If The Boston Marathon Bomber Turns Out To Be White, Is It Still Terrorism?

Yes, that is a silly question. And yes, in the past we have labeled white bombers as domestic terrorists. It’s not like we play semantics with something as important as terrorism, right?

“The moniker ‘War on Terrorism’ has come to specifically mean ‘War on Islamic Terrorism’,” writes Salon’s David Sirota. “Involving everything from new laws like the Patriot Act, to a new torture regime, to new federal agencies like the Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security, to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to mass surveillance of Muslim communities.”

Our response to “Islamic terrorism” has led to a complete overhaul of our intelligence agencies, and an erosion of civil liberties from an advancing police state. Yet over the past four decades our country has faced more attacks from white, non-Islamic “terrorists.” From Timothy McVeigh to white Christian anti-abortion extremists, the media portrayed these non-Islamic attacks as the work of crazy “lone wolves.” In response to these “lone wolf” events, we have done nothing. They are not part of the war on terror and we did not curtail our civil liberties in response to a tactic.

This is the double standard in America in the aftermath of horrible events like the Boston Marathon bombing. If a scary “other,” or let’s just say it, a Muslim, commits these atrocities, then we are willing to go to war to stop if from happening again. We are willing to sacrifice our civil liberties in the name of safety. We are willing to profile anyone with a dark complexion. On the other hand, if a terrible violent act is committed by a person of privilege, in other words, a white guy, then it’s business as usual. We do not believe the attack is part of some greater plot by an ideological enemy. It’s a one-off event.

“Because of these undeniable and pervasive double standards, the specific identity of the Boston Marathon bomber (or bombers) is not some minor detail — it will almost certainly dictate what kind of governmental, political and societal response we see in the coming weeks,” says Sirota. “That means regardless of your particular party affiliation, if you care about everything from stopping war to reducing the defense budget to protecting civil liberties to passing immigration reform, you should hope the bomber was a white domestic terrorist. Why? Because only in that case will privilege work to prevent the Boston attack from potentially undermining progress on those other issues.”


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