Culture of hate

The killing of six Sikhs at a gurudwara in Wisconsin by an ex-US armyman with reported links to White supremacist groups underscores the continuing and serious threat posed by racism and intolerance in the United States.

Initial investigations have revealed that the assailant Wade Michael Page was a member of the Hammerskins Nation, a skinhead group based in Texas. Page’s posts on Internet forums were provocative and hate-filled. He exhorted other members to act more ‘decisively’ in support of the ‘cause of Whites.’

Investigations into Page’s life reveal a dark world full of anger and intolerance for people of different colour, culture and ethnic/race origin. Oak Creek’s Sikh community was an unfortunate and unsuspecting victim of his web of hate. Since September 2001, many Sikhs have been targeted. Bearded and turbaned they are mistaken for Muslims. According to the Sikh Coalition there have been over 700 incidents of harassment or assault of Sikhs in the US over the past decade.

The terrorist assault on the American Sikh community draws attention again to White terrorism, which was all but forgotten in the post-9/11 American preoccupation with ‘Islamic terrorism’ and ‘jihadis.’ Thousands of Americans have been interrogated and arrested simply because they are Muslim or have beards.

This stereotyping blinded America to the enemy within. While US officials focussed on Islamic terrorists, they allowed Christian/White supremacism to spread and terrorist organisations to proliferate. Since 2009 the number of right-wing extremist groups in the US is reported to have increased from 149 to 824.

The US has witnessed a series of mass killings in recent years. Several of these killings were not driven by political motivations and were thus not acts of terrorism. However, terrorist or not, many of these massacres would not have been possible if the US had more stringent gun laws. The easy availability of guns facilitated these killings.

James Holmes, the alleged assailant in the recent massacre inside a movie theatre in Colorado bought his arsenal online and from retail stores. Powerful lobbies like the National Rifle Association have stood in the way of legislation restricting access to guns.

Propaganda by the pro-gun lobby has convinced Americans that they are safe with guns in their hands. They are not especially since the guns get into the hands of people like Page as well and are then used to mow down innocent people. Americans need to realise that easy availability of guns enhance their vulnerability to shootings.

Comments (+)