Transcending Cowardice In Matters Of Race

Haris Tarin

Posted Feb 25, 2011      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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Transcending Cowardice In Matters Of Race

by Haris Tarin

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

Those were the words of the Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, at a dedication at the Department of Justice on the occasion of Black History Month in 2010. These words generated a controversy in the halls of our government and through the media airwaves. But as Mr. Holder asserted in his remarks, very few people took the opportunity to have an in-depth discussion on racial matters in our society.

In many ways, we as a country have not overcome racial biases in public affairs or private dealings. Justice is still heavily subjected to discriminatory practices. Racial minorities and impoverished communities are disproportionately punished for crimes that white middle and upper class majorities do not. The composition of the armed forces is also testimony to the same unequal reality—mainly poor people of color. The same applies for the demographics within the prison system. Yet, America still continues to offer hope that “we shall overcome” any and all injustices.

In reality, the pigmentation of the skin is genetically negligible. We are all the children of Adam, created from a single pair, as the Quran states, and developed into different nations so that we may know one another, not despise one another. The first racist, though, was Satan, who rebelled against God by arguing that he was superior to humans because he was made of fire not dust. We all have these satanic compulsions within us and throughout society, demanding or insinuating the lighter color of the skin demands superiority over the darker. Even among people of color, the politics of skin color play out in these negative ways.

Our opportunity during these final days of Black History Month, therefore, is not merely to celebrate the occasion with fanfare and accolades to communities that have historically been subjected to racially discrimination. It’s not just a matter of inviting a speaker to a school to talk about the history of slavery, though that is important. It is an opportunity to reflect and to connect - to reflect on how to overcome racism within each and every one of us through a spiritual connection with God Almighty.

Finally, a minister by the name of Anthony Franklin in Houston was asked this week to comment on Black History. He said: “While I believe it is important to recognize black history, as any history, people need to know that no one race is responsible for all things. Also, young blacks need to know that as their ancestors played an important part in America’s history, so can they.”

As Pastor Franklin points out, it’s about the contributions of all people, regardless of race, in making America a great country. That will be a major driving force in not only overcoming racism but enriching American pluralism and strengthening America’s resolve towards any plight and aspiration.

In Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya—three North African countries—the cry for freedom has been loud and clear, as the people struggle to break the shackles of bondage through dictatorship and geopolitical subjugation. In that sense, we overcome our silence and our cowardice, by connecting with any people who struggle for freedom, whether here in America or abroad. What awakens us is the call of God within all of our hearts to the human desire for freedom, on this occasion for African Americans, and on all occasions for all peoples.

SOURCE:  MPAC News & Views

Created in 1988, the Muslim Public Affairs Council is a public policy institution that focuses on fostering a vibrant Muslim American community that is a vital and contributing element of America’s pluralism. MPAC has built a reputation as a consistent and reliable resource for government and media, and is trusted by Muslim Americans as an authentic, experienced voice. The Mission of MPAC encompasses promoting a Muslim American identity, building constructive relationships between Muslim Americans and their representatives, and training a future generation of men and women to share our vision.