In the hours immediately following last week’s horrendous attacks on the Boston Marathon, many people were looking for somewhere to point fingers and place blame. And it didn’t take long for the conspiracies to begin unfolding about the seemingly limitless possibilities. Was it a terrorist organization? A stand-alone, crazed person, disgruntled with authorities? Or just a random act of inhumane brutality?
As is common throughout history, fear and confusion fueled the first racially driven impulse in the manhunt which followed the attacks. The first suspect was a young man,
a twenty-year old student in Boston, who happened to be a Saudi Arabian National. Just another bystander among thousands watching runners cross the finish line, this young student was wounded by the deadly blasts, just as 175 others around him were. He emulated the crowd, running in terror, fleeing from the smoke and debris of the blast– just as everyone else was. He likely feared for his life, possibly calling out for loved ones or his God — just as hundreds around him were doing. What makes this particular bystander unique is that he was the only casualty tackled to the ground while fleeing the scene. While recovering in the hospital from his wounds, this Saudi student’s apartment was scoured for evidence and his roommate was questioned about living with a possible killer.
Fortunately, following this gaffe, authorities were able to identify the two men who carried out this act in a commendably short amount of time. Upon first looking at the photos of these criminals, we see that they are Caucasian. The media then uncovered, upon further investigation that these two men were of the Islamic faith. And here’s where everyone starts claiming “I knew it! I knew it was a terrorist plot!” Once the younger brother awoke in custody, the police questioned him on any possible international terrorist involvement, or other ulterior motives.
Admittedly, in the past, whenever I have heard of a crime committed by someone of another religion, or ethnicity, I immediately had the same thoughts: that these people were terrorists, and it was because of the things they learned and practiced in their religion that taught them to act this way. However, now, I am ashamed of having previously had that mindset. In a world where the media is quick to report anything and everything – whether factual or not – we, as citizens, are just as quick to eat it up and accept what we are told without further personal investigation.
There is a sadly perpetuated belief and ideology in America that most, if not all, Muslims are “radical”. And yet, in all the various crimes committed by Christian extremists over the years, scarcely has there been occasion where a Christian has been profiled on the street as a “radical” for their beliefs. No matter the religion, any heinous crime committed should never go unpunished; consequences must always be suffered for any act of terror. Yet, how can we, expect to move forward, to ever come together and understand one another if we lack the desire to try and understand our differences? If we could better understand one another, then perhaps our instant reactions to foreign ideas would no longer be fearful ones. What I am saying, is that in order for humanity to ever move forward, in order for us to ever be able to set aside differences, we must try
to abolish our preconceived notions of what we think the “stereotypical” terrorist looks like, acts like, or what religion they may be affiliated with.
I read a wonderful article online today, by anti-racist essayist, author and educator, Time Wise, who perhaps put what I am trying to say in much more eloquent terms. He writes, in his article: Terrorism and Privilege: Understanding the Power of Whiteness: “ 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… Furthermore, in the book I read for my LCS class this week called: “How Does it Feel to be a Problem”, one of the Islamic, Arab American characters, when asked what they think about terrorism, responds that “that concept isn’t part of Islam…killing an innocent person? Absolutely no way can you find it in Islam” (Moustafa Bayoumi).
While I will not pretend that I have read and understand the Qur’an, or understand all of Islamic beliefs, what I do know is that I will no longer be a passive listener, believer, and human. I believe that in all of the horror in the world, in all the evil, there will always be more goodness, more love, and more beauty to outweigh it. I believe that there is the potential for a better world. Instead of looking to the media to quell our
fears, we should look to our hearts to embrace and understand others who may, at first, appear to be different than ourselves.
If you would like to read Tim Wise’s entire article, you can find it at this link:
http://www.timwise.org/2013/04/ terrorism-and-privilege- understanding-the-power-of- whiteness/