The two bombs that ripped through the 2013 Boston Marathon re-opened wounds that had begun to heal since 911 and no where was this fresh scab more apparent than in the airwaves and bandwidth of Main Stream Media. Throwing aside conventional wisdom which includes waiting for things to reveal themselves, pundits began almost immediately with speculation about whodunnit. It didn’t help matters that a young and innocent Saudi student was tackled at the scene of the blast and scooped up by authorities who had to admit after a period of time that he was just as much a victim as everyone else who was in the vicinity of the blast, media trumpeted the interest authorities had in him as if he was the main suspect who was about to be charged with the crime. Media didn’t bother to wipe the egg off their collective face when Boston and no doubt federal authorities admitted the young man was not a suspect or player in the events of that dreadful day….they just simply ignored their faux pas and moved on, but the tension their errant speculation caused revealed the problem with America today and the obsession too many have with placing collective blame on people and especially those who are Muslim.
Over time this has produced an opposite and equally repulsive reaction from Muslims who start condemning acts of violence as if there life depended on it. In today’s America it probably does since the knives of Islamophobes are sharpened with the venom of their own special brand of racism which they hope will drive America into an apocalypse whose goal is grander and broader than anything Hitler imagined in pre WWII Germany. Eric Rush’s tweets of ‘kill all Muslims’ within hours of the bombings are the most nerve racking and persistent sentiment voiced by ‘phobes and it has America’s Muslims ready to do and say anything to distance themselves from any tragedy.
About this tendency to obsequiously deny acts of violence ad nauseum, Tasbeeh Herwees had this to say
This is modus operandi for any Muslim organization in the U.S. after a terrorist attack: condemn, condemn, condemn. This is how we’re expected to respond. It doesn’t matter that no Muslim or Arab has been implicated in the attack. It is inconsequential that no other religious organizations are called on to do the same. In a post-9/11 world, Muslims and Arabs have become the default scapegoats for all terrorist plots, hence the pre-empting of the accusations.
Muslims for the present are the only group expected to make this kind of absolution; they require it from themselves as much as their non-Muslim citizens. It has become their role in today’s America to assure people even when such assurance is not required that they are against an act of violence that may be attributed to one of them. Muslim America has accepted the cloak of collectivism whereby any one person no matter how heinous, villainous, obnoxious the act may be, no matter how reprehensible and outlandish can be even remotely connected to the body and thus equal in guilt. No other group in today’s America has taken or accepted that mantle.
In today’s news cycle we’ve heard of a prison official in Colorado gun down in his home by a white supremacist; a young mass murderer who took revenge against a school that housed people who bullied him many years before and a husband and wife team who killed Texas prosecutors for some perceived injustice they felt murder was the appropriate punishment, yet not one white male or Christian group has volunteered to condemn the actions of this body of people who share their ethnicity. Their silence, in the face of this news onslaught was defeaning and caused me to tweet on 14 April, ‘white males need to be profiled’ in order to bring attention to the fact that real crime does occur at the hands of people other than swarthy complexioned people with strange accents; that there are terrorist minded white people in places of close proximity to us who are just as lethal and scary and perhaps we should keep a closer eye on them than we have in the past. Of course no such thing will happen and Tim Wise in a very nice piece says why
As the nation weeps for the victims of the horrific bombing in Boston yesterday, one searches for lessons amid the carnage, and finds few. That violence is unacceptable stands out as one, sure. That hatred — for humanity, for life, or whatever else might have animated the bomber or bombers — is never the source of constructive human action seems like a reasonably close second.
But I dare say there is more; a much less obvious and far more uncomfortable lesson, which many are loathe to learn, but which an event such as this makes readily apparent, and which we must acknowledge, no matter how painful.
It is a lesson about race, about whiteness, and specifically, about white privilege.
I know you don’t want to hear it. But I don’t much care. So here goes.
White privilege is knowing that even if the Boston Marathon bomber turns out to be white, his or her identity will not result in white folks generally being singled out for suspicion by law enforcement, or the TSA, or the FBI.
White privilege is knowing that even if the bomber turns out to be white, no one will call for whites to be profiled as terrorists as a result, subjected to special screening, or threatened with deportation.
White privilege is knowing that if the bomber turns out to be white, he or she will be viewed as an exception to an otherwise non-white rule, an aberration, an anomaly, and that he or she will be able to join the ranks of Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stackand George Metesky and Byron De La Beckwith and Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton and Herman Frank Cash and Robert Chambliss and James von Brunn and Robert Mathews and David Laneand Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page andByron Williams and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus andRaymond Kirk Dillard and Adam Lynn Cunningham and Bonnell Hughes and Randall Garrett Cole and James Ray McElroy and Michael Gorbey and Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman and Frederick Thomas and Paul Ross Evans and Matt Goldsby and Jimmy Simmons and Kathy Simmons and Kaye Wiggins and Patricia Hughes and Jeremy Dunahoe and David McMenemy and Bobby Joe Rogers andFrancis Grady and Demetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker, among the pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize and kill, but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutely nothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.
And white privilege is being able to know nothing about the crimes committed by most of the terrorists listed above — indeed, never to have so much as heard most of their names — let alone to make assumptions about the role that their racial or ethnic identity may have played in their crimes.
White privilege is knowing that if the Boston bomber turns out to be white, we will not be asked to denounce him or her, so as to prove our own loyalties to the common national good. It is knowing that the next time a cop sees one of us standing on the sidewalk cheering on runners in a marathon, that cop will say exactly nothing to us as a result.
White privilege is knowing that if you are a white student from Nebraska — as opposed to, say, a student from Saudi Arabia — that no one, and I mean no one would think it important to detain and question you in the wake of a bombing such as the one at the Boston Marathon.
And white privilege is knowing that if this bomber turns out to be white, the United States government will not bomb whatever corn field or mountain town or stale suburb from which said bomber came, just to ensure that others like him or her don’t get any ideas. And if he turns out to be a member of the Irish Republican Army we won’t bomb Belfast. And if he’s an Italian American Catholic we won’t bomb the Vatican.
In short, white privilege is the thing that allows you (if you’re white) — and me — to view tragic events like this as merely horrific, and from the perspective of pure and innocent victims, rather than having to wonder, and to look over one’s shoulder, and to ask even if only in hushed tones, whether those we pass on the street might think that somehow we were involved.
It is the source of our unearned innocence and the cause of others’ unjustified oppression.
That is all. And it matters.
The next time a crime is committed that captures the public’s attention perhaps the first thing we should do is turn off the television, radio and laptop and just wait for the dust to settle. If we can’t do that then we should demand that every group in America who has a member that has committed a violent crime in the past should take turns collectively condemning and distancing themselves from an unknown perpetrator. We certainly cannot expect any ONE group to continue to carry this burden. It’s not just so fix it, America!
hat tip to @ZahraBilloo