The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is weighing in for the first time on Pete King’s hearings into the radicalization of Muslims, arguing that King’s plans ignore the history of domestic terrorism in the United States and risk stereotyping Muslims in a manner historically endured by African Americans.
In a letter to King that was not distributed widely to the press, the NAACP invokes the assassination of civil rights figures, and specifically invokes discrimination against blacks as a forerunner to what King is doing:
The NAACP is no stranger to domestic terrorism: as the surviving friends and family of Harry T. and Henrietta Moore, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, and Emmitt Till, not to mention the 168 killed and 450 injured in the Alfred T. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, and too many others can attest, we are all too familiar with the evil concept. We are also too familiar with the process of being ostracized and demonized because of who we are or what we look like. Finally, members of the NAACP also have a long history of working with and benefitting from the goodwill of people of all races and ethnicities regardless of their background. It is clear that the most effective means of identifying terrorists is through their behavior -- not ethnicity, race or religion.
Factual history has clearly demonstrated that “homegrown domestic terrorism” cannot be relegated to one racial or ethnic group. To do so is to overlook actual historic and current events, which are both riddled with terrorist acts by extremists from a large variety of racial, ethnic, political, social and religious groups. Furthermore, by identifying one group as being largely responsible for current terror threats against our nation, you are promoting misinformation and stereotypes that can only build mistrust among members of that group. This in turn will make it more difficult for members of that group to cooperate with authorities in identifying or reporting genuine threats, and more unlikely that they will. On the other side of the equation, this approach creates misguided hostility towards or Muslims or perceived Muslims by perpetuating stereotypes which incite further misunderstandings or even violence against those groups.
So I must again urge you in the strongest terms possible to rethink the focus of your proposed hearings on domestic terrorism. The United States today clearly faces a wide variety of dangers, from both foreign and domestic sources, and to focus on one group presents not only a disservice to that group, but also to our Nation.
The invocation of American domestic terrorism, and the comparison of King’s efforts to discrimination visited on African Americans, amount to a double-barreled shot at the very premise of his hearings, which is that the threat of Islamic terror is unique enough to justify the focus of high-profile Congressional hearings on just this one group of Americans. The letter’s larger, if unstated, implication is that King is perilously close to earning his very own spot in American history’s hall of shame.