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What does terrorism look like?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX | 12/7/2015, 10:10 a.m.
I am among the tens of millions who had to be peeled away from their television set on Nov. 13 ...

(NNPA) – I am among the tens of millions who had to be peeled away from their television set on Nov. 13 and in the days after ISIS terrorists randomly massacred at least 130 people and wounded hundreds more in Paris. Then, there were the nearly 30 people executed at a hotel in Bamako, Mali. And there were the several threats against New York City, and the presidential and police responses to those threats. This terrorism has caused fear and insecurity in France, Belgium and the United States.

Terrorism is defined as the use of criminal acts to inspire human fear. ISIS engages in their criminal acts to create a sense of instability in parts of the Western world. Days after the massacre, those who planned and participated in the carnage were found, and some were killed (or blew themselves up). Catching these few terrorists will not stop.

Some political pundits that appeared on news programs urged the United States and others to consider the “root causes” of ISIS, while others think that actions in the West are to blame (consider the Charlie Hebdo attack and those who blamed a magazine cover for the assassination of journalists). I’m not sure that this is the most appropriate or compassionate response so quickly after the terrorist attacks. Still, these are questions that must eventually be answered. What should our response be? Is this war? Are we prepared to endure another Vietnam, committing U.S. lives to a ground war that is perhaps unwinnable?

We can expect more security and scrutiny, and appropriately so. It is also unfortunately likely, however, that some of the scrutiny will have an element of profiling (especially racial profiling) involved, since many (perhaps most) of the ISIS terrorists are young, male and Muslim. But despite Donald Trump’s jingoistic insanity, do we want to stop everyone who “looks” like a Muslim. What does a Muslim look like? What does a terrorist look like?

Just a few days before the Paris massacre, the news was dominated by Black student protests around the country, at the University of Missouri at Columbia, and at Ithaca College, Yale University, Smith College, Claremont McKenna College and the University of Kansas. Many of these protests were in solidarity with the Mizzou students and in solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. There is no comparison between what happened in Paris and what has happened on many campuses, it occurs to me that the N-word bandied about is an act of terror that is designed to make African American students feel insecure and unsafe. This is why the students who ask for “safe space” should be encouraged, not ridiculed.

Strewing cotton balls on the lawn in front of the Black culture center on the Mizzou campus is an act of terror, designed to exploit feelings of insecurity. It is neither a trivial act, nor a prank, but an act of hate. It is especially hateful when the perpetrators are fairly certain that they will not be caught and that there are few consequences for their actions. In the domestic context, anonymous terrorism is especially unsettling because one rarely understands exactly who the terrorists are. Anonymous terrorism reminds me of the KKK, the criminals who only felt safe when they hid behind hoods and sheets.