Boston, terrorism, and racial profiling of motive

Posted By Pamela on Apr 19, 2013 | 12 comments

I am a child of Massachusetts. My high school weekends were spent roaming MIT, taking classes with their Educational Studies Program. My summer days were punctuated with afternoons running around the Boston Museum of Science as my friends and I escaped the summer heat. We’d walk from MIT to the Museum, sometimes taking the long way, walking all the way to Newbury Street so we could check out the comics at Newbury Comics. Sometimes we’d duck through Copley Square, watching the rich ladies with their little dogs looking ever so pleased with themselves as they sashayed past the kids who practiced skate board tricks off of benches and railings. I have walked from the Harbor – from the North End and its Italian District, all the way across Boston and Cambridge to my home in Sommerville, all because it was a nice day and my music player had a full battery. I walked because it was safe. I can see in my mind that place where Vasser meets Main at MIT. I can see that Lord & Taylors across from where the bombs exploded. These are the places where I grew up and became who I am, and I feel like a part of the scaffolding of my youth has all to literally been blown away.

It has been with great heart break that I’ve watched the horrors of the explosions and shooting that have rocked Boston.

And now, it is with a new kind of horror that I listen to news reports that fixate on these two college-age kids refugee status, and fixate on their Muslim religion, and fixate on the idea that maybe these kids, who by all accounts were just kids who played sports and did ok in school – maybe these kids are (were) radicalized Muslims who made homemade explosives because of some religious crusade. These are ideas without origins, and I want to scream at my radio, to scream at these sage pundits – to scream at them to stop assuming because these kids are brown haired and brown eyed and light olive skinned that they are terrorists with a religious motive.

Where are the parallels to Columbine? Where are the fears that this is what happens when potential high school / college shooters think a little bigger? Where is the worry that our society is so broken that maybe these two kids – described over and over as nice kids – maybe they simply decided to foolishly see what would happen if they planted a couple bombs and walked away?

If these two boys had been white – had been catholics whose families went to mass every Sunday – no one would be calling this a crusade. If these were kids described as nerds who played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, wouldn’t everyone blame the role playing game while we waited to hear a real motive?

We know nothing. There is no letter of explanation. There is no manifesto explaining these murders.

We know nothing about their motives.

So why are people pulling the monsters out from under the bed a sleeping America has been dozing on, and presenting us with these imaginary monsters and calling it a possible reality. Yes, there sometimes is a rapist or murderer under the bed, and yes, these could have been radicalized muslim young men, but… there is no proof to think that.

These are (were) two brothers – one of them not even old enough to drink – who made bombs because they could – hasn’t blowing things up become the American way?  I know plenty of farm kids who’ve blown up their fair share of gopher holes, and I remember seeing a friend’s uncle throw a grenade into a field one 4th of July. Driving through the midwest you can buy fireworks anywhere in the summer and drive into the sunset with terrifying articles of light and fire and that aren’t labeled for, but can bring, mass destruction.

We have easy access to death in this nation – easy access to guns and explosive making materials. Most people just choose to shot deer instead of one another, and to blow up varmints instead of crowds.

These are (were) two brothers who did something amazingly wrong. This should not have happened. This was an act of terror. I’m not sure what makes something terrorism, but I know these boys instilled fear.

But until someone finds evidence that this was politically motivated or driven by a false belief that these boys falsely labeled as Islamic (even though the Koran is a book of peace)… until we have that evidence … please stop using racial profiling to assign your terrorist motivations.

We may never know why this happened. That is hard to live with. But our society will be even harder to live in if in our ignorance we opt to believe in racially/theologically driven hate.

Columbine, Newtown, the Texas Sharp Shooter, the Virginia Tech massacre… so many different killers across so many years. … They each had their own broken reasons for lashing out in violence. They weren’t all American born. They weren’t all Christian. They were all broken.

This is a secular nation, comprised of people of all races and religions who are trying to find a way to celebrate our differences while we build a healthy society. Don’t let this one horrible moment in time fragment our nation. We can be better than this. We can be great.


  1. Well said.

  2. Uh, the one guy has islamic extremist videos all over his youtube channel. Chechnya’s fight against Russia has morphed into Islamic Jihad. The recipe for the bombs are exactly as presented in the Inspire magazine, etc.

    So plenty of evidence, though the full story will play out. This jihadi mentality doesn’t match my experience with peaceful Muslims I’ve known and worked with. It does, however, match the Sunni Wahabbi-style beliefs.

    Here’s a non-Fox News link (since you probably won’t read anything on Fox).

  3. Shorter MP: “Yeah, but they’re MUSLIM.”

    You missed the whole point, didn’t you?

  4. Well, before we knew they were muslims, we had NPR airheads carrying on about how they were probably “Right-Wing terrorists” with no evidence whatsoever to support the assertion. They played the same game with virtually every other tragedy we’ve experienced in the recent past, so I suspect you aren’t hearing the whole story.

  5. Well John, There was plenty of evidence for both suppositions before it came out that they were Chechnian. To name a few: the evident amateurishness and use of black powder is more commonly found among the Survivalist community efforts along these lines, but on the other hand the use of (semi) syncronized pairs of blasts had suggested to me “al Quaeda” wannabees before we knew what we now know. If they had actually been linked to one or another faction of that loosely defined group credit from afar might have been claimed, though again, it was not enough of a “success” as defined by those folk so perhaps my second example comes closest to the truth. I would credit NPR with using the lack of claims to make their early prognostications the way that they did. I hope you do see how this whole affair could be fit into whatever “worldview” one was of a mind to follow before today’s revelations. Certainly there were many national news sources other than NPR weighing in and getting it wrong in the direction of middle eastern and darker suspects These guys could pass for many other Bostonians and knew it.Two much news can often be as bad as too little.

  6. No Nicole, my point was to not ignore evidence or bury your head in the sand. For many people (at least 10% of Muslims last I saw), the Koran is not a religion of peace but of war. Ignoring that is as unscientific as (say) Intelligent Design.

  7. One gets the impression that the suspected bombers had difficulties in understanding freedom and self-determination. They were “serious fellows” and that may led them to see “insults” as personal challenges. They may have been subjected to culture clash but no way does that justify striking out against society the way they did. It could be that they saw activists as aggressors.

  8. If you flipped a coin 30 times and got 30 heads, would you be so upset if I wagered that the 31st toss would be heads, too?
    Let’s be honest: the early assumption that these two men were Muslims on a religiously-inspired crusade was a perfectly reasonable one, given that the overwhelming majority of recent similar attacks were undertaken by similar young Muslim men for Muslim reasons. Add to it the fact that their sister said the family was conservative Muslim (and had shunned her for years because she (gasp) married someone who wasn’t Muslim) and you have a pretty convincing profile.
    I’m sorry that your hopes and preconceived notions about the identities and motivations of the Boston killers were overturned. I feel very much the same.

  9. Kevin,

    Which “overwhelming majority of recent similar attacks” would that be? Last I heard, the majority of bombings in the United States over the past thirty years were planted by right-wing alleged-Christians upset about birth control…

  10. What I want to know is where is the sense of proportion? Since 9/11 there has been 1, arguably 2, successful Islamic extremist attacks. My guess would be you’ve got a far better chance of being hit and killed by lightning. I wouldn’t start talking about car accidents or even accidental gun deaths. Yes, the attack was purposeful, completely arbitrary and was preventable. However, there is no assessment of risk in public reaction and media coverage. And people wonder why terrorists do what they do?

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