Race-Motivated Domestic Terrorism on Rise, UMD Professor Says

Dr. Rashawn Ray, a fellow at the Brookings Institute, spoke with News4 about a rise in hate crimes and domestic terrorism

NBC Universal, Inc.

A sociology professor at the University of Maryland says data shows a rise in domestic terrorism motivated by racism.

"Every three out of four domestic terrorist murders are committed by right-wing extremists, and overwhelmingly, these are white nationalists and white supremacists," said Dr. Rashawn Ray, who is a fellow at The Brookings Institution.

Ray says the "replacement theory" referred to in the Buffalo mass shooting suspect's writings and heard chanted on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 is breeding dangerous terrorists.

"This is the assumption that white people are going to be replaced economically, politically and culturally. In sociology we call this group threat theory. It's when someone perceives that another group of people poses a political, economic and cultural threat to the status quo," he said.

Ray says the cultivation of this thinking online and how such extremists find one another is not coincidental.

"These algorithms are created by people. Since they are operated by machine learning, we assume they're just robotic and computerized, but they were created by people, and often times those inputs were not put into the system with diverse people sitting at the table," Ray said.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who's representing the family of one of the Buffalo shooting victims, announced intentions to sue some online platforms that proliferate hate speech. 

Ray said laws that hold domestic terrorists accountable and education are two important tools to combat this kind of violence.

"Progress is not simply continuing. It can stall and it can reverse, and we are in that era right now," Ray said.

Contact Us