Congressman Pete Olson

Representing the 22nd District of Texas

Violence Motivated by Hate is Terrorism

April 10, 2017
Op-Ed
Houston Chronicle

Houston is truly a microcosm of the modern American experience. A Rice University study recently concluded that Houston is the most ethnically diverse large metropolitan area in America, surpassing even New York City.

The world knows that the Houston region is a magnet for growth and opportunity for people from all over the globe. The reasons are many, but they include friendly Texans who say, "Hi!" to all, our strong job market, and the great opportunities that come with living and working here.

However, in talking with folks in our region, there is a growing fear that this diversity has made them a target for violence and hate. That fear is counter to what America stands for and the values we represent.

Recently Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian immigrant working to get his green card, was shot and killed at a bar in Kansas City simply for the color of his skin. Deep Rai, an Indo-American was shot as he worked on his car in his driveway in Kent, Wash., and told to "go back to his own country" by the shooter. Several Jewish synagogues across America, including here in Houston area, have received bomb threats or have been vandalized with hate-filled graffiti.

While these horrific killings happened hundreds of miles from Houston, we felt their impacts. It is important that we are clear on what these acts of violence represent - terrorism. Murder, attempted murder and threats of violence are designed to terrorize certain groups of people simply for their racial, ethnic or religious beliefs. These despicable acts of terror must be fully rejected in every form. Allowing these acts of terrorism to go unaddressed is a rejection of everything that America stands for.

At a recent candlelight vigil held at Houston's India House for Kuchibhotla, the fear was palpable. Some struggled to place blame on politics or centuries of hostilities. Yet trying to assign blame is not the answer; it is a natural human reaction that can distract from the dangerous problem of racially based hatred escalated to a violent level.

As a former Navy pilot and current member of Congress, I took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…" in this oath, we are obligated to do all that we can to ensure the safety and security of every citizen. We must continue to fight against all forms of terrorism, foreign and domestic. Our freedom is sacred, and we must preserve the essence and founding principles of that freedom. Our core strength lies in the diversity of our people; we cannot tolerate those who threaten any of our citizenry.

America's history is far from perfect. We still have a way to go until we can truly achieve Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s vision of judging our fellow man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. The first step in this process is for all Americans to fully reject terrorism whether it comes from radical foreigners flying planes into buildings or fellow citizens seeking to terrorize neighbors who don't look like them or who practice a different religion.

Texans have always welcomed folks into our great state with open arms. Our state must continue to set the example in standing united against terrorism in every form. We must reject this hatred to ensure that the values we hold dear do not slip from our grasp.

Olson, a Republican, represents the Sugar Land-area 22nd Texas Congressional District.