Posts Tagged ‘Racism’

Build the “Ground Zero Mosque” NOW!

August 17, 2010

I recently visited NY, and from the moment I stepped off the plane I was bombarded with messages against the building of the GOP’s latest smear tactic: the “Ground Zero Mosque”. This latest stunt by the party of “no” is perhaps their most obnoxious one yet.

The GZM is actually called “Park 51” (go to their web site here), and it is actually a “community center” that is actually located at 51 Park Place, in lower Manhattan. Unfortunately, it is also actually located  a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero, which is not actually designated as an official location. Ground Zero is a place deep within the soul of America, apparently just one block north of Intolerance Avenue, just east of Racism Road, between Patriotism Street and Perverted Politics Boulevard.

The arguments against building Park 51 are predictable: “building the GZM is an insult to all the Americans who died there”, “it’s like erecting a KKK museum near an MLK monument”, or “I don’t want to see Islamic spires looking down on me from a mosque built right on top of my son’s graveyard.” I cannot put myself in the shoes of someone who lost a family member or a friend in 9/11, but as an American I find this all to be the height of ignorance.

First of all, Park 51 is not a mosque. According to preliminary building plans it will not look like a mosque, but rather like a high rise building. It won’t have spires, and it will not blare calls to prayer throughout the neighborhood. It is a community arts and education center that will contain a mosque for prayer, but it will be “dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for [New York] city and a deep respect for our planet.”

Secondly, Islam did not attack us on 9/11–al Qaeda did. There is a huge difference. That would be like condemning all of Christianity for what the KKK did to African Americans, or like lumping in all of Germany for what the Nazis did to the Jews. al Qaeda hijacked the religion of Islam just like they hijacked the four planes that crashed that day, and Islam has paid a steep price ever since.

And in the third place, Islam is just as much a central component of the 9/11 tragedy as are all the deaths and destruction that occurred at Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and that quiet field in Pennsylvania. Islam has born the brunt of a lot of backlash that should have been aimed at al Qaeda and their sympathizers. Islam’s true nature was smeared in the eyes of the world when the terrorists cited Allah as their motivation. Islam has suffered like everyone else.

So I find it not only fitting, but crucial, that Park 51 be built where it is proposed to be built. We need understanding, we need healing, and we need to confront our fears and bigotry head on so we can learn something. Park 51 must be built as a monument to education, integration, acceptance, and tolerance. It needs to rise so that America can say to the world: “we are not ignorant.” What better way to right one of the wrongs from that fateful day than to say that Islam was attacked too, and here is a progressive and positive way to heal ourselves with education and honesty?

It’s bad enough that Park 51 is called the Ground Zero Mosque. It is neither a mosque nor is it at Ground Zero. But the GOP has cherry picked this issue to divide the country because it plays into their core constituents’ fears and ignorance. Islam is part of the tragedy of 9/11, and it should be memorialized with education.

“Ground Zero” is a hallowed place for sure. The tragedy that occurred there will be remembered forever. So let’s not forget that part of the loss is the loss of freedom many Muslims have suffered to practice openly and live honestly. They can’t even open a community center just because it is within walking distance to a 9/11 memorial. It’s okay to open strip clubs and liquor stores nearby, and never mind that the devils of Wall Street are all around the neighborhood, but an Islamic community center? Well, that’s just so un-American isn’t it?

Build Park 51 NOW!


A white guy named Barack Hussein Obama

December 22, 2009

In neither the racial nor post-racial eras surrounding the Obama Presidency has the other side of the story, the white side of Obama’s heritage, ever been controversial. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I’m just saying that somewhere along the way towards America’s supposed reconciliation with its own history of enslaving Africans, it helps to consider how Barack Obama’s other demographics as a white man, interracial man, and even culturally as a Hawiian man, all contribute to his ability to see the evenhandedness of America’s true spirit.

Some read that and immediately think Socialism, but that’s just a Glen Beck knee jerk reaction. When I say even, I mean “smooth”, or “finely blended”, just like an excellent vintage. America is over 230 years old and you’d think we’d have this whole diverse society thing together already. Last report I read has the President’s mom’s side of the family a minority by 2050, so sooner or later we’re all going to have to evolve away from the “hyphenated” self-protectionism in our current cultural mindset.

It’s all about colors and shades in our country. Colors help us define who we are, who we aren’t, who we wish we were, and who we don’t want living in our own neighborhood. America’s original allure to foreigners was, is, and always could be, a refuge from unfairness and discrimination. Fairness and evenness are the same things in my mind.

