According to a leaked report obtained by Foreign Policy, the US government has recently declared “black identity extremists” a violent threat to domestic security.
This news is both appalling in the way it is being delivered to the public, and not at all unexpected. I have written in the past about the reemergence of a black power movement in the United States of America. There is both a power vacuum and a lack of leadership in the black community. One sure positive aspect of the Barack Obama presidency is that the notion of an African American president empowered and emboldened a generation of young black men to aspire to reach a career in politics. That same generation was instantly thrust into a Donald J Trump administration which by all progressive accounts appears to be a regression of US racial policies and cultural tolerance. The assessment from the FBI naturally raised fears about federal authorities racially profiling activists and aggressively prosecuting civil rights protesters.
According to the report dated August 2017, compiled by the Department of Domestic Terrorism Analysis: “The FBI assesses it is very likely Black Identity Extremist (BIE) perceptions of police brutality against African Americans spurred an increase in premeditated, retaliatory lethal violence against law enforcement and will very likely serve as justification for such violence.” Incidents of “alleged police abuse” have “continued to feed the resurgence in ideologically motivated, violent criminal activity within the BIE movement”.
The reality of the situation is more complicated then I can address in one sitting. There’s both justification for the minority community to seek to defend itself against state aggression, and once again we see the hypocrisy of the Anglo-Colonial system, where preemptive violence is justified in defense of the country, but preparatory procedures of violence against the state are considered threats of terrorism.
The FBI’s surveillance of black activists follows a long history of the US government aggressively monitoring protest movements and working to disrupt civil rights groups, but the scrutiny of African Americans by a domestic terrorism unit was particularly alarming to some free speech campaigners.
“When we talk about enemies of the state and terrorists, with that comes an automatic stripping of those people’s rights to speak and protest,” said Mohammad Tajsar, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “It marginalizes what are legitimate voices within the political debate that are calling for racial and economic justice.”
The document has emerged at a time of growing concerns about Donald Trump’s links to the far right and white nationalists, and increasing anxieties about his administration’s efforts to further criminalize communities of color and shield police from scrutiny. Anti-Trump protesters and Black Lives Matter activists have continued to face harsh prosecutions and close federal monitoring.
Some reports have suggested that the Trump administration has pushed to focus counter-terrorism efforts solely on “minority extremism” and not target white supremacist groups. This report comes after reports earlier in the year that Nazis and White nationalist groups were “infiltrating state and local law enforcement agencies and that there are people in law enforcement agencies that may be sympathetic to these groups“, also in 2009 report by the Department of Homeland Security that revealed that white-supremacist groups and right-wing domestic terrorist organizations had been recruiting heavily among a number of groups in the country, especially among returning military veterans. But “They stopped doing intel on that, and that was that,” Heidi Beirich, who leads the Southern Poverty Law Center’s tracking of extremist groups.
The new FBI report said “BIE violence” peaked in the 1960s and 1970s “in response to changing socioeconomic attitudes and treatment of blacks”, adding that possible indicators today for “BIEs posing a violent threat to law enforcement” include “violent anti-white rhetoric” and “attempts to acquire illegal weapons or explosives”.
“BIE” appears to be a new term within law enforcement.