Friday, December 11, 2015

More Of The Same, The Newest Prejudice

As this first half of December 2015 passes, I find myself sick to my stomach for several reasons. First off, there was the mass shooting in San Bernadino. There are 16 dead as a result, 14 victims and two shooters. Several others were injured. There have been well over 300 mass shootings in the US this year, defined as four or more victims, with the possibility of reaching close to 400 by year end. Yet, nothing has changed. No new laws, no new procedures, not even any good ideas about how to stop the killing. Just empty sorrow for the victims and then back to normal, until the next incident. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Secondly, the prejudice against Muslims and Arabs because some members of those groups are terrorists. The following was posted on Facebook and showed up on my news feed. 

This is racist, bigotted and Islamaphobic. Don't think so, replace "Muslim" in the caption with Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jew, Gay or many other labels and see how it sounds. Racist, bigotted or antisemitic. I can only assume that the person who posted it is either racist, bigotted, Islamaphobic or completely insensitive. Neither is a good choice. To make it worse, a few other people agreed with the post. What does that make them?

It seems we Americans always need some group to oppress, hate and fear. The Blacks handled that role for a couple hundred years. Every other ethnic group took their turn. The Irish, the Polish, the Jews, the Germans, the Italians, the Asians all had their time. Currently it is the Hispanics and the Muslims and of course still the Blacks. Some of these groups eventually get completely accepted and integrated into the American mainstream. Some others don't. It seems to me that those that are easily distinguished physically have a much harder time. It is hard for the white majority to tell the difference between someone of Irish heritage from a Scot or Belgian or Swede or German or Pole or Jew... You get the idea. It is a little easier if the group has black or brown skin or has Asian features or wears ethnic clothing.

I grew up in the still-segregated South. There were separate water fountains and restrooms. Whites only restaurants and hotels. Segregated schools. Separate sections on the buses, the Blacks got the back end. They had to sit in the balcony at movie theaters if they were allowed in at all. I am sure that I grew up feeling that whites, and thereby me, were better than Blacks. Negroes or Colored back then. It wasn't overt in my house but just the day to day circumstances would lead a white kid to think that way. Just as a Colored kid would think the opposite. I guess if I had stayed in that environment I might still feel that way.

I didn't stay in that hometown. I went to college out of town and then went to Atlanta to work. Atlanta had been a very racist city but was actively working to change that. I was thrown in with many Blacks in those early days. I worked with Blacks, rode the bus to work as often the only white person. I got to know those people and got to become friends. I've written about the day MLK was assassinated. I was on a bus with 99% Blacks that night and had to work in downtown Atlanta. It was a life-changing event. It could have been a life-ending event had the African-American community in Atlanta lashed out at the white populace. 

I also went to elementary and high school with many Lebanese and Syrians. They were Christian Arabs but still from the now evil Middle East. I don't remember there being any ethnic tension with them or any clues from our parents that there should be. We were all just kids going to school. Some were my best friends, some were just classmates and some were adversaries. Just like the kids from every other ethnic background. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that those Arab families had to put up with prejudices from the redneck majority. I was just too young and naive to see it. 

I digress only to make the point that I have lived through prejudice and racism. It is never justified to define an entire group based on the actions of a few or even worse the perceived behavior or inferiority. 

It is absolutely true that most Muslims, including those in the US, are peaceful. They are not terrorists. If the majority of US Muslims were bad guys, they could throw the country into panic and turmoil tomorrow. One way to turn them against the US is to treat them as second class citizens or worse. 

The photo and caption above are disgusting. They are racist and those who think it is proper behavior for an American or a Christian have seriously misread what those terms mean. 

The vitriol pouring out of a certain presidential candidate is disgusting and un-American. 

Let's concentrate on the real terrorists, not the law-abiding ethnic family next door.


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