Widgets Magazine


Dear white people: Please call it like it is

If you’re a person who cares about justice, equality and, hey, other people, reading the news and being on social media lately have been emotionally draining. The past several months have brought attacks against Blacks in the United States greater in number and greater in scale than we have been seeing even in the past few years, even with the upsurge of publicity on police brutality and racial profiling by law enforcement authorities as well as the efforts made to combat the racism that is still so present in our country.

Hate crimes have included mass killings, as in the case of the AME Church massacre, the arson committed against other Black churches since then, the deaths of Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Kindra Chapman and others in police custody and the regular murders of Black trans women like India Clarke, London Chanel, Ty Underwood and many others. There have been too many total incidents for me to even include links to all of them here.

It’s time to call all of these hate acts against people of color what they are: acts of terrorism.

We must stop tiptoeing around this word, terrorism, which makes us uncomfortable, because the use of the word “terrorism” to describe the actions of part of the American population will make its perpetrators aware of our hypocrisy. Because if we face current events head on, it will be impossible not to engage with the mass hypocrisy in the way we name attacks.

You may be thinking to yourself: “But…what’s happening in America…that’s a few bad people. They’re racist. I’m not. I’m not part of the problem. And besides, what’s happening doesn’t even fit the definition of terrorism.”

The thing is, it does. Merriam Webster defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror, especially as a use of coercion.” This definition contains a link to the definition of the word “terror”: “a. a very strong feeling of fear, b. something that causes very strong feelings of fear, c. violence that is committed by a person, group, or government in order to frighten people and achieve a political goal.”

We can break this down piece by piece. Murder is violence. The use of unnecessary force, even if it isn’t lethal, such as throwing around and pulling weapons against kids at a pool party, can be physically violent. It certainly is emotionally violent. So we have the violence part of the definition fulfilled. Is fear a goal? Certainly. Ever since the beginning of colonial history, fear has been a tactic utilized by systems of white authority to keep people of color subordinate. Is there a political goal, though? Absolutely. The maintenance of white supremacy, the reinforcement of structures that keep people of color in marginalized political, economic and social positions and keep white people in positions of power, is a political goal.

If you’re still not convinced, it may have nothing to do with the dictionary definition of the word “terrorism.” The word comes with many heavy connotations when used in this country. Especially since 9/11, its use quickly triggers images of places allegedly unlike the United States and people committing the acts who look allegedly unlike us. Many Americans, upon mention of the word “terrorism,” will think of Islamic extremist groups in the Middle East, North Africa or Sub-Saharan Africa: ISIS, the Islamic State, Al Quaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabab. Terrorism seems like a distant thing, a foreign thing. It seems like a thing for which we do not and could not understand the mentality. “They” do it. “We” would never.

Well, not only is it not true that “we white Americans would never,” we white Americans do all the time and have since before this country existed. If you are not calling hate crimes against Black people terrorism, you’re acting as complicit in the system and are thus part of the problem.

So what do we do? Well, for starters, call it like it is. The atrocities committed in this country are, in no uncertain terms, terrorism. Additionally, become an ally, or if you consider yourself one already, be a better ally. Talk to other white people, especially friends and family, who don’t see the situation as it is and try to show them some light. Call people out on social media when they say something that hasn’t been well-thought out. Finally, don’t stop learning yourself or assume that your learning is finished. You can check out these links to get started on research, but this is only the beginning of the work to be done.


Contact Mina Shah at minashah ‘at’ stanford.edu.

  • Derwood Kirby

    “Black is beautiful” –You go man!

    “Being Asian is fantastic” –We’re with you dude!

    “It’s good to be white” —Wacist!!

