What happened in Brussels is tragic and seems to have been an act of terrorism. It’s completely awful in every way, and the victims of terrorism should be aided and supported as much as possible from the rest of the world. Having been in very close to New York City during 9/11, I understand the fear and chaos and uncertainty and insecurity that happens in the aftermath of an attack like this. I remember the grief and the loss that people experienced as individuals, but also as a collective. I remember the anger, and the desire for retribution in the weeks and months and even years after. It’s not something I ever want to relive, nor would I wish it on anyone, in any country.
The problem is, the media – particularly American media – picks and chooses which acts of terrorism get attention and support, and which don’t. There was also a brutal attack in Ankara, which is in Turkey, just before the one in Brussels. It was just as bad, and appears to have had just as many casualties. But while we all turned our profile pictures to match the Parisian flag, and are now doing the same from Brussels…why are we ignoring Ankara?
Mic.com has a short article exploring this, which I appreciated. What I didn’t appreciate was that, while they acknowledged that overlooking Ankara is wrong, they didn’t explicitly get into why Ankara is being overlooked.
It’s because we – at least, we here in the U.S. – only care about terrorism when it happens to predominantly white, predominantly Christian countries. Countries like ours, and France, and Belgium.
When it comes to predominantly Islamic countries, we don’t care. We’re not covering Ankara. When we cover Syria, it’s to fear-monger among uneducated white idiots by accusing homeless refugees who have lost everything of being terrorists. And that’s completely wrong.
So I challenge you all to not just focus on the coverage of Brussels today and in coming days, but to intentionally also seek out information about what happened in Ankara. And then keep seeking it out – read about what’s happening in countries that aren’t the U.S. or European. Read about countries that aren’t predominantly white or Christian. Read about Syria, and not from American “they’re all terrorists don’t let them in” sources – from sources covering what’s actually happening, and who these people actually are.
Wrap your head around the fact that as the privileged part of the world is reeling from another act of terrorism, there are parts of the world that deal with this sort of violence or the threat of this sort of violence on a daily basis. There are parts of the world for whom this sort of violence isn’t something that happens now and then, but is very much a part of their everyday lives. There are people who lose their homes, livelihoods, friends, family, neighbors, culture, and access to basic necessities, who then have to scatter to countries hostile to their existence who conflate them with the people who displaced them.
If that doesn’t resonate, think about it this way – how would you feel to hear everyone talking about how terrible it is that your neighbor’s house was broken into, when your house had just burned to the ground without anyone saying a word? What if those same people told you that you couldn’t live among them, because instead of seeing you as the victim of arson, they mistake you for the arsonist?
Wake the fuck up, white people. Especially those of you who call yourselves Christian. If you want to stand with Brussels, then stand with Ankara, too. If you stand with white people who are victims of violence, then stand with people of color who are victims of violence.
Condemning terrorism only when it happens to white Christian countries isn’t condemning terrorism – it’s decrying the loss of safety that usually comes along with being privileged. It’s saying that certain people should be exempt from being targets of terrorism, while others don’t matter as much. It’s valuing the lives of some people over the lives of others.
And if you think that some lives have more value than others…then you’re thinking like a terrorist.