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A Lesson On the Oklahoma Bombing Anniversary

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April 19, 2010, marks the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, in which 168 people died (including 19 young children) and more than 680 people were injured.

Crazed Muslims? Actually, no.

This crime against innocent people was committed not by dark-skinned, jihad-driven, Islamic radicals. No, it was committed by two "Christian" white guys. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were supposedly angry about the 1993 Waco fiasco. And so -- no coincidence, I think -- they bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on the two-year anniversary of the fire that destroyed David Koresh's Waco compound, in which 76 people died.

These white American right-wing vigilantes took the "law" into their own hands and avenged the deaths of 76 people by killing 168 unrelated innocent people. They killed innocent babies for revenge on an unrelated incident outside of their control.

So please think of this the next time you hear about an act of possible terrorism and immediately assume it's al-Qaeda.

I am certainly no apologist for al-Qaeda. Its members and supporters all deserve to be captured, put on trial, and then locked up for life if found guilty of terrorism or terrorist conspiracy. But our vigilance against al-Qaeda should not lead to a dangerous sense of security outside the al-Qaeda threat.

And, by that, I'm talking about racial profiling. A USA Today/Gallup poll this past January showed that an alarming majority of Americans support ethnic profiling. However, the Oklahoma City case clearly illustrates that racial profiling is a misguided reaction that can actually be counterproductive.

In worrying about what people look like, law enforcement officials may be too quick to overlook suspicious behavior by clean-cut white guys like McVeigh and Nichols.

And, in worrying about what people look like, law enforcement officials may be too quick to assume the worst of people who just happen to look a certain way.

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Therefore, racial profiling is rightly illegal for the reasons outlined above and more.

Facts are facts:

1. Most Muslim and Middle Eastern people are not terrorists.

2. Many terrorists are neither Muslim nor Middle Eastern.

To assume otherwise is to engage in nothing short of racism based on ignorance. And that, of course, does not comprise a valid argument.

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The truth is that human beings of all colors and creeds are capable of engaging in great good or great evil.

Most of us live somewhere in between. But those who operate on the fringe should be recognized as such -- for better or for worse.

In this case, we're looking at the worst. And they should be recognized as such regardless of their white skin and their "Christian" claims.

 

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
 

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