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One need not follow Christofascist, Tea Party and even GOP sites to figure out that racism is a strong theme that underlies much of the anti-immigrant, anti-minority and, of course, anti-black GOP agenda. Stated another way, anyone non-white and perceived as non-Christian is suspect to these people (and many other whites) as underscored by the Washington Post chart set out above. What often goes unstated in these views - and those towards Muslims in particular - is the assumption that all Muslims are non-white. Enter the Tsarnaev brothers, both of whom are Caucasian. That's right, they are white. And this reality is driving the right wingers berserk. A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the phenomenon. Here are excerpts:
The day after last week’s attack in Boston, David Sirota wrote a column for Salon entitled “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American,” arguing that this would limit the resulting crackdown on civil liberties. At first, conservatives were appalled. Then, when police fingered the Tsarnaev brothers, they were triumphant.
But the bombers were white Americans. The Tsarnaev brothers had lived in the United States for more than a decade. Dzhokhar was a U.S. citizen. Tamerlan was a legal permanent resident in the process of applying for citizenship. And as countless commentators have noted, the Tsarnaevs hail from the Caucasus, and are therefore, literally, “Caucasian.” You can’t get whiter than that.
So why did conservatives mock Sirota for being wrong? Because in public conversation in America today, “Islam” is a racial term. Being Muslim doesn’t just mean not being Christian or Jewish. It means not being white.
Think about American history and you can understand why. For centuries, Americans were legally segregated by race. Thus, when newcomers from the Middle East came to our shores, Americans had to decide which side of the line they were on. And in the struggle to be classified as white, Middle Eastern Christians had an advantage: Jesus. In the 1915 case Dow v. United States, a Syrian Christian successfully argued that he was white because Jesus, the original Middle Eastern Christian, was too.
Today, Americans still often link Islam and dark skin. What’s changed is which category we consider more dangerous. For much of American history, the problem with being Muslim was that you weren’t considered white. Since 9/11, by contrast, one of the problems with not being considered white is that you might be mistaken for Muslim. Thus, four days after the Twin Towers fell, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas-station attendant, was gunned down in Mesa, Arizona, by an assailant who had boasted of wanting to kill “ragheads.” Last December, a Hindu American named Sunando Sen was pushed into an oncoming subway train by a woman who explained, “I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001.” Sodhi and Sen, needless to say, weren’t Muslim. They just looked Muslim because they had dark skin.
Even the anti-Muslim epithets that have flourished since 9/11—for instance, “sand n----r”—have a racial connotation. And there’s evidence that Barack Obama’s dark skin is one (though not the only) reason so many Americans still think he’s a Muslim.
You can also glimpse this conflation of religion and race in the demand, which surfaces after every terrorist attack, to single out Muslims for special scrutiny at airports and the like. Often, the politicians and pundits most eager to profile Muslims are the same folks who in the 1980s and 1990s defended the “racial profiling” of blacks.
At base, the reason it’s so hard for people to accept that the Tsarnaevs are white is because, since America’s founding, being white has meant, both culturally and legally, being “one of us.” And since 9/11, in particular, being Muslim has meant the opposite. As a light-skinned Muslim, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev straddles that divide. But he straddles it in other ways, too. He was a pothead, a devotee of hip-hop, a lifeguard, a high-school wrestler, an aspiring dentist. And yet he became, it appears, a murderer on behalf of a fanatical species of Islam. He’s a type that has reappeared again and again in our history, from every faith and in every shade: an American at war with America, both intimately familiar and frighteningly alien at the same time.
Anti-Muslim bigotry isn't just about religious based bigotry. It has a very pronounced and insidious strain of racism as well. Would that some of these assholes knew some of my hardworking and decent Muslim clients. These white bigots and racist are unable to see the common humanity of others if they look different or love differently than they themselves. It sicken mes.