Dear White People, Muslims Aren't Your Enemy

Dear White People, Muslims Are Not Your Enemy

Western countries should be embracing Muslim immigrants, not demonizing them.

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On Friday, March 15th 50 people were killed and 50 more injured in a mass shooting in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. Like many Americans, I woke up in the morning to see this tragedy all over the news and was lost for words. While mourning the loss of so many lives, I was also mad, enraged at the rise of white nationalism as a global political force with such deadly consequences. The shooter was a white supremacist who had published an anti-immigrant manifesto on 8chan. Innocent people had died because of hate so powerful it led to such a heinous act of violence.

So I think it would be irresponsible of us to spend five minutes feeling sad about this shooting and then move on. 50 people died and their lives should be mourned and remembered, now and forever. Furthermore, we must understand this tragedy as the embodiment of a coherent far-right ideology which has inspired several violent attacks over the past few years. And while it may be just a fringe of people who are actually white supremacists, the prejudices of racism and Islamophobia are still disturbingly prevalent in Western society, and the cruel and hateful rhetoric used by right-wing politicians in our political discourse sows the seeds of bigotry which manifests itself in horrendous acts of violence.

In the shooter's manifesto, he discussed "white genocide", the idea that white people in Western countries, where they have historically dominated as the majority, are being "replaced" by non-white and Muslim immigrants. White nationalists think that immigration which leads to diverse, multiracial societies is an existential threat to the white race and antithetical to Western cultural values. While such a view clearly seems extremist and wrong to the vast majority of reasonable people, certain strands of this thought can be seen across the political sphere: Steve King's tweets, the chanting of the Charlottesville protestors, Jeanine Pirro's comments about Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Trump's characterization of immigrants as invaders.

Trump said that he doesn't see white nationalism as a global problem, but of course he is part of the problem. This is the man who ran his 2016 presidential campaign by demonizing immigrants and stoking white fear of "the other". He called Mexicans "rapists", mocked the Black Lives Matter movement and he promised to ban Muslims from entering the country. His political strategy was to convince white people that people of color were to blame for all their problems. Having the President of the United States, the most powerful man on Earth, express racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic sentiments has done more to embolden white supremacists than anything else.

Considering all of this, I can't help but marvel at how much privilege it takes for white male conservatives to be able to "tolerate" Trump because he passes tax cuts. I will never understand how conservatives have embraced a man who is so morally bankrupt and explicitly hateful. There are things more important than economic growth than the GDP. There is the feeling of alienation and marginalization that the children of immigrants experience on a daily basis, the sense of otherness that we breathe in and out of our lungs over and over again, the way white people look at us when we walk into a room and they are afraid of us because they do not understand us.

We endure all the stares and the snide comments and the feeling of being foreign that we just can't rub it away no matter how hard we try. White people ask me where I am really from and they are shocked when I say Little Rock, Arkansas but I am not surprised at their reaction because I know that even though I was born here, even though I am a citizen of this country just like them, they will never see me as a real American. So go tell the young Muslim girl who is bullied in school for wearing a hijab and told to go back to where she came from, that under Trump the economy has been doing great.

The truth is Western countries are no longer the nations of white Christians if they ever were. The United States, the UK, Australia and yes New Zealand are multiracial, multiethnic and religiously diverse countries and this is the reality that white nationalists fear and seek to undermine at every turn. But we cannot let them. We cannot let any politicians define our national identities on the basis of race or religion. We must speak loudly and assert that these democracies, our countries, will be diverse and inclusive. We will not let small men divide us.

We are stronger than that. And we will overcome hate.

It will not be easy. Progress is never easy. Activists have been struggling for more than a century to fight against systematic racism in this country and there are still so many disparities between black people and white people. But this goal of building a country that respects the dignity of every individual, that provides equal opportunity for all to succeed, that welcomes the immigrant and the refugee knowing that they will make our countries better- this is a worthwhile fight.

In my hometown, there is a small but thriving Muslim population that I have had the honor and the privilege of getting to know. In high school, I joined an interfaith youth group that taught me so much about the Muslim faith. Some of my closest friends come from Muslim immigrant families. I have visited multiple mosques in Little Rock, and the faithful worshippers I've met there have shown me nothing but kindness and hospitality. I think some white people are afraid of Muslim immigrants because they have never really interacted with them or gotten to know them; they fear that which they do not understand.

But from my own experience, I know that Muslim immigrants are not our enemy. They are not radical jihadists seeking to impose Sharia law on us all; they are simply people who came to America for safety or for economic opportunity, who like every other immigrant, just want to achieve the American Dream, practice their faith in peace, live in America while not letting go of their culture, and give their kids a better life than the one they had. The Muslim immigrants I know are smart and hardworking and kind. They are doctors who save lives; they are lawyers who defend our rights. They are the very best of America.

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12 Signs You're From Jackman Maine

You know you're from Jackman just by these few things.
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1. You never lock the doors

The entire parking lot at the store is filled with running cars, all of them with the keys still in the ignition. All are so easy to steal and yet no one touches them.

2. You almost never miss a sports game

Whether you are a sports fan or not, you almost never miss a game. Either you go to watch a friend play or to hang out, there are very few games that you have missed.

