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Tsarnaevs Are More Like US Mass Killers Than Terrorists

Joan Walsh wonders why they're being viewed as 'non-white'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 22, 2013 12:27 PM CDT
Updated Apr 22, 2013 1:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Conservatives jumped all over a Salon columnist who wrote a piece last week headlined, "Let's Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber Is a White American"—and when the suspects were revealed, conservatives gloated that they were not, in fact, white Americans. But the Tsarnaev brothers "are quite literally Caucasian, as in from the Caucuses," writes Joan Walsh on Salon. Plus, the US Census Bureau considers Americans of Chechen or Russian descent to be white, and one of the brothers was a naturalized American citizen. So why don't right-wingers consider them to be white?

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Walsh considers a few possibilities:

  • America has a history of "sorting white from non-white." Many European immigrants "became" white as time went on, society became more accepting, and decidedly "non-white" people started arriving. "Embracing racism and xenophobia, sadly, could be a shortcut to white status for previously non-white European immigrants."
  • Of course, it could boil down to the simple fact that the Tsarnaevs are Muslim, immigrants, or simply that "they’re 'bad,' and whiteness must be surrendered when white people are bad," Walsh writes.
But, Walsh points out, the brothers actually have more in common with other mass murderers than they do with al-Qaeda terrorists. By insisting they're not white, conservatives are simply proving the original Salon columnist's point: White American murderers basically escape scapegoating and racial profiling, but with the Tsarnaevs being viewed as non-white, you can expect "a destructive new wave of ... anti-Muslim agitation [and] generalized xenophobia." Click for Walsh's full column. (Read more Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stories.)

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