The media response to the Westminster attacks highlights our problem with raceRastrojo

There are no prizes for guessing the intention of terrorism: it lies in the name. Terror. Pure and simple, terrorists utilise indiscriminate violence (such as suicide bombings) to generate an atmosphere of terror to help achieve their political goals. The Westminster attack is a perfect example – the concept that one person could cause such horrendous destruction in 82 seconds is beyond comprehension. Yet, along with the widespread terror caused by public attacks, there also lies an often-ignored fear felt only by some in our society.

Every time there is a terror attack, I am fearful. Not of being the victim of an attack – instead, I am fearful for myself, as a person of colour. I am fearful of  the reaction people will have to me after each attack. And I promise you there is always, always a reaction.

Everyone is aware of the vitriolic backlash to Muslims after each terror attack: a quite popular saying making the rounds on social media is ‘Not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims’ – which quite frankly, isn’t true.

However, here is the thing – I am not Muslim. I can’t speak for Muslims, and what they face after terror attacks. But, perhaps because of the assumption that all brown people are Muslim or all brown people are terrorists, I am constantly the target of horrific barbed comments about terror attacks.

It’s become a ritual now. Prior to the reveal of the terrorist’s identity, I know I am not alone in praying these few things: ‘Please not Muslim. Please not an immigrant. Please not brown.’ It’s a small mantra but there is significant meaning behind it. With every confirmation of these things, each Muslim life, each immigrant life, each brown person’s life is irrevocably affected. It’s bizarre and unfair but there is literally a textbook model of the aftermath of an attack which is followed each time.

There is a peculiar ripple effect caused: naturally, it starts small – odd looks, whispered comments, nudges from strangers. But skin colour discrimination is rampant and can often erupt. There are numerous, recent examples of targeted racism on public transport, such as being called “fucking ISIS bitches” on a London Bus or a “rag-head” on the tube.

“We, the ‘others’ in society, are feared, taunted, attacked in equal measure”

Public transport remains one of my greatest fears – in the anonymity created, people seem to find reason enough to address me. I curl up in a corner on the bus, tense and on edge, headphones in, barriers up, trying to be invisible - but I cannot shed my skin. It seems as though there is a neon blazing light under my skin screeching. ‘Here she is! Better have your racist comments ready fellas!’

To give you an insight – a few of my favourite comments said to me by strangers recently: “How many schools are you planning on bombing today?” (said to me on a train station – A*, kudos for the use of rhetorical question); “Isis whore” (oh, misogynist and racist?! My dream!); “Have you got a bomb under that dress?” (another bomb joke? – seven for originality. Plus, the dress was Ted Baker. Please. Show some respect).

The one thing my mother said to my brothers and I after the attack was, “Don’t leave the house.” This wasn’t unusual - I heard those four words after the Paris attacks, Berlin attacks, 7/7. Christ, I’ve been hearing those four words all my life. We have all learnt the danger that comes from being brown and existing after terrorism.

I fear for my family: my mother, with her Sri Lankan accent; my brother, with his dark beard; my younger brother, with his foreign name. The truly sad thing is that what we experience is nothing compared to what Muslims experience on a daily basis. It is hard to imagine their bravery, especially that of hijabis, who wear explicit evidence of their faith system, to exist in a world with such poisonous hatred towards them. Even the backlash against a Muslim woman accused of casually walking past victims of the attack shows this. We, the ‘others’ in society, are feared, taunted, attacked in equal measure. How is that fair? What did we do?

Even the reaction to the attacker, Khalid Masood, is telling. Every time a feature of Masood’s identity was revealed in the news – a teacher, living in a terrace house, born with a ‘white name’ (Adrian) by a white woman – the image of the ‘typical terrorist’ peeled away.

You could almost hear the confusion in the Press – the Daily Mail’s headline of “Terrorist from Tunbridge Wells: How the Westminster killer lived with his glamorous businesswoman partner and two devoted daughters in a £700k gated home before his descent into carnage” almost exclaims, ‘This is the terrorist? This middle-class man?!’

We must query why the media is presenting Masood as ‘British-born’ and not merely ‘British’. It is almost as though his skin colour, his name and his appearance leaves a question mark hanging over his identity.

Thomas Mair, the killer of MP Jo Cox was never referred to as ‘British-born’ – but then again, he was very rarely referred to as a terrorist. Perhaps the lack of melanin in his skin could go some way to explaining this. Often it seems that brown skin is foreign, exotic, tropical – but also innately laced with danger. Capable of exploding

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