It’s about time that the federal government has stopped ignoring or minimizing the threat of white supremacy. As of two weeks ago, the Department of Homeland Security now officially characterizes white supremacy as an existential threat to Americans, stating within their recent report that racially-motivated hate and terrorism present an undeniable danger to society.
The acknowledgement that white supremacists and white nationalists are a security threat comes despite the Trump administration’s apologists take on white supremacy in the nation — and a decade of administrative denial. Daryl Johnson, who had written a report for the DHS in 2009 calling out white supremacy — a report that received backlash for doing so — told the New York Times, “Better late than never, but we’ve had a threat that’s been around for 10 years, and if we acknowledged this and my report was released, we would be much more ahead on strategies.”
This time around, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan was unequivocal in his assessment of the threat. “I would like to take this opportunity to be direct and unambiguous in addressing a major issue of our time,” he said in a statement, upon his department’s release of the report. “In our modern age, the continuation of racially based violent extremism, particularly violent white supremacy, is an abhorrent affront to the nation.”
McAleenan cited the shooting in El Paso (which according to NBC News took the lives of six DHS family members), as well as those that took the lives of Black and Jewish Americans in places of worship, to emphasize the urgent need for the federal government and law enforcement to address racially-motivated violence. The report also stated what to so many of us seems obvious: that border security will do nothing to stop homegrown violence. In effect, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to tamp down homegrown terrorism inspired by Islamist extremists, but the report indicates that they will be investing in similar tactics to counter white supremacy, whether in regard to broad disinformation campaigns or individual threats.
According to figures from the Anti-Defamation League, within the past decade, extremists have killed over 400 people. Nearly three-quarters of those victims were killed by right-wing extremists, while just under a quarter were killed by the Islamist extremists that we are conditioned to associate with terrorism. The ADL just last week published a report that recognized the global rise of white nationalism. “We are witnessing the internationalization of the white supremacist movement,” it read, linking white supremacy directly with the violent and murderous acts of terrorism around the world.