The blood (or reasonable facsimile) on the streets of Boston was barely dry when syndicated columnist David Sirota wrote that he hoped the Boston bomber(s) would turn out to be a “white American” so the nation could not blame the usual suspects: entire religious or ethnic minorities not protected by the “privilege” that allows whites to be judged as individuals.
“This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings,” he explained. “In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) . . . However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings – even though most came at the hands of white dudes.”
Sirota is of course correct about that last point: Most of the recent mass shootings, including a school in Connecticut, a movie theater in Colorado and the 2011 Arizona incident in which former U.S. Rep. Gabbie Giffords was wounded and others killed, were indeed committed by white men – men with obvious mental problems whose motives were not easily discerned (although the shooter in Giffords' case was said to be driven by anti-government beliefs).
Even so, I don't remember commentators on Fox News openly hoping that the perpetrators would turn out to be less white than they appeared, or driven by some foreign ideology.
Sirota no doubt would claim that only proves his point that white people avoid the speculation and stereotypes to which minorities are often unfairly subjected.
But it wasn't Fox news that identified the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar as the bombers, or determined that they appear to have been motivated by what the Boston Herald has called “radical anti-American Islamism.”
Nor was it conservatives who libeled Islam for the Sept. 11 attacks, the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber or the deaths of 13 people and the wounding of 32 more at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) before pulling the trigger.
In fact, most Americans have been very willing to accept a distinction between Islam itself and its radical jihadist offshoots, often to the point of foolishness. The Obama administration, for example, still refuses to call the Fort Hood massacre an act of terrorism, labeling it merely “work place violence.”
The cruel irony of Sirota's diatrive is that the effort to judge minorities as members of groups has for decades come almost exclusively from the left. What is race- and gender-based affirmative action if not a policy that makes sweeping assumptions about individuals in a supposedly enlightened attempt to right old wrongs?
But such things cannot help but foster hard feelings. Members of out-of-favor groups will resent being punished for sins they never committed and benefits they may have never received, while those who have been labeled as “victims” in need of help may come to resent their benefactors for not doing even more.
It is not entirely clear what radicalized the Boston bombers who, for all we know, paid for their bomb-making materials with welfare payments Massachusetts officials refuse to explain out of concern for the brothers' privacy. Apparently even free money can't convince terrorists to love us.
America is far from perfect, but surely the knee-jerk reflex on some circles to blame America for the world's ills – including the indiscriminate acts of terror committed against it — cannot help but offer aid, comfort and perhaps even inspiration to those her and abroad who wish us harm.
Sirota, in fact, blames even some who wish Boston well. “Bizarre to hear rightwingers who constantly berate/insult Massachusetts suddenly pretend they care about the people in Boston,” he wrote.
No more bizarre than to see the brothers' mother proclaim “Allahu akbar” to TV reporters while maintaining at least a degree of sympathy from pundits who claim to care about her sons' victims.In my Thursday column, I misidentified one of the companies that has helped IPFW students' efforts to restore old cemeteries. I should have mentioned Bobcat of Fort Wayne.