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Friday, October 21, 2016

Lamentably, the Boston Marathon bombing reopened some of the most poisonous arguments in American life. Specifically, are the Tsarnaev brothers “white?” It’s a meaningless question.

Some hotheads couldn’t wait to declare all Muslims suspect. Certain thinkers on the left (David Sirota, Salon) argued against collective guilt while oddly lamenting that “white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated” for the crimes of Caucasian psycho killers.

Should they be?

Anyway, I’d previously treated the theme of ethnicity as destiny in a column about which racial ID boxes President Obama should have checked on his 2010 census form.

Everybody knows Obama’s mother was a white woman from Kansas, his father an exchange student from Kenya. But there’s no box labeled “African-American.” So the president checked “black.” He could also have checked “white,” but chose not to.

This decision disappointed a unique student group at the University of Maryland, although most understood it. Recently profiled in the New York Times, the Multiracial and Biracial Student Association could with equal accuracy be called “Students Whose Mothers Were Asked Insulting Questions by Busybodies at the Supermarket.”

Questions like the one my sainted mother put to my wife’s mother at our wedding: “What nationality are you people, anyway?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The Maryland group strikes me as entirely benign. Asked which boxes she checks, vice-president Michelle López-Mullins, age 20, says “It depends on the day, and it depends on the options.”

López-Mullins, the Times reports, is a one-woman UN: “Chinese and Peruvian on one side, and white and American Indian on the other.” As a child, she says even friends asked hurtful questions, such as “What are you?” and “Where are you from?”

To lessen the sting, she and her friends play a “who’s what?” guessing game among themselves. “Now when people ask what I am, I say, ‘How much time do you have?’” Lopez-Mullins said. “Race will not automatically tell you my story.”

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • John Pigg


  • WoW! I’m glad I’ve had a 2nd cup of coffee.
    You were saying…??? Something about this being everyones fault except the bombers?
    Because you can’t get your head around the WHY they did this?
    Accept it, they did this because you are an Infidel & all Infidels must die, heard that one before? Sure you have.
    We are at war with the most primative of people (if you call them that). They subscribe to ideas & beliefs established & kept alive for hundreds of years thru tribal pass downs & now they’re thrust into the Internet Zone & are carrying out their mission, erradicate the Infidels.
    What do you want to do? Sit down & have a latte & a discussion?
    There’s no reasoning with them, acquiece or die! Not much of a selection on that menu I like.
    The world has given as much lattitude to the immigrints that populate all our shores. We have to become very selective as to just who it is we let in & WHY. And watch them like the Russkies watch Americans in Moscow.

    • tomtype

      You have mixed up your perceptions, your fears and the real world. Your fears create a horde of Muslim extremists, where few exist. There is not much intrinsically in Islam nothing allows the kind of threat you perceive. There is more in the individual and separate nationalism that are infecting the world.
      The only group of immigrants watched as closely as you propose were the slaves, and that was because they were slaves. And we know how well that suspicion and fear worked out for us. #1 They became the most American of the Americans. They eat more fast food, watch more mindless TV and respond in the most predictable ways. Called, just fitting in. We have absorbed all kinds of people from all parts of the world, and amazingly the second generation is almost pure American. We really do a great job, and do it by letting people be themselves, make so many choices for themselves. We tell everyone: you don’t need to learn English, but if you don’t you have no chance of becoming rich and famous. Learn English, join our society, and we really have worked out some of the stickiest problems to plague mankind, and you can live a good life, maybe even become everything except president and your children can do even that. Now that is integration.

      • Allan Richardson

        The African slaves’ descendants, like all other groups in America, have become the best and the worst characters, and have both suffered the worst and achieved the best. The problem is that POVERTY is transmitted, not genetically, but socially and economically. If the parents do not have an education, and the children are not given access to good education, live in a neighborhood where one who tries to become educated is not only ridiculed but endangered, etc. only a lucky few of those children will become achievers.

        All of us are Africans. Some of us had ancestors that left a bit sooner than others.

    • Sand_Cat

      What in the hell are you talking about?

      • CPAinNewYork

        I think that he or she is saying that Muslims are a mean spirited bunch of fanatics with a homicidal bent. Does that clear it up for you?

    • I think you read a different article than the rest of us.

