The Paris Attack and My Racist Facebook “Friends”

“35 people dead in Paris. They don’t know what it is yet. Not sure if there were bombs.” That was the text message I received on Friday during my walk home from Rice University.

Here we go again, I thought…

My first reaction: the media will instantly assume Muslims carried out the attack, regardless of whether Muslims were even involved. That is standard fare these days in the media. Violence = Islam = Terrorism. My second reaction concerned my social media feeds. I had a gut feeling that my Facebook “friends” were going to pour their hearts out for the killings in Paris.

I was right. And I was a bit annoyed by that.

“TERROR.” That was the first word that I saw on CNN when I got home. Go figure. Twenty minutes after the attack, and the media made sure to let me know that this attack deserves the word “terrorism.” Never mind the recent Charleston shooting, where a white man killed two handful of black people in a predominantly black church. That was not terrorism. That was just violence carried out by a “crazy white dude.” This “crazy white dude” is not a terrorist. Because he is white. White people do not commit terrorism. Only brown people can do that. And brown Muslims at that.

Let us have an honest discussion for once. When people die in Paris, the media calls it “horrific.” When hundreds of Syrians die on any given day, the media hardly flinches. Events in Syria do not get labeled “horrific.” That is because Syrians dying is considered “normal,” their deaths simply pass us by. No big deal.

About an hour after the attacks were first reported, I started to wonder, “how long before these events are linked to ISIS? How long before these deaths are used to justify Western imperialism in the Middle East?” In my head, I gave it twenty-four hours. In reality, it was about twenty-four minutes.

My Facebook feed confirmed my fear. “Friends” posted things like “the terrorists shouted ‘Allah Akbar.’ See it is terrorism! Fuck terrorism! Screw ISIS.” Yet, when a Christian kills an Afghan to “protect and preserve American values,” none of these “friends” label that “terrorism.” How dare someone even suggest Americans are terrorists! Our violence is completely justified because it is our violence. We are never terrorists, only anti-terrorists. We are civilized, they are uncivilized. So the argument goes.

Hardly any of my “friends” shared their outrage when a dead Syrian baby washed up on a beach in the Mediterranean. Hardly any of them shed a tear. Did any of my “friends” even notice? That is the bigger question. And yet, what happens when Paris is attacked? When Parisians die? People are enraged.

The double standards are ridiculous.

And what about President Obama? His initial response, which came up on my Facebook feed, condemned the horrible attack that terrorized Parisian civilians. Yet Obama has killed too many civilians to count. Where are my Americans “friends” condemning the President? Is it okay when our President is responsible for the deaths of babies in Pakistan? It appears so. The silence confirms that. The silence is deafening.

Let us count the civilian death toll in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan. The number is high. Shockingly high! These deaths occur in the face of imperialism. Our imperialism. It is our terrorism, but nobody thinks of it that way. That, in itself, is racist.

Then there are my “friends” who say, “the terrorists in Paris attacked our values, our Western values. That was their intention!” Really? I doubt that. And even if that were true, that is a racist argument. It suggests that Muslims are backward, pre-modern, and incapable of progress. It suggests that “our” way of life is inherently better than “theirs.” That is racist too. It suggests that “the West” and “Islam” are fundamentally incompatible. That is racist. Make no mistake about it.

Again, let us be honest. There is only outrage on Facebook when “we” suffer from “terrorism.” “We” meaning the so-called “civilized West.” There exists a hierarchy of human life on Facebook and elsewhere. Some people are valued, while others are not. An American life is worth more than an Iraqi life. A French life is worth more than a Palestinian life. Somehow, what happened in Paris is unjustified. It is “barbaric.” Yet everything the “West” has inflicted on others, the extreme state-sponsored violence, the imperialism, the destruction, is somehow justified. This deeply ingrained racism is real. Very real.

My Facebook “friends” criticize me for asking the question, “Why are some lives valued, while others are not?” They are particularly upset with the timing of this question. But let me ask you: when is the right time or wrong time to talk about racism or humanity? Should I just sit back and wait for a bright sunny day, when nobody gives a crap, to share my views, or should I cut right to the chase, during the heat of the moment, and call out racism when I see it?

NOW is always the time to talk about the value of human life. If not now, when?

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Written by Craig Considine

Craig Considine

Craig Considine (Irish: Carrig MacConsáidín) is a Catholic American and native of Massachusetts. As a sociologist, he focuses on religion, Islam, Christianity, interfaith, race and ethnicity, identity as well as comparative research and ethnography.

