By Richard B. Muhammad and Bryan Crawford
After a nearly weeklong scare that saw a number of explosive devices addressed and mailed to prominent members of the Democratic Party and the media, a person allegedly connected to sending the bombs through the mail was arrested in South Florida.
Next came the killing of at least 11 people when a middle-aged White man entered a Jewish synagogue in Pennsylvania and slaughtered people.
In between, these two horrors was the slaughter of a Black man and a Black woman in Kentucky, allegedly by Gregory Bush, a 51-year-old White man. Ed Harrell was quoted by the Courier Journal of Louisville as saying he was waiting on his wife in the parking lot when he heard gunshots and grabbed his revolver. As he crouched down, he said he saw the gunman walk “nonchalantly” by with a gun by his side. Mr. Harrell said he called out to ask what was going on, and the gunman replied: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot Whites.”
“As Federal officials continue to work with local and state law enforcement in the wake of this week’s senseless Kroger murders, I believe they can and should take into account the racist words and actions of the man behind this gruesome act and call it what it was: a hate crime,” tweeted U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, after the Oct. 24 shooting. Maurice Stallard, 69, and Vickie Lee Jones, 67, were shot to death at the grocery store and the suspect tried to enter a Black church before fatally shooting the elderly Blacks, police said. The suspect reportedly had a history of mental illness and should not have been legally able to own a handgun.
Law enforcement are positioned outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Oct. 28. Robert Bowers, the suspect in the mass shooting at the synagogue, expressed hatred of Jews during the rampage and told offi cers afterward that Jews were committing genocide and he wanted them all to die, according to charging documents made public. Photos: AP
“Court records also show that Bush was accused of calling his ex-wife, who is black, ‘(N-word) bitch,’ ” reported the Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville. “He is also a fan of Donald J. Trump, Blue Lives Matter, and various conservative pages, per his Facebook likes,” according to TheCut.com. Mr. Bush was arraigned Oct. 25 on two counts of murder and ten counts of wanton endangerment. He is being held on $5 million bail.
Cesar Sayoc, a 56-year-old man who racially identifies as White, was detained in Plantation, Fla., and accused of sending at least 15 explosive devices through the U.S. Postal Service after they were all traced back to a sorting facility in Opa-locka, Fla. According to records, Mr. Sayoc was criminally convicted of felony drug, theft and fraud charges, and was once accused of threatening to use a bomb. Mr. Sayoc, a registered Republican, has owned several businesses and worked as a pizza deliveryman. His van, which was plastered on the outside with pro-Trump and anti-Democratic Party paraphernalia, was confiscated by federal investigators. The bombs themselves, described as crudely made, were sent to former president Barack Obama, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Senator Corey Booker, Senator Kamala Harris, former first lady and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, liberal billionaire George Soros, actor Robert DeNiro and CNN. All have criticized Donald Trump and been verbally attacked by him at one point or another. The devices themselves were primarily intercepted in California, New York, Florida, Delaware and Washington, D.C., sometimes before arriving at their intended destinations. They all had a return address in the name of Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was also sent a package.
Robert Bowers, who officials said traded gunfire with Pittsburgh police, was charged late Oct. 27 with 29 federal counts, including hate crimes and weapons offenses.
Authorities said he spoke of killing Jews during the attacks and posted anti-Semitic slurs and rhetoric on social media before barging into a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27, the Jewish Sabbath, killing 11 people in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history.
He is 46-years-old. If convicted on the charges, he could face the death penalty. He has been charged with some hate crimes under federal law. There is also the possibility that he could face domestic terror charges.
Police are standing watch near a building associated with Robert DeNiro, Oct. 25, in New York after reports of a suspicious package.
The 20-minute attack at Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood left six others wounded, including four police officers who dashed to the scene, authorities said. Gab confirmed Mr. Bowers had a profile on its website, which is popular with far-right extremists. Before the shooting, the poster believed to be Mr. Bowers also wrote that “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
HIAS is a nonprofit group that helps refugees around the world find safety and freedom. The organization says it is guided by Jewish values and history.
