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LEON: Armed Angry White Males — the New Domestic Terrorists

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III | 3/19/2014, 3 p.m.
Wilmer Leon

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. … And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." — Sen. Barack Obama, April 6, 2008

While out on the presidential campaign trail in 2008, Sen. Obama made this statement and was castigated by both Democrats and Republicans. Hillary Clinton responded by saying, "Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them. They need a president who stands up for them, who fights for them, who works hard for your futures, your jobs, your families." Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said through his spokesman Steve Schmidt, "It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking…It is hard to imagine someone running for president who is more out of touch with average Americans."

Eventually, instead of standing behind his very astute assessment of the fear that plagues rural White America, Sen. Obama backed away from his remarks with an apology, "If I worded things in a way that made people offended, I deeply regret that."

I wish Sen. Obama had held his ground.

To put Sen. Obama's comments in historical perspective one can look to Federalist #10 in which James Madison wrote, "Among the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction." Madison saw factions as groups of citizens, with interests contrary to the rights of others or the interests of the whole community. Madison's violent "factions" from 1787 are Obama's angry small town Americans in 2008.

When viewed from our country's racial context, these "factions" have reared their ugly heads time after time. In their book A Festival of Violence, Tolnay and Beck "identified 2,805 victims of lynch mobs killed between 1882 and 1930 in ten southern states. Although mobs murdered almost 300 white men and women, the vast majority-almost 2,500-of lynch victims were African-American. The scale of this carnage means that, on average, a black man, woman, or child was murdered nearly once a week, every week, between 1882 and 1930 by a hate driven white mob."

As African American soldiers returned from fighting in WWI and keeping the world safe for democracy, they attempted to exercise their social, political, and economic rights here at home. They were met by riots and lynching's led by White mobs throughout Black communities in fifteen states and twenty-seven cities across America from April to November, 1919. According to Cameron McWhirter's book Red Summer: The Summer of 1919 and the Awakening of Black America the NAACP's James Weldon Johnson called it the "Red Summer" because it was so bloody. In total, millions of Americans had their lives disrupted. Hundreds of people most of them Black, were killed.