  • Steven King

    I hat to turn this one over in my mind for a long time. At first, I was a little incredulous how an American Catholic has the nerve to preach about the evils of Western Imperialism. I’d sooner hear from Eastern Muslims on that. Secondly, I was a touch baffled by the seeming condemnation of his “friends” (emphasis his) reactions to the violence in Paris. Their outrage is completely justified and deserved; What happened in Paris was monstrous. Their lack of outrage over dead Afghan bodies doesn’t make their grief any less real. Afghanistan is far away from them, Afghans are decidedly “other,” and Al Quaeda at its worst used Afghan bodies as shields to protect them from American bullets.
    Instead of using this as a teachable moment in the common human experience of tragedy and grief, the author and writers like him instead further alienate his “friends” by outing them as racists. It’s wonderful that the author is so well informed about Western Imperialism and its negative impact, but he only uses it to feel superior to his “friends” instead of educating and informing, which is what needs to happen.

  • Critical Thinker

    Dear Craig,

    The media that you imply made irrational assumptions of Muslims in carrying out the Paris attacks reacted thusly because human beings naturally recount & react according to memory. For example, whenever my heart sinks with breaking news of a school campus shooting, I usually assume it was a severely narcissistic, young, white male with a rifle and a couple of handguns. And, it usually is the aforementioned. Not always that exact description, but usually. So, does that make me a racist? Or, does it just make me a normal human being, albeit imperfect? I ask because by your logic, mere assumptions = racism. But, what makes your piece even more troubling is that Islam is not a race.

    And I am a bit annoyed by that.

    Of course, violence does not equal Islam and therefore Islam does not equal terrorism. And, no reasonable person is saying that (except you to create a narrative). Even if they are, I concede you might call them uninformed, or foolish, or upset, but racist? Not quite. Nonetheless, the violence that is seemingly at the heart of Islam and the percentages of followers who advocate violent means is staggering, and very much worth highlighting, and certainly shouldn’t be deflected out of some politically correct notion of hurting someone’s feelings… just as we shouldn’t ignore the severely narcissistic, young, white (or otherwise) males in our own country who act out violently. We should instead seek the truth in spite of its inconvenience and discomfort. Furthermore, the continual meddling that the U.S. has engaged in is also worth discussing, but you’re way out of line in calling it imperialism. No Western nation today is imposing their authority on other non-Western nations. Show me where that is the case. Let’s keep it on the level, shall we?

    But, I know you’re focused on imaginary double standards. For instance, why do we call one violent act terrorism and the other a mass shooting? I really don’t know. But, I don’t think it’s racism. There are probably all sorts of reasons. First, if the media calls a mass shooting terrorism that would quell any anti-gun agenda frenzy and focus blame more on politics rather than on gun regulation. Second, ever heard of domestic terrorism? The mass murder of the nine black folks at the Charleston church was indeed an act of terrorism. It was domestic terrorism. He was a terrorist. He was also a racist, unlike everyone else you’re falsely accusing here. Third, colloquialisms happen organically. Looking at most examples of domestic terror vs. Islamic terror, there are some important distinctions to be made. One being clinical derangement and the other being political indoctrination… two very distinct states of being, and perhaps even sometimes crossing paths. Regardless, they both pose a real threat not only to physical safety, but yes to our Western values in the broad sense. I think Francois Hollande put it as “Western culture”. It is what allows you the freedom to write such foolishness and for me to call you out on it. And your assertion of this being a racist argument is absurd.

    So, yes… let us have an honest discussion for once. But let’s begin with you, Craig. Let go of your condescension and political correctness. Apologize to your Facebook friends for calling them all racists and for having opinions different from yours. Then maybe we can find a way to help end not only the round-the-clock reports of sectarian violence, suicide bombings, rapes, beheadings, hangings, and public floggings occurring in every country that embraces Sharia, but all the unfair double standards that the mean old Western culture has created for everyone else in the world.

    To be 100% clear, when groups of people die or suffer en masse in any country, it is horrific. All human life is valuable, and just in case I need to spell it out for you that includes brown people. Do we in the West experience desensitization and fatigue with the constant barrage of death and destruction across our screens? Of course, but please spare us the lecture on how racist all of us are for not using the right words, at just the right moment. Maybe it is you who is the racist here, since you are so consumed by it.

  • n2zepln

    You NAILED it bro!