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german pilotIt is now being revealed that, tragically, the recent Germanwings crash was the result of intentional actions by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz (pictured above). It is being reported that Lubitz waited until the other flight pilot left the cockpit, locked the door and then proceeded to purposely fly the plane into the French Alps, killing himself and all 149 people on board. The tragic situation is still under investigation and further details—such as Lubitz’s motive or mental state at the time of the intentional crash that killed everyone on board—have not yet emerged. It is possible that Lubitz suffered some kind of a mental breakdown or that he was suicidal and maliciously and selfishly took the lives of 149 other people with him. Or maybe he had some political or social grievances.  At this point, we simply do not know what caused him to do such a horrible and murderous thing. And since Lubitz perished in the crash, we may never know.

The point I’d like to raise is this: will the media and officials (and people in general) label Lubitz a terrorist, now or in days to come? So far, I have not seen media reports using this language to describe the co-pilot and his sick actions. The reality is that we do not know enough to know what his motives were, if they were politically motivated or if he was having some kind of personal or mental episode. We still do not know and it is too early to say. Though I would argue that if someone selflessly, sadistically and senselessly takes the lives of 149 other people then they are a terrorist, whether they have political or religious motive or not. If Lubitz was suicidal then why not simply take his own life? The very act of intentionally murdering 149 innocent people along with him is an act that will forever terrorize the family of those innocents, frighten the public, and, is now forcing airlines around the globe to change their chock pit policies.

At the end of the day, this man killed innocent people by flying a plane into the side of a mountain. And when people crash planes into inanimate objects we tend to call them terrorists (and rightly so!). Still, no one is calling Lubitz a terrorist. But we can bet that had this sick and murderous co-pilot been a Muslim (or a brown non-Muslim even), and had he done the exact same thing as Lubitz, we would have automatically labeled him a “terrorist.” Before knowing any of the details, before knowing the circumstances or mental state of the pilot, his very identity as a Muslim (or Arab or numerous other ethnicities that fit the “evil other” image) would be enough to label him a terrorist, regardless of the details.

In the case of the Germanwings crash all we know so far is that the pilot intentionally crashed the plane and he happens to be a German, and no one is calling it terrorism. But if he were a Muslim man, it is highly unlikely I could write the same words. For instance, that: All we know so far is that the pilot intentionally crashed the plane and he happens to be an Arab or Muslim, and no one is calling it terrorism. That does not read very “realistically” because the reality is, in the current climate in which we live, if someone does something bad or horrible and they happen to be Muslim, then their actions will automatically be labeled as terrorism, even before we know any of the details. As Bill Maher so inanely once put it: “not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims.” Using this (ill) logic, when non-Muslim people commit acts that could potentially (or actually) be considered terrorism, we cannot or will not label it as such, because that label is reserved only for Muslim people (and other unlucky brown folks that could be mistaken for or confused with Muslims).

I’ve scanned the media coverage and no one is labeling Lubitz a terrorist. But if the co-pilot of Germanwings flight 4U9525 were Muslim (or brown) it is very likely we would label him first, and ask questions later. But alas Lubitz is a white European and, arguably, has what comedian Paul Mooney once called “the complexion for the protection.”

UPDATE: On March 28 media reported that Lubitz might have been suffering from depression, describing him as a “troubled pilot.” Still no mention of terrorism. This is typical of media coverage of mass murders by white men; they’re often described as troubled or lone wolfs, etc.

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