Racially-motivated violence is being taken much more seriously by the FBI.
By Cesia Lopez, Staff Writer
FBI Director Christopher Wray announced this month that the agency has elevated racially-motivated violent extremism to the same threat level posed to the U.S. by foreign terrorist organizations such as ISIS.
Wray testified at an oversight hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 5, and addressed a series of deadly attacks targeted at Jews, Latinos and other minority groups at the hand of white supremacist extremists — and how to combat their growth.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), hate groups have increased 30 percent in the past four years “amid the era of Trump.” This followed a three-year period in which hate crimes fell about 12 percent. President Donald Trump is also criticized by the SPLC for “mainstreaming hate” with his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric and for fueling the fear of an impending white-minority country.
“This kind of domestic homegrown terrorism, I think in the past, we really haven’t paid sufficient amount of attention — and this is even before Trump,” Valley College political science Professor Anthony O’Regan noted, “it’s been on the rise and I think, in a way, Trump has given license to this kind of thing, so even now under the Trump administration we are recognizing, and from all the reports I’ve read, an indication that it is on the increase.”
At the hearing, Wray said that he created a “domestic terrorism and hate crimes fusion cell” combining experts in both fields to work together and anticipate future threats. He called domestic terrorism and hate crimes “close cousins.” He pointed out the FBI’s operation against The Base, a neo-Nazi group attempting to start a race war, before they were infiltrated and stopped.
NPR’s Hannah Allam reported that by the FBI prioritizing racially motivated violence a “national security issue” at the same footing as ISIS or Al-Quaeda suicide bombers, what people normally think of as terrorism, in itself sends a message. Allam also reports that more skeptic former officials who have worked on domestic terrorism issues wait to see the actual funding and urgency that was provided in the fight against ISIS.
“I think its palpable, I don’t think you really need a social science researcher to tell you this is on the rise,” said Professor O’Regan, “its pretty obvious across the board with the anti-semitic attacks, targetting Hispanics like in El Paso, Charlottesville ... I think it’s definitely there and in my mind, [the FBI’s admission is] probably overdue.”