It’s best to try to engage your opponents’ best arguments; that makes your own arguments stronger.
David Sirota’s Salon piece, “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American“, is not one of our opponents’ better arguments:
As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing — the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.
According to Sirota, “white privilege” has prevented white males from coming under the sort of scrutiny that, say, Arabs have for ghastly crimes.
This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.
Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats — the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts.
Yeah, it could be the “white privilege”.
Or it could be the fact that nearly all of the Arab mass murderers – from Major Hassan up to the 9/11 hijackers – have actually been members of, or allegedly explicit sympathizers with, major extranational military/terror movements, while the white males have represented tiny fringes of tiny fringes of our society:
By contrast, even though America has seen a consistent barrage of attacks from domestic non-Islamic terrorists, the privilege and double standards baked into our national security ideologies means those attacks have resulted in no systemic action of the scope marshaled against foreign terrorists.
The examples Sirota gives (drawn from the lefty idiotblog Crooks and Liars – the only blog in the world that can’t shake its head at what dolts the Daily Kos diary writers are) are largely lone crazies, many of them implicated in “white supremacy” by the thinnest of threads; some of them (John Patrick Bedell) are actually lefties; the article itself considered the Gabby Giffords shooting a “terror attack”.
And beyond that?
In fact, it has been quite the opposite — according to Darryl Johnson, the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, the conservative movement backlash to merely reporting the rising threat of such domestic terrorism resulted in DHS seriously curtailing its initiatives against that particular threat.
Sirota is apparently writing to an audience of the addled; DHS Secretary Napolitano’s “reporting” (along with her camp followers at the Southern Poverty Law Center) was less “reporting” than “releasing a list of groups that opposed the Democrats”. The right was correct to mock both “efforts”.
Is there an element of “racism” in the way our society treats crime? Sure – although the term might better be called “we-ism”. Everyone in the world is a “we-ist”; they’re more tolerant of people who look, speak and act more like them, and less tolerant of those who don’t. It’s true of everyone; middle-class black professionals are twitchy around urban Latinos; alpaca-clad Volvo-driving fashionably-gray NPR-listening upper-middle-class white liberals get nervous around leather-wearing Bud-drinking bikers. Our society is still largely white, and the male half of that majority is, well, male; to the extent that the idea of a “white male majority” includes both David Sirota and, well, me, I guess you could say “we” are more forgiving of people like “us”, whoever they are.
So you could chalk this up to “white privilege”.
Or maybe to the fact that so many Arabs who’ve attacked us have expressed sympathy with the goals of the groups that attacked us in 9/11 (notwithstanding the fact that the vast majority of American Arabs are no less American than anyone in Bemidji), while the vast majority of “white terror” suspects have indeed been lone wolves (I mean, if you’re going by evidence rather than Sirota’s fervent, nearly evidence-free wish that it were otherwise) might have something to do with it.