism is immediately triggered as if there’s a script that is used specifically for White terrorists. Similarly, if the Nashville bomber had been Black or a person of color, the panic that would have quickly set-in also feels scripted. Any non-white person would have had their whole lives splattered on cable news channels as we watch non-stop coverage of the event.

Regardless of the Nashville bomber’s motivations, what he did was an act of terror. Many White people, however, argue that the explosion in Nashville wasn’t terrorism. That’s bullshit. It’s an argument that should not draw our attention away from the fact that more terrorists like him are out there. The same FBI that warned of an imminent escalation of violence as the inauguration nears is now trying to downplay the threat of continued violence.

Aside from whiteness attempting to soften the narrative surrounding the attack and humanizing a White terrorist, another area where America was tested exposed nearly insurmountable vulnerabilities in the security of the nation’s infrastructure. The Nashville bomber’s motivations are becoming clearer by the day. His cause involved being hailed a hero for a successful strike on infrastructure and being a trigger for more attacks. Targeting infrastructure is an idea that is growing in popularity on far-right message boards — he showed them how to pull it off.

From a national security perspective, the lack of security surrounding our infrastructure is our biggest vulnerability. Instead of building walls, we should have been securing power plants and substations, water treatment plants, communications infrastructure, etc. The nationalist swing America took after 9/11, however, has White America concerned with Black and Brown foreign terrorists and ignoring the White domestic terrorists in their own backyards.

This neglect leads to shock whenever an attack occurs despite the warnings from the authorities and investigative journalists who track extremist hate groups. When it comes to White terrorism, White America has a pretty consistent record of ignoring the warnings. When the FBI warned of white supremacists infiltrating law enforcement in 2006, White America didn’t even flinch. But as soon as racist cops are exposed, White people act shocked to deflect from the notion that they accepted it in the first place.

In order for us to lean into the problem, White America must stop being so complacent.

Nashville Christmas Day suicide bomber, Anthony Quinn Warner, 63

The Continued Threat

In a mistakenly unsealed search warrant affidavit obtained by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently, several white supremacists planned attacks on America’s infrastructure should Donald Trump lose the election. The three men sought to attack the nation’s power grid. Details in the affidavit layout various different plans by the men to “wreak havoc” all over the country by attacking electrical substations shutting down portions of the power grid.

According to the affidavit, within months of the men beginning to discuss their “Lights Out” plan, many others were recruited via online message boards where extremists and hate groups hide from the mainstream. Once they built trust, the neo-Nazis met in person, as noted in the affidavit described by federal agents who had been surveilling the group. At the time, the group was being watched for suspicion of transporting parts to build untraceable assault rifles.

With similar reports of arrests surrounding hate groups seeming to occur almost daily, a frequency unknown to the vast majority of Americans, it’s easy to see where things are likely headed in the coming month, and it’s not good.. I’ve reported on this regularly over the past several years with increased frequency over the last few months. While it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen and where, getting a very general idea of when is less complicated.

Many of us have warned of escalations in violence or upcoming attacks based on message board chatter in the past and I’m often left to wonder if anyone is listening. It’s clear that White America isn’t too concerned and it’s likely because they are never targeted. But Black folks and people of color seem to be paying attention. A scan of social media tells us that minorities are concerned and for good reason. These are scary times for minorities, particularly Black folks.

Many of the groups intent on attacking the U.S. from within are members of hate groups who seek to bring about a second civil war. While White America laughs this notion off — just as most targeted groups do — it’s not a civil war that concerns targeted groups. It’s the guerilla tactics we’ve seen used in attacks on minorities across the country for decades. Mass shootings and bombings are examples of the damage a single member of an extremist hate group can do.

You know, the “lone wolf” types that America just shrugs off.

The continued threat comes not from the guy splattered on the streets of Nashville, it comes from others just like him. Those that help validate the crazy ideas in the heads of these extremists. Whether they’re an online group or one that meets in person, there are hundreds of groups with ideas that are dangerous to society. They’re armed and they’re growing fast.

Clinging to the notion that their faux-patriotism (white nationalism) is the only way to secure America’s future, hate groups and anti-government extremist groups similarly share the same values based on the idea that a White America, meaning white nationalist rule, should maintain power over non-white people. QAnon and 5G conspiracy theories, anti-government militias, anti-vaxxers, and even some Christian groups fall in line with hate groups at their core.

They’re all based on white supremacy.

Image released by authorities of RV used in the Nashville terrorist attack on Christmas morning

The Warning

The suicide bombing in Nashville was a warning. A warning telling us that there are more to come. With the level of chatter on messaging boards in recent months only continuing to increase each day, it’s something we should be concerned with. White America needs to take these warnings seriously. The rest of us need to remain vigilant and aware of our surroundings.

How America responds to these events on a social level is as important as any other critical response. How America treated Muslims after 9/11 was abhorrent. How racist White America treated them, and largely still does, is disgusting. Not leaning into and fighting against the nearly predictable hate that follows terrorist attacks is how we ended up with so many Muslim hating Americans. We must be diligent in addressing America’s hate problem. It’s getting out of hand.

We are headed into some dark times and we must do what we can to avert it. It’s going to take all of us. As of this writing, an attack on natural gas facilities in Colorado left thousands without heat as the temperatures are set to drop to below freezing.

Be prepared. It will get worse before it gets better.

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Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.

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  1. “In order for us to lean into the problem, White America must stop being so complacent.”

    “Similarly, if the Nashville bomber had been Black or a person of color, the panic that would have quickly set-in also feels scripted.”

    Race is something that is not supposed to be capitalized, such as in text. (Or perhaps I am wrong… Where’s the rule-book on this?) Ethnicity is. Nationality is. While I am not sure, specifically, why race is not, even if a case can be made to do it, such as in the way that ethnicity is, I would argue against it. It seems likely to me that people who are white and racist would take this as an indication that they are honorable purely because of their `whiteness` and, therefore, deserve to have their `title` capitalized.

    I understand that you, Arturo Dominguez, are described on this webpage as anti-racist and I am not saying that you are not. I am just asking why capitalize the word, or any word, specifically when it is used as a reference to skin color?

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