Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Boston Bombing: Aren't You Glad It Wasn't YOU?

Watch this (best to start at 6:24)...

At 6:24 in this video the uncle of the Tsarnaev brothers, suspected of bombing the Boston Marathon, pleads with his nephews to turn themselves in.  He expresses that they have shamed not only their family, but all Chechneyans, and he asks for them to beg forgiveness from the Bostonians they've harmed.  Earlier in the video the uncle gave a strident testament of his love of America and everything this country has done for his family.  I believe his sincerity, and I empathize with the situation he is in.  I also find it interesting that he felt he needed to put himself out there like this, particularly given the risk from some of the less evolved among us.

In the hours before the discovery of the bombers' identities, most of us had one unseemly, but overriding thought.  It's the though that begins, "I hope they aren't _______."  Among the adjectives with which you could fill in that blank would be "Muslim", "Black", "Hispanic", "Middle Eastern", "Gay/Lesbian", pretty much anything but "White".  If this seems a bit, dare I say, racist to you, then chances are it's because you've never experienced being a minority in this country.  That would be because...you're White.

There's an interesting racial dynamic that takes place whenever we have these incidents where people are injured or killed at the violent hands of another.  Whether it's everyday violence that we see in the local news, or mass shootings like Aurora, Colorado or Sandy Hook, or terrorism like the attempted Times Square bombing or the Shoe Bomber...or Boston.  It may not be evident if you're White, but if you happen to be a minority, it is glaringly clear.  Being an African-American who has spent the better part of his professional life working in predominately White environment, I often encounter this dynamic every time some inner-city shooting is reported in the news.  When the DC Snipers were identified as African-American back in 2002, I actually had to answer the unforgivably insipid question from some clueless but otherwise decent White person, "Did you know them?"  Yes.  I actually had this question directed at me.  It wasn't malicious, or mean spirited (at least I like to think it wasn't).  This person genuinely wanted to know if I had any connection to these snipers, as if all African-Americans are connected to each other by some invisible tether and share collective thoughts.  Obviously, I told this person no (fighting with everything in me the urge to say anything more).  But it stands to me as the most explicit, right-there, example of how I, as an African-American, am seen as representative of my race by White America.  It's true at the workplace, at conferences, at speaking engagements, in the street, everywhere.  And it's true for everyone who is a minority in this country.  Sadly, it is very much true for the uncle of the Boston bombers.

If you're African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or any other minority, if you are a foreigner, if you practice any religion other than Christianity (or none at all), if you are Gay, Lesbian, or Transgendered, you are cursed with the burden of having to represent everyone else who is like you.  And if anyone like you is involved with a crime (say, planting bombs at the Boston Marathon), you are forced to somehow apologize for this person and everyone else with whom you identify ethnically, culturally, religiously, or racially.  Whites do not have this burden.  When Adam Lanza shot up those kids in Sandy Hook, of course everyone was shocked, disgusted, and angry.  But no White person came out and apologized for him, or for the race that produced him.  After the Oklahoma City bombing, we didn't hear stories about White people being assaulted out of revenge.  And to date Scott Roder, the man who killed the Abortion doctor George Tiller, is still not being called a terrorist.

As it turned out, the bombers belonged to two ethnic groups.  They were both White and Muslim.  Guess which group will catch all of the Hell.