  • Facts

    Shah’s got it right – except the roles are reversed. Blacks on white murders account for more than 69% of murders between blacks and whites as of 2013. Check out the facts straight from the FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls

  • Thanks

    The main reason why we should be calling these acts terrorism is because it breaks down racism in other realms in the process. White people are quick to say, “okay that was just one person, but that doesn’t say anything about me or my race!”. Muslims and anyone who identifies with the Islamic religion or Arab race have been saying this since 9/11. Terrorism consists of individual acts from people who share a common goal of inciting fear to push their agenda, so no not all muslims are terrorists, just like not all white people are terrorists.

  • Blinders

    Indeed. In 2013 there were 6X more whites than blacks in the US, and black-on-white murders were 13X greater than white-on-black murders. Would Shah call this black terrorism or do these labels only apply in one direction? The politics of selective victim-hood; such a slippery slope!

  • tree_alum

    I think the measures you call for are mostly unsubstantial. Calling it ‘terrorism’, persuading other white people to call it ‘terrorism’, calling out people on social media, becoming a nebulous ‘ally’. I just don’t think we need more ‘activists’ who trip over each other trying to establish their progressive credentials by tweeting and feeling indignant over the most egregious cases or manufacturing anger by distilling complicated situations into simple cases that fit their view of the world. Why not choose a degree program at Stanford that will enable you to help solve the hard problems of the world? How about donating your time and money to local programs that assist the poor and left behind? How about the learning the systems of justice here and around the world however broken they are and trying to exact justice for those who have been trampled upon? I’m just saying that social justice requires charity, sacrifice, hard work, and compassion for others. Don’t let the word ‘terrorism’ be a tactic to burnish your credentials or to win a rhetorical battle for your team, do the stuff that matters to real people.

  • lovestohike

    The hatred you have against police is shocking and disarming. You are of the priviledge class and are at Stanford. Its time for you to grow up and love all people. The racism of blacks is sometimes self infliced such as in your case. You have made it and still blame everyone else.

    You even have a black house on Stanford campus. Is there an equivalent white house? No, because of bigots on campus.

    Your points about saying you are racist period shows that you never grew up, don’t realize much about life, and blame everyone when you yourself – the writer of this article – are of priviledge. You need to grow up.

    You need to learn to show respect to all people.

    Its sad to see that Stanford allowed you to get into Stanford with such hatred towards so many.

  • lovestohike

    White people are not all the same, just like blacks are not all the same, hispanics are not all the same.

    This writer of this article is a person who would loudly denounce

    All lives matter

    You got into Stanford.

    You live in Palo Alto.

    You are allowed to write racist and immoral comments given the 1st amendment.

    You denounce all whites, regardless.

    You think only black loves matter.

    You have gotten into Stanford.

    You have space in this newspaper to spread bigoted, hatred, and write nasty comments.

    And you expect us to say – Yeah, You’re so cool./

    Well, you are not.

  • Prg234

    I applaud your enthusiasm, but question your ability to critically dissect and understand current events. Terrorism as applied to American racism can best be viewed as a feature of an organized political movement such as the KKK or the Black Panther Party (Yes blacks can also be racists!). Questionable acts by unaffiliated individuals are difficult to classify under the terrorism label. Furthermore, I find it quite odd that you would list incidents that have not been fully investigated or found lacking as instances of racist inspired violence as “evidence” for your argument. Are these signs of an incredibly biased perspective that values emotionality over rational inquiry?

  • Skullbreathe

    Having read this article I feel like I’ve been terrorized with inane stereotypes and C- logic. The Bland death has been ruled a suicide. The police can be rightly scolded for not monitoring their inmates but to blame them for her death or classify it as ‘terrorism?’ Ms. Shah talk to a vet back from Iraq and Afghanistan; they’ll enlighten you on the true meaning of terrorism…

  • matt10023

    Racism or bias are terrorism? No they are different things, although all are bad. I really don’t understand this effort to dilute the meaning of words and concepts.

    Orwell created the concept of “newspeak” in 1984. A totalitarian government eliminates words from people’s lexicons to dull and control thought. By limiting words and meaning, it makes it easier to control a population and squelch dissenting ideas.

