Monday, December 28, 2020

Omit Race. The Rest Stays.

Malcolm Nance has a point. But he swings and misses.

Here is something you'll never read: "The terrorist was a brown man from Iran, a suicide bomber who was killed in his car bomb."

 And yet:

 Noting the individual is male is unnecessary, even redundant, because it would be fair to assume that "Anthony" is a man. It would be unbalanced to note that he is "white"- news reports of attacks suspected of being terrorism never refer to the alleged perpetrator as "brown" or "black."  The door swings both ways (or must).

Nonetheless, Nance's suggestion that there be a reference to the suspected culprit being "American" is understandable, for the individual's country of origin would have been noted if he had come from a foreign country or if his parents had done so. 

"Homegrown," preceding as it typically does, "terrorist." would be improper because the public, perhaps even law enforcement, does not yet (as of noon, 12/28/20) know what motivated the attacker. Referring to him as a "terrorist" is legitimate because the attack was seemingly directed at innocents, whatever Warner's goal.  However, the reference would not (yet) be justified, given that the warning given appears intended to ward off people who might be injured or killed from the bomb.

Nevertheless, "domestic bomber" would be fitting. When a terrorist has a connection to Iran, Saudi Arabia, Chechnya or, for that matter, any foreign nation, the association is not ignored.

However, if Nance were bolder- no, Nance is bold, so it may be intelligence, savvy, or something else- he would have added "Christian."  To the matter of boldness (or courage): if there is a third rail here, it is not mention of race but of religion. The New York Times understood the importance of religion when on Halloween of 2017 it noted

A driver plowed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson River in Manhattan on Tuesday, killing eight people and injuring 11 before being shot by a police officer in what officials are calling the deadliest terrorist attack on New York City since Sept. 11, 2001.

The rampage ended when the motorist — whom the police identified as Sayfullo Saipov, 29 — smashed into a school bus, jumped out of his truck and ran up and down the highway waving a pellet gun and paintball gun and shouting “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” before he was shot in the abdomen by the officer. He remained in critical condition on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared the rampage a terrorist attack and federal law enforcement authorities were leading the investigation. Investigators discovered handwritten notes in Arabic near the truck that indicated allegiance to the Islamic State, two law enforcement officials said. But investigators had not uncovered evidence of any direct or enabling ties between Mr. Saipov and ISIS and were treating the episode as a case of an “inspired” attacker, two counterterrorism officials said.

Collectively, "Allahu akbar" and "allegiance to the Islamic State" are spelled M-U-S-L-I-M, which is relevant to the story. Appropriately, The NYT piece reporting identification of Warner noted that the family in which he was raised "worshiped at a Roman Catholic church a few miles away" (from where he grew up).

Although Warner probably was not motivated by religious beliefs and may even have been a lapsed Catholic, he was raised in that particular Christian denomination. Were he a Muslim, that fact would have found itself inserted into the news article- as it should have.

Whether most other news items will note that the apparent bomber had at least a connection to Catholicism and/or Christianity remains to be seen, and Las Vegas would have it at 3 to 1 against. Nonetheless, mentioning this is important, as it is that he is homegrown or born in the USA of American-born parents. Identification of race- and especially of color- would be inflammatory. Or maybe that's the point.

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