FBI report ‘Black Identity Extremists’ may be new COINTELPRO

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus | 11/21/2017, 2:55 p.m.

Here are some other questions I have: Why is one of the most powerful federal law enforcement organizations in the nation relying on news articles to figure out whether Johnson was kicked out of a local Black Identity Extremist group? Also, if this is a problem that’s on the rise as the FBI indicates, why isn’t clear and convincing incident data illustrating this included in the report? Finally, is the FBI devoting as much time on this issue as it is on White extremism? If they are, then they are not spending their time wisely when it comes to domestic extremists.

According to a 2015 report by the Anti-Defamation League, when it comes to extremist movements in the United States:

“…White supremacists are by far the most violent, committing about 83 percent of the extremist-related murders in the United States in the past 10 years and being involved in about 52 percent of the shootouts between extremists and police. White supremacists also regularly engage in a variety of terrorist plots, acts and conspiracies.”

White supremacist violence is even more concerning in the context of the 2016 election, the current political climate, and President Trump’s decision after zehite supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Va., to morally equate zehite supremacists with anti-racist protesters. In regard to the 2016 presidential election specifically, the Southern Poverty Law Center found:

“…in the 34 days after the election, there were 1,094 incidents involving bias and almost 80 percent of them were anti-immigrant (315), anti-Black (221), anti-Muslim (112), swastika (108), White nationalist (47), anti-Semitic (33) or involved the KKK (7). Approximately 37 percent of the 1,094 incidents, directly referenced either then President-elect Donald Trump, his campaign slogans, or his infamous remarks about sexual assault.”

A few weeks after the FBI’s “Black Identity Extremists” report was leaked, the Congressional Black Caucus met with Facebook about ads that Russian operatives purchased through the social media platform to target the Black Lives Matter movement. During the meeting, the caucus explained to Facebook that their social media platform plays a role in how African Americans are perceived across the country and around the world. In this case, the perception Facebook played a role in creating was negative and could have had life and death consequences.

The FBI’s “Black Identity Extremist” report is an example of how perception becomes reality and affects people’s lives on the ground. We don’t need Facebook and other social media platforms playing a role in creating negative perceptions of African Americans and we don’t need the FBI and other law enforcement organizations buying into these perceptions. In response to a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus, FBI Director Christopher Wray agreed to meet. We hope he walks away from the meeting with this understanding. We also hope he’s able to answer our questions.

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) is the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He represents the 2nd District of Louisiana, which includes parts of New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Follow him on Twitter at @RepRichmond or Twitter @OfficialCBC.