    Ms. Shah’s stretched interpretation only demonstrates a paucity of nuance and understanding of the differences. Luckily she is still in university and has time to take some remedial courses on the topics.

  • Havid Damburger

    Another 3rd worlder who hates white people, hates men and hates America, yet would never live in her country of origin. Yup. This is Obamas America.

  • Comment Commentator

    Somehow the call that terrorism be called terrorism was translated to “I hate White people” in the comments. I recommend that people click the link she provides to the dictionary definition of terrorism.

    Dylann Rood massacred Black worshipers in an attempt to start a race war. That is terrorism.

    Arsonists are believed to have torched several Black churches in response to the falling Confederate flag. If so, that is terrorism.

    Somehow in the comments talking about instances of questionable actions by police have been translated into “I hate police.”

    A police officer killed Samuel Dubose on camera and can be seen/heard lying about what led to the incident while on camera. That is abuse of power.

    Andy Landau was beat at a stop after requesting a warrant for continued search of vehicle. As you can probably see from the video, racism was involved.

    Sandra Bland was (among other things) not monitored properly. That is negligence.

  • YeahNope

    I will accept the premise that the events you noted and others like them can be labeled as acts of terrorism, if you will accept that the same premise can be applied to calls for the murder of police officers, the calls for the murder of whites, the demonization of whites, and even this article.

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    to Nope,
    It seems to me, Nina Shah is expressing an opinion, which is an op ed function, yes or nope ?
    Your argument suggests that is the same as an act of terrorism, which is existentially false. Terror means torturing, beating, killing, coercion by force, even threatening, someone or group.
    Meanwhile, the culture and government, in control on this continent now, have been perpetrating ACTS of terror AND imperial conquest, for three hundred and fifty years, on native peoples, Africans, whom they enslaved by way of horrific oppressions, and have unleashed mass murders and wreaked devastation on countless peoples, mostly dark skinned peoples, worldwide, with unrelenting intensity, for the last 125 years.. (see Panama, Hawaii, Philippines, Nicaragua, Iraq, Iran, Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador, VietNam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and many more…)
    YeahNope, get to know your history.

  • Anonymous

    As a Stanford Student, I am embarrassed that this crap is published. I really hope you’re graduating soon so this paper can make steps toward rebuilding its journalistic credibility.

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    A message to anonymous readers :
    – – –
    As a member of the broader regional community (with 2 family members, father and sister, who were accomplished student-graduates from Stanford) i find it worse than embarrassing – it is extremely disconcerting that otherwise intelligent, current and past students, are so blind and brainwashed, so as to wish for a kind of discreet censorship of verifiable facts and truths, such as those pointed out by Ms Shah.. — “journalistic credibility” is NOT achieved by sweeping serious issues under the rug just because they don’t fit your sheltered, cloistered world view..
    Obviously terrorism can take on various forms, such as an organized, semi-organized, or even disorganized, yet determined, war-like effort of aggression or resistance.
    Our national history is replete with many well-organized examples of vicious, nationally aggressive, murderous, conquering, empire-building, that terrorized, massacred, enslaved, tortured and annihilated millions of humans, and i don’t know how many intelligent, long-established cultures have been essentially vaporized in a matter of a few generations… i mean, look at right here in the bay area between just 130 – 150 years ago.
    Forget, at your peril, that this nation has been in a state of perpetual war, overt and covert, in concert with a well-established war economy, for 125 years now.
    “..and the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored, a few of your statesmen have felt it’s better that way..” — Buffy St Marie
    * *
    Or terrorism can erupt as random events more or less predestined or predetermined in reactionary outbursts to fluctuating social changes and cultural pressures, smouldering, seething under the surface of a masked, yet no less *systemic*, racism.. (see Dylan Roof’s attempt to ignite a race war).
    * * *
    But even more insidious are the forces of “security” and “control” who use with impunity their powers to suppress, repress, oppress and terrorize in the name of “law and order”…
    This is the kind of veiled, yet SYSTEMIC terrorism, arm in arm with an economy of perpetual war, of which many here are apparently, blissfully, unaware..

