Austin, Texas has experienced a wave of bombings in the past 19 days, three of which appeared to target minority households. Austin police announced on Wednesday that the alleged suspect in the bombings — a white man in his 20s — is dead, but the bombings have become part of a national discussion of violence that was renewed after last month's school shooting in Parkland, Florida. As a result, many Twitter users, including Chance the Rapper, responded to the Austin bombings and encouraged lawmakers to take action to prevent future acts of domestic terrorism.
Starting on March 2, the first three bombings — which took the form of packages detonated on people's doorsteps — appeared to target black and Latinx households. A fourth device was set off by a tripwire in a predominantly white neighborhood, and two more bombs were discovered at FedEx facilities after one of them exploded. On Tuesday, before police had identified the suspect, Chance the Rapper urged Americans to hold their elected officials responsible.
"Someone is serial murdering Black and Latino men and women in Texas right now," Chance tweeted. "One of them was just a boy. Hold your leaders accountable. Even if you aren’t from Texas, your elected officials should be talking about this."
The alleged suspect in the bombings reportedly detonated an explosive device in his car as police approached him on Wednesday, and died inside the vehicle. But Chance's point is still salient: It took elected officials — especially those in the White House — quite some time to address the Austin bombings, which prompted criticism on social media about how lawmakers often handle discussions of race and terrorism.
On Wednesday morning, shortly after the suspected bomber had been identified, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted that the Trump "mourns for victims of the recent bombings in Austin" but that "there is no apparent nexus to terrorism at this time." Many Twitter users responded to Sanders' tweet, arguing that the bombing victims didn't have to be white for the bombings to be classified as terrorism. Others argued that the White House appeared to have waited until the suspect was identified as white to classify it as not terrorism.
But Chance's tweet also pointed out that it took federal officials a long time to address the Austin bombings. It took Trump nearly three weeks to finally address the bombings, and when he did, his comments were vague.
"The bombings in Austin are terrible," Trump said in his on-camera remarks on Tuesday. "This is obviously a very very sick individual or maybe individuals, these are sick people and we will get to the bottom of it, we will be very strong."
As Vox pointed out, Trump was vocal on a lot of issues in the past couple weeks, but had little to say about the Austin bombings until Tuesday. He fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, tweeted about the "heartbreaking bridge collapse" at Florida International University, and continued to attack California's sanctuary state policies for being "illegal and unconstitutional." He also offered his thoughts and prayers to two naval aviators who were killed in a crash, as well as to their families.
Many Twitter users pointed to race as a reason for the administration's disproportionately delayed reaction to the Austin bombings, with New York Times op-ed writer Wajahat Ali suggesting that the White House would have immediately described the bombings as terrorism had the perpetrator been Muslim or a person of color.
Given all of this, Chance and other social media users have urged lawmakers to do more to prevent similar acts of violence in the future — and to address them more rapidly. Going forward, Chance has urged Americans to take their elected officials to task, and to hold them accountable when they don't respond to ongoing issues.