In the aftermath of the Orlando massacre, some people find it easy to label the face of terrorism as an Arab face, a Muslim face. But terror has no race, no religion. Terror bears the face of all humanity.
Since 9-11, many have narrowed the definition of terrorism, with the implication that it is something new to this country; inflicted by outsiders. When I was a child, untold numbers of Black men and boys were snatched from their beds in the dead of night and hung from trees to swing to their death. Terrorist acts, not perpetrated by outsiders, but by the solid citizens of the American South—cloaked and hooded. Back then, the face of terrorism was white and Christian.
In today’s world, it would be irrational for me to label and hate every Southern white Christian. Those who label and hate every Muslim in America are equally irrational.
Terrorism is birthed from hatred. It just takes a subtle mind shift to cross the line and turn hatred into a terrorist act. Hatred must be normalized, justified, supported to turn into terrorism. The mindset of the segregated Jim Crow south normalized bigotry and racism, turning the terrorism of lynching into an act supported by many in the community at large. Bad as it was, that terror was localize to a predictable section of the country.
Today we live in a global community enhanced exponentially by the Internet. A lone disgruntled individual can find a sense of community in support of his hatred. The tipping point into an act of terrorism is always lurking with unpredictability.
Hatred is on a continuum from thought to word to deed. You and I will never escalate to committing an act of terror. But each of us bears responsibility for thoughts and words that contribute to the climate in which hatred is germinated, fertilized, and allowed to grow.
As we reflect on our thoughts of people who are different from us, we can monitor the words that come out of our mouths. When speaking of Muslims, Hispanics, LBGTs, Blacks, we can eliminate words of hatred and replace them with words of compassion, understanding and respect.
Let our thoughts and words contribute to unity and peace. Let the face that we show to the world be the face of love.