Call me naive, call me sheltered, call me privileged; these are all true sentiments, I can’t deny that much. I have lived a privileged life, I grew up in an upper middle class household in a predominantly white suburban neighborhood. I have never experienced any true discrimination, nor will I ever have to endure the ignorance of those who think they are above me because of race or religion. But the reality is, just because you’re not personally experiencing something, doesn’t mean it’s not happening to others.
And that’s something that can easily be lost on the privileged. Racism, sexism, and discrimination against religions, are ALL REAL ISSUES, and it’s all really still happening. I try my best to stay educated, but to be a good ally takes more than simply being aware of the issue. An ally has to try to give a voice to those struggling to be heard over the incessant white noise of ignorant rhetoric that is constantly being broadcast. We must give a voice to the muted, we must try to spark a conversation about our own ignorances, we must come together as one to help build up each and every one of our fellow global citizens. Before a few days ago, I had never witnessed the ignorance of blind discrimination present itself in such a public way. Things of this magnitude, and much greater occur EVERYDAY to some people, and this moment reawakened me to that reality, and it tears me apart.
Last Friday night, a group of friends and I were coming back home from a concert at the Terminal 5 venue. It’s about a 15 block trek from my dorm, but the night was nice, and the company warm, so walking seemed like the natural best option. At a point in our walk where the streets were only l populated by a few sparse gatherings of people, there were two men, one father and one teenaged son, walking immediately in front of us. These two men were both of color and both wearing what I had assumed to be Jewish Kippah’s, a symbol of a Jewish mans awareness of a “higher entity”. Then came the yelling,
“I’m going to burn all the FUCKING mosques in this city!”
I turn around to see the man directing all this rage towards the two people in front of us on the street. He stood on that Manhattan street corner, exemplifying everything that is wrong with discrimination. The two men had just been keeping to themselves and happened to walk past them, is that really enough to evoke an anger that strong? How can simply seeing two people, be enough to catalyze THAT MUCH HATE? Does he know that in reality Islam preaches that same peaceful ideals as the majority of other world religions? Did he stop to think that those men could possibly not even be of Islamic faith?
I guarantee to you that he didn’t, he knew there would be no consequences for his actions. Because, what can you do when someone attacks you in that way? You’re forced time and time again to do exactly what the two men in front of me did, just keep walking. Keep your head down, be the bigger person, and do not respond in anger. The thing is, that’s not the only time something like that is going to happen to them, or the only people that that is going to happen too.
It will happen time and time again, until we can stop spreading fear, and start growing in love. I have so many things to say about the way that Islam is presented in the media and media culture working to promote irrational fear of this peaceful religion, but that is for another time, when I can speak from a more educated viewpoint. Right now all I know is that, things like this cannot go on happening.
This was just a small transitory event, but to me it was a poignant reminder, a wakeup call, to the state of the world we live in.*
*this piece was originally written over a year ago, however I believe that this powerful message still holds value
+Until Next Time, Kirst