I have a friend named Julio (and despite the way his name looks, he is not one bit Hispanic or Latino) who once pointed out to me that due to my Hebrew heritage I am not white, I am actually khaki. It makes sense. Julio is Hatian and very dark. If we were two pairs of pants on display at The Gap he’d be a pair of brown corduroys and next to him I’d definitely be khakis.

Throw in another friend of mine named Dave who’s mom is Canadian, from Ontario, and Dave would be the rack of white t-shirts that go really well with either pair of pants. But in many places throughout America, Julio would be watched much more carefully by security than Dave and I while shopping at a clothing store because of color. Really because of the misuse of color. Colors don’t make people do stupid things. People do stupid things with color.

This is why Barack Obama’s personal mixture is so quintessentially American: outwardly and more physically a “black man”, raised by a single white mother and her two old-school white parents, in Hawaii and Indonesia. But go deeper than that and you get to the experiential levels Obama went through as a poor man in New York and Chicago to a rich man in Chicago, and ultimately  the Leader of the Free World. Does anyone really think he has a bias towards anyone? Rich or poor? Black or white? Urban or rural? Muslim or Christian? User or abstainer? Traditional or progressive? The insured or the uninsured? Male or female? And I know he’s tight with the Jews too because he’s got Axe and Rahm at his side.

Racial bias plays no role in my moral life, but since it plays an enormous role in my society I am forced to confront it and deal with it. I do think that America has embraced a post-racial society ideal, but we just don’t know it yet. Another generation will need to die off before we really lose that tactile connection to our hateful heritage. But Barack Obama is a major bookmark in our historical record that we will always be able to point to. And someone we needed right now.

Not just because he is a black man. Because he is all men, women, peoples, economics, privileges, bias, and because yes he is a white dude too.

“Obama Admits He’s A Muslim” and the Crowd Goes Nuts

December 4, 2009

And on the eighth day God created

It’s a good thing she did too, because the people at Fact Check (a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center) are doing exceptional work. Today they uncovered a really diabolical and lame YouTube video entitled “Obama Admits He’s A Muslim”. Brought to you by a group called “Feel The Change Media”, this video has received over 1,000,000 YouTube hits since being posted in August, 2009. I can feel the change alright; Fact Check has revealed that the video is edited to show President Obama making statements that seem to prove that he is actually a Muslim, rather than a Christian. I was a post-production producer for eight years, and I can tell you that this is some of the most creative video editing I have ever seen.

I refer to the video as “diabolical” NOT because of the idea that the President could possibly be a Muslim, but because ever since 9-11 Muslims have been demonized in America. And during the 2008 campaign, accusations of Barack Obama being a Muslim were used to scare the ultra-right wing voters. As if being a Muslim means you are anti-American, or a terrorist, or you are unworthy, or some racist nonsense like that.

Come on America, can we please get a grip here? Will we ever be able to separate the person from the politics? We’re almost a full decade into the 21st century and we are still collectively acting like a bunch of drunken, ignorant fools at a KKK rally. “Obama the Muslim” should be as benign a notion as “Palin the Alaskan” or “W the Cowboy” or “Cheney the Prince of Darkness.” Well, scratch that last one…

“Post Racial Society”? Not the USA. No, the “Great Melting Pot” always manages to congeal into ignorant clumps of racism and hatred. It amazes me how important it is for the conspiracy nuts in this country to expose President Obama as a Muslim when there is not a single exception for any religion in the Constitution which would make someone ineligible to be President. Quite the contrary, it allows for total freedom of religious beliefs. That’s what makes this video so sad.

It wouldn’t matter if Barack Hussein Obama were a Muslim, Jew, Jehovah’s Witness, Atheist, Buddhist, Humanist, or if he were even Santa Claus himself–the people who hate him would still hate him because of his policies. But since those folks tend to be too stupid to properly articulate why they disagree with his policies they head towards the lowest common denominator (or lowest common uniter in this case). It’s amazing that this country got past the fact that he’s African-American enough to elect him. I guess being Muslim is the new black when it comes to racism.

I went to the web site for Feel The Change Media, and they have some other cute links there such as “Anti-Obama Shirts” and “Michelle Obama’s Bio.” So as you can see, they’re really feeling the change over there. And it feels like Antebellum.