EDITORIAL: END APATHY
by Harbeer Sandhu
Illustration by Blake Jones
By framing the Oak Creek massacre as an isolated incident, we delude ourselves into thinking of it as a randomized event carried out by a troubled individual. However, if we place the gurdwara shooting within its broader context, we can clearly see that it fits a troubling pattern of hate and bigotry within this country. – Simran Jeet Singh, as quoted in the Huffington Post on 8/17/12
We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.
– “The 14 Words” credo favored by white supremacists
I don’t mean to be alarmist or anything, but is this country falling apart at the seams? It seems that in the wake of the economic downturn and the election of President Barack Obama, some white people are freaking the fuck out! (Please note I said *some* white folks, not *all* white folks. I know–you’re one of the cool ones. Relax–we’re on the same side.)
Just this summer, we’ve had Koran burnings and mosque burnings, graffiti and guns fired at Muslim and Sikh houses of worship. Trayvon Martin was gunned down in front of his dad’s house for walking while black, and Shaima Alawadi, a mother of five, was beaten to death with a tire iron in her own home in what may (or may not) have been a hate crime.
In June, a Christian group walked through an Arab-American festival in Dearborn, MI carrying a pig’s head on a pike with signs insulting the Prophet Mohammed. Last week in Ontario, CA, people hurled a bag of three pig’s feet at my friend’s family mosque. (Totally begs the question “What happened to the fourth pig’s foot? Did the white supremacists get hungry?”) In Rhode Island, a mosque sign was smashed and in Oklahoma, paintballs were fired at mosque doors. In Missouri, a mosque was set ablaze for the second time–and this time it burned down to the ground.
A 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security warned of exactly this thing– the rise of right-wing militias and terror groups in the wake of Obama’s election and the economic nosedive. See, with more people competing for fewer resources, things are bound to get tense. Republicans and other right-wing politicians didn’t like the conclusions of that report, so its author, Darryl Johnson, was forced out of his job and the report was quashed.
Then came the Koran burnings and talk of the Ground Zero Mosque and opportunistic politicians fanning the flames of racial tension for short-term political gain. Sarah Palin had the audacity to insinuate that the “real America” is in small towns–with the implication that cities (i.e. pockets of diversity) are not the “real America.” Jan Brewer and her cadre of racist Arizona legislators passed their infamous SB 1070, which makes it illegal to drive while brown, and another law banning ethnic studies so that brown kids never question the white supremacist version of history that teaches them they’re worthless wetbacks suited only for minimum-wage jobs or prison. New York congressman Peter King has held very public hearings on radical Islam where he has questioned the patriotism of Keith Ellison, our first Muslim congressman (from Minnesota). Michelle Bachmann, another congresswoman from Minnesota, has called for the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s aide in the State Department, Huma Abedin, for alleged ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood–despite the fact that Abedin has passed a ton of background checks to get her job in the State Department, that Clinton trusts her completely, and that SHE’S MARRIED TO A JEWISH FORMER CONGRESSMAN, Anthony Weiner.
Why are these folks taken seriously? Why are they given a megaphone in the media? Why are they not laughed out of the halls of civilized, rational discourse??? I will grant you that Palin and King and Bachmann and their ilk are not directly calling for violence against minorities, but I cannot and will not take you seriously if you try to tell me that they are not fanning the flames of hatred. They are egging on the lunatics and extremists, and they are indirectly responsible for the climate of hatred in our country.
We are undergoing a demographic shift in this country. In the coming decades, we will no longer be a majority “white” nation. As I said before, some white people are freaking out about this, but they can rest easy. This change in numbers and percentages does not necessarily mean anything–look to South Africa–a *tiny* white minority was able to dominate and oppress a much more sizable black majority for a *long* time there.
Relax, white people, you still have all the guns and money.
