Terrorism and lone gunmen

I saw a small snippet of Trevor Noah’s latest stand up piece where he took apart how we think about terrorism. His observations were as follows –

  • If a Middle Eastern person committed a crime, it was definitely an act of terrorism.
  • If a black person was shot or killed, it was “suspected gang violence.”
  • And, if a white person killed people, it was a “lone gunman” suspected of being mentally disturbed.

I’ve been the US over the past 3 years and I hadn’t notice the terrorist versus “lone gunman” narrative until now.

A search for terrorism defines it as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.”

As Trevor Noah puts it, terrorism is about acts of violence and isn’t about the people perpetrating it. A lot of this comes down to how we tell stories because the stories we tell have these in-built biases all over them.

Perhaps we should be a lot more careful about passing these biases along. Ever time we do, some innocent person from a marginalized group suffers just a bit more.

Thanks for the lesson, Trevor.