  • Ignorance will never cease to amaze me. First of all, nationality refers to citizenship in a specific country, typically the country where we were born or the country we migrated to and became naturalized citizens of, not ethnicity. Most importantly, does it really matter what the pigmentation of the Tsarnaev brothers was/is? Does anyone really believe that violence is influenced by ethnicity or citizenship? The fact is that two deeply disturbed people committed a heinous crime, probably for reasons not too dissimilar to what influenced the decision of the perpetrators of other massacres.
    When are we going to stop looking at the color of the skin of a person that does something good or bad, and look at them as individuals?

    • sigrid28

      I agree totally that the Tsarnaev brothers were probably more susceptible to radical ideas because they were ignorant and naive. Some of that falls to the failure of public education in the U.S. No one ever discusses education as a principal means of combatting radicalization of extremists of all stripes–except you, Dom.

    • Allan Richardson

      Despite the mixed metaphors of the afterlife (Nirvana is a Buddhist concept), which you probably meant satirically, I agree that race is a social idea, not a biological one, although it has roots in biology. The so-called “superior white race” that neo-Nazis and the Klan do not want to “mongrelize” (and for the record, mongrels are generally better pets than purebred dogs, and often quite smart and deserving of RESCUE, hint) became the most powerful in the world (so far) because it mixed together people and ideas from Ireland to Persia, all of whom considered themselves racial enemies at some time in history, to make a GREATER WHOLE. So if we ignore racists and turn the HUMAN race into a greater whole, we will be able to make even more advances.

      Besides, ALL OF US are of African descent; some of our ancestors just left a little sooner than others!

  • commserver

    Why the fixation on race? Every online survey has questions about race. Some allow multiple choices.

    It is all very stupid.

    I remember seeing a “picture” of the future American. It showed a person with different colors.

    • sigrid28

      I remember the “picture” myself: It was an ad campaign entitled “United Colors of Benetton,” back in the eighties, thirty years ago. Race is embedded in our DNA, which not only dictates physiological characteristics but which also carries forward genetic predispositions that govern behavior. I suppose you could say, the flight or fight syndrome has given good flyers and good fighters the edge among many species. From that perspective, individuals had to prejudge to survive. Xenophobia–fear of the other (that person or other being not like us)–allowed humans to survive the trials of natural selection. So did carb loading. Some habits that have outlived their usefulness are just very hard to break. Ever since we learned to love the “United Colors of Benetton” bilboard, we have both been struggling to make our picture of “the future American,” as you say, match up.

    • I always complete my census form with “homo sapiens” because that is the “race” I belong to and as I can see no reason to make any other distinction. However, if I have my DNA tested, it’s possible that I may also be a little bit homo neanderthalis. I doubt, based on my lineage, that any Denisovian is in there, but its always possible. I’m sure that the census bureau doesn’t like this response, but it is the only one I can state with accuracy.

      • CPAinNewYork


        • Allan Richardson

          Oh, is THAT your race? I feel sorry for you.

          • CPAinNewYork

            “Home sapiens” isn’t a race. It’s an evolutionary step in human development. It simply means a man capable of thought. Describing one’s “race” as “homo sapiens” on a Census Bureau form is silly. It sounds like something that a self-important academic would do.

            Actually, anthropologists and paleontologists can only guess at the “race” of the early humans that they discover. As DNA identification develops, they MAY refine their racial identifiers, but don’t count on it.

  • JohnRNC

    It’s much easier to feel safe if you can hang a label on someone like the Tsarnaev brothers, or the Aurora shooter, or the 911 pilots and be able to say: “The bad guys look like this….keep an eye on those types” OR “run away” OR “just shoot them because they look like bad guys”. If we have learned nothing else about terrorism in the last 20 years its that profiling does not work. So, if we can’t separate the bad guys out using skin color, at least we can use religion – right!? Aside from the 1st Amendment – why not? After all it’s common knowledge that Muslims want to kill Americans and it’s just one religion being put under surveillance – so what’s the prob? It’s that pesky Constitution again!

    The more we allow extremists to shake our core values the more they win (and I’m not just talking about Muslims here). Extremists don’t have to kill us win – they just have to scare us bad enough to make us strip ourselves of our most precious freedoms and eventually our way of life.

    • sigrid28

      High school seniors in the U.S. should have to pass not only Civics but a course in Fear. Oh wait, better move both classes to freshman curriculum, to catch the early dropouts.

