Boston Bomber Race: What If He's White?

Upon learning that there had been an explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon I joined my fellow Americans in hoping that there would be no casualties, and that the explosion was an accident. With the reports of 3 deaths, a second explosion, and the diffusion of two more explosive devices, it became clear that this was in fact a deadly terrorist attack.

In a compelling article on Salon.com, David Sirota explains that his new hope is that the Boston marathon bomber is a white American so that this tragedy does not undermine current legislative initiatives before Congress — and I find myself in full agreement.

The latest reports claim there are two suspects in what is likely a "lone wolf" attack using widely available bomb-building formulas, a profile common of terrorists inspired by Al-Qaeda and extreme right-wing individuals in the United States. Sirota argues that he hopes the bomber(s) is a white Americans because a white male privilege exists, whereby attacks by white non-Islamists are portrayed as isolated incidents that are difficult to prevent.


On the contrary, and as fellow pundit Usaid Siddiqui suggested in a recent PolicyMic article, attacks committed by Muslims and/or foreigners from developing countries are publicized as signs of deep anti-American sentiment of that entire demographic group and calls for a systemic response. This questionable double-standard speaks to an underlying issue of racial profiling evident in the case of an injured 22-year old Saudi student singled out as a suspect early on in the investigation, "giving our anxieties a form," to use the phrase from a New Yorker article this morning sure to cause controversy.

Far from causing a rally-around-the-flag effect, news of an Islamist extremist bomber would deepen party rifts on issues such as cuts to the Pentagon budget and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Further, the overblown response that would accompany news of an unaffiliated Muslim or foreign bomber would distract Congress from the delicate legislative opportunities ahead. Most notably, such a response would prevent working to improve the bipartisan gun control bill which failed to pass on the Senate floor today despite strong public support, and the immigration reform legislation drafted by the bipartisan Senate's Gang of Eight to be released this week.

See Robin Ye’s PolicyMic article: How Will the Boston Bombings Impact Immigration?

We should not to let the tragic deaths in Boston undermine progress on legislation in Congress that could help protect Americans from other tragedies, such as a repetition of the Newton shooting of four months ago. Although I do not aim to present arguments for or against the particulars of the gun control and immigration legislation, I do hope the Boston bomber will turn out to be a white American so that Congress can continue to move away from partisan gridlock and approach the current and future legislation more determined to cooperate to better America, rather than to revert to the partisanship a foreign attack would cause.