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Being white in the “War on Terror” is a sad relief.

September 16, 2006

Camp X-ray 2002Something has been bothering me a lot lately. I do a lot of reading and thinking about the interminable “War on Terror,” about the prisoners indefinitely chained in Guantanamo Bay and all the other “secret” detention camps around the world, and about the implications (seen and as yet unseen) of the USA PATRIOT Act. What bothers me the most is that a little voice in my head says,

“Thank goodness I’m white. I’m so glad I’m not a dark-skinned male born in a different country. What the fuck would I do then?”

It’s a despairing voice that acknowledges certain people pay for the current state of affairs SO MUCH more than others. I have an exceptional degree of privilege here at home – I can safely assume that I’ll never really be a target of all the gross injustice and outright violence of the US government and sovereign power in their war. This gives me a paradoxically uncomfortable comfort in feeling like a spectator – only to a degree of course because we are all affected by the “War on Terror” in negative ways.

What I’m aware of is that if I had an Arab cultural background, if I was an immigrant with needs to travel in and out of the United States, if I had the wrong name or the wrong family members, if I had dark skin or looked like the wrong person, my behavior would be affected. I would be hyper-conscious of being targeted by the police or investigated by the feds.

And it would scare the shit out of me because there is no evidence whatsoever that were I to be detained that I would ever be released, that I would receive anything close to the due process supposedly guaranteed by our Constitution. I would fear falling into this wide and abyssmal gap that exists between everyday “safe” life here in the US that I sheepishly take for granted and the black hole of indefinite detention based on the mere suspicion that I am a terrorist.

I can’t help but be glad that I don’t fit any profiles that would lead me to be a “suspicious character” or “person of interest”. But it’s terrible to be aware that such arbitrary things such as phenotype, name, citizen status, or religion could instantly eradicate one’s notion of safety. I don’t like being relieved that I’m a white girl in a mostly white community, exempt from the most pernicious effects the “War on Terror” exerts on citizens and noncitizens of the supposedly-democratic world. But the truth is, I am.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2006 2:56 pm

    Ah, but it’s a fleeting safety at best. What people so quickly forget is that when you align yourself with violent, bigoted regimes, your group may be the next to be targeted. Victims throughout U.S. history include Native Americans, Mormons, African-Americans, Gays, Lesbians, Transexuals, Bisexuals, Japanese, ‘Reds’ (people suspected of being communists or communist sympathisers. Before the War on Terror came the ongoing War on Drugs that has robbed all of us, not just drug users, of far more civil liberties than I’m sure most people realize. And resulted in the confiscation of personal property and imprisonment of U.S. citizens, often under specious circumstances and/or for minor, victimless offenses. To borrow a hackneyed phrase from our politicians, ‘make no mistake’ — no one is safe from the Bush regime and right-wing fundamentalist neocon zealots that pull its strings.

  2. September 16, 2006 3:00 pm

    CORRECTED VERSION: Ah, but it’s a fleeting safety at best. What people so quickly forget is that when you align yourself with violent, bigoted regimes, your group may be the next to be targeted. Victims throughout U.S. history include Native Americans, Mormons, African-Americans, Gays, Lesbians, Transexuals, Bisexuals, Japanese, ‘Reds’ (people suspected of being communists) and Red sympathisers — the list goes on. Before the War on Terror came the ongoing War on Drugs that has robbed all of us, not just drug users, of far more civil liberties than I’m sure most people realize. And resulted in the confiscation of personal property and imprisonment of U.S. citizens, often under specious circumstances and/or for minor, victimless offenses. To borrow a hackneyed phrase from our politicians, ‘make no mistake’ — no one is safe from the Bush regime and the right-wing fundamentalist neocon zealots that pull its strings.

  3. guffie permalink
    September 19, 2006 1:47 pm

    In the words of Frank Zappa
    “Hey, you know something people?
    I’m not black
    But there’s a whole lots a times
    I wish I could say I’m not white” (trouble every day)

    pretty much says it all.

    And I tend to hide my American passport lately.

  4. October 2, 2006 4:40 pm

    You should be proud of your origin regardless of what the world thinks. The rest of the world needs to understand that all Americans aren’t the same. We may be the next target, but don’t let that bring you down. We Americans are a strong people and we will not live in the fear of man; fear only God.

  5. anon permalink
    July 24, 2007 9:55 pm

    Well said. True. There is something really wrong with the white race. They hate human beings. They have been hating from what not time in history. They hate God!

    Slavery, Holocaust, racism, and now guantanamo !

    Earth was unfortunate that it had to be met by this bloody white race!

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