In America’s years-long “war on terror,” most people have come to expect a very stereotypical definition of what a terrorist looks like: brown, bearded and speaking Arabic. Never mind that terrorists like Ted Kaczynski and Timothy McVeigh were white Christians from the United States — the terrorist most Americans have come to fear is from the Middle East. As it turns out, that might all be changing very soon, and the next big terrorist could look like you.
According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who replaced Robert Gates in July, an impending threat to U.S. national security could be terrorists reared in Africa. In an interview with CBS News, Panetta explained why he sent dozens of troops to locations in South Sudan and the Congo, both of which are dealing with violent conflicts of their own. The troops’ mission? To train Africans how to defeat the new terrorist cells popping up in the region, including al-Qaeda cells.
“There are elements there that either have ties to al-Qaeda or that represent the forces of terrorism on their own,” Panetta said. “And that's what's dangerous.”
In other words, Africans trained by al-Qaeda are a growing concern for American authorities. If you’ll recall, one Nigerian-born terrorist — the so-called “underwear bomber” — already made waves by trying to explode a bomb near Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009. Terrorists in Africa aren’t a new phenomenon, but American troops on the ground there attempting to combat them is new, and it’s worth keeping in mind if you’re a Black American.
As has been well publicized, racial profiling against South Asians and Middle Easterners in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has been prominent and, in some cases, relentless. If more and more terrorists begin looking like the underwear bomber, who looked like a lot of normal, young Black American men, the stereotype Americans have about terrorists may grow to include African-American men and women. And we all know many police will have no problem at all stopping and searching more young Black people.
(Photo: Omar Faruk/Reuters)