Last week, as news broke that 9 beautiful Black souls had been slaughtered at the historic Mother Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, thousands took to social media to decry and discuss the heinous act of terror that befell the Palmetto City. However, many media outlets, pundits and conservative politicians were slow to recognize or wholly unwilling to accept that this was an act of terror.

Enter head of the FBI, James Comey, who stated at a press conference Friday, “Terrorism is an act of violence done… in order to try to influence a public body or the citizenry, so it’s more of a political act…And again based on what I know so far, I don’t see it as a political act.”

Don’t see it as a political act? Amazing.  More on that in a bit, but first let us digress for a moment.  What is “terrorism” exactly? The Oxford Dictoinary defines it as “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” but the words “terrorism” and “terrorist” have a long history dating back to at least the 19th century, and their usage has varied greatly over the years.  It was not until the Cold War that they begin to take on the current meaning and the current Federal definition of “domestic terrorism” was updated in the Patriot Act following 9/11.

The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

From the FBI’s website:
Definitions of Terrorism in the U.S. Code
“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:
-Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;
-Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and
-Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

The “federal crime of terrorism,” according to the site:

-Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct; and
-Is a violation of one of several listed statutes, including § 930(c) (relating to killing or attempted killing during an attack on a federal facility with a dangerous weapon); and § 1114 (relating to killing or attempted killing of officers and employees of the U.S.).

Over the past few days many have argued that the assassination of a state senator, statements made during the murders and subsequent collateral found on social media all point to a political motive.  The fact that Director Comey sees it differently is troubling at best, and a dereliction of duty at worst.

Roof decided to kill Black people, just because they were Black. This is terrorism.

What is not being accounted for by the FBI, mainstream media and White apologists who fail to see racist violence as terrorism, is that American anti-Blackness is inherently political.  By its very nature, White racism in America is political action meant to hurt and degrade the Black experience.  There isn’t an aspect of life in America that isn’t touched by politics and when you’re Black in America there isn’t an aspect of your life that isn’t impacted in by racism.  The criminal justice system (police brutality, mass incarceration), the economy (subprime lending, unemployment rate), public education (substandard schools, extreme budget cuts) the list goes on, but you cannot separate politics from the Black experience in America.  So when White racists’ actions take the form of “unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce,” it is, by the FBI’s own definition, terrorism. Former Attorney General Eric Holder agrees:

Black people know exactly who Dylan Roof is and it’s time the FBI, the media and mainstream America recognize it for themselves.


Dylan Roof is a white hood, a red shirt, a bloodied lunch counter and a burned-out bus.  Dylan Roof is fugitive slave laws, a swinging rope and a swaying confederate flag.

Dylan Roof is an American.

Dylan Roof is a terrorist.

And he’s not alone.