The synagogue killings reverberated in the city, in the country and around the world. One Jewish analyst called the attacks, not just anti-Jewish, but anti-immigrant. The shooter’s views against immigrants were fed by the rhetoric of the president and other Republicans, she said. And, she added, anti-Semitic charges and troupes have followed the president, who remains a favorite of alt-right groups and nationalists who see him as one of them, she said. The president’s attacks on George Soros and “globalists” is a veiled reference to Jews, she argued.
Where is America headed?
And the events prompted a question: Has this country, with a long history of racial animus and red hot political tension, taken another dangerous step toward a breaking point?
With Donald Trump’s rise has been an increase in open White nationalist and racist sentiment that has widened an already wide racial and political divide in America. After eight years of a Black man sitting as Commander in Chief of this nation, many Whites felt as if they’d not only lost their social status, but that this country was fast losing its identity as a “White nation.”
The alleged bomber, who was Filipino and Italian, and the alleged mass murderer were either pro-Trump in their public expressions or supported some of the president’s policies.
Analysts condemned the president, not for the acts, but for using perhaps the greatest political megaphone in the world to divide, to target people. They fear bitter fruits of such activity is coming to harvest.
One analyst argued Mr. Trump’s “job” as president, which should be to unite the country especially in times of crisis, clashes with his brand and role as a polarizing and confrontational figure that undergirds his success.
Others acknowledged Mr. Trump was setting a dangerous frame but warned deeply rooted racism and hatred in America must be constantly fought.
“This is in the DNA of America,” said Nina Turner, an analyst on a CNN Sunday show hosted by Jake Tapper. “I’m surprised that people are surprised,” said the political progressive and former leader in Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency on Oct. 28.
“What is happening is that what is in our root as a country is bubbling up now and that’s why people are surprised. Every generation we have to be fighting eradicate racism and bigotry,” added the Black former Ohio legislator. “What is in this man’s heart, i.e., the president, comes out time and time again when he doesn’t have a script in front of him—and that is what we are dealing with. We are in a moment of transcendence in this country, and either we can continue to work to create a more perfect union, which we have to do every generation, or we can regress. And, I see regression.”
Too many politicians, from both parties, are doing anything to win and that needs to stop, Ms. Turner added.
During the program Mr. Tapper attempted to inject the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan into the discussion, mischaracterizing a statement by the Minister made in mid-October in Detroit and trying to equate the Minister with noted racist David Duke, the former KKK leader who won political office as a Republican and whose pro-death penalty and anti-welfare positions were within mainstream GOP orthodoxy at the time.
Mr. Tapper and panelist Jonathan Weissman, an author and researcher, also called for condemnation of the Minister from the political Left. Mr. Weissman cited Min. Farrakhan’s presence at the funeral for singer Aretha Franklin on stage with former President Clinton as an affront and unacceptable.
Bigotry should not be tolerated, responded Ms. Turner. “But in terms of Aretha Franklin’s funeral, I don’t know who’s on the invitation list. Somebody being at Aretha Franklin’s funeral is not the equivalent of, at all, about what’s going on here,” she added. Pausing, she continued, “This is making me feel some kind of way. I will say this … Because we continue to see these things through Left and Right, let’s just see it through the lens of humanity. What we do have to do is stop seeing everything through the lens of whether you are Republican or Democrat and see it through the lens of what kind of country do we want to be? What kind of people do we want to be?”
Mr. Tapper, the ADL’s Jonathan Greenblatt and others have widely and falsely accused the Minister of calling Jews termites. But he made no such statement connecting the two. “Now White folk don’t like Farrakhan, some of them respect me. But those who have been our Deceivers, they can’t stand me. I’m not mad with you. In fact, you members of the Jewish Community that don’t like me: Thank you very much for putting my name all over the planet. Because of your fear of what we represent, I can go anywhere in the world and they’ve heard of Farrakhan. Thank you very much,” said the Minister during an Oct. 14 address at Aretha Franklin Park in Detroit.
