In an essay published on LinkedIn on November 14, 2015, Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein wrote an essay titled, “Why They Hate Us.” Sunstein posits that terrorists are made, not born…and on that one point we agree. However, Sunstein goes on to say that terrorist organizations are born of the proclivity of like-minded people to come together in such groups. He believes that the group-think that occurs in these types of organizations pushes members toward a more radical and violent posture.At first blush, his thoughts appear to be logical. But if we choose to dig a little deeper, we find that Sunstein has it backward. The fact is that acts of intolerance, prejudice, hatred, bigotry, cruelty, criminality, social and economic injustice, and other societal offenses endured by members of the group crystalize to a point that it appears the only solution is revolution. By sharing their individual struggles with societal ills, these individuals develop a collective resolve to make a change, even if that change requires violence or self-sacrifice.
This sense is heightened when those in power trivialize their complaints, protect and make excuses for perpetrators of acts perceived as offensive or unlawful by the group, refuse to provide due process to members of the group, and when the group itself is denigrated, ostracized, pursued and criminalized.It is primarily the Willie Lynch theory, whereby open communication among oppressed people is prohibited to reduce the possibility of rebellion. In the not-to-distant past, it was illegal for groups of blacks to gather. The slave master knew that it was easier to manage slaves individually than collectively.
Right now on our own shores, “Black Lives Matter” is being treated thusly. Many in the media are demonizing the group and blaming them for social unrest in cities across the country. It would appear, from media coverage, that problems in our inner cities between Blacks and police are a result of folks in BLM stirring people up.The fact of the matter is BLM is stirring the pot, but the ingredients are provided by a society that does not value Black Americans and other people of color. It is automatically assumed that if a police officer pulled his or her gun, it was justified…that if an officer takes a shot, it is because he or she has no choice, if an officer tases a suspect, it was because he or she was in danger…and this, in the face of eyewitness accounts and video that testify otherwise. It is assumed that, if a suspect has a criminal past, he or she is guilty of whatever the accusation, or that they somehow deserved whatever they got, even if the trespass for which they are gunned down turns out to be without merit.
It is this discrediting of worth, this indifference to humanity that strikes at the heart and soul of each Black person in America. How can a society support the shooting of a young boy playing in the park with a toy gun, the assassination of a man in handcuffs, or the choking of a man selling loose cigarettes on a street corner? How can no one be accountable for such miscarriages of justice? How can the victim become the one that is demonized?As we look to the East to truly understand why they hate us, we must accept responsibility for our actions. True…terrorists are not born that way. It is our acts of indifference, prejudice, hatred and imperialism that provide fertile ground for the growth of unrest, dissatisfaction, and the desire to find someone…anyone who will listen to the horrors that have been witnessed; from the injustice that has been inflicted and the crimes that have been committed against marginalized people at home and abroad.
It is these acts that nurture hate and resentment, not the conversations of those who have been pushed to those extremes.________
Note: This essay in no way implies that terrorism is an acceptable method of creating social change. It is simply an observation that we as a society carry some responsibility in the creation of social unrest and the growth of terrorist organizations by both our action and our inaction.