That’s the question The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart is asking:
The day after last week’s attack in Boston, David Sirota wrote a column for Salon entitled “Let’s Hope the Boston Marathon Bomber is a White American,” arguing that this would limit the resulting crackdown on civil liberties. At first, conservatives were appalled. Then, when police fingered the Tsarnaev brothers, they were triumphant. “Sorry, David Sirota, Looks Like Boston Bombing Suspects Not White Americans,” snickered a headline in Newsbusters. “Despite the most fervent hopes of some writers over at Salon.com,” added a blogger at Commentary, “the perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing are not ‘white Americans’.”
But the bombers were white Americans. The Tsarnaev brothers had lived in the United States for over a decade. Dzhokhar was a U.S. citizen. Tamerlan was a legal permanent resident in the process of applying for citizenship. And as countless commentators have noted, the Tsarnaevs hail from the Caucasus, and are therefore, literally, “Caucasian.” You can’t get whiter than that.
So why did conservatives mock Sirota for being wrong? Because in public conversation in America today, “Islam” is a racial term. Being Muslim doesn’t just mean not being Christian or Jewish. It means not being white.
I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess that not one of the victims that day was thinking, “I hope I didn’t just get my leg blown off by a white American.” And nobody I read was talking at all about race — until Sirota made his stupid accusation. Then suddenly we had to talk about race, because Left needs to talk about something, anything, other than…
Look, we know that when Sirota mentioned white men, what he really meant, what he was really hoping for, was that the killer was a white American Protestant. Catholic would be OK, too, just so long it he was a churchgoer. Better still if he was from Texas or one of those other low-sloping-forehead flyover states. What Sirota most emphatically did not mean by “white man” was a couple of dedicated jihadis from Russia’s violent southern fringe who happen to have white skin.
Race is mostly BS. Ideology is everything.
And the Tsarnaevs were purveyors of a murderous and destructive ideology, and one that finds aid and comfort in incensed racial ramblings of Sirota and Beinart.