“I’m not mad at you. My teacher Elijah Muhammad taught me one day: There once was a donkey that fell in a ditch and everybody came along picked up a stone and threw it at the donkey. They threw so many stones that the ditch got filled up and the donkey walked up. So my teacher said, ‘brother remember every knock is a boost.’ When they talk about Farrakhan, call me a hater, call me an anti-Semite; stop it I’m anti-termite,” Min. Farrakhan said, in an edited transcript published in The Final Call newspaper and available at www.finalcall.com.
“I don’t know anything about hating anyone because of their religious preference. But just like they called our ancestors in the 1930s ‘voodoo people,’ they figure ‘anti-Semite’ would be a good thing to put on us. Farrakhan hates Jews. Stop it,” he said.
“You cannot find one Jew that one who follows me has plucked one hair from his head. You haven’t found us defiling a synagogue. Our Qur’an teaches us if we see something like that stop it. They call me anti-Semitic. No, you are anti-Black. Now I’m talking to the anti-Black White folk. Why do you lay around Black people like the 10 Percent in our Lessons? You know we’re a talented people so you lay right around us, ‘I’ll be your manager.’ … How did they get to own everything that we have created? It’s because they’re Master Deceivers and they hate the fact that we are strong enough to say it. Now when a liar has gotten ahold of you, the liar is afraid of anybody who knows the truth and will tell it. So, they don’t want you near Farrakhan.”
Growing White anger and White angst?
In addition to cultural and demographic changes in the United States, economic insecurity in different parts of the country, and an opioid crisis, studies say White deaths are outpacing their live births and White people would be a minority in America in a little more than 20 years.
Donald Trump’s dog whistle and often direct racist rhetoric has struck a chord with many. His inflammatory words aimed at the Democratic Party and the media has helped inflame and perhaps radicalize those who share the president’s thoughts and views, say critics.
There are questions and concerns about whether the current poisoned, no-compromise political climate could inspire a new wave of domestic terrorists and vigilantes, similar to former U.S. serviceman and Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh, to rise up and take violent matters into their own hands.
“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that,” President Trump said during an Oct. 22 rally in Houston, Texas, while stumping for Ted Cruz. “You know, they have a word—it’s sort of became old-fashioned—it’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word? You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word.”
On Oct. 23, when asked in the Oval Office by the media if he was at all concerned at the suggestion that his comment was a coded message, or dog whistle, to a select group of Americans who identify as White nationalists, Mr. Trump denied that he’d ever heard that his comment could be tied to White nationalism and then doubled down on his statement, saying, “I’m a nationalist and I’m proud of it.” The Trump administration has long been accused of embracing White nationalist ideology and garnering support from groups such as the alt-Right, Neo-Nazis and even the KKK after Mr. Trump initially refused to renounce the support of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke.
Has the election of Donald Trump brought the nation to a racial and political crossroads in America? With five of those bombs being addressed to prominent Black political figures associated with the Democratic Party, and voter suppression tactics being aggressively employed in the run up to midterms, many are worried about the current political climate.
“Black America has long been exposed to the domestic terrorism of White supremacy,” Dr. Benjamin Chavis, president and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, told The Final Call. Dr. Chavis revealed that the national office of the NNPA had received threats from right-wing groups after presenting its 2018 National Leadership Award to Rep. Waters in September.
“The recent resurgence of repressive tactics and actions to keep our families and communities in a state of fear will not be tolerated,” Dr. Chavis added, while also saying, “The Black Press will not be intimidated. America will not be free of its past until Black America and others attain freedom, justice and equality.”
Faith in Action executive director, Alvin Herring, agreed with the sentiments uttered by Dr. Chavis. “The terroristic packages come during a time of heightened anti-immigrant and anti-media rhetoric. Politicians have created a climate of fear of the ‘other’ and that fear has been stoked by those who choose the path of hate rather than love, acceptance and reconciliation,” Mr. Herring said in a statement. “No one in this country should be targeted because of their political affiliation, their religious affiliation, their gender or sexual identity or the color of their skin.”
