By Ali Zafar
Last Monday’s trending hashtag intensified my suffocating sense of dread, the one that’s ebbed and flowed since Sept. 11, 2001.
That dirty word stripped Dzhokhar Tsarnaev of his white privilege: he had been identified in news reports as a Chechen, terrorist and radical, but never American.
Because he’s Muslim. Like me.
I’d logged off from the 24-hour cycle of the world’s misfortunes that afternoon, deciding to take a breather before my workday started. I always expect something big to be breaking when I show up for my evening newsroom shift, but the news of the Boston Marathon bombings was still a shock. My stomach churned as I looked at graphic images on the newswire: the blood-splattered streets, the volunteers racing to help a man in a wheelchair with a missing leg.
And my heart dropped when I logged onto Twitter and saw #Muslims trending alongside #PrayforBoston. Was it possible that a person who calls himself a Muslim was behind those horrific images? What if his first name was Mohammad? Like mine? What if he had dark hair? Dark skin? Like me?
Anxiety, embarrassment and a shade of fear began bubbling inside me like a violent thunderstorm. Watching the news made it worse.