Race, Social Justice

Charleston isn’t about you

Last Wednesday, 9 members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina were killed in a horrific act of violence.

Sumaiya Zama’s previous work for Coming of Faith can be found here.

21-year old Dylan Roof took their lives in what can only be described as a hate crime.

From left to right wing media, everyone refused to use the infamous “T word” to describe Roof and his actions. Immediately, the media, the GOP, political pundits, and other Twitter and Facebook pseudo intellectuals began calling him mentally deranged and damn near excusing this most heinous crime.

You know, the usual. In the social justice sphere, I would say that this response to the tragedy in Charleston is both elementary and predictable. By that, I mean nothing about it is shocking. It shouldn’t shock you that he wasn’t called a terrorist and it shouldn’t shock you that he’s being  assumed as mentally ill when he himself insists that his actions were racially motivated. Unfortunately, it should no longer come as a surprise that his humanity is upheld when Trayvon Martin’s was not. Dylan Roof is a white male. This happens every time a white guy guns down innocent people. It’s called white privilege.

Wednesday night, I noticed a trend amongst my fellow non black Muslims both on and off line.

“If he was Muslim, they’d call him a terrorist!”

“Well he wouldn’t be mentally deranged if he were Muslim, would he?”

I saw very little signs of condolences, or expressions of alliance with the black community. Just frustration on why Muslims are treated by the media the way they are.

Here’s the thing:

This moment is for the black community. Black lives matter right now. The conversation is about black people and a history of oppression that’s led to intense sentiments of anti blackness in this country. A history that many of us have been fortunate enough to not experience.

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It’s not about brown people and it sure as hell isn’t about Muslims.

As a non black Muslim ally, I’m ashamed with the general response from the non black Muslim community. The level of self absorption is unreal. It’s one thing to point out that white privilege exists, which it most certainly does, and another thing entirely to twist a tragedy into meeting your own agenda.

Frustration with the media’s response and the comparison to Muslim media bias should not have been our first and only response. It’s insensitive, irresponsible and nothing about it is Islamic.

Here’s what you can do:

Stand in solidarity with the black community. Pass on your condolences to the families of the victims. Refrain from including your non black Muslim experience to the conversation if it is not relevant. Listen, understand, and internalize the seriousness of the black narrative. Express the solidarity you have with the black community to all people.

Know that you, your family, your community, are able to freely celebrate Ramadan and practice Islam in this country because of the black brothers and sisters that came before us and created both the space and the opportunity for it.

Know that you, as a non black person, will never experience all that black people do. You, as a non black person, are privileged and this privilege should be used to uplift the black community, not deter conversations from issues of anti blackness.

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