Being Brown After The Boston Bomb Blast

By Guest Contributor Deepak Sarma, cross-posted from The Huffington Post


The bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon are a terrible tragedy and a chilling example of the worst kinds of misanthropic human behavior. I weep for the families and friends for those immediately affected and for those whose lives and memories have forever changed.

I hope that they catch the perpetrator(s) of this crime.

But I worry, especially after inciteful and potentially dangerous rumors, momentarily validated by the NY Post, that automatically point the finger at (an) international terrorist(s), who, is/are in the imaginations of those easily deluded, brown-skinned. The subsequent and unavoidable racial profiling is a slippery slope toward a lynching mentality where color/ethnicity/race (all imagined categories largely invented for economic exploitation and advantage) is proof of guilt, and where all who are imagined to be part of that imagined category are inescapably complicit.

 But my worry is not new. I had it even before the despicable 9/11 attacks. In fact I remember worrying 18 years ago (almost to the day) since the domestic terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Though this was not the first time I worried about racial profiling, this was the first time that I felt tremendous relief that the perpetrator, the loathsome Timothy McVeigh, was not an international brown-skinned terrorist as first (and incorrectly) surmised. Rather I was relieved that he was “white” (indeed, an imagined category largely invented for economic exploitation and advantage). I am sure that other brown-skinned people felt liberated by his capture, and perhaps even by his execution.

But did his capture lead to a new kind of racial profiling, where 30-year-old “white” men were targeted by law-enforcement officials? And has the dominance of “white” serial killers made all “white” American males complicit? Should I report their suspicious behavior to flight attendants and have them removed from flights? Should we look suspiciously at them when we see them buying fertilizer at the local garden supply center in suburban USA?

And then 9/11 happened. It complicated things and colored people’s already tarnished perspectives. I again have had to bear the burden, forced (chained) upon me, of being complicit, of posing a potential threat, of collusion and conspiracy merely because of my brown body, my skin color. I must endure and embrace being imprisoned in a panopticon.

What a relief it would be if the vile perpetrator(s) were “white.” What a burden it will be if she/he/they are brown-skinned.

But you may say, “Deepak, this is not about you.”


It is not about me.

  • Deepak Sarma

    What’s next? Background checks for people buying pressure cookers?

  • Sal Mensah

    Francis Lam on Twitter posted up the following quote from CNN:

    “You can’t tell from the video whether these are Americans or not Americans”. Apparently, American people have some kind of “look”. Maybe that has something to do with skin color, level of brownness. Or they can just intuitively tell who was born where and what passports they hold. XD

  • Deepak Sarma

    Suspects seem to be two “white” guys. Brown people everywhere are (temporarily) vindicated.

    • Neville Ross

      Let’s hope it stays that way.

    • Cranium Rinse

      Until the next bombing/shooting/car jacking/protest turned violent/robbery/homicide/rape