It's mourning in America again. Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote that the blood of the innocent cries forever. We join our cries with the blood split in a Sikh sanctuary last Sunday.
As a Black American, I cannot contemplate this tragedy without contemplating the legacy of domestic racial terrorism my people have faced since being brought in chains to these shores. I'm reminded of Angela Davis's description of the sound of bombs going off in her Birmingham neighborhood as a child, bombs that would eventually take the lives of four little girls at Sunday school. I'm reminded of the thousands lost to the lynching tree discussed so eloquently by James Cone and documented so brutally by James Allen. Domestic racial terrorism is what Wade Michael Page accomplished, whatever his ultimate motive. While Sikhs are among its latest victims, its practice is as old as America.
What scholars such as Nadine Naber have offered me is the opportunity to understand this phenomenon in the context of the dominant discourse of the "War on Terror." In her must-read essay, "Look, Mohammed the Terrorist is Coming: Cultural Racism, Nation-based Racism and the Intersectionality of Oppressions after 9/11," she explains that politicians, pundits, and other opinion leaders have constructed a threatening "other." Similar to the young black male that haunts the American mind, this other is Arab/Middle Eastern/Muslim and male. He is distinguished by cultural characteristics that are treated as "natural" and inherently hostile to "our way of life," and markers of marginalization such as Arab-sounding names or physical appearance. In addition, he is often an immigrant from particular countries and assumed to be suspect or "criminal" by virtue of his nation of origin.