This is tough and probably will come off as a rant.
I struggled to write this during a time when I should have been celebrating. Tuesday night, as news of the sighting of a new moon spread through the Muslim community signaling the start of Eid-ul-Fitr and I prepared to post my Eid Mubarak meme throughout my social media, I noticed the hashtag #AltonSterling popping up on my timeline. My first thought:
Following was a video of a murder that I didn’t want probably won’t watch. I personally can’t handle it. So imagine my anguish when the next day news of another murder began rolling down my timeline, this time, the aftermath was broadcast live on Facebook.
Oh yeah, Eid Mubarak.
For most of Eid I kept it together. Posted pics of my outfit. Added pics pf beautiful black Muslims during Eid to the Bilalian Experience timeline. But once I was back by myself, I began researching the incidents and all those emotions that I had kept at bay for the majority of the day came back to surface.
To be Black and Muslim in America is to have to celebrate and mourn at the same time. (click to tweet)
With the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and two others over the July 4th weekend, we are once again reminded of our status as black people in this country. There are so many delicate layers to this that have to be tended to with care. However there are a few things that I want to point out:
Separation of Black from the Muslim Community
During Ramadan, some so-called Muslims decided to murder fellow Muslims in Turkey, Iraq and Mecca. News spread like wildfire after each attack with Muslims around the world grieving and in disbelief that this would happen during the month of Ramadan. We were all hurting in the Muslim community. Fast forward to Eid. Four African American and Latino American citizens were murder at the hands of the Police.
And a hush fell over the crowd.
This isn’t a new phenomenon for Black Muslims. Our struggles in America are constantly ignored by the greater American Muslim community. Normally I don’t let it bother me but after these recent killings it got to me. We as black Muslims are expected to promote and champion everyone else’s suffering before our own. We saw it with the Chapel Hill/Fort Wayne cases. The three college students in Chapel Hill were murdered and the Muslim community rose to the occasion. The three brothers in Fort Wayne were murdered and the Muslim community fell silent except for a few people. It’s the same hypocrisy I dealt with in college. Let be clear, before 9/11, when non-black Muslims thought they were assimilating into American culture, we were fighting for our lives. After 9/11 when the greater Muslim community got a taste of true American discrimination, instead of the Muslim community getting a wake up call and using this as a way address the racism within the Muslim community, the abuse of our middle eastern brothers ans sisters was put in the forefront of all Muslim issues in America. Granted their have been some organizations that have released statements in support and against the current uprising, I don’t think there is consistent inclusion of the Black American struggle within the American Muslim Community. Should we be outraged about the way Americans of Middle Eastern descent are being profiled? Of course. And if you go to any protest for *insert middle eastern country* you see black Muslims representing. Can the same be said for protest regarding the murders of black men in America? During the Jumuah khutbah after we make du’a for Syria and Palestine, do we make one for Baltimore and Minnesota?
And yes, there is racism within the American Muslim community. But let’s save that for another post.
Modern Day Lynching
In the age of modern technology, everyone has a phone. As a result, more and more police attacks are being recorded and shared all over the internet. There are those who feel that by recording these events it will lead to court convictions and “justice” for the victims. Apparently, we’ve all forgotten about the 1991 assault on Rodney King that was filmed in a time where video cameras used tapes. And those officers still got off. However now with everyone having cameras in their pockets, more and more of the killings are being documented and police officers are not being punished. What does that do to our psyche as a people? I’ve seen many debates online about whether the videos of Alton’s and Philando’s killings shouls be viewed. What do I think? Should we share these videos or should we refrain from showing these images?
My answer is simple: Yes.
The decision of whether or not someone wants to share these images has to be made on an individual basis. Both sides of the arguments have valid points. I understand that people want the world to see what is happening hear. To show the actual events before the police try to cover it up. On the other hand, there is a psychological side to all of this. Continuously seeing images of our bodies being beaten in a public space with no consequences can subconsciously create this false notion that black bodies aren’t valuable. We know that’s how society feels but these images can further perpetuate that stereotype within the minds of those who haven’t seen anything else. We must be careful with sharing these images as when we consume them we don’t always process the emotions that come with it, which brings me to my next point.
When/Where/How can we emotionally handle this?
Since we got here, African Americans have been traumatized mentally, physically and spiritually. We’ve never recovered. We’ve never been given the chance to recover. We are dealing with centuries and centuries of systematic and overt trauma. Our institutions are attacked, our people killed. And we are expected to go about our normal days as if nothing happened. My black folks, we have to find a way to deal with the trauma. For my non-black friends, when you see us mourning, give us space. Don’t tell us it’ll be OK, don’t tell us the system will fix it, because both of those do nothing but patronize us and serve to try and prevent and control our rage. We as African Americans, descendants of slaves, builders of this country have the right to be angry. We have the right to be furious. And we have the right to express ourselves in our limited spaces without someone coming and dictating how and when we should be angry.
Look at it this way, when other tragedies happen, i.e. an innocent journalist is killed while reporting overseas, there is a school shooting, etc, folks are given space to grieve. People crowd around TVs at work and console each other. People are allowed to go home early. People are given time and space to grieve. What do we get? A news story running down the victim’s past transgressions in order to convince the public he deserved to be murdered. We can’t leave work. We can’t gather and talk about it. No one is checking for updates on the news. Where is our space to grieve, mourn, cry? Where is our space to be human?
James Baldwin once said “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Today, being conscious is no longer a prerequisite. The disenfranchisement of black people in this country is enough to make you want to holler and being able to survive in such a situation is truly a gift embedded in our DNA. But despite the stress and obvious disdain fro our lives, we rise and we survive. K. Dot said it best. We gon’ be alright.