Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dear Mixed Race America, it's time to stop the MADNESS

An Open Letter to everyone in the United States,

I am heartsick.  The recent violence in Aurora, Colorado and now the shooting at the Oak Creek, Wisconsin Gurdwara (Sikh temple).  So much violence.  And not enough outrage.

Oh, I know there are plenty of people who are angry at the shooters.  Angry that this "senseless" violence could happen.  There's lots of hand wringing and, in a case of what I consider to be misplaced fear and anxiety, gun purchases ratcheted up in Colorado immediately following the midnight massacre.

This isn't going to be a post just about gun control, although heaven's knows I believe in it--I believe that we absolutely need more not less gun control--there's no earthly reason why any individual needs semi-automatic weapons and so much ammunition you could kill a theater or temple full of people.  And I wish there was more concentrated outrage that will lead to stricter measures.

But what I want to concentrate on today is hatred.  The madness of hating someone else based on their difference--their racial and religious difference.

Members of the Oak Creek gurudwara listening to an FBI report on the shooting
That's the crux of the Oak Creek shooting.  Wade Page was a known white supremacist.  According to this New York Times article, the Southern Poverty Law Center had been keeping tabs on him due to his "ties to the white supremacist movement and his role as the leader of a white-power band called End Apathy."  While some officials are calling this an incident of domestic terrorism -- there are many who are clamoring to call this what it was: a hate crime. 

Page walked into the Gurdwara and opened fire because he had steeped himself in an ideology of white supremacy that taught him that it was his right to hate people non-white and his right to inflict violence on non-white people.  There has been some speculation that perhaps Page was confused about the Sikh religion--that he had meant to target Muslims and confused Sikhism for Islam.  But as my colleague Amardeep Singh so astutely and powerfully writes about in this New York Times piece:
Whether or not that target was actually the “right one” was beside the point for the Oak Creek shooter. . . . I also don’t think we should fool ourselves that all hostility will be resolved purely by education, nor should we presume that this shooter suffered only from ignorance. As a white supremacist, it seems safe to suppose, what mattered to the shooter was that he hated difference — and saw, in the Sikh gurdwara at Oak Creek, a target for that hatred.

Difference, the targeting of others based on racial difference, is the subject of Matthew Salesses piece in the Asian American Writer's Workshop:  "If you look different, you are treated differently. This is just how our world is. We are not in another, better place, where we each fit in for our individuality. There is a true power to appearances, and there is a true power to the words we attach to those appearances."

[Side note:  Matt is actually a former student of mine from Southern U, and I am so proud that he has become such an eloquent writer]

Another colleague, Viet Ngueyn, makes a very astute connection about various forms of global violence and racialized violence in the United States, writing that his essay will show "the direct line from the core of American culture and history to the Viet Nam War to the Oak Creek massacre and a couple of other massacres many of us have already forgotten about."  And Harsha Walia in Racialicious reminds us, quite forcefully, that the root of the shootings by Page are in racism--not an individual act of racism by a lone white supremacist, but racism in its institutionalized and systemic form:  "The crimes of white supremacists are not exceptions and do not and cannot exist in isolation from more systemic forms of racism."

The image above makes me weep--literally, the first time I saw it, I cried.  I cried because not only Wisconsin is weeping, but America is or should be weeping.  We HAVE to do better.  Better gun control, yes.  But we also need more allies of all races and religions to stand together and to say no more.  We are not going to continue to vilify one another.  We are not going to tolerate this kind of intolerance.  We are going to educate our children and teach them about the history of racism in this country and that they can do better than previous generations.  We are going to decide that we aren't just going to wait for the next generation but do better NOW for ourselves--for others--for our society and our nation.

We live in a Mixed Race America.  What happened in Oak Creek, Wisconsin hurts my heart.  It also reminds me that I not only can but must try to make a difference and be an ally to others who are oppressed and to not let the Pages of the world have the last word.  We can and must do more.  We can and must stop this madness.

No comments: