Dear, America: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are White; Deal with It

Speaking of immigration and terrorists. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure Native Americans (or whatever they called themselves before somebody gave them that name) would’ve loved to be able to stop those pale-faced people with funny clothes and accents from coming in and committing acts of terror. But like I said, I could be wrong about that; so don’t tell that to my Republican friends. I know some of you are waiting for me to throw down a fresh race card from one of my many decks. But, clearly when a couple of white dudes blow up Boston resulting in the death of 3 people (and severely injuring 176 individuals), shoots and kills a cop, and it’s blamed on Hip Hop, that’s when you know we’re post-racial. So no, you won’t hear me rant about what some perceive to be media driven racist commentary from the likes of Ann Coulter and others. Instead, I will continue to rejoice as I drop to my knees and proclaim hallelujah as I sing praises to my lord and savior, President Barack Hussein Obama.

so-tamerlan-dzhokhar-tsarnaev-were-motivated-by-hip-hopWhat I do find funny — in spite of our post-racialness — is the way my white friends in the media are currently seeking to distance their whiteness from the alleged Boston terrorists. It’s as though it’s hard for many to digest and accept the fact that said alleged terrorists are in fact white. Which is extremely hilarious when you stop and think that these two “losers,” as referred to by their uncle recently, are from the Caucasus Mountain region of Eastern Europe. As hard as it might be to accept, whiteness doesn’t get more pure and uncut like Colombian cocaine fresh off the boat, than being two Caucasians who are originally from Chechnya. But I guess none of that matters when the privilege of certain folk affords them the ability to ignore the error of their privileged ways. Thus, it’s understandable (at least to me and others like Tim Wise) as to why the events in Boston last week — and its subsequent reactions — may never serve as a teachable moment as far as race relations are concerned. Which is really sad when you consider that many Republicans are opposed to expanded background checks for the purchase of firearms, when the Tsarnaev brothers were involved in a shoot out with cops with illegally purchased guns. But yet, they’re willing to kill or slow down current proposed immigration reform due in part to the actions of two not-so-white alleged terrorists who happen to be immigrants. Oh well, if only had the Native Americans won.

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 pantheon of white people who engage in (or have plotted) politically motivated violence meant to terrorize — and specifically to kill — but whose actions result in the assumption of absolutelynothing about white people generally, or white Christians in particular.

Among these: Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Ted Kaczynski and Eric Rudolph and Joe Stack andGeorge 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 Lawrence Michael Lombardi and Robert Mathews and David Lane and Chevie Kehoe and Michael F. Griffin and Paul Hill and John Salvi andJustin Carl Moose and Bruce and Joshua Turnidge and James Kopp and Luke Helder and James David Adkisson and Scott Roeder and Shelley Shannon and Dennis Mahon and Wade Michael Page andJeffery Harbin and Byron Williams and Charles Ray Polk and Willie Ray Lampley and Cecilia Lampley and John Dare Baird and Joseph Martin Bailie and Ray Hamblin and Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr. and John Pitner and Charles Barbee and Robert Berry and Jay Merrell and Brendon Blasz and Carl Jay Waskom Jr. and Shawn and Catherine Adams and Edward Taylor Jr. and Todd Vanbiber and William Robert Goehler and James Cleaver and Jack Dowell and Bradley Playford Gloverand Ken Carter and Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf and Chris Scott Gilliam and Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder and Buford Furrow and Benjamin Smith and Donald Rudolph and Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles and Donald Beauregard and Troy Diver and Mark Wayne McCool and Leo Felton and Erica Chase and Clayton Lee Wagner and Michael Edward Smith and David Burgert and Robert Barefoot Jr. and Sean Gillespie and Ivan Duane Braden and Kevin Harpham and William Krar and Judith Bruey and Edward Feltus and Raymond 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 and Francis Grady and Cody Seth Crawford and Ralph Lang andDemetrius Van Crocker and Floyd Raymond Looker and Derek Mathew Shrout and Randolph Linn.

Ya know, just to name a few.

Okay, you can watch the following video below while I sip my Kool Aid.

Addendum (4/24/2013): Okay, teachable moment aside, the truth is that in America much to the disadvantage of dark-skinned people, the religion Muslim is used to denote one’s race. Why? Because, well, Jesus was a Jew and of course everybody knows that Jesus was a white man, right? Never mind the fact that both religions are spinoffs from Abraham; and yes, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all cousins; yes, never mind that fact. The rub here is that as  points out at the The Daily Beast, is that “whiteness” has been used to justify segregation here in the United States of America. That said, is it any surprise that some are calling for a legalization of racial profiling in the immigration process.

This from The Daily Beast:

Think about American history and you can understand why. For centuries, Americans were legally segregated by race. Thus, when newcomers from the Middle East came to our shores, Americans had to decide which side of the line they were on. And in the struggle to be classified as white, Middle Eastern Christians had an advantage: Jesus. In the 1915 case Dow v. United States, a Syrian Christian successfully argued that he was white because Jesus, the original Middle Eastern Christian, was too. In 1925, in United States v. Cartozian, the Court designated Armenians as white because, “[a]lthough the Armenian province is within the confines of the Turkish Empire, being in Asia Minor, the people thereof have always held themselves aloof from Turks, the Kurds, and allied peoples, principally, it might be said, on account of their [Christian] religion.” In the 1942 case In Re Ahmed Hassan, a Michigan Court said a petitioner from Yemen was not white because, “Apart from the dark skin of the Arabs, it is well known that they are a part of the Mohammedan world and that a wide gulf separates their culture from that of the predominately Christian peoples of Europe.”

Today, Americans still often link Islam and dark skin. What’s changed is which category we consider more dangerous. For much of American history, the problem with being Muslim was that you weren’t considered white. Since 9/11, by contrast, one of the problems with not being considered white is that you might be mistaken for Muslim. Thus, four days after the Twin Towers fell, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station attendant, was gunned down in Mesa, Arizona by an assailant who had boasted of wanting to kill “ragheads.” Last December, a Hindu American named Sunando Sen was pushed into an oncoming subway train by a woman whoexplained, “I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001.” Sodhi and Sen, needless to say, weren’t Muslim. They just looked Muslim because they had dark skin.

Even the anti-Muslim epithets that have flourished since 9/11—for instance, “sand n…r”—have a racial connotation. And there’s evidence that Barack Obama’s dark skin is one (though not the only) reason so many Americans still think he’s a Muslim. In 2010, a Michigan State University psychologist named Spee Kosloff asked supporters of John McCain whether Obama was a Muslim. Then he asked them the same question after they filled out a card in which they listed their race. Once racially triggered, the percentage who called Obama a Muslim jumped 21 points.

You can also glimpse this conflation of religion and race in the demand—which surfaces after every terrorist attack—to single out Muslims for special scrutiny at airports and the like. Often, the politicians and pundits most eager to profile Muslims are the same folks who in the 1980s and 1990s defended the “racial profiling” of blacks. And listening to them, you sometimes get the sense that they think the process would work the same way: just look to see who the Muslims are. In 2011, for instance, Long Island Congressman Peter King suggested that when deciding who police should target as potential terror suspects, a “person’s religious background or ethnicity can be a factor.” But if the problem is Muslims—a billion person religion with adherents from Malaysia to Mauritania—what does “ethnicity” have to do with it? King then offered a racial analogy: “If I’m told the White Citizens Council, the Ku Klux Klan, is going to attack Harlem, I’d be more suspicious of a white guy walking down around Harlem.” Last year, the atheist writer Sam Harris was even blunter: “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim.”

At base, the reason it’s so hard for people to accept that the Tsarnaevs are white is because, since America’s founding, being white has meant, both culturally and legally, being “one of us.” And since 9/11, in particular, being Muslim has meant the opposite. As a light-skinned Muslim, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev straddles that divide. But he straddles it in other ways too. He was a pothead, a devotee of hip hop, a lifeguard, a high school wrestler, an aspiring dentist. And yet he became, it appears, a murderer on behalf of a fanatical species of Islam. He’s a type that has reappeared again and again in our history, from every faith and in every shade: an American at war with America, both intimately familiar and frighteningly alien at the same time.

I had a friend tell me last night that the race of the Tsarnaev brothers was of no importance. What was of importance, according to him, was the fact that they were Muslim. Unfortunately for Muslim-Americans, my friend who happens to be black, also identifies himself as a Conservative Republican. So what does that mean? It means that he has sadly forgotten his color and the history associated with being black in America. Clearly, as evidenced by the reactions of many in the right-wing-leaning “white media”, they haven’t forgotten what it is to be white, or how whiteness is defined. I suppose it takes someone  being a person of color (or maybe a white liberal do-gooder) who hasn’t lost their sense of history to understand how this “othering” thing works. That said, don’t be surprised when someone like Ann Coulters says that Adoph Hitler was Mexican.