Saturday, July 17, 2010
The Ugandan bomb attack and racism
Victims being treated at Ugandan hospital
While this 6 day old event is quickly fading from world thought, the bombings in Uganda by al-Qaeda 'partners' from Somalia was a horrific reminder of the virulence of this terror movement. Two explosions tore through an Ethiopian restaurant and a rugby club in the Ugandan capital Kampala during last Sunday's World Cup final killing at least 64 people and wounding 71 others. al Qaeda-inspired al Shabaab militants in Somalia had threatened to attack Uganda for sending peacekeeping troops to the anarchic country to prop up the Western-backed government.
The event was an all too familiar one, al-Qaeda and various strains of Islamic terror entities slaughtering innocents. Yet two items make this otherwise too familiar scene worth noting. Most attacks are against wealthy Western symbols - this one emphasizes that being poor and not-western are not defenses (though many Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan could have told us that the past 5 years). The most unexpected characterization came from an administration official who was 'enriching' comments made by US President Obama. In an interview (http://www.newsroomamerica.com/story/33869.html) between the President and the South African Broadcasting Corporation regarding the bombing, Obama stated, "What you've seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains."
An administration official then went on to fill in Obama's reasoning this way, "Additionally, U.S. intelligence has indicated that al Qaeda leadership specifically targets and recruits black Africans to become suicide bombers because they believe that poor economic and social conditions make them more susceptible to recruitment than Arabs," the official said. "al Qaeda recruits have said that al Qaeda is racist against black members from West Africa because they are only used in lower level operations." "In short," the official said, "al Qaeda is a racist organization that treats black Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life."
Since 1997, very few if any world leaders have characterized the Taliban or al-Qaeda as primarily racist, rather ideologically and religiously motivated. But now its racist according to the logic of one of the President's explainers.
The racist label was also applied this week by the 100 year old NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to the emerging political phenomenon called the "Tea Party." A resolution was unanimously passed that calls on Tea Party members to repudiate what NAACP leaders say are "ultra-nationalist and racist factions within the organization," noting that Tea Party members have used "racial epithets," have verbally abused black members of Congress and threatened them, and protestors have engaged in "explicitly racist behavior" and "displayed signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally and President Barack Obama specifically." A spokesperson specifically pointed to signs at rallies portraying President Obama as a witch doctor, and to claims made by Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., that Tea Party protestors opposing health care reform hurled racial slurs at them. "They need to be unequivocal and they need to be responsible and get the bigots out of their organization. It's that simple,"
Tea Party supporters have denied allegations of racism and argue that there is no proof to support the NAACP's claims. Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart even offered $100,000 to anyone who could produce an audio recording or video footage of the "N-word" being hurled at Rep. Lewis and other members of Congress. The St. Louis Tea Party coalition on Monday evening passed a resolution of its own condemning the NAACP for "hypocritically engaging in the very conduct it purports to oppose." The resolution calls on the NAACP to withdraw its resolution. It even urges the IRS to reconsider its tax-exempt status of the NAACP because of what the Tea Party coalition dubbed the organization's "habitual partisan political behavior."
So in this post racial atmosphere which was predicted after the US population elected its first black president, suddenly, racism is alive and well. There are racist-related charges leveled at the Washington Post for not covering a Black Panther case of voter intimidation; similarly a charge towards the US Department of Justice Department's bias against investigating racial cases if the alleged victims are not black; the Tea party charge of course; and even apparently, now infecting the world's most vicious terror network.
And if the pure aggressive form of Islam, previously characterized as ideologically and religiously driven is actually a form of racism, what do we now call another incident? The French lower house of parliament this week also voted nearly unanimously (335 to 1), to ban the wearing of the burka - the total Islamic covering for women. It has somewhat of a racist flavor, as nearly all wearers of the burka are women of color.
This set of stories is likely to bubble along through the rest of the summer of 2010, and perhaps out of it all can come a better common understanding of just what racism is, and what it is not.