    • CPAinNewYork

      Profiling does work. It’s not perfect, but if you’re looking for Muslim terrorists, profiling will get you a lot of positive hits.

    • Allan Richardson

      The North Vietnamese won the war against the US in two ways: politically, they convinced us to leave them alone, take from among their people the ones who did not like the North’s politics, and eventually trade with them. But socially, and it may be speculated that this was the plan all along, they tempted Americans to betray our Constitution, to hate other Americans, and to become addicted to drugs while over there, and return home to be a burden on our social safety net. The only good things that WE got out of that war were adding some (mostly) brilliant and ambitious law-abiding refugees to our roll of citizens, and (mostly) learning from that mistake.

  • Being from Belgium I always respond bi-racial because I am born of French and Flemish stock that never really got together. The citizens have to identify themselves if they are Flemish or Walloon and being Belgian they think it’s silly. The only person race is important to is the racist because he needs to be prepared for a meeting with you, otherwise who gives a shit.

    • Those are nationality choices, not ethnicity choices. Totally different question, Peter.

    • CPAinNewYork

      I have some sad news for you: you’re not bi-racial. You’re Caucasian. Sorry.

  • elw

    I am one of those people who it is hard to guess race by looking. People know I am not Black, but they wonder if I am White. Because of my ability to blend in I have gotten to know enough people of enough different racial and religious backgrounds to learn that people are people no matter what demographic describe them. Good and bad people come in all colors, religions and backgrounds. I judge the Boston marathon bombers by what they did not the color of their skin or their religion. I do not care if they are white or brown – only that the reamaining brother recieves justice for what he did.

  • FredAppell

    How ironic is it that when someone does a good thing, no one asks about the skin color or ethnicity of the individual but if they do something bad, everyone is pointing fingers at people that are a bit different than themselves.

    • Allan Richardson

      With one exception: the Good Samaritan in the parable of Jesus. And he chose a Samaritan because they were the inferior mixed race and religious heretics in the eyes of his Jewish audience.

  • Kloan Choyss

    Amusing that what man believes [e.g., about volition, consciousness, axiology] is invalid or undemonstrable…is that less or more dissatisfying if the kosmos is a nested hologram a la Susskind et alia?

    • CPAinNewYork

      I’m really impressed with your unexplained references to obscure people and theories. If you cannot explain yourself in straightforward terms, then you shouldn’t claim to be “amused.” Instead, you’re just a pseudo intellectual phony seeking to impress people.

  • Kloan Choyss

    Is our pervasive ignorance less or more dissatisfying if the kosmos is a nested hologram a la Susskind?

  • Michael Kollmorgen

    I hate to break up all this lovefest over trying to deny race or point a finger at any one race.

    But, the fact is, the US is turning more browner every day. The typical white person is gradually be replaced with mixed race people. And, it’s all genetic in nature.

    Not to pick on any specific race, but a black and white coupling results in a child will be mixed and somewhere down the line in future generations, that new child will be black. And, it don’t matter how many white/white coupling happen. The Black Gene dominates. This is not racism, just simple biology.

    This is why even today, families that were slave holders and were messing around with the female or male slaves that bore children, generations later have a black child. It wasn’t what you did now. It was what your ancestors did “back then”.

    In another 100,000 years or so, if we last that long, the entire world will be a mix of yellow and brown. And, then once again, in future generations, they will be dominated by brown/black genes.

    It could very well pass in a few hundred generations that the typical human may have features such as eyes of Asians, noses and lips of a white person and a brown/black skin tone. And, this is all going to be biologically predetermined.

    So, really, it don’t matter what race is doing this or that. We’re not all equal, not as far as genetics is concerned as it plays out over many generations. And, the white race had been start learning this lesson real soon and live in peace with everyone else. Our days are numbered.

  • CPAinNewYork

    Gary Graves:

    Adam and Eve, huh? Let me guess: you believe in Creationism, too. Am i right?

    • Allan Richardson

      In this case, Creationism and evolution lead to the same conclusion by different means: WE ARE ALL RELATED.

      • CPAinNewYork

        Really? Please tell us what that “conclusion” is. The whacky alien space theorists believe that we originated on another planet thousands of years ago and were transplanted here when those space travelers visited Earth.

        So, that presents us with at least three theories of human development: evolution, creation and ancient visitors from outer space. Which one supports your personal “conclusion.”?