What a wild ride this week has been and for once I am not just talking about my personal life. For Americans this week was nothing short of a long and crazy trip. One where many of us found ourselves wondering…what next?
This week’s bombing at the Boston Marathon seemed to bring back old feelings and fears from the September 11, 2001 attacks that effectively changed this nation. Yet just like with the 9/11 attacks where we saw the best of humankind in the days and hours after the attacks so we saw the same phenomena in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon attacks. People helping one another, thanks to social media there were even more ways to help one another as sites were quickly set up to assist those affected by this tragedy. Even on Twitter, the hashtag #helpers started to trend so that people could quickly identify assistance. It was a beautiful thing to witness.
Unfortunately just like in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks we also saw another side of humankind, one where judgment and assumptions were quickly made. One where the prevailing theory was that whoever was behind this attack had to be someone unlike us, whoever the villain or villains were they were clearly different. Of course such thinking is foolish and dangerous but sometimes people when caught up in the wave of emotions tend to lay down rational reasoning and common sense.
Of course as the week progressed and the suspects were identified, there was a collective gasp as the villains behind this heinous act were revealed to be two brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Two young men who hailed from Chechnya also known as The Chechen Republic, a republic of Russia located in the southeastern part of Europe in the North Caucasus Mountains. In other words our villains were not the brown faces we were expecting, on the surface they looked white. Collective jaw dropping commenced as some pundits on cable television attempted to explain that these two were not white, they were ethnic. Oh really. Methinks that on the census records they are listed as two white guys but hey…whatever floats your boat.
As I watched the events of Friday unfold since my plans for a day trip to Boston were canceled thanks to these two, I found myself wondering about the role whiteness played in their crime and even our reactions to their crimes.
Once the photos were made public revealing these two, I had the rather unpopular thought that in many ways their whiteness allowed them to get away with this. The still shots that have been released show two clearly suspicious looking characters in the midst of the Marathon happenings. They don’t blend in and they actually look nervous. I asked a friend of mine who is a law enforcement officer in New England who also happens to be a Black woman and she agreed with me that as a cop, she thought they looked suspicious and had she been present she would have had her eyes on them.
Yet their white skin privilege gave them the cover they needed to pull off this depraved act because I am sure the Brothers Evil knew on some level that no one would expect two white guys to commit such an act. They were almost right though they were also stupid because we live in a world where most of our actions will come back to us and we will be discovered.
I am sure though this is not comforting news to the people of color in the minutes and hours after this tragedy who were harassed for no other reason than as brown skinned people, they fit the profile of what we believe a terrorist is.
Salah Barhoum is a teenager and running enthusiast who had his image splashed on the cover of the New York Post and was called out as a possible terrorist by both the paper and the internet sleuths of the Reddit community. This kid’s crime is being of Moroccan descent, having brown skin and being into running. Sure his name has been cleared but I stand with Salah’s parents, this shit isn’t cool at all.
Next up we have Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, a 22 year old national from Saudi Arabia who was also watching the marathon and who made the tragic error of running like all the white folks present when the bombs started exploding…gee, self-preservation, can’t have that when you are brown. Alharbi was immediately deemed suspicious and while in the hospital being treated had his apartment searched for hours and reported to the world. Never mind the young mother and physician of Palestinian descent who was physically assaulted in Malden, MA after the bombing while walking down the street pushing her baby in a stroller. Her crime? She dared to be faithful to her faith and wore hijab and for that she earned the wrath of some unhinged man. I could go on, but the bottom line is there have been too many news reports of people harmed for their status as being different.
So the authorities wasted valuable time chasing brown boogeymen because in our minds this had to be the work of brown guys from the Middle East. People have been harassed and made to feel less than but we have the villains, Or should I say the one villain since the eldest Brother Evil has gone on to his great punishment wherever that may be.
Last night as this story wound down and the celebrations started, I couldn’t help but feel saddened by not only these two brothers but everyone. Many of us would never intentionally harm anyone much less orchestrate the type of pain that the Tsarnaev brothers put upon the American people. Yet it is clear to me that in many ways when we refuse to see all people as people and not roles or stereotypes that we unwittingly create situations where evil can possibly thrive. I realize this view may be highly unpopular but as always I speak my mind in this space.
Blessings upon all affected by the tragedies of this past week not only in the United States but all over this ball we call Earth.