By Andrea Plaid
Different city, same racism.
Boston, as you may know, suffered from two bomb blasts during its marathon bearing its name this past Monday. As the city struggles to recover from this recent tragedy, we’re getting reports that the alleged bombers got into a shootout with law enforcement overnight–including throwing explosives–that moved through Cambridge and Watertown. According to reports, one of the suspects died in the shootout, and the police are waging a large manhunt for the other one. All of this has locked down the city, the reports continue, with MIT, Harvard, and public schools shut down, public transportation suspended, air space restricted, and advisories to the residents to stay indoors.
What we’re also finding out is about the suspects themselves: the police killed Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the shootout and are looking for his brother Dzhokar. The siblings come from the Russian Federation country of Chechnya, in the Caucus region. The brothers are, literally, Caucasians–which, in the US, is the (inaccurate) synonym for white people in general.
But, if you’ve been following this breaking story, you know this is not how the news media initially described the suspects. No, the reporters went for their grab bag of racist descriptions they associated with bombings: CNN’s John King described the bomber as a “dark-skinned male.” The news station also reported that the suspect had a “foreign accent.” New York Post said that “Saudi Arabian national” was a suspect. Next thing 17-year-old Salah Barhoun knew he was fingered as one of the suspects–and had to go to the police station to clear his name. And the family of missing Sunil Tripathi has to deal with the traumatizing agony of an online lynch-mob mentality that named their child as one of the suspects. And politicians are using the tragedy to grandstand regarding the new immigration bill.
The National Association of Black Journalist checked this racist reflex, according to Huffington Post. And Colorlines just reported that Twitter did a Racism 101 with King regarding his comment.
In the meantime, a city, especially its dark-skinned non-Muslim and Muslim dwellers, live in fear–real fear of a real person taking his violence into the streets and an imagined fear produced by Islamophobia and perpetuated by the press. The R’s collective heart goes out to everyone in the Boston area during this time of loss and confusion.
Since this is an open thread, where are your heads and hearts on this situation, Racializens?