Questions of Race in America in Wake of Austin Bombings

“Is this targeting minorities?… Is this a hate group?” questions still unanswered.

State of Texas

A series of bombings rocked Austin, Texas, over the past couple weeks, and now the key suspect is dead.

A white male in his mid-20s reportedly blew himself up in his car as police approached him in a parking lot early this morning. It’s another alarming development in a terrifying series of events.

Ben Philpott is a senior editor at KUT, the public radio station in Austin. He tells Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson the capital city in Texas is breathing a bit easier knowing a suspect is no longer at large, but there are still big questions left unanswered.

“‘Is this targeting minorities?… Is this a hate group?'” says Philpott, “and that bubbles up all kinds of history where people feel like authorities aren’t doing enough [to protect people of color.]” 

The bombing victims that were killed and appeared to be targeted by the suspect were people of color. Two young white men were also injured when they set off a tripwire while walking through a neighborhood. 

Philpott says the issue of race was one that cropped up early in the story, in part because Austin is a city with changing demographics.

“Austin is… the largest city in the United States that is losing its African American population,” says Philpott. “It is a city where gentrification is happening.”

Christen Smith is a professor of anthropology and African diaspora at the University of Texas. She recently co-authored a piece in HuffPost titled, “Package Bombings Reveal The Racist Underbelly Of Austin“.

Smith says attacks like those in Austin might not fit under a federal definition of “terrorism“, but the acts are still intended to cause terror. And, she says, in this case it was a racial terror.

“Part of the frustration that people tend to have, and black people in particular, is when these acts of violence happen in our communities, we are told they aren’t terrorism,” says Smith. “And yet they feel like terrorism to us.”

To hear more from Smith and Philpott on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.


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