Never Saw 'Em Coming

Diverse City
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  April 24, 2013

Wasn't it so uncomfortable when we found out two white men set off bombs at the Boston Marathon last week, and people started looking suspiciously at white guys?

Oh, wait . . . they didn't.

And it's a good thing they didn't immediately target any brown people in knee-jerk fashion right afterward.

Oh, wait . . . they did.

I dread whenever a serious crime is on the news and the perpetrator is black, because I then have to worry how I will be viewed by strangers. Suddenly, they've been reminded of how much more dangerous black people are.

Even though they aren't.

When whites commit crimes, it's an aberration, but too often when non-whites do — particularly brown, tan, and/or Muslim ones — it's more like an excuse to think ill of people in those groups and distrust them more.

One thing I noticed in the aftermath of the Tsarnaev brothers' bombing was how quick many people were to say that, being Chechen, they weren't so much "white" as they were "ethnic" and, regardless, at least they were Muslim, and that proves something, right?

Except it doesn't. From 1980 to 2005, a time when radical Islam had plenty of beef with the West and a period which included the 9/11 attack, Islamic extremists accounted for only 6 percent of terrorist attacks on US soil.

After the Boston bombing last week, much like after 9/11, we saw some of the best of humankind with people helping each other at the site of the attack and afterward through fundraising efforts.

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.

As I watched the chaotic events unfold at the middle and end of last week when police closed in and eventually took down both suspects (since my plans for a day trip to Boston were already canceled as a result of Monday's bombing), 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 what seem to me to be two suspicious-looking characters in the midst of the marathon happenings. They don't blend in and they actually look nervous. A friend of mine who is a law-enforcement officer in New England, and a Black woman, shared similar observations with me.

Instead of targeting the guilty white guys, though, Salah Barhoum, a teenager and running enthusiast , 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. His crime: being of Moroccan descent and being into running.

And then Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi, a 22-year-old national from Saudi Arabia who was watching the marathon and 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, his apartment was searched for hours and this was reported to the world.

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Related: Sporting Eye, The question of Iran, Making change, More more >
  Topics: The Editorial Page , Boston Marathon, bombing, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
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