In the wake of Mukhtar Ahmed’s death, Chapel Hill, and so many other incidents I cannot even bring myself to think of, I lose faith that America cares what happens to the Muslims who call this country home. I wonder what it would take for our humanity to be recognized, for the Islamophobia to end. With each new incident I get more and more desensitized to my own struggle. I grow apathetic.
What would it take for crimes perpetrated against us to be considered hate crimes? When does the lone wolf rhetoric get old, and we begin to recognize that our governmental representatives proclaiming that Islam is “a cancer in our nation that needs to be cut out” might be fostering an environment where hate crimes are commonplace. Because more and more I am realizing that is what they are; they are commonplace. They don’t receive media outcry. They don’t even make it onto most social media. The daily torment of women who are jeered at for wearing hijab and the vandalism of a mosque in D.C. aren’t worth blinking an eye at. But my eyes blink back tears every time. My tears are not worth much though, so instead I deal with it like every other millennial; I grow apathetic.
It sounds straight forward enough. Learn about another incidence of Islamophobia, get upset, tweet about it to your whopping 41 followers, and then compartmentalize it so you can’t feel it anymore. As a Muslim woman each step involves a series of considerations that make reading the news an ordeal. After going through this process again and again, how can I not grow apathetic?
Step 1. Learn About Another Incidence of Islamophobia
First, we have to palate the term Islamophobia. I mean really? Is it a medically diagnosable anxiety disorder/disease? Or is it just prejudice and hatred?
After that, we have to actually encounter the news of whatever has happened THIS TIME. Considering how rarely the media reports the incidents we do know of, how many go without being addressed? How often do Muslims actually know about what is happening to their community? You have to delve deeply into the Internet to find out.
Step 2. GET ANGRY
So now, after reading and processing the information, what can you do? Perhaps there is another way to process information about a crime committed against people who could easily be your uncle/sister/grandmother. I am open to suggestions. However I find the media’s recurring rhetoric reducing these incidents to anything but endemic prejudice against Muslims (like parking lot disputes) RIDICULOUS. I understand that there are other factors involved in a lot of these incidents, but this is stretching colorblind ideology to a level I had hoped we moved past. If the Muslimness of the victims is hitting you in the face, it’s not hard to imagine that it contributed to the motivation behind the incident.
So I get angry. I get hot, start muttering under my breath, and I realize that no one cares. There is no room for Muslim women to rage. In general anger is viewed as a negative emotion, one not conducive to rational or legitimate thought. It gets channeled into something else: comedy, writings, music, anything. But men dominate these fields; women have no out where they know someone will listen to them rage. After all women, already plagued with the image of being emotionally driven, irrational creatures, are even less legitimate when they are angry. They cannot expect success when they channel their rage into something for mass consumption. So they internalize it. I internalize it, and I get sad.
Step 3. Share it on Social Media
Tears threatening to fall, so I shake it off and suck it up. Who will listen to our tears? They are just another emotional response. So I share it. I share the news hoping someone will listen, because the victims deserve to be recognized. Our voices deserve to be heard.
Step 4. Apathy
Finally, like a true millennial, I move to apathy. After a grueling five minutes of trying to figure out where to place the anger, frustration, and sadness each of these incidents leave me with, apathy seems nice. Sure, I sent a couple tweets out there for the universe to stumble upon, but it’s hard to say anyone was really listening.
In my eyes, apathy is the true marking of a millennial. The constant inundation of news distances us from their actual implications. We are the generation of the Internet and iPhones, so we are never far from the constant barrage of information. With each new incident of Islamophobia, with each new media pundit blaming an entire religion on all of the evil to ever exist in the world, I grow a little more apathetic to my own people’s struggle. I harden my heart, because I cannot palate any more rage without a release. I chose not to react, to cry out, because I know that in another few weeks there will be something else I can protest. I chose not to feel guilt for what they tell me my religion has done. I chose not to feel pain.
Apathy is a coping mechanism. I know that. I do it to protect myself. But I also want to recognize that there was an overwhelming lack of apathy for the victims of the shootings at Chapel Hill. The mobilization of that many people, the collective outcry from Muslims and non-Muslims alike was truly humbling. I realized that for once in my own detachment from that incident, I was the exception not the rule. I realized that I had underestimated my peers.
Millennials can be a force to reckon with, if we choose to be. So I chose to get angry, to tweet to no one in particular, to talk to EVERYONE who will listen about EVERY SINGLE ONE of these incidents, even if it prolongs the pain that comes with them. Our voices hold power, and while apathy may protect us, it can hurt the next victim of ‘road rage’ or a ‘parking dispute’ so much more.