Courtesy of Ken Lund via Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0

After decades of the United States being worried sick about foreign terrorism, the Justice Department is finally focusing inward to tackle the rising threat of domestic terrorism. The unit, meant to supplement the National Security Division, will have a specific focus on domestic terrorism while the NSD works with terrorism in all forms. This new unit comes as the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection passes, and Attorney General Merrick Garland vowed that everyone who had any hand in the insurrection will be held accountable. However, given the Biden administration so far, it will not be a surprise if this unit is watered down. Furthermore, this unit should not be used as a bandage to cover the gunshot wound of systemic issues in this country.

Though this new unit is promising to tackle domestic terrorism no matter what the ideology of the perpetrators is, it’s no secret  why the unit was formed in the first place — to prevent more events like the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol from happening ever again. However, the issues of white supremacy that allowed for this event to occur in the first place run too deep for the government to throw a unit of attorneys at it. Most organizations that hold these beliefs, ranging from Proud Boys, The Base and other groups, usually with Neo-Nazi leanings, are listed in Canada by the Anti-Defamation League as hate groups and terrorist organizations to keep an eye on. And though the Justice Department’s unit could disperse a potential domestic terrorism threat by these groups or find and hold perpetrators responsible, it will not stop white supremacy completely. 

Furthermore, though this unit and its purpose has a lot of promise, the public should not be surprised if it doesn’t completely work out as planned. The Biden administration has done a lackluster job as a placeholder president. It would not be surprising if this new domestic terrorism unit is being created in name only for the Biden presidency to point to as a sign that they did something. Unless there is immense pressure from the public for this unit to actually do work to mitigate the threat of domestic terrorism, it is likely that the unit will possibly do nothing at all in the long run.

Furthermore, even if this unit does work to combat issues of domestic terrorism, it will not ultimately prevent white supremacist ideologies from spreading. A government unit alone can’t tackle the years of systemic issues that have allowed for these ideologies to take route in the United States. To fix this, we need massive reform of the education system, law enforcement and even the government itself. The thing is, the government does have a role in helping nip these dangerous ideologies in the bud — enforcing the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, in reforming the way we teach history so that it shows all sides of the story and in drafting laws that are equitable for all Americans. If the government wants to make genuine strides to help prevent domestic terrorism, then it needs to look at serious reform, not a small group of people to handle dangerous situations.

Thought the domestic terrorism unit is a step in the right direction and will hopefully work as it is intended to to combat this insidious issue, the reality is that it simply won’t be enough to really make a change when it comes to the problems that allow for instances of domestic terrorism to occur. Real reform in how we do everything in this country so that it is equitable for all Americans is the way to go, but unfortunately such a thing is a long, long way from where the country is today. 

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