AKA: Where DON’T We Go Wrong?
Watching the back and forth reactions to both the bombing of the NAACP headquarters in Colorado Springs and the shootings at the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris on social media is enough to give me whiplash.
Navigating the intertwining issues of race and religion isn’t something at which us humans are very good. Add in jargon like “terrorism” and “rights” and suddenly we have added complex emotions to some already emotional issues. Entire books have been and will be written on these issues*. And ultimately, we all need to take more time to have long discussions and studying of these concepts and how we use them. There is power in words.
Yes, you have the right to free speech, and the right to draw images of a Muslim prophet Mohammad that many people believe ought not be depicted. But yes, it does make you an asshole if you choose to exercise this right.
No, (Muslim dudes in Paris) you do not have the right to kill people for being assholes. No, (Obama and U.S. military) you do not have the right to use drone strikes to kill people for being in proximity to where you think assholes might be located. None of this is acceptable behavior.
It is difficult at this point to distinguish the chicken from the egg in the world of international terrorism. The place to start, it would seem, is in accepting accountability for one’s own nation’s actions, and working to end disrespectful and terrorist activity one’s for which one’s country is responsible. The finger pointing is a fun game for sure, but unless you support endless war and civilian casualties and mondo finger cramps, we have to calm down*** and stop.
Simply because we have the right does NOT mean that doing or saying the thing is as good idea. And it also doesn’t mean that there won’t be consequences. The consequences for saying something racist or disrespectful obviously shouldn’t be getting your offices shot up. When someone says something that isn’t respectful, they should understand that any negative responses are not about curtailing their ‘right’ to say something mean, but rather are the fair market reactions. You can call me a ‘dyke’ it is your right! , but don’t be surprised when I tell you to ‘fuck off and shut up’ in response.
In the climate of the U.S. War on Terrorism, and legacy of colonialism, imperialism, racism, coups, and genocide, Americans need to tread very carefully in our responses. When many reactors to a public situation are actually being racist, one must tread carefully when taking the same position, lest you be mistaken for a racist. Beyond that, one can unwittingly end up supporting racists.
An example, is that I did not support Obama when he was running, and do not support him now. However, I have been aware that the waters surrounding criticizing the first Black president are dangerous as hell. When I hear someone share a criticism I do, but then slide into a racist diatribe, I can feel the ickyness in my guts. When I make a critique I try to make it clear that mine is based not on race, but on policy.
On the side of the mostly Americans who’s social media reactions I have seen, there is this unfortunate knee jerk immature reaction to want to see the cartoons of Muhammad produced by Charlie Hebdo magazine which so enraged the shooters. The problem I see with this reaction is that while it is fair to say ‘fuck you’ to the shooters themselves, there are plenty of Muslims who have not and would not engage in terrorist acts, yet would still feel disrespected and hurt by the images of the prophet. There are many Muslims who already face harassment and violence (hate crimes) on a regular basis because of their race and religion.
Numerous friends of mine have reposted the pictures of the prophet. I disagree with that choice, but I have no desire to tear them a new one. I love them, and if I had the chance to have a respectful conversation with them about the issue I’d be more than happy to.
If, in our responses we are not being Islamaphobic, we must remain respectful of Muslims and their religion. Surely we have the capacity to distinguish between the specific perpetrators of a specific incident and the entire world’s population of Muslims. If we do not have that capacity, we need to work to grow that capacity within ourselves and our communities.
The media in this country is simultaneously a farce and a fearsome machine. The disparity in coverage of many issues reveals underlying racism, classism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc. which is then reproduced through the media coverage. The disparity in coverage between the Colorado Springs and Paris incidents has been jumped onto by folks as revealing racist media bias. The historical racism of the media lends this point of view credence. However, the lack of death or much damage at all in Colorado versus the 12 deaths in Paris does seem to account for the difference in emphasis to some extent.
We have seen that media depictions of terrorists or shooters/bombers/perpetrators of color is much different than that of whites. The institutional racism affects police departments, where the shocking rates of harassment, ‘stop and frisk’, arrests, and murders of people of color reveal the tangible affects of racism. Every time the media ignores a white perpetrator, excuses their homicidal behavior with talk of mental health issues, or takes the time to talk them down instead of shooting first and asking later we see the tangible benefits of white privilege.
It is fair to ask why there isn’t more coverage of the bombing of the NAACP building. It is always fair to question the racism in media coverage of pretty much anything. Creating a culture of media critique would be a healthy thing to do.
The incredible racial tensions in the U.S. right now might just be connected to the bombing of the NAACP building. The bombing certainly contributes to an environment of justifiable fear and very real physical threat. We can’t really give this issue enough attention.
The FBI is investigating the bombing, but let’s be honest, the FBI and CIA don’t exactly have a great record with dealing with people of color**. Paying attention to the bombing, and tying it into the #blacklivesmatter movement is an important and valid thing to do.
We have to react respectfully. Ultimately a lot of the junk we are taught as kids is actually super vital for our adult lives. In a disagreement, it pays to “be the bigger man”. Which, excusing macho bullshit, means remaining calm, respectful, avoiding intentionally hurtful words or actions etc. Being right, just like having the right, doesn’t make whatever you do right. Right? I am against disrespectful cartoons which are only seen as acceptable because of a racist climate of Islamophobia. I am against shooting people associated with drawing disrespectful cartoons. I am against the War on Terrorism, and the use of drones, torture, and economic sanctions. I am against
How do we talk about one tragedy without dismissing another? Respectfully. Carefully. Thoughtfully.
Perhaps, even Mindfully.
What we have in common in these events is the power of fear and racism to negatively affect our lives. The aftermath of both events leaves many to feel unsafe. The best thing we can do is respond in ways that will encourage both feeling and actually being safe for everyone involved.
The world is a big ol’ mess, and it’s up to us to make it a better place.
*Recommended reading: Green is the New Red by Will Potter
** MOVE, Black Panthers, COINTELPRO, Pine Ridge etc.
*** Check out Calm Down Zine! https://archive.org/details/Tmp_28737-KarnageCreations.CalmDown.Fall2014Print2sidedFlipOnShortEdgeFoldReadRelax10122101