Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the fifth year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Remember the Titans.It’s a true story about a high school football team in Virginia dealing with deep-rooted issues of race as they become the first team in their district to integrate have both black and white players. For those who don’t know, football was and is a big deal in Virginia. And unfortunately racism was and is a big deal as well.
A group of the players go into town to celebrate after winning a game and one of the white players, nicknamed Sunshine, suggests going into a restaurant that they are walking by. Petey, one of the black players, doesn’t think it’s a good idea.
Sunshine: Petey Jones. Come on, man.
Petey: No, man.
Sunshine: What, man? It’s on me, man. We party on. Let’s go.
Petey: Look–look here, man, all right? This here’s Virginia. All right? They got problems with, you know — They don’t want us in there, man.
Sunshine: Oh, man, that’s history, bro. It’s on me. Come on.
Petey and Sunshine go into the restaurant and are met by the owner, a middle-aged white man.
Owner: We’re full tonight, boys.
Sunshine: What? There’s tables all over the place, man. What are you talking about?
Owner: Well, this is my establishment. I reserve the right to refuse service to anybody. Yeah, that means you, too, hippie boy. Now, y’all want somethin’ to eat, you can take these boys out back and pick it up from the kitchen.
Petey and Sunshine outside the restaurant joined by Blue, a black member of the team.
Petey (angrily): What’d I tell you, man?
Blue: Yo, come on, Petey, man!
Sunshine (apologetic) Petey, I didn’t know, man.
Petey: I told you! What you mean you didn’t know?! You think I was playing with you?!
Blue: Man, he didn’t know, Petey.
Petey: Blue, he don’t want to know. You pull some crap like that, you better be able to back it up.
That’s pretty much what it comes down to. It’s not that we don’t know. It’s that we don’t want to know. And to many black people, it feels like we just don’t care to know.
Today Dylann Roof will appear in court in South Carolina for purposely murdering 9 black men and women in a Charleston Church.
Today is also Juneteenth. For those who don’t know what that is, the United States of America was once built on slavery. Millions of black men and women were enslaved and treated as property – goods that could be bought and sold and treated or mistreated however the white slave-masters desired. When Abraham Lincoln decided to enact the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st 1863, it took two and a half years for the actual end of slavery to be achieved. On June 19th, 1865, 150 years ago from today, slavery actually ended in this country and Juneteenth commemorates that. Its importance should be realized and appreciated, especially as so many of us are still trying to realize that black lives matter.
“If you are aware of your humility, then you are arrogant.” ~ Ibn Ata’illah Al-Iskandari
The conversation around race issues in the United States can be framed in a lot of different ways. If you are reading this, I’d like to lay frame it in two ways:
1) If you are Muslim, utilize the month of Ramadan to acknowledge any micro-aggressions that you might have towards African-Americans in general. We have a big issue with racism in the broader Muslim community. The specific conversation that has to be had and acted upon, not just had and then left alone, is one that deals particularly with treatment of African-Americans only. That means its not a generic conversation that brings in how everybody unfortunately mistreats everyone. Yes, we have issues with gender, Arabs and South Asians also exclude each other, young people and old people have generation gaps, but this conversation has to happen with specific framing constraints so that the African-American experience is better understood and our institutions, services and programs start to reflect that understanding in how they are run and implemented. Talk only about the experience, history, and legacy of being Black — leave the other topics for a different discussion — and then do something with what you learn.
2) If you live in the United States, whether you are Muslim or not, become deeply aware of the reality we find ourselves in today. We are not in a post-racial America. Black people are very much so treated differently and a lot of that does stem from white privilege. The racism that we are dealing with is not someone calling someone else a bad word or a slur, but a racism that is structural, systemic and perpetuated through institutional mechanisms. It is overwhelming in its unfiltered injustice, an injustice that seeks to maintain a supremacy and privilege that is deliberate in who it lets in and who it keeps out. The only way to combat the ignorance upon which it is established it to acknowledge its existence, to educate ourselves about its roots, and then move to obliterate our own passivity and indifference towards the experience of Black men and women in this country as we seek to find sustainable solutions to counter it.
Now is not a time to no longer know — it’s no longer an excuse. All you really are saying then is that you don’t want to know, or you just don’t care to know.
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