While the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend were – and still are – disheartening to many in this country including myself, I can’t say I am all that surprised.
As someone who was not born in this country, I never believed the lies that racism is a thing of the past. You don’t even have to be a Brown or Black victim to know this is a reality. If you follow the news and/or uncover the systemic racism embedded in national/state-wide/municipal policies, you would see these recent events merely as people feeling emboldened by their racism. It never died. But now, at least within some circles, it’s secretly (or perhaps not-so-secretly) being fomented.
On Sunday, Mr. Rafia spoke at a vigil for Charlottesville on behalf of the Muslim community (by the way, it was through me – I’m more of a “Let’s talk about Religious Studies” kind of girl ;). His speech was the only one that ended on a positive note. I am thankful that he was positive, as I believe it is the Islamic way. But the more I learn about the history of this country, the more I understand why Blacks/African-Americans are so angry.
It’s easy for us children of (South Asian and/or Arab) immigrants to say, “Hey, it’s not so bad!” While we’ve certainly had to deal with racism, we also provided utilitarian benefit to the economy (all dem doctors and engineers? Where you think they from?). For this reason, we’ve been able to attain a certain level of success. I will never truly appreciate the struggles my parents’ generation had to go through to ensure their children live a cushier life than they, but for many Blacks/African-Americans, moving out of the ghettos is just not possible.
I lived close to the South Side of Chicago for two years, but was told to never venture south of 62nd street. Today, my daily commute to work literally starts from the posh suburbs up north, goes into the heart of the Indianapolis ghetto (not a grocery store in sight, but quite a few liquor stores!), finally ending in the very gentrified downtown (I learned more about the extents of this gentrification last Sunday).
My connection to this country spans less than 20 years. For other South Asian Americans, maybe 40 or 50. But our ancestors were never enslaved (not here anyway). To be a descendant of the slaves, who built this country by the way, and to see all that is going on today? I understand their anger and frustration.
I don’t agree that fighting fire with more fire will do any good, but it’s easy for me to stand back and say so and so is what must be done. Education is obviously needed, but will ignorant people listen?
I want to make sure that I am doing my part to be a positive force in this world. When I think of all the tasks ahead, it can be very demoralizing. I know one person alone cannot change the world… but we need more people to think that they can do something good.
This really is not the best way to end this post, but I really don’t know if there is a way to end it, because the work is not over.