It doesn’t matter where we come from or where we are going, we are here now. More importantly we are here together. We are all Muslim in the same sense we are all Christian, Jew, Hindu etc. But it is not something that comes naturally.
Tolerance and understanding have never been a big part of our American life. There have always been groups for ‘real’ Americans to disparage. African Americans were once considered less than human, Irish and Eastern European immigrants were called drunks and thieves while Catholics considered a threat to democracy. John F. Kennedy’s election was especially controversial. I remember hearing, “I’m not going to kiss the Popes ring” (although sometimes the object not being kissed was a portion of his Holiness’s anatomy).
The internment of over 110000 Japanese Americans during World War II was a low point in our history. Franklin D. Roosevelt who ordered the incarceration is considered one of the top five U.S. Presidents. How could he order something diametrically opposed to the constitution?
Fear, racism and a lack of empathy.
Fortunately we can overcome these negative emotions. We can all be Muslim. Not that we join Islam but understand we are all human with hopes, fears, dreams, goals; humans that have soared to unimaginable heights and crashed to unfathomable depths. And that understanding is best achieved by contact with those we are afraid of.
I understand it is simplistic to think the multitude of problems facing us can be solved by a social mixer. But it’s a start. Protest marches are great and I wholeheartedly encourage them but today’s widespread environment of hatred and fear will not be that easy to defeat.
The key is empathy. Our fears melt away when we put a human face to them. It is much harder to hate someone you know. Slate has an interesting article on how we perceive pain in other races. Whites believe Blacks can tolerate pain better. This perception not only determines how African Americans are treated in hospitals but how they are treated in the criminal justice system.
This article in Psychology Today explains how this bias can be overcome – get to know someone in that group or race. As Rodney King once famously asked, “Why can’t we all just get along”? The easy answer is – we’re not trying. The not so easy answer is to put an end to segregation. Which is not going to be easy. The Supreme Court decided Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954 but it wasn’t until the early 60’s that the decision started to have an effect.
Desegregation has faced fierce opposition ever since. So much so that schools are more segregated today than in the 80s. But racial discrimination is only part of the problem we face, economic segregation is keeping people apart as effectively as Jim Crow laws did. Unfortunately the poorest members of our society are too often Black and Hispanic. It’s hard to get a hit when you start with two strikes.
So the truth is we need more than a social, we need to elect people to congress (both local and national) that will help solve the problem – get money for schools in poor areas, redistrict if necessary and bring not just children together but the parents as well.
Public schools need to be better funded. Not just so they can buy better textbooks (although that would be a help) but to enable them to create a school that is a place of community. Where parents can brag about their kids and listen to other parents brag about their kids. A place where we can realize we are all Muslim. And Christian and Jewish and atheist and Buddhist and so on and so on.
Resources used for this article:
We Are All Muslim