Skin color should not determine a terrorist

What was supposed to be a fun and joyous time for everyone that was attending the Route 91 music festival quickly turned into a war zone in Las Vegas. Last night while I was watching the horrific scenes unfold, I noticed that everyone in the news media was initially tentative in calling this a terrorist act.

While I watched the videos popping up throughout social media of concert goers fleeing and taking shelter with the ever-so-clear sounds of automatic gunfire in the background, it almost sounded like they were all in an active warzone overseas instead of attending a country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada. The hard facts are that 58-plus Americans are dead, 500-plus are injured and this is the deadliest mass shooting in the modern history of the United States. This was a domestic terrorist act committed by a lone wolf named Stephen Paddock.

I think that everyone can agree that this by definition was and is a terrorist act. However you might be hard pressed to find out that the Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo thinks otherwise, indicated by what he stated during the second press conference of the night. When asked by a reporter whether this was an act of terrorism, Sheriff Lombardo stated, “No not at this point, we believe it is a local individual, he resides here locally.” He reiterated further when asked again, “We don’t know what his belief system was at this time.”

So what even defines a terrorist attack anymore? Have we developed a sense that it’s a person’s skin color that defines whether it is a terrorist attack or not? Is terrorism just a code word nowadays that indicates said person that commits an atrocious and egregious act must be a person of color for us to all accept that it is terrorism. Because by the definition of the Nevada law “NRS 202.4415” an act of terrorism “means any act that involves the use or attempted use of sabotage, coercion or violence which is intended to:

(a) Cause great bodily harm or death to the general population; or

(b) Cause substantial destruction, contamination or impairment of:

(1) Any building or infrastructure, communications, transportation, utilities or services; or

(2) Any natural resource or the environment.”

So by Nevada’s state law this was an act of terrorism.

Instead what do we all see in the media about this shooter today? “Oh, well he must’ve been distraught because why else would a retiree do this?” Maybe it was because the man wanted to inflict great bodily harm or death to a great mass of people for no apparent reason.

Here is an example of political terrorism, which by definition is the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property in order to coerce or intimidate a government or the civilian population to further ones political or social objectives, that occurred right on this very campus. The act that I’m talking about occurred at Sterling Hall, where three University of Wisconsin-Madison students and a younger brother of one of the bombers blew up Sterling Hall with a car bomb in protest of the Vietnam War.

While this was an act of political terrorism and different from the blatant terrorist attack at Las Vegas, there is still a key takeaway from the bombing. When all the bombers were captured, it didn’t matter what skin color they were; people focused on the act that they committed.

Even though they were protesting and using their First Amendment rights by writing articles in the school newspaper protesting the war, their rights weren’t protected at all when they decided to go and blow up a campus building to make a political statement against the involvement of the United States in Vietnam.

I would also like to point out that we have to hold politicians accountable for defining anything this egregious as terrorism. Why you might ask? House Speaker Paul Ryan released a statement Monday morning that stated the following: “this evil tragedy horrifies us all” and that, “The whole country stands united in our shock, in our condolences, and in our prayers.”

The last part of his statement I think resonated throughout all of us Americans on Monday. The first part of his statement lacks clarity because we all understand that this was an evil act. Wasn’t it just over a year ago that Ryan stated, “We are a nation at war with Islamist terrorists” after the Orlando nightclub shooting. During the aftermath of this shooting he stated it was an act of terrorism. Why didn’t he call this an act of terrorism? Is it because it doesn’t fit wih or might hurt his agenda. Because Stephen Paddock doesn’t fit the idea of what he perceives to be a terrorist?

Finally we come to our president, Donald Trump. When our president proposed his travel ban, one of his major selling points was the terrorist act that occurred at the Orlando nightclub by a terrorist who was Muslim. This morning at 10:30 am when he addressed the nation, not once did he call this a terrorist act. The closest wording he used was when he said, “this was an act of pure evil.”

Trump isn’t shy of calling someone a terrorist. This has not been the case with him, however, when great atrocities confront him and he’s afraid of saying how it is. Call Neo-Nazis and KKK members white supremacists and deplorable and awful people.

Call someone who just gunned down 58-plus Americans to death a terrorist. It’s not that hard to call it like it is yet it seems during this politically correct culture it’s become more difficult for our leader to say the right thing at the right time.

I detest the fact that we have become so focused on a person’s skin color rather than the atrocious acts they commit to define them as a terrorist. The day after, I think it’s safe to say that I stand with all Americans by saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the 600+ victims and their family and friends. We all should agree that what happened in Las Vegas last night was an act of domestic terrorism. We need to stop defining terrorism by a person’s skin color and start defining it by the acts they commit.

Morgan is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. What are your reactions to the Las Vegas terrorist attack? Please send any and all of your questions, comments and concerns to

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