There was a fatal shooting at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC this afternoon. According to the New York Times, the shooter is an 88 year old white supremacist:
The gunman was identified by law enforcement officials as James W. von Brunn, who embraces various conspiracy theories involving Jews, blacks andother minority groups and at one point waged a personal war with the federal government.
The gunman and the security guard were both taken to nearby George Washington University Hospital, with Mr. von Brunn handcuffed to a gurney, witnesses said. The guard, Stephen T. Johns, died a short time later. Museum officials said he had worked there for six years; The Associated Press reported his age as 39.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization based in Alabama, said Wednesday that Mr. von Brunn is a racist and anti-Semite with “a long history of associations with prominent neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers.”
On Wednesday evening, President Obama issued a statement saying, in part, “This outrageous act reminds us that we must remain vigilant against anti-Semitism and prejudice in all its forms.”
While I am glad President Obama released a statement–as did the founders of the Simon Weisenthal Center –I am still wondering why we still can’t call acts like these acts of terrorism. On Twitter, a reason given was that perhaps the face of terrorism will always be a brown face–and perhaps America is not ready to deal with the idea of a white male being a terrorist.
Or perhaps it’s the fact that we aren’t ready for the idea of Christian terrorism? I took a class once where the professor explained that lynching of African Americans in the 19th century were acts of White Christian terrorism, no different from the 9/11 attacks. It surprised me how many students–black and white–disagreed.
In any case, it’s a terrible strategy. The only thing I can hope for is that people really begin to label James von Brunn as the terrorist he is, and to start thinking more about how we define and talk about hate crimes in our country.