By Khaled A Beydoun
An assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O Andreas School of Law.
Fourteen killed, and tens more injured. At approximately 11am on Wednesday morning, several gunmen opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. The facility, which houses patients with disabilities, seemed an unlikely target for domestic terrorists.
Yet the carnage that ensued makes it the biggest mass shooting since the Sandy Hook tragedy of December 2012, when 26 people, including 20 young students, were killed.
Only five days after the attack on the Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs, the San Bernardino attack again raises questions about the racial contours and ideological colours of domestic terrorism.
For decades in the United States, domestic terrorism has been defined almost exclusively along racial and religious lines. The legal term, which ties violent acts to political ideology, is consistently supplanted by the political construction of terrorism – reserved overwhelmingly for incidents involving Muslim culprits.
While popular attention turns to the racial and religious identities of the San Bernardino shooters, history reveals that this means very little to the likely political response.
White men have committed the vast majority of mass attacks on US soil spanning the two decades between San Bernardino and the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995. But the political and legislative response has disproportionately focused on Muslim communities.
Muslim communities are routinely victimised by legislation passed in the wake of domestic terrorism wrought by white men. Two white men – Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols – orchestrated the Oklahoma City bombing.
However, the anti-terrorism legislation enacted in its immediate wake disparately targeted Arab and Muslim Americans, deviating entirely from the reality that Arabs or Muslims had nothing to do with the attack that claimed the lives of 168 people. The legal response was driven by stereotype, instead of facts on the ground.