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We have once again witnessed the murder of a Black man at the hands of the police. Once again, we have been reminded of the sheer disregard for the lives of Black men, women, and children that characterizes this nation. And once again, non-Black Muslims, both in the United States and abroad, have remained deafeningly silent on this crucial issue.
The silence that has reverberated in the wake of George Floyd’s murder is symptomatic of a larger issue that plagues Muslim communities: anti-Blackness. For those who are unaware, the term anti-Blackness refers to a specific brand of racism, opposition, and hostility toward Black people. Despite what you may think, anti-Blackness is not an ideology solely espoused by White people. Rather, anti-Blackness is inherent to virtually every racial, ethnic, and cultural group. Anti-Blackness is endorsed through the movies and shows you watch, the products you use to bleach your skin, and the use of pejoratives such as “abeed.” Anti-blackness is your willingness to step on the backs of your Black brothers and sisters in order to gain proximity to whiteness. Anti-Blackness is your deadly silence in the face of injustice.
The myth of people of color solidarity has deluded non-Black Muslims into believing that our experiences with racism are the same. More dangerously, this myth has allowed non-Black people to ignore their role in upholding white supremacy. Tou Thao, the Hmong-American officer who stood by as Floyd was murdered, epitomizes the many ways in which non-Black people of color perpetuate and enable anti-Black violence.
The few non-Black Muslims who have spoken about these issues often equate Black peoples’ experiences with racism in America to the plight of the Palestinians, the Uyghurs, and other subjugated groups to explain why we should support anti-racist efforts in the United States.
While similarities do, in fact, exist between these various forms of oppression, it is shameful that the suffering of Black people can only be validated through its resemblance to the hardship of others. The need to draw parallels between oppressed groups in order to identify with the pain of Black people is an additional product of anti-Blackness. State-sanctioned violence against Black people deserves outrage, not because of its similitude to other forms of oppression, but because it is an injustice in itself.
As Muslims, we have no excuse to remain silent on issues of oppression. Our belief in Islam demands that we fight against injustice wherever and whenever we see it. If, as you are reading this, you are wondering what steps you can take to stand in solidarity with your Black brothers and sisters, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Donate to the Official George Floyd Memorial Fund
2. Donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a nonprofit that pays bail for protestors who have been arrested
3. Educate yourself and others on Black history and resistance movements
4. Support organizations such as the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative
5. Interrogate your own anti-Black biases
6. Hold your communities to a higher standard by calling out anti-Blackness in all of its forms
As you conclude this article and reflect upon what I have written, remember that your silence is not just indicative of your contentment with the status quo, it is your complicity with a system that thrives on reigning terror upon Black people. Remember that your silence is dangerous, that it is deprived of humanity, and above all, that it is un-Islamic.
“And incline not towards those who do wrong, lest the Fire touches you, and you will not have any protectors, apart from Allah. And you will not be helped.” (Hud, 11:113)