On her Sunday MSNBC program, Melissa Harris-Perry argued that it is too much emphasis is being place on the Muslim faith of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, whom authorities believe carried out last week’s terrorist attacks in Boston.
Harris-Perry and her guest, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, said the motivation behind the attacks were still an open question and should not be treated as a “policy matter” until we know more.
“I guess part of I would say is ‘we don’t really know,’” Harris-Perry said. “The younger brother, he’s getting all kinds of tweets from his friends — I think part of the answer is that it’s still an open question. But it does worry me that even as we saw with these open questions, we are already beginning to talk about it as a policy matter.”
“That’s the different point here because they don’t have the privilege of being anonymous – ‘they,’ speaking of people of color or other minorities — we don’t know yet, but we fill in the blanks,” Dyson replied. “We fill in the blanks with the stereotype. We fill in the blanks with the profiles. We fill in the blanks with what makes us feel the most comfortable that this is an exceptional, extraordinary case that happened because they are this. So you take one part of the element, that he’s Muslim. But he also might have listened to classical music, he might have had some Lil Wayne. He might have also gone to and listened to a lecturer.”
Harris-Perry then asked why the brothers’ religious faith is automatically seen as the most plausible explanation for why they carried out the attacks.
“I keep wondering — is it possible that there would ever be a discussion like, ‘Oh, this is because of Ben Affleck and the connection between Boston and movies about violence?’” Harris-Perry said. “And, of course, the answer is no. Of course no one will even think this is about those things. But at the same time there’s something — I appreciate the way that you framed that as the one drop. Like, because given that they’re Chechen, given that they are literally Caucasian — our very sense of connection to them is this framed-up notion of, like, Islam making them something that is non-normal.”
“The point is that it’s important to say ‘that is not us,’” Dyson replied. “You know, ‘this is not American. This is not who we are, because we couldn’t potentially do what they did.’ But if they’re more like us — the point you were making earlier, if they’re just like us — they grew up in the same neighborhoods, they listened to the same kind of music, they talk to the same kind of people.”
“It’s scarier because what has metamorphosized here to become who they are?” Dyson continued. “What evil lurks among us? And so we want to demonize the other. We have to distance it from the dominant culture.”
(h/t Noah Rothman, Mediaite)