Prejudice lives on in America
This past week, presidential candidate Donald Trump declared that he would “absolutely” implement a database to which all American Muslims would be forced to register. But contrary to igniting outcries of rage against the blatant racism of such a declaration, Trump supporters are rallying behind this proposal.
And it’s terrifying.
Never mind that such an idea stands reminiscent of the registration of the Jews in Nazi Germany. Never mind that the support behind this plan suggests that we, as a country, clearly haven’t learned from our own sins during the 1940s, when Japanese internment camps incarcerated thousands of our Japanese brothers and sisters--including those who stood behind the United States during the war--without due process.
Watching the campaign of Donald Trump has been an eye-opening experience for me. All my life, I had believed that most people, when you really get down to it, are good and accepting of one another, no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Even I, a young, minority woman who has experienced various racist and sexist slights throughout her life, truly wanted to believe that, at the end of the day, love and acceptance would win out. That people can learn from the mistakes of the past, when racism and sexism caused little more than hurt and suffering.
I have to be honest: I’m beginning to lose hope.
Recent events have only added to this growing feeling of despair. The protests by black students at the University of Missouri brought to the surface a number of issues that have plagued the lives of minority students on college campuses across America. That racial slurs continue to be used, that the swastika and the Confederate flag continue to be waved with pride for the racism that they stand for, are alarming realities.
Even more frightening, however, are the responses I have seen to the protests of these minority students at Missouri. Just a quick skim through the reader comments of any article covering the protests shows that racism and hatred are alive and well in America. Comments stating that these students should “grow up” and stop being so “easily offended” demonstrate our refusal to look at anything from any perspective that is not our own. Nearby, at the University of Kansas, minority groups have also stood in protest against the treatment they have received on campus and against the fact that the university’s administration has yet to successfully address it. Those protesting point out that they have been in “discussions” about their plight for years with no visible action taking place. Understandably, they’ve become frustrated. By the time student groups are standing in protest like this, whether it is a Kansas or Missouri, or at any other college campus, it is not out of a sense of “entitlement,” but out of a sense of frustration. It is not “entitlement” to demand that you be treated with respect -- it is a basic human right.
When the Paris attacks took place last week, anti-Islamic sentiment rose once again across the nation. Besides Donald Trump’s obvious show of prejudice and hate-mongering, I’ve noticed that my Facebook feed has also erupted with anti-Muslim posts. When students at the University of Missouri flared up in fear that their own issues would be swept under the rug, Facebook exploded once again, this time condemning MU students for thinking their own issues were more important than the attacks in Paris.
The truth is, both situations are tragedies. Both situations are the result of prejudice, feelings of supremacy, and a lack of compassion. What happened in Paris is absolutely distressing, not just for the Western world, but for the Middle East as well. That a single, extremist group--in this case, ISIS--can affect the relationship between two parts of the world in such a negative way continues to plague our global society. It is a gut-wrenching reality faced by all who desire peace. But Missouri students are right to worry about this event minimizing their own pains and cries. History has shown that, in times of great tragedy, other issues do tend to get sent to the back burner. Yet suddenly, the attacks in Paris have managed to simultaneously catalyze both anti-Islamic and anti-black feelings throughout the nation.
I don’t understand it. I struggle to comprehend how we can stand so self-righteously ignorant to the plight of our fellow human beings. We’re so zoned into our own worlds that we don’t see the struggles going on in the lives of others, sometimes even taking place in our own backyards. And when someone attempts to bring these struggles to our attention, we scoff at them. We have an attitude of, “If I don’t see it, then it must not be true.” It’s the ultimate form of selfishness to refuse to understand and feel compassion for others just because they are somehow different. And I don’t understand how this attitude continues to permeate in a supposedly Christian society that preaches love, peace, forgiveness, and the idea that all men are created in God’s image.
Donald Trump, and the success of his campaign, has proven that I was wrong, that prejudice continues not only to live, but to thrive in our country. The proposal to build a wall between the United States and Mexico highlights this attitude of self-absorption. We refuse to understand why so many immigrants seek to come into the U.S. because we’re so concerned about its impact on ourselves and the fact that these immigrants don’t speak our language. Never mind that they are suffering, never mind that we tell each other to love one another, and never mind that the vast majority of us wouldn’t even be in this country if not for immigration. When it comes to the people of the Middle East, or the immigrants coming into our country, or even the minorities already living among us, we find it easier to point fingers and to ignore their pain than we do to find it in our hearts to love and understand them. We don’t want to help them, we don’t want to accept them into our world, we just want them to take their struggles and go away.
I was wrong about us. And it breaks my heart.