Canada has declared the “far right” group the Proud Boys a terrorist group, which has various implications, even going after fundraising and funding sources, that is, bank accounts linked to the group may be frozen and assests seized. The United States, however, does not even have a law or Executive Order to designate an entity like the Proud Boys a “domestic terrorist group.”
When we look at the history of domestic terrorism in the United States, culminating in the January 6th Trump-inspired Insurrection, in which the Proud Boys were prominently involved, it is almost always white violence against Black people.
There is a long list of this white violence against Black people in America, lest we forget, and it is worth noting that in almost every single case no one was brought to justice. In fact, we know who the domestic terrorists were, because they proudly posed and took pictures in front of the buildings they burned and the black bodies they beat, burned, castrated and hung. (Most recently, they live streamed their crimes on social media.)
There are the Draft Riots of 1863 in New York CIty, in which eleven Black men were hung, including a 7-year-old boy. The Reign of Terror from 1877 – 1950, when 4,400 Black men, women, and children were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs. The Red Summer (Black Summer) of 1919, which saw 25 race riots rage across the country, in which there are 97 recorded lynchings, and the massacre of over 200 Black men, women and children in Elaine, Arkansas, Black sharecroppers whose crime was trying to organize for better work conditions. Interestingly, many white servicemen were involved in these race riots. There was a lot of anxiety among them, because there were 380,000 Black World War I veterans who had returned to the United States determined to fight segregation and brutality. In fact, the Black servicemen were the targets of the white servicemen. But Black Summer marked when Black veterans, armed and trained, fought back. In a sense, this is perfectly captured by Claude Mckay in his famous poem about Black Summer, “If We Must Die.” McKay concludes his sonnet thus:
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
The Tulsa race massacre of 1921 (the Black Wall Street), where up to 300 people were killed.
These were all acts of domestic terrorism, and even though the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center have classified groups like the Ku Klux Klan as hate groups, even the KKK has not been seen as a domestic terrorist group, with all the Black blood on its white robes.
The United States, specifically our politicians, seem to coddle the terrorists we know, perhaps because historically Black people were their targets. With the attack on the Capitol on January 6th, perhaps this will change. President Biden has asked the director of national intelligence for a comprehensive threat assessment of domestic violent extremism. Hopefully this will lead to a law or an Executive Order where such groups like the Proud Boys can be labeled domestic terrorists, as our neighbors on the Northern border have.