Am I a racist? I ask myself that pointed question.
I can be biased in some ways, but I’m not a racist.
It’s hard for me to accept that our hearts and minds are absolutely free of the disease of discrimination. We sometimes show bias within our own family. The problem arises when we act upon that impulse inflicting psychological and physical harm, or violate one’s civil rights based on race and religion.
I was born in India, in a nation then newly freed from colonial yokes. I know well the saga of racial dominance — the caste system exists there to this day in a form of social apartheid.
It’s not always white vs. brown or black. Even Irish, Italians and Jews faced bias and bigotry in our country. Arriving in America, I feel the brown people are equally vulnerable to their own biases and prejudices. Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia exist. Historical and incomparable suffering of African-Americans continues to this day.
God intended our colorful diversity. Many who believe in the Abrahamic tradition forget we all come from Adam and Eve — white, black, brown, red and yellow descendants from the two. Ignoring that understanding resulted in slavery.
Racism existed since the time of Adam, and it will be with us until Judgment Day. In my faith, the narrative of Adam is similar to the Hebrew Bible, with slight variation:
Fashioning Adam from clay, God orders the angels to bow down to him (Quran 2:34).
Adam was a better creation than the angels made in God’s image. Adam was designed to be God's steward.
But Satan, a being among angels, thought he was better than Adam because bowing to one evolved from dust was unacceptable. Satan refused to accept someone who was different. Racial pride superseded his submission to God’s will, the Quran says, and Satan swore to misguide the children of Adam until the end of times.
Thus we have a choice to follow Satan or God.
Those of us who don’t believe in God or the devil may think about our core human values — surely racial discrimination is not one of them. We all bleed red.
Ignoring race relations is bad for our country’s health. The obvious answer is to first recognize that racism is the root cause of this infectious disease — like COVID-19 it needs an inoculation. The current outcry from our black sisters and brothers says they’re sick of such sickness.
As a Muslim, I understand how the actions of a few are broad brushed over an entire group of people. Blaming a few cops, as bad as these may be, is not a long-term cure. We’ve seen many police officers taking a knee in solidarity with the protesters — they serve and protect.
By the same token, the peaceful protesters aren’t responsible for a few reprehensible anarchists. George Floyd would have rejected the destructive rage the protesters demonstrated, says his brother.
The protesters want alleviation from the sufferings they live with. George Floyd's killing is just a symptom of the larger problem.
“No justice, no peace” is one call for relief. In highlighting disparities, the protests around the country are crying out based on some of the studies I've seen:
Some studies showed more blacks were unarmed than whites when killed.
These are examples of a system that hasn’t been ideal in implementing justice and equality. In addition, our political, civic and religious leadership are responsible through their words and actions to bring us together — to promote democracy, universal economic prosperity and unity. We need them to step up in promoting race relations and more. It is also our personal responsibility of social distancing from the scourge of racial discrimination.
It is a time for self-evaluation and personal reflections. It’s not so easy to thoroughly sanitize human heart and mind of biases. All of us individually must look deep within and accept racial divisions as bad medicine.
Victor Ghalib Begg is a Muslim community activist and interfaith leader who lives in Fort Pierce.
( Source: TC Palm, USA Today Network )