Single Narratives About Terrorist Attacks And Police Shootings


This last week two things coincided: I attended a panel discussion on islamophobia and my facebook friends reacted to the news of Keith Scott being shot by a police officer. These might seem unrelated, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that these experiences were really about the exact same thing: the human capacity to form narratives and hold on to them. Let’s start with the panel.

Three professors took turns speaking. Their point was that the narrative people have developed about Arabs and Islam is not accurate. People fear Arabs because they’re Muslim. But this is often not the case. There are a lot of Christians, Sikhs, and even agnostic Arabs. And people fear Muslims because of all the terrorist attacks. However, you are much more likely to be killed by lightning than by an Islamic extremist. According to one of the lecturers, Islamic extremism has only killed 109 Americans since September 11th 2001. That might sound like a lot, and every life is precious, but if you run the numbers, there is an infinitesimally small chance that you’ll be one of them. More people die falling out of bed. A lot more: it kills 737 Americans annually. Continue reading