Jean Charles de Menezes’ seven head wounds

The war on terror has more to do with race and perception than most people think.

Jean Charles de Menezes was killed last week. He was 27 years old, a Brazilian and an electrician. He was shot once in the shoulder and seven times in the head. Apparently, the first, second and third bullets to the head were not enough.

Menezes was killed after running away from armed police ordering him to stop. But how could he stop? He had darker skin; he looked Middle Eastern enough. To the police, he looked like a terrorist and that was all that counted. Menezes’ corpse might not have looked it, but he was human after all, capable of being scared.

The Metropolitan Police in Britain have a “shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect” policy. A poll in London suggested 71 percent of people support the policy. It’s an easy policy to support when you do not look like Menezes.

The United States has partially exported its own silence of the lambs. More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives since the Iraq invasion began. More than 24,000 Iraqi civilians have met violent death in the same period, according to the Iraq Body Count project.

Chances of violent death for Iraqis were 58 times more likely after the invasion than before it, according to a report in the medical journal The Lancet.

Last December, two Afghan men died at U.S. bases in Bagram as a result of beatings by U.S. interrogators. Ninety miles off the coast of Florida, 52 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are holding a hunger strike to protest being held for nearly four years without being charged.

In the United States, we cannot trust armed police officers or airport security to distinguish between black people and criminals and Muslims and terrorists.

The Metropolitan Police in Britain would have thought twice about firing their guns if Menezes looked less Middle Eastern.

Historically in the United States, the terrorists for the black community have been slow-driving patrol cars and white officers offering a policy of intimidation. Menezes’ death helps emphasize that the war on terror has more to do with race than people think.

Karl Noyes is the Editorials and Opinions editor. Please send comments to [email protected]