Federal law enforcement is concerned about what they believe is a new threat within the United States – not white supremacists or neo-nazis – but another politically-motivated group that has the FBI’s attention. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has labeled them “black identity extremists,” and the agency says they could be the next domestic terror threat. But some say the FBI’s move could be less about law enforcement and more about Trump administration rhetoric and a history of tamping down minority political activism.
Sharon Weinberger, executive editor of news for Foreign Policy Magazine says the term “black identity extremists” was used in a recent FBI report about domestic terror threats. Past reports on the subject have identified black separatists and white supremacists as “sovereign citizen” groups that don’t recognize the authority of the government.
“This report, which identified what is claimed to be a new movement of black identity extremists was really jarring for us, because it’s not a designation that exists in the real world,” Weinberger says. “There is no movement that calls itself black identity extremists. This is basically a new term, invented by the FBI.”
Weinberger says the FBI report cites the history of the Black Lives Matter as a parallel to the development of the so-called black identity extremist movement. The report also connects the shooting of 11 Dallas police officers by Micah Johnson in 2016, along with four other incidents, to the movement.
“None of these are individuals who linked themselves together as a movement,” Weinberger says.
When Foreign Policy asked former FBI officials and others about the new designation, Weinberger says they got incredulous responses.
“We expected varying opinions, and we got varying opinions,” Weinberger says. “But the one thing that unified everyone we spoke to, including former FBI [and] DHS officials, was that this term black identity extremists was totally ridiculous.”
Some responses went further, she says.
“It’s blatantly racist, as one person told us, because it’s linking not only groups, but individuals, whose only link is that they’re African-American.”
Weinberger says the FBI was probably motivated to coin the term black identity extremists because the agency “likes to link violence to some sort of underlying ideology.” But, she says, others believe the agency may have darker motives, connected with the Trump administration’s opposition to protest movements like Black Lives Matter.
“The whole rhetoric of ‘both sides’ were at fault for violence,” she says.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.