Terrorists. Rioters. Extremists. Radicals. We hear these terms all the time to describe non-white individuals involved in a range of acts, some violent, some not.
Today we see the vocabulary of race play out as a group of armed white men the media are dutifully calling a “militia” have broken into the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, a federal government building in Oregon. They are protesting what they see as a judge’s lenient sentencing of a father and son who were accused of arson on multiple ranches.
Among the “protestors,” as they are being referred to, are Ammon and Ryan Bundy, sons of the infamous Cliven Bundy, a Nevada cattle rancher who was involved in an armed standoff with police in 2014. His son Ryan allegedly said the militia is willing to kill and be killed.
With an armed group of people occupying a government building and threatening violence, the racial bias in our society is on ugly display. The National Guard was called in to deal with protestors in Ferguson. People have been escorted out of planes and denied entry into the United States just because they look Muslim. 12-year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down by police for playing with a toy gun in an open-carry state.
Imagine anyone other than a group of white men occupying a federal government building. Imagine it being a group of Mexican immigrants, a group of Muslims, or a group of Black Lives Matter protestors. They wouldn’t even need to be armed.
Not even the Planned Parenthood shooter last December was labeled a terrorist, nor was his Christianity defined as radical. There is a dangerous double standard at play, and we need to change the vocabulary.