Santiago Matamoros (Saint James the Moor Slayer)
America’s not so post racial, as evidenced by the nasty comments on Yahoo News whenever the subject matter features anything about Blacks, Africans, Arabs, Muslims, Pakistanis, Iranians, etc. I’ve spent years arguing with some of my white associates that the racism Black Americans encounter is not a figment of our imagination. It’s funny how some of the most anti-Black Americans are insistent that we just “Get over it!” Reflective of Dr. Laura’s racial tirade, many white Americans claim that Black people’s grievances about racism are about power and control. That’s why Sarah Pailin told Dr. Laura to not quit but reload. And I’m sure that Dr. Laura’s brand has struck a cord with many Americans who hold the same view. With a Black President, many white Americans are rising against what they see as the hegemony of political correctness. They claim it is alright to stereotype, crack offensive black jokes and call somebody a N$@&% because ignorant Black people have appropriated the N-word and call themselves niggas. But really it is a veiled attempt to dehumanize, demean, belittle, generalize, and stereotype anybody who has a different perspective because our differences arise from our cultural and social backgrounds and the ethical principles that guide our social life and political beliefs.
San Luis Obispo, Spanish Mission
But how does religion fit into this, when faith is not about skin color? The reality is that some religions are racialized, and this is especially the case with Islam in America today. In fact, much of the anti-Muslim sentiment is linked to the resurgence of racism in the country. The Park51 debacle is a case in point. This controversy exposes much of the fragmented racial/religious logic in America today. Compare the hollowed ground of 9/11, which is is in reality the burial ground of the thousands who perished that day to those who perished a few hundred years ago in the name of Christianity. In California, we often call missions (i.e. Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, San Luis Obispo), Indian concentration camps because so many Native Americans were forced to live, work, and die on them. None of the people protesting Park51 are arguing that my alma mater, Santa Clara, move its church elsewhere because it is disrespectful to the burial grounds of native Americans. White American Christians have selective memory when it comes to remembering atrocities committed in the name of white Christiandom (i.e. the Crusades, The Reconquest, the Spanish Inquisition, trans-Atlantic slavery, Native American removal acts, the Herero genocides, the Holocaust, and Bosnian ethnic cleansing). There is even more hypocrisy in the dominant racial logic. While crying about how they are tired of being guilted about slavery (while ignoring the legacy of Jim Crow and decades of institutional racism), many white Americans have no problem trying to make every Muslim in the world do penance for 9/11. With that logic, I should get a reparations check and an apology from all White Christians for slavery. After I cash my reparations check and sow some seeds on the land my short changed ancestors were supposed to receive, then I’ll say sorry for what the hijackers did in the name of my religion. Long shot, no? While I condemn terrorism in all its forms, similar to one billion other Muslims, I’m not responsible for the actions of a few nuts.
American Muslims and Black Americans have to bear with generalizations and the racist vitriol with dignity and grace. But checking the daily headlines shouldn’t have to ruin my day or make me paranoid that many Americans want to see me either convert or relocate to an “Islamic” country. So, I’ll stop reading articles from Yahoo News and other online publications that allow people to post offensive, virulently racist, sexist, and Islamophobic comments. I’m doing in order to restore my faith in humanity. I’d like to hold on the belief that most Americans are decent people. I don’t want to think that most white Americans hate me because I’m Black and I’m Muslim. That’s why I never watch Fox News and I’m changing my homepage from Yahoo News to a respectable news source that has shut off non-productive comments from anonymous readers.