  • Bob

    And this week we have two cold blooded murders committed by two blacks against three whites. Is that terrorism? Or, like the definition of “racism”, have ethnic studies professors changed the definition of “terrorism” so that only whites are capable of it? Lulz

  • Jonathan Poto

    “White” vs. “white” is as difficult a concept to distinguish contextualize as “nigga” vs “nigger”… I don’t like the use of of the phrase “white people” or “white” unless properly contextualized…

    Lord Jamar: “White and black is not necessarily a skin color. It’s a frame of mind”


  • Jolie

    Can’t accept the truth can you? Can’t accept the fact that everyone in the world isn’t kissing American butt?

  • Jolie

    so “white people” are being demonized because they are being held accountable for the ideas and policies they’ve created and supported?

    What ever happened to taking responsibility?

  • Jolie

    That’s because they control the media thus controlling the narrative of how an issue is framed.

    Whether intentional or not every issue is framed through the collective “white experience”.

    Example: September 11, 2001=terrorism

    But nearly 100 years of Jim crow is apparently okay. Using the state to terrorize people in their own backyard doesn’t count apparently

  • Jennifer Hill

    Hey Facts and Blinders and people who bought this comment at face value,

    I don’t wish to delve into all the aspects of Shah’s op-ed (I agree with parts and disagree with parts), but I would caution against relying on this sort of data – andonly one data source – to dismiss the frequency or importance of white-on-black violence.

    The stats you refer to, while indeed interesting, tell us about the number of those convicted of homicide by race. Let me excessively stress CONVICTED and HOMICIDE. When a police officer kills someone, this would very rarely lead to to a “standard” court trial, let alone a homicide conviction. Even if fault was deemed, you would be more likely to see an internal reprimand or firing of the officer. In many instances, there would be no investigation whatsoever, especially dependent upon the resources or priorities of those upholding the law.

    The table displayed above shows approx 5000 murders – but in the past 12 months well over 1000 civilians have been killed by a cop. And those are only the ones we know of, since in 2013 (the year of that FBI table) there was no system to track these killings. And yes the majority of those victims were white, BUT black people were over twice as likely to be killed by an officer than white people.

    Furthermore, it’s well established that, if charged with a crime, black persons are more likely to a) be convicted, and b) be convicted of a higher level offense. So given two almost identical crimes, but reversing the race of perpetrator and victim, the one committed by a white man would be far more likely pled down to something like manslaughter vs. the black offender facing murder charges.
    Basic economic inequality exacerbates biases among judges/juries/prosecutors, as simply on average a white man would be able to afford a better lawyer vs. a white man relying on an overworked public defender. I think it’s pretty safe to assume that of those wrongly convicted of murder and those who get away with murder despite being guilty – the odds are working against black folk.

    I’m not arguing that black society is plagued with excessive levels of violence, but just want to emphasize that reading this “fact sheet” and concluding that Shah has her conclusions reversed is a bit short cited. (short-sighted, short-cited, get it? heh heh heh. sorry nerd joke).

    TL;DR : Context matters.

    [Edited to add one citation (though it’s journalistic) that explains my first point well: https://news.vice.com/article/police-have-killed-at-least-1083-americans-since-michael-browns-death. If anyone wants to read the social science behind my latter summaries, I’m happy to provide academic articles.]

  • Jennifer Hill

    “Is there an equivalent white house?”

    Errrr yeah – every single frat and sorority.

    The existence of the black community center (like the Hispanic, Muslim, Womens, LGBTQ, etc centers) is because if something isn’t explicitly linked to a minority group, it’s typically very, very white. Providing a space to build a community and meet with members sharing one’s marginalized background helps mitigate the feelings of isolation and high dropout rates of minority students.

