I remember in 8th grade, two girls, one Muslim and wearing a hijab, got into an argument in class. It escalated quickly and it was clear that they were about to come to blows. Suddenly, a classmate yelled out, “Pull her scarf off.” The entire class cackled at the thought of another Black girl being violated like that simply because she was Muslim and not like us.
Over the weekend, social media star Jess Hilarious went live on Instagram in an Islamaphobic rant about being in fear because she saw four people in turbans on a plane. As she was boarding the plane, she zoomed in on a Sikh man and gasped dramatically. Apparently the plane was evacuated before takeoff for reasons unclear, so Jess defended her prejudiced behavior saying people were mad because she didn’t “side with every other Black person” and that she was scared. She tripled down later with a video of her back on the plane noting that the four people she had previously expressed unjustified fear over had been removed. She later apologized letting us that she has Muslims in her family and was not aware of the “different types of Muslims.”
Now if you’re going to be ignorant and use deadly stereotypes for laughs, at least have your shit right. In her desperate attempt to seem like an edgy comedian, Jess only exemplified how many who have bought into the Islamaphobic often racist propaganda about muslims being terrorists cannot even differentiate between two completely different religions. Not that the distinction matters in terms of legitimizing the terrorist stereotype, but minimally, she’s too ignorant to even know who’s she’s hating. Sikhs and Muslims are not the same.
For the past few weeks, Minnesota House Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Black Muslim woman, has been the subject of racist, Islamaphobic harassment and censure from her colleagues in response to her valid criticism of the Israeli state and America’s unwavering support. Last week in New Zealand, Brent Tarrant, a white Australian, carried out a horrendous massacre in two separate mosques killing 50 people and wounding another 50. A manifesto “filled with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiments” purportedly from Tarrant was posted online.
And still, with Muslims, many of whom are Black, under attack both in sentiment and action, Jess Hilarious thought nothing of adding kerosene to the fire of hatred that sees Muslims murdered for existing. After walking through an airport surely filled with white men, it wasn’t until she sat on a plane with people she thought were Muslims that she was afraid despite the fact that just Friday, a white man walked into two separate Islamic places of worship to murder and otherwise injure innocent people. She’s never felt the need to post a video after seeing a white man or white boy in a school when we have countless examples of them carrying out indiscriminate mass shootings, but she’s so invested in white supremacy that she believed the plane could only be evacuated because a brown man in a turban had his terrorist plans foiled.
But let’s keep it real, she comfortably posted this ignorant shit because she knows she has an audience happy to engage in Islamaphobia and proud of their ignorance. Despite the fact that 20% of American Muslims are Black, we collectively and too often eagerly engage in Islamaphobia. We, oppressed people who know just how irrational and illogical white supremacist fear of us is, will turn around and use the same tools of our oppressors.
Never mind the fact that white Christians and their racist, homophobic, elitist ideals are directly responsible for the fatal oppression we endure daily. Ignore the fact that we interact with Sikhs and Muslims in convenience stores in our neighborhoods everyday – And please don’t mistake this as some PoC solidarity shit because I’m real hip on the ways we’re treated by non-Black people of color who are happy to do business in our neighborhood while still viewing us as niggers! – who’ve never carried out terrorist acts against us. Forget about the time a white man killed his three Muslim neighbors over a parking space, or the time another white man hit a 15-year-old Black muslim Somali boy with his car knocking him into the air and before running over and killing him when he hit the ground while yelling about Islam, or the white man who shot into a car of Somali Muslims dressed in traditional Ramadan attire, wounding two of them. We don’t have to talk about how many Black Christians align themselves with white racists because they share “traditional” values. Instead, let’s use the same tired ass commentary on how being on an airplane with a brown person in a turban makes us fear for our lives more than the white supremacy and Christian extremism that sees us locked up, beaten and killed deadly.
Now we cannot be racist nor do we collectively have the power to shape society’s perception. For this reason, it is usually not my policy to engage in publicly admonishing Black people for internalizing and regurgitating white supremacist tropes. But there are times when our failure to critically examine and interrogate our thinking makes us complicit. This is such a time.
There is nothing that justifies a fear of Sikhs, Muslims or Arabs flying. There is no rationality for your Islamaphobia. And that ignorant shit is deadly to Black Muslims just the same.