In two weeks on two coasts of the United States separated by 3,860 kilometers, two vicious terrorist attacks were perpetrated against different groups of people, but both were spurred by the same climate of hate that is being spread by parts of the media.
In August, in Cedar Glen, California, a man murdered a shop owner for hanging a gay pride flag outside of her clothing store. Travis Ikeguchi spread hate against women and LGBT people on Twitter after Elon Musk took over. He also followed and retweeted hate speech from Matt Walsh, a blogger employed by The Daily Wire, a prominent conservative website in the U.S., who has said it is impossible to be transgender.
Walsh said, "The goal is to make 'pride' toxic for brands. If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they'll pay a price."
Walsh's coworker, Michael Knowles, said, "We need to make that symbol toxic, the Pride flag symbol, we need to make that toxic."
Ikeguchi tweeted an image of a burning pride flag. Then on Aug. 18, he saw the flag hanging on Laura Ann Carleton's storefront and verbally assaulted her over the flag before pulling out a gun and shooting her dead. He also fired at the police officers who responded to the crime.
One week later, all the way across the country in Jacksonville, Florida, a white supremacist took an assault rifle he had marked with a Nazi swastika and a Glock pistol into a Dollar General Store near a historically Black college and murdered three shoppers.
The mass murder in Jacksonville was tragically similar to the one that took place in Buffalo, New York, in 2022 when a racist white man targeted Black people at a grocery store. In that attack, the shooter killed 10 African-Americans. He had spent months scoping out businesses and public spaces and tracking how many Black people were present, choosing the location he thought would cause the most Black fatalities. The murderer uploaded a document railing against the population of Black people living in America. He developed his views, he says, by being active online and consuming content from racist websites.
The terrorist who struck at Dollar General was also motivated by deadly doses of racism. He left "manifestos" to his parents, the media and the government. While the content of the documents has not been fully released, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters, who viewed them, said, "Plainly put, this shooting was racially motivated, and he hated Black people."
Before that, there was the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. The killer there also left a "manifesto." He listed off anti-Black stereotypes and said, "I have no choice" but to carry out an attack against Black people.
The common thread in their hateful manifestos is a feeling of threat from the existence of Black people in America and the changing political scene.
Bigots in America tend to harbor hatred for many different groups of people. They are not tolerant people. Many of the same people who are spreading fear about Black people are also spreading fear about gay and transgender Americans.
For example, Michael Knowles, a podcaster who works for The Daily Wire, one of the websites Cedar Glenn killer Travis Ikeguchi paid attention to, said that the existence of transgender people should be "eradicated." In the words of journalist Erin Reed, Knowles and his colleague Matt Walsh are "genocidal" towards trans people.
It's no wonder then, that Knowles and many of the other bloggers for The Daily Wire are radically racist white supremacists. In 2023, Knowles said, "White people are not racist. Every other racial group has a much higher in-group preference."
Claiming that white people are superior to every race and denying the existence of racism perpetrated by whites, who are the majority race in charge of most, if not all, institutions of power in America, fuels resentment of minorities. When irrational angry young white men hear these false talking points repeated over and over they internalize them. They repeat the slogans they first heard on social media then on racist forums and finally in their murderous manifestos.
When they make a mistake in life and something goes wrong for them that pushes them to the point of no return, they are more likely to lash out and target the people they blame for their problems. So, when Michael Knowles says, "In the United States, white people are the only victims of formal systemic racism," some angry white people think, "That's right, I am the victim!"
Sadly, these toxic ideologies flow up the food chain, influencing voters to elect racist governors. The racist governors then try to change school curriculums to indoctrinate more children with their racist views. We need look no further than the state where the latest brutality took place, Florida.
Last year, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a bill banning the teaching of Black history and any classes that focus too much attention on racism. What is allowed to be taught? The school board approved the use of an explicitly political, right wing video series created by Prager University, one of Michael Knowles' employers.
Brainwashing children with the very ideology that is inspiring hate crimes will only, in the end, make America a more dangerous place.
Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with China.org.cn.