    I’m not disregarding or negating your entire comments with this point – but I think it’s important that people don’t see the BCSC as “bigoted”, nor ignore the PLETHORA of organizations that cater almost exclusively to white students.

  • webattorney

    Stop bringing Asians into your argument. However, I don’t agree with the article’s main point.

  • Comment Commentator

    If only Whites were capable of terrorism, then Boko Haram would not exist.

    I recommend that you click the link she provides, to see if what they did would qualify. For the newscasters, it appears that a former mentally unstable employee went postal, killing former fellow coworkers. Probably not terrorism. For the killing of the officer in Texas, we have no idea why a man deemed unfit for trial in a prior felony case gunned an officer of the law down. The probe has not yet come up with anything. I would, however, believe that a terrorist would want their actions known, for maximum impact, rather than hide out in their mother’s house.

    But on that same cold blooded murder note, how many of the 84% of murders of Whites by other Whites in the U.S. constitute terrorism? I would think it would be similar to the rate found in Black on Black murder (90+ percent) – that is, very, very few.

    Being interracial does not make murder terrorism. Dylann Roof set out to cause a race war. The Boston bombers were religious extremists. Al Qaeda and its affiliates (like Boko Haram) are religious extremists. The KKK was White Supremacist, Antisemitic, anti-immigrant, and anti-Catholic. The original KKK (back during Reconstruction) was paramilitary, fighting a war they already lost. The bombers of 16th Street Baptist were terrorists, out to kill those who dared fight for Civil Rights.

    But I will ask you, how do you define terrorism? For me, that Merriam-Webster entry is appropriate.

  • rick131

    There is much more black on white crime on daily basis than the other way around. When a white commits a crime against a black it makes headlines. Blacks assault, rape, rob, murder whites in every city every day and no one cares. Blacks shoot cops everyday. Blacks commit most violent crimes in the US. When is someone going to do something about this issue? When are blacks going to take responsibility for their community?

  • james

    Poorly written useless drivel. Does anyone writing for the Daily own a creative thought. All we get is repetitive PC crap written a hundred times over. I have seen better written articles from high school freshmen.

    “Finally, don’t stop learning yourself..” Really, does that pass for good journalism?

  • james

    maddog, you are a master at pointless overuse of adjectives. I have no idea what point you are attempting to make. Try to structure your thoughts before stroking the keyboard.

  • Miguel Herrera

    “I would caution against relying on this sort of data – andonly one data
    source – to dismiss the frequency or importance of white-on-black

    Dismiss the frequency of white-on-black violence? Facts’ post is all about the frequency of white-on-black violence, and how it’s less than half that of the black-on-white violence.

    “The stats you refer to, while indeed interesting, tell us about the
    number of those convicted of homicide by race. Let me excessively stress

    You did not read Facts’ data, or if you did, you did not pay much attention. Non-convicted murders are counted in the FBI’s report. When the murderer’s race is unknown it is indicated as such under the “Unknown” row.

    “The table displayed above shows approx 5000 murders – but in the past 12
    months well over 1000 civilians have been killed by a cop”

    What on earth does that have to do with the disparity of black-on-white and white-on-black violence? Does the actions of police somehow justify the murders committed by black people? You really go nowhere with this paragraph.

    ” And yes the majority of those victims were white, BUT black people were
    over twice as likely to be killed by an officer than white people.”

    So, what you’re saying is that black people are retaliated against by police at a lesser rate than whites? Because black people are more than 3 times as likely to murder police officers than whites. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/leoka/2013/officers-feloniously-killed/felonious_topic_page_-2013

  • Jonathan Poto

    We liberals need to stop identifying our combatants as a racial. We care about the fallacies in their views and the power they wield to shape the world based on those views. Calling on “Whites” to change is the same level as calling on “Colored folk” to change. It might not be as appealing on the page to write out the more accurate privileged-antipoor-establishment-conservative but its fucking necessary.