By Senator, Lena C. Taylor
Racial, Ethnic and Religious Discrimination On the Rise
If you are like most Americans, you don’t think much about New Zealand. Aside from what was learned in a geography class, you may know very little about the country. Some of that changed on March 15, with the recent attack on two mosques on this sovereign island country. In 2017, the murder rate in New Zealand was thirty-five deaths for the entire year. Between the years 2000-2017, the highest recorded number of homicides in the country, in a single year was 66 in 2002. Therefore, the horror in the Christchurch, New Zealand city, where 50 people were gunned down in a single hate-filled terrorist attack will resonate for years to come.
In the United States, we have become all too familiar with these attacks. Under the name of white supremacy and religious intolerance, we have suffered a loss of life in the U.S. that should alarm us all. We fail to call Columbine, Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando and Charleston, or countless other mass shootings what they are, terrorists attacks. Instead, we limit these acts to the individual and not a broader conversation about the rising tide of racial, ethnic, and religious hate.
We have to face facts. Although, there is historical context for terrorism, the need to actively monitor, identify, and counter these attacks are more necessary than ever before. From 1970 to 1997, a group of primarily retired military personnel worked to identify and record terrorist acts around the globe. The information they collected was digitized by the University of Maryland from 2001 to 2005.
In 2006, the Department of Homeland Security provided funding to extend the collection of terrorist acts beyond 1997. The data was updated through 2007. Starting in spring 2008, the University of New Haven started collecting data on these acts through 2011. Eventually, data collection was conducted by the University of Maryland under funding from the U.S. State Department and is the most reliable record of global terrorism to date. In 2018, the contract to collect this data was not renewed. Although, there are other means to keep an eye on terrorist activity, the fact that this contract was not renewed may speak to a larger problem.
We have a White House administration that consistently down plays acts of terrorism, unless it fits a narrative that supports their stance on immigration. When other world leaders called the New Zealand mosque attacks exactly what they were—terrorism, Donald Trump again hedged. This administration has been consistent in denying the rise of white supremacist attacks. By insisting, that these are the acts of a small group of people, Trump has chosen to ignore or coddle white nationalism. In the meantime, these attacks are increasing.
In response, I am compelled to do something that I could have never imagined in a million years. My office is planning active shooter training workshops for local faith institutions. As we work to identify the date and location in the upcoming weeks, members of the religious community will be encouraged to attend.