I have noticed a few “people of color” gloating about this fact, that “non-whites” will soon be the majority. That’s an exceedingly simple analysis. They’re presuming that all “non-whites” will be unified, but need I remind you of a 1991 song by Ice Cube called “Black Korea?” (Check out Skankin’ Pickle’s hilarious reply.) I know Indian people who hate Pakistanis more than they hate white people–that old colonial “divide and conquer” tactic has not run its full course, yet. Y’all can rest easy for a good while, still.
So chill, my white friends, your culture and your country and your babies are not under attack. We, the formerly colonized, are only coming to Europe and the US because y’all looted our countries for hundreds of years and you’re hoarding all the wealth your ancestors accumulated (you can’t rightly have an intelligent conversation on immigration without talking macro-economics). We just need to feed our kids–we don’t really want to leave our homes, our communities, to work your crappy jobs. (And please stop calling us savages for having ethnic rivalries–your colonial powers exploited and entrenched those rivalries–they are primarily of your making, see “divide and conquer.”)
Last week I reposted a tirade on Facebook that compared the US public and media response to the gurdwara shooting to the response to the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. I think we can all agree that much more was said, much more loudly, about Colorado than Wisconsin, and I think it’s pretty obvious that the reason for the relative silence surrounding Wisconsin is that Sikhs are considered less than full Americans.
I can dispute that on many levels, but I hesitate. I could tell you that I was born and raised in the US, that I said the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school, that I have a Cracker Jack tattooed on my chest but not a single Indian/Punjabi/Sikh symbol anywhere on my person. I could tell you that my rugged individualism and complete disregard for history makes me a stereotypical American beyond the shadow of any doubt, but what’s the point? I AIN’T GOT NOTHIN TO PROVE TO YOU. I am an American. I am also a Sikh. Piss off.
But I do want to mention this: Below that post, a “white” friend left a comment saying that she had wanted to make a statement about the gurdwara shooting but felt like it was not her place to comment. This is what my anti-Zionist, Israeli-immigrant friend wrote in response, “I’m pretty sure it’s never NOT been okay for white people to assert an opinion about white supremacists. In fact, it’s kind of a moral imperative. You don’t need a pass.”
So please, white allies, I know you outnumber the lunatics. I know we’re all in this together, and I know that we can’t depend on politicians and “leaders” to take the lead on this. Hell, our own “ethnic” president’s campaign, in Detroit in 2008, barred Muslim women from appearing in a photograph with him because it’d play into white supremacist hands. Our own “ethnic” president refused to visit the Sikh temple Harmandir Sahib when he visited India because he did not want to be photographed consorting with people who look like Muslims. What a coward!
You’ve got to be more courageous than him. When your asshole cousin or idiotic classmate goes off on a tirade about “those people,” YOU need to challenge them. You can’t wait for someone else to do it–this is your responsibility.
America–our diversity is our strength. Even at the basic level of ecology, a more diverse ecosystem is more resilient in the face of pestilence and drought and other adversities. Monocultures are weak; there is no one, correct way to be an American. We need unity, not uniformity.
I’ll leave you with two quotes–one from screaming Howard Dean and another from Mark Twain.
[T]here are a lot of people who are my age and my color who can’t get their arms around the idea that this country is going to look like California in 40 years in that there’s not going to be a [white] majority. … That is a very hard pill to swallow if you are an American who is my age. That is a swirling issue that nobody wants to talk about.”
-Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman and Vermont governor, September 16, 2010
The widow rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time. When you got to the table you couldn’t go right to eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck down her head and grumble a little over the victuals, though there warn’t really anything the matter with them—that is, nothing only everything was cooked by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different; things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps around, and the things go better.
-Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885
Postscript: “End Apathy” was the name of the Wisconsin killer’s band. Let us reclaim these words. Let us challenge the systems of oppression and despair that led him over the edge.
[UPDATE: This editorial was written and published in the wake of the Oak Creek, Wisconsin gurdwara shooting. Since then, as we all know, some jack ass in California released the trailer to his film, which a small minority in "the Muslim world" decided to take as a good reason to riot. Please note--this is not the method of "ending apathy" that I recommend.]