Monday, April 22, 2013

Racist Motive of Boston Bombers?

By Biko Agozino

Why did the Boston Bombers target the finish line of the Boston Marathon? Perhaps, because the winners were most likely to be people of African descent! In the process, they killed three spectators and later executed a campus police officer but none of the dead was exactly an African even though one of the bombers carefully selected a spot with lots of Africans, in the picture on the right below, to plant his pressure-cooker bomb. The video footage of the first blast shows that it went off coincidentally just as a black-looking runner was passing but he appeared to have been unhurt. That is how racism works – it is a danger to everyone and not a problem for only those who are targeted because, as Bob Marley put it, ‘When the rain falls, it won’t fall on one man’s housetop.’

The Boston Bombers came from a violently racist Russia. Simply Google ‘Racism in Russia’ and you will find the most disgusting news items including one about a young man who distributed a video online about the execution of a Muslim by Neo-Nazis and only got one year sentence to a labor camp while the convicted executioners got only 10 years in labor camps. A few years ago Putin reacted to a comment that Russians and Africans have a lot in common by protesting vehemently that Russians were not cannibals. Surprise, surprise, just Google ‘Russian Cannibal’ and you will see the news of a former school teacher who cooked up a storm of human flesh for food. African university students in Russia were recently asked to be moved away from their hostel near a summer camp because the officials feared that they may rape the children.

That is the kind of country where the Boston Bombers were born and partly raised. They fled from war and violence there with their family to come to the US a mere decade ago. In Russia, Caucasus people like them are routinely targeted by the Neo-Nazi’s for elimination perhaps in reaction to the violent Chechen war against Russians since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I hypothesize that this background could help to explain why they targeted the Boston Marathon and as is the case with all hypotheses, this one might be wrong. 

There is a theory by bell hooks that one way many immigrants try to assimilate into white America is often by buying into the racism against African Americans. Joan Walsh concurs in her April 22 column: 'Embracing racism and xenophobia, sadly, could be a shortcut to white status for previously non-white European immigrants.' This is not an argument against immigration but a testimony that racism is a problem for the entire society and not just for the targeted groups, calling for all to be committed against racism in all its manifestations.

What does racism have to do with the Boston Bombing? The two brothers came to the US and chose to specialize in sporting events that are dominated by black people. The older brother chose to become a boxer and the younger brother chose to become an athlete. Maybe they hoped to become the great white hope to beat black people in the events where they remain dominant Just as Hitler refused to shake the hand of Olympic gold-medalist, Jesse Owens, and also hoped against hope that Joe Louis would lose to Max Schmeling twice and thereby affirm the discredited Nazi ideology of white supremacy. Maybe the Boston Bombers hoped to qualify for the London Olympics and thereby win acceptance as honorary white Americans but blamed their failure on African American athletes. I wrote this on April 22 and on April 27, the New York Times confirmed my hypothesis in a detailed report.


Their problem may be that they did not stand much chance competing with a strong pool of African Americans in boxing and tracks. As the racist saying goes, they might have been going about complaining that they would have made it to the Olympics if not for those black sportsmen. So the big brother got radicalized quickly around the time of the conclusion of the Olympics trials in the US where he and his kid brother probably got their behinds whooped by world class performers. Lawrence O'Donnel reported on April 23 that the elder brother got suspended from his Boston Mosque after he disrupted a Martin Luther King Jr Day lecture by heckling the speaker for saying that Martin Luther King Jr was a prophet.

If indeed the hypothesis that the Boston Bombers were motivated by racism is supported by sufficient evidence, it should serve as a lesson to everyone that racism does not affect only the targeted group. One of the Boston Bombers is already dead and the other is on life-support possibly as direct victims of their own racial hatred. Timothy McVeigh killed a dozen black children or so but the vast majority of his victims were white. Hitler set out to find the final solution to the Jewish question and in the process wasted the lives of nearly 20 million Germans.

The Boston Bombers may have dreamed of finding the final solution to the domination of their chosen sports by people of African descent. This does not make every Chechen a threat given that the uncle of the Boston bombers denounced his nephews. It only goes to call for broad coalitions against racism even among immigrants because the cancer of racism affects everyone in the end. The media should also be more vigilant against racism instead of burying their talking heads in the sand and pretending that racism has nothing to do with the Boston bombings while the dots are there to be connected past the initial racial profiling of the suspect as a 'dark skinned man in a hoodie'.