3. The cold doesn't bother you

I can't tell you how many times I've gone out in 20 degree weather in a t-shirt to do chores, or have shoveled off the deck in bare feet. Almost rarely the cold seems to be a bother.

4. You own either a snowmobile or ATV

Because what else is there to do in town? Seriously?

5. You've walked down the street all night

And you know that after 5, the road is silent. Unless it's on the weekends when everyone from Quebec is driving through.

6. You go to Old Mill and not the Town Park

Let the tourists go to the park and enjoy it, we'll just enjoy our sandy little b each.

7. You LOVE going to Slidedown

If you don't love the falls, are you even from around here? How can you not love going to Slidedown?

8. The tourists are hilarious

Now we won't say that to any of them because Jackman is a tourist town and needs to have the tourism, but some of the things that people say or do are laugh worthy.

9. Everyone has seen a moose in their backyard

And I mean everyone. I've seen one walk around in the Post Office parking lot, if they're wandering around there, they will be everywhere.

10. Hunting is a way of life

So is fishing. I don't think I know anyone in town who doesn't hunt or fish.

11. Everyone is shocked at your graduating class number

Every time I tell people I graduated in a class of 11, people stare at me like I just grew horns out of my head.

12. You know everyone

Self-explanatory.

Cover Image Credit: Bill Jarvis

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Maybe It's Time For Even Black People To Stop Saying The 'N-Word'

There's no time nor place to use the word, whether it connotes to something negative or positive.

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I've been thinking about this topic for a while now. I recently went to a party with a couple of my friends, and usually, at a PWI like Rutgers, I'll always aware when I'm one of the few black people in the room. And since I'm one of the few black people in the room, I'm always hyper-sensitive of any racial tensions that may arise within the party scene. I think it was Meek Mill's "Dreams and Nightmares" that came on and I was dancing with these two white girls, and I couldn't tell if they were singing along or not because it was too dark, but I swore I heard them say the n-word. It just made me so angry, and I hate that as one of the few black people in the room, I felt obliged to tell them that the word isn't something for them to say.

And that had been my entire mindset about the word for a while now, that only black people can say the word because we're the only ones who can truly understand the context of the word. But my boyfriend and I got into a discussion a few nights ago about Halsey, who is a popular biracial — with one black parent and one white parent — singer, though she is white passing.

iamhalsey / Instagram

We got into a discussion of whether or not she should be able to say the 'n-word,' and my boyfriend said that she shouldn't be able to because if her fanbase is mostly non-black, they would think they are justified in saying the word if their favorite white-passing celebrity can. Because yes, although she is half black, to an average onlooker who doesn't know her, they would think that she's white. The black social justice warrior wanted to say that she could say it because despite her other half, at the end of the day she is a black woman, and to strip her of her right to say a word that we've reclaimed is almost like stripping her of half of her identity.

But then I really thought about it. The usage of the "n-word' has so many nuances. Like, what if someone is a quarter black, like Cardi B, are they allowed to use the word? Because we can use the same justification for them as we can use for Halsey. Furthermore, can Africans use the word, even if the word was only used against African Americans? Is there a particular percentage of black that you can be to really use the word? And what if you're fully black, yet still white passing... are you still allowed to use the word even if other people wouldn't see you as black?

That's when I told him, "Maybe no one should say the 'n-word.'" And I know that kind of struck him by surprise, but the more I started to think about it, the more it made sense to me. If it's a word that no one but black people can use, and if it's so offensive, why are us black people even using it?

Honestly, it's just my opinion, but I think you can't reclaim a word with so much history. I feel like it's different with women, who reinvented the meaning of and became empowered by "bitch" or members of the LGBTQ+ community reclaiming the word "queer." Because although yes, those words have been used to oppress and discriminate against certain groups, I feel like the 'n-word' has terrible connotations that span across centuries. The 'n-word' has been used to systematically, institutionally, and personally degrade, enslave, and inhibit black people from reaching their full potential in society. The word itself has been used to dehumanize blacks and make them believe that they are "less than" any other race.

It's a word with so much history, hurt, and torment behind it, and I feel like it's not something we can reclaim and make into something positive. And I thought what the arguments that can be used against my opinion... like maybe, this is the one thing people have, so why try and take it away from us? or black people have been using it to talk to other black people for a while now, saying it is no different than slaves calling each other that.

And I think those arguments are completely valid. But back then, black people used it to refer to other black people because they legitimately saw each other as less than because that's what the slave masters wanted them to think. And while yes, black people have had a lot of things taken away from us, I think that we as a people can't thrive while still calling each other something that was used to dehumanize us (and still used in some places) for so long.

Again, it's just my opinion, but it's something that I've given a lot of thought to. There's no time nor place to use the word, whether it connotes to something negative or positive. Maybe we should all just agree that this is a particular word that can't be reclaimed and can't be rebranded. As long as racism and prejudice exist, we won't really ever get away from the true context or meaning of the word. You can't take out an "-er" and slap an "-a" at the end and believe the word is OK to use now.

Maybe it's time to leave the word in the past, where it rightfully belongs.

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