Tragedy promotes rash stereotypes


The flag waves at half staff. Photo by Jacqueline LeBlanc

Jacqueline LeBlanc

It’s a sad day in society whenever tragedy strikes. It’s an even sadder day in society when tragedy no longer surprises a nation.

The flag waves at half staff. Photo by Jacqueline LeBlanc
The flag waves at half staff. Photo by Jacqueline LeBlanc
However, what I find truly devastating is when we blame and attribute stereotypes to groups of people in society’s time of need.
On Monday, April 15, 23,000 runners and nearly half-a-million spectators gathered in Boston for the annual Boston Marathon in honor of Patriots Day.  Around the four-hour time mark, with about 5,000 participants still waiting to cross the finish line, a bomb exploded several feet away from the finish line. Approximately 13 seconds later, a second bomb went off a hundred feet away from the first. The bombs left the site in a pandemonium of smoke, terror and panic, while leaving the country in shock, anxiety and anger. It was later revealed that three people were killed, while more than 100 people were injured.
The bombing was an unbelievable tragedy that just seemed to happen a little too soon after the Newtown, Conn. shooting, which seemed to have happened a little too soon after the shooting in a local theater in Aurora, Colo., which seemed to have happened a little too soon after the tragedies in Tucson, Az. (2012), and in Virginia Tech (2007), and at the World Trade Center (2001), and in Columbine (1999) and in Oklahoma City (1995).
The world is not a perfect place, and tragedies, such as these, unfortunately happen. And each time it does, as citizens, we pray together, we mourn together, we grieve together, and we help together.
Unfortunately, we also blame together.
After the explosion, a Saudi Arabian spectator, who was studying in Boston on a student visa, had his body torn and twisted by the force of the explosion and was consequently put into the hospital. However, he was the only victim who had his apartment searched in “a startling show of force,” as his fellow tenants described it to the Boston Herald. His roommate was questioned for five hours, and he was the only one who was considered a possible suspect early on.
The man ran from the explosion, like many others did; He smelled like explosives, like many others did, and he was from Saudi Arabia, a trait shared by only a few at the site. And he was blamed. Some called him a terrorist; some associated him with al-Qaida, but it turned out he was revealed as a witness and not a suspect.
Shortly after the incident, I heard a Muslim student whisper, “I hope whoever did it wasn’t Muslim,” in fear of being labeled and generalized as a terrorist for a heartbreaking tragedy someone who practices the same religion did. I heard a student chatting with friends stating, “I hope whoever did it was white,” in hopes that society and the media wouldn’t stereotype other races or groups of people as evil. I heard bouts of, “I bet the person was a foreigner” and “the person must’ve been a gun-rights activist.” I heard Republicans blame Democrats and Democrats blame Republicans. People cried conspiracy and hateful words toward Obama and the government. Pro-gun rights groups discussed anti-gun rights groups and vice versa.
And while it takes a severely sick person to commit such a heinous crime, just because the person practices Islam or Christianity, is black or white, is Republican or Democrat, does not mean that is why the person did it.
It is unfortunate that the world is not a perfect place and that tragedies such as these seem to occur often, but as a society, all we can do is unite together in support of the victims and families and people across our country. It is dire that we turn to each other rather than turn on each other, and it is important that we remember that regardless of our race, or religion or political beliefs, we are all people.
The rash assumptions we make in a time of tragedy, anger and confusion can sometimes to be difficult to control.  It’s always easier to blame others than it is to attempt to find the truth. However, we should not let traits such as these act as evidence or affect our judgement. In times of tragedy and need, there are no political parties, ethnicity or different belief systems. In times of tragedy, we are all only people, sharing the same planet and the same community. We are all a part of humanity, and the support and love and kindness we display towards each other together can be one of the strongest forces in society.
By Jacqueline LeBlanc