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What the plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells us about militant extremists

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Oh, there we go again, right? Always blame Trump. Unfortunately, when he throws out words like little hand grenades, he deserves it.

President Trump and Attorney General William Barr like to focus on anti-fascist antifa and “anarchist” “left wing” groups, even declaring three cities — Portland, Seattle and New York — to be “anarchist cities” that could lose federal funding for allegedly tolerating crime.

Yet, acting Homeland Security director Chad Wolf writes in the department’s new threat assessment report, released Wednesday, that he is “particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years.”

It’s also important to note that the FBI originally was tipped off to the militia group’s alleged plot by a member who was concerned not about racial militancy but about plans to target and kill police officers.

Indeed, race is only one element in the rise of angry right-wing militancy, although its visibility often adds fuel to the fire. That’s alarming — and, having lived through too many crises of racial tension since the early 1960s, I am not easily alarmed.

I am sadly reminded of 1996, the year after the Oklahoma City truck bombing, when militias last made big — and bad — news. That was the year when the pioneer Black journalist Carl Rowan, one of the first African American columnists to be syndicated in mainstream newspapers, released an unusually angry book called “The Coming Race War in America: A Wake-Up Call.”

 

I respected Rowan as a mentor and role model who inspired me to enter the business, but even I thought his book was a bit alarmist at the time. Groundbreaking stars of color included Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, Tiger Woods and a young law school grad named Barack Obama. To me, it was a time of great hope.

But recently I have to wonder whether Rowan’s “Wake-Up Call” was only a step or two ahead of its time. Our troubles, in other words, are about more than just race, even if racial tensions are the most visible sign.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

© 2020 CLARENCE PAGE. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

(c) 2020 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
 

 

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