Political commentator David Gergan added, “Donald Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president. And they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.”
Steve Schmidt, a former campaign strategist for the late Republican Senator John McCain, said he renounced the party after it aligned with Mr. Trump. The president’s repeated fearmongering and calls for violence from the highest office in the land, has created fertile ground for radical sentiments to flourish, he said.
“The stoking of hatred and sundering of the American people was always going to lead to terrible consequences. Chief amongst them would be the initiation of partisan or sectarian violence within our country,” Mr. Schmidt wrote in a series of tweets. “The targets are political, not coincidental. Trump, the greatest demagogue in American history, has celebrated violence over and over again. It looks like someone finally took Trump both literally and seriously. The White House will feign outrage when this obvious point is made.”
Prophetically enough, that’s exactly what happened. Not long after Mr. Trump called for Americans to, “come together and send one very clear, strong, unmistakable message that acts or threats of political violence of any kind have no place in the United States of America,” he bristled at the notion that he was in any way responsible for radicalizing anyone and encouraging them to commit acts of violence against political opponents and critics. Instead of embracing some measure of accountability, he deflected and blamed the media.
“A very big part of the anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the mainstream media that I refer to as Fake News,” he tweeted on Oct. 25. “It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
Mr. Trump, followed up with another tweet continuing to blame the media, saying, “Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing. Yet when I criticize them, they go wild and scream, ‘It’s just not Presidential!’ ”
With the midterm elections just weeks away, and in the aftermath of these attempted mail bombings, many people will flock to the polls and cast their ballots in a racially and politically charged climate that seems to have created an irreversible chasm between Black and White—and White versus White.
A coming clash and breakdown in American society is one of the major warnings found in the Teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and the analysis and words of caution spoken by Minister Farrakhan. In numerous messages and in his book, “A Torchlight for America,” Minister Farrakhan has repeated warnings that America must engage in a deep and abiding change if she hopes to survive. “Without an advocate for the poor, without a new state of mind in America, the country lies on the brink of anarchy. Anarchy is the complete absence of government. It’s a condition of political disorder, violence and lawlessness in the society. We saw signs of it in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict,” he wrote. “Anarchy may await America, due to the daily injustices suffered by the people. There really can be no peace without justice. There can be no justice without truth. And there can be no truth, unless someone rises up to tell you the truth.” Min. Farrakhan has also warned that Mr. Trump has pulled back the layers of civility White America has used to cover her deep, deep divisions and ugliness.
He also warned the country is headed down a destructive path and has earned the chastisement of God for evil done to the Black once-slaves of this nation and their descendants and the Native Americans. If America wants to escape the judgement of God, she must do things she has never done in her history and engage in an unheard of level of atonement, reconciliation and responsibility.
“We were on the cusp of the great war of Armageddon before Trump was voted into office. The war of Armageddon, which is the war between good and evil, the war between God and Satan, that’s the war between Black and White. The falsity of the American lie of integration and brotherhood, that’s always been a charade, and time is forcing it to be exposed,” commented Dr. Wesley Muhammad, a Nation of Islam student minister and author. He holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies.
While Dr. Muhammad pointed out rising racial animus, not only with the mail bombs, but also the shooting deaths of the Black man and woman by a White man in Kentucky.
Racial clashes and violence have risen in the country with high profile events. The violence of the White right wing, which resulted in the death of a young White woman during protests in Charlottesville, Va., last year, is being countered by anarchist and left-leaning groups like Antifa, which are determined to confront racist groups and go toe-to-toe with them.
“White America is a very amoral culture, despite the eloquent clichés and talking points we hear consistently,” Dr. Muhammad said. “Remember, the scripture describes us, the Black man and Woman in America, as being born in sin and shaped in iniquity. That is talking about the sin and iniquity of America.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)