Originally posted on the Kinesis blog on December 5, 2015.
With all of these acts of terrorism popping up globally for the last several years – and I’m not sure if we are simply getting more reports now, or if they are actually more numerous – I cannot help but notice something: privilege. The kind of privilege that polarizes the world as an us against them; first world vs. third world. The kind of privilege that highlights the stark contrast between whose lives in this world have value and whose do not.
Someday last week during the Thanksgiving weekend, I sat down to catch up on Hulu on one of my all time favorite shows, the Daily Show. Trevor began in Jon Stewart fashion with a sorta long, sorta short summation on the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 including of course, the type of intent and language that should keep us all grounded and bring us back to ourselves as compassionate global citizens. Which, as a biracial native of South Africa sounded very interesting to me because of the sanitized sympathy that it presented. He made this whole statement about not focusing on the perpetrators, but focusing on the fact that these acts of terrorism are not attacks on particular people; they were attacks on humanity itself and that is how we should see it, he says.
I find that incredibly interesting… the complete lack of analysis. Complete lack of context. To me, complete lack of humanity. And it has become a trend. It undoubtedly stems from the whole illusion of who we are as a world, as a global community and especially as Amercans. The white picket fence humanity. There is a whole obvious need to “other” the acts and the people who commit them as if they are foreign aliens from some other planet who just dropped into whatever region like pod people who try to blow folks up just because the sun is shining.
These people are human beings. Nobody just ups and wants to blow shit up for nothing… except perhaps the absolutely psychotic. As if they were Michael Myers (a la Halloween 1-794) from birth. Even more ironically, the impulse to want to see every “terrorist” or despit as this Michael Myers type who sprang from the womb insane, is the obvious racial implication… Dare I say it, when we do encounter the Michael Myers types, we become fascinated with him. When I say we in this sense, I am signifying mainstream American culture, aka white dominant point of view, but one to which we as people of color – even though I despise that phrase – belong as well, due to having been socialized in this narrative, as well. But I digress… When we encounter this Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers type, they tend to be white males and we tend to make them a celebrity of sorts. We study them. Mainstream culture and media cushion him. They make headlines that cushion his whiteness and NEVER EVER call him a terrorist. Although he is. Truthfully, even in calling those types terrorists there has to be a distinction made. These terrorists who we are reluctant to call terrorists are home grown, and it is recognized in the language that is used for them:
They are humanized, sanitized and shown to be a good, misunderstood boy who suddenly had a psychotic break. Not someone who had been in any way shaped by the very cultural fabric that makes “us” what we are. They are the only terrorists that I ever worry about, as an American African woman… privileged, entitled white males. Those lynch mob, Daniel Holtzclaw types.
However, in the cases of these other types of terrorists – usually people of color – will nobody care about them as human beings? Seriously. I mean that. Will no one ask what the hell pushed them to that point, and actually go investigate that? Their socioeconomic status? The world they grew up in? These are people. They came from a womb at some point. They were once babies. Just like that toddler in your home, or your sister’s home, or those children you teach. They had toys or at least something to play with, even if it was a random piece of wood they found on a road. Will nobody look into the conditions that they came from or the lens through which they were forced to see the world, that were more than likely created in their home countries, regions and even in their own families probably by the very countries that they are attacking? NOBODY wants to know why these people flew all the fuck the way over to wherever just to blow some folks up? People, who came from a damn dirt hole somewhere and otherwise could not afford to do all this?
There is an ancient saying and a favorite of mine that puts some things into perspective for me at the right times:
“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto,” or “I am a human, I consider nothing that is human alien to me.”
Like it or not, these incidents are the results of the world in which we live. These people are born and created in this world. They are us. So, when folks get all in their feelings about these things – and rightly so because it is shocking and tragic – they show just how racist and privileged the “world” really is. They DO NOT care about humanity. The only humanity they recognize is that of people who they think deserve it and who they think deserve protection. However, Nigerian children, Syrian children… Apparently don’t.
So we will sit and cry and whatever over the folks in Paris – and please do not start to tell me about how people of color were harmed in the attacks, as well because I am not in the mood to explain how colonialism works – this just being one example of course. Then we will do everything that we can to return to normalcy… our status quo. And I use that term loosely because of the way my melanin and ancestry are set up, normalcy for me is an ever present state of terrorism, as well. But normalcy for those people where the bombers were from, are still living in whatever same hell, that undoubtedly is what caused the anger and resentment to begin with. Yes, there are individuals among them who take advantage of them and inspire them to take these turns in life, but they too were babies, once. Who lived whatever lives until the bombs started flying overhead.