As Series Editor of the Ashgate Publishers Interdisciplinary Research Series in Ethnic, Gender, and Class Relations, I wrote the following in 2001 (but before 9/11) as my Series Editor’s Preface to The Globalization of Terrorism by Ihekwoaba Onwudiwe:

‘I was intrigued by Dr. Onwudiwe’s use of World System Theory (WST) to explain global terrorism and we discussed his work as an African resident of San Diego offered to give us a ride across to Tijuana in Mexico before our departure. On that trip, evidence of the WST was everywhere before us. For example, there was no immigration check on the Mexico side where the poorer government was only too glad to have us come and spend our welcome dollars in their economy. However, on our return to San Diego that day, the queue to the border control was very long and when we eventually got there, the uniformed official checked the identity papers of the five Africans in the Mercedes Benz car but not those of the only Caucasian who was with us. This omission occupied us in discussion as to whether it was a simple error by a tired official or whether it was an indication of the racial profiling characteristic of the World System that treated individuals perceived to be peripheral with more suspicion than individuals perceived to be core. For all you know, the white guy could have been a rebel from Albania or Chechnya sneaking into the US while some of the Africans quizzed were actually American citizens.’ 

This is the original hypothesis: There is a relationship between x and y. Scientific minds will proceed cautiously by testing the null hypothesis: there is no relationship between x and y. If we find significant evidence to affirm the null hypothesis, then we will reject the original hypothesis. If we reject the null hypothesis, then we will affirm the original.

Let x be racism and y be terrorism. The news reporters overwhelmingly suggest that the x is religious extremism. Let us assume that they are right. Then let us ask if religious extremists tend to be anti-racist or virulently racist? That is a tendency, mind you; we cannot condemn all religious extremists as racist nor can we conclude that all racists tend to be religious extremists.

It may be argued that if they wanted to target fast-running Africans, they would have detonated their bombs one hour earlier. The brothers were apparently lone wolves who did not have a time-keeper to ensure that they targeted the winners alone. They had six more bombs with them in the police car chase but only two were successfully detonated. So their timing was off by 2 hours from the winners, but that is no proof that they did not have a racist grudge against Africans, perhaps for dominating their chosen sports. Yes, even some of those who come last in the race will be Africans (as the video of the first blast showed a black man running past) but it is no secret that the marathon is an event with disproportionate African participation.

The original hypothesis of a link between x and y may be a stretch but when you are born and raised in a country where the President calls Africans cannibals and where African students complain that monkey noises are so common that they no longer bother to report them, it is not such a huge stretch to hypothesize that young people socialized into white supremacy in such a society will tend to be racist.

Terrorism is a hate crime, so the hypothesized link between x and y appears logical. It was not too long ago that religious extremists rounded up black skinned citizens in Libya and executed them in front of video cameras. Religious extremists may try to convert non-believers to their faith but they cannot convert blackness to whiteness - hence the will to the final solution.

My suggestion is that we should not ignore possible racist motives (among other motives) because the disease of racism will spread and affect everyone. The bombers may have targeted black people but the whole society is paying the price. Racism-sexism-classism are challenges to all.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Undergraduate Essay Published

My undergraduate student just published her midterm essay for the Introduction to African Studies class. I promised the students that any paper that is published will be awarded a bonus grade for the midterm. What do you think?


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review of Today Na Today by Dr Noel Ihebuzor

One cannot in a short review of this nature cover all the poems in the collection but a few deserve special mention – Dialectical dialogue, Yabbis, Capital punishment, Slum dwellers, Odyssey, Below sea level, Too Much Generals, Knowledge be privilege, Again born again, You be witch and Brain drain all stand out. Each in its special way takes up an aspect of our social life and our experience of it, be it as voluntary emigres in God’s Own country or as forced prisoners/participants in the gaols of our country where social services are almost comatose, social inequities and cleavages are on the increase, misery and despair so palpable and a tendency to play blame games on the ascendancy and dissects this with a blend of humour, sarcasm, irony, wit and some compassion. But for my concern not to enflame current sensitivities concerning the Igbos and the Nigerian state in the 1967-70 period and even beyond, I would also have mentioned “Forgive” as one of the poems that stand out given its plea to the Igbos to forgive the wrongs done them during the civil war. I will keep clear of that. The topic is too delicate, but the theme of Victory song, a poem which celebrates the victories of the ANC and Mandela among others, is not. Read it and rejoice with the successes of the liberation struggles. Read it but please do not say “Cry, the beloved country” for some of the failed dreams, unfulfilled expectations and matters arising in the present from those brave liberation struggles of the past. Read on:

Dr. Noel Ihebuzor is a senior specialist with UNICEF in Tanzania

Monday, April 8, 2013

Recorded Poetry from Today Na Today collection

By Biko Agozino

Please follow to listen to nine selected poems recorded musically in professional studios for your enjoyment and edutainment from my poetry collection, Today Na Today.