Category Archives: news

Hate Crimes

by Guest Contributor Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed

I stepped out of my car, pink skies streaking dusky blues overhead. The hot desert heat stung my skin while the temperature simultaneously dropped dramatically, stirring up that Maghrib winds that conjures up images of swooping invisible jinns snatching at your uncovered hair. Apprehensively I stood, looking first at the large American flag gracing the chain linked fence of the house across the street. I then looked at the mosque, which was really just a 1970s California ranch style house that was being used as a mosque–the Al Nur Mosque located in Ontario, CA. It was hard to think that this was the “scary Mozlem temple” that elicited three pig feet being thrown in the driveway only days earlier by two women in a white truck during the sacred late night Ramadan prayers.

Last time I had been in a mosque was last year when my mother had died, and the last time I had been in this mosque was for the special prayer we held 48 hours after her burial. It was the most spiritually connected moment of my life. I hadn’t been that connected since then, and it held me paralyzed as I stood breathlessly by my car. I wondered how I’d be accepted in this space, showing up alone without my Mom by my side. She was my community conduit. The mosque was created and attended by the Bangladeshi immigrant community that raised me but I was an adult now and building my own communities. But the events of the week weighed down terribly on me, and I knew that I had to be present in this particular mosque as a show of solidarity–or maybe more as a statement. I practiced my Islam defiantly, wore my religion on my brown skin politically. I was Muslim, despite America’s fear.

I stepped into the backyard. I was greeted by foldable tables lined up in rows, paper tablecloths whipping in the wind. The tables were covered with plates of pakoras, channa, dates, and glasses of rose flavored pink drink. Men in white kurtas and thupees sat on one side of the yard, women with dupattas wrapped around their heads sat on the other. The imam caught my eye and smiled at me in recognition. I meekly smiled back. Last time I had seen him we had gotten into a fight over my insistence of having the women’s prayer section up front next to the men’s section for Mom’s funeral prayer instead of hidden in a back room. My Islam was radical in that way.

The mood was calm, normal even. There was no fear hanging in the air, nor were there giddy pleasantries. It felt placid. People saw me and nodded wordlessly, as if after all these years, they’d been expecting me. It had been a long hot day of 109 degrees and people were ready to break their fast. Somewhere in the house, the imam began azaan and the call for prayer. Dates were eaten, water sipped. The tables emptied quietly as people filtered in to pray and as if on cue the desert wind kicked up, knocking pink drinks all over the paper lined tables. The calm mood struck me as odd, but it made sense given the context. If there’s something you learn from a day of fasting in long and hot weather, it’s that you have no time for bullshit.

I, on the other hand, was festering from the weight of the Islamophobia of the week. Continue reading

Hate Crimes Always Have A Logic: On The Oak Creek Gurudwara Shootings

By Guest Contributor Harsha Walia

Candles at the Vigil. Photo: Overpass Light Brigade via DailyKos.

The Oak Creek Gurudwara is my brother’s and frequently my parent’s sangat. Over the years, they have described to me how, with deep love and commitment, the community came together to build the Gurudwara. How every week the Gurudwara provided a refuge, a sanctuary, a sense of home, a sense of belonging from the isolation of being an accented brown-skinned immigrant living in Wisconsin. When I heard about the shooting at Oak Creek Gurudwara, I happened to be facilitating at an immigrant and refugee youth camp. Dozens of young middle-school and high-school aged racialized immigrants and refugees from Latin America, Asia and Africa were describing being taunted and bullied at school, feeling discriminated against by their teachers, the hardships of systemic poverty, daily fears of detention and displacement, and feeling like “unwelcome and unwanted parasites.” As young people in British Columbia, Canada they were articulating an experience of racism similar to that which my family faces living in the Midwest of America.

While these murders were abhorrent, they were not ‘senseless’. The ad nauseaum suggestion that the killings were senseless attempts to construct the shooting as random and without logic, when in fact racist hate crimes operate through the very deliberate and precise logic of white supremacy. Continue reading

Open Thread: The Oak Creek Shooting

From the Journal Sentinel. Photo by Kyle Grillot.

Yet another tragedy this year, spurred on by yet another lone gunman with an agenda. This time, the shooter murdered six Sikhs in their house of worship. The New York Times reports:

In an attack that the police said they were treating as “a domestic terrorist-type incident,” the gunman stalked through the temple around 10:30 a.m. Congregants ran for shelter and barricaded themselves in bathrooms and prayer halls, where they made desperate phone calls and sent anguished texts pleading for help as confusion and fear took hold. Witnesses described a scene of chaos and carnage.

Here’s the statement from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund:

On Sunday, a horrific mass shooting took place at the Sikh gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, as members of the Sikh community were preparing for a peaceful religious gathering. It has been reported that a white male killed six people, and he was later killed himself after exchanging fire with a police officer.

AALDEF condemns this blatant act of terrorism against innocent people at a house of worship, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, the three continuing to fight for their lives in critical condition, and the entire Sikh community in Oak Creek, whose lives have been changed and feeling of safety shattered.

While details continue to emerge on this tragedy, the 700,000 Sikhs living in the United States have increasingly been victims of hate and discrimination. The media coverage following this tragedy, including CNN Network’s disturbing decision to distinguish Sikhs and Muslims, which implicitly suggested an attack on Muslims is within expectation, as well as the initial hesitation to call this an act of terrorism, show how severely intolerance and ignorance have been allowed to persist in our country, and the immediate need to stop it in all of its forms.

The Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has more editorials, news, and updates.

Video: PBS Newshour Profiles Family Behind Our Black Year

By Arturo R. García

Watch One Family’s Effort to Buy Black for a Year on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, this report from PBS Newshour is well worth your time, as it retraces the “social experiment” conducted by Maggie and John Anderson while buying exclusively from black-owned businesses for a year, a process Maggie Anderson chronicled in written form in the book Our Black Year.

The project, she told Newshour’s Paul Solman, was borne out of guilt.

“We thought we should be doing more, and we thought we should be doing stuff with the money that we made,” she said. “Make sure that whatever we do, it was with a black company, a black family company, buy a product made from a black company, use black professionals, shop in black communities.”

According to The Cleveland Plain Dealer the Andersons’ search for some basic needs took them far, far out of their comfort zones:

With high hopes of moving the needle, the Andersons transferred their money to a black bank, switched cell phone companies, and fed way more McDonald’s Happy Meals to their girls than optimal–because these black-owned businesses were plentiful.

But fewer own stores selling necessities like diapers, aspirin and fresh food. Maggie often drove for miles, stepping over trash and around winos to enter stores that looked like “post-apocalyptic mini-marts.”

“Are y’all lost?” wisecracks one loiterer.

Exasperated, Maggie overdoes the details of her forays scouring Chicagoland’s food desert. Her rage builds. “Everyone–I mean everyone–we saw on the street and in the stores was black, but not the store owners.”

The video is safe for work, and a transcript of the story can be found here.

Announcement/Open Thread: The Million Hoodie March

In the spirit of solidarity, we want to join other sites in inviting our readers in the New York area to join in what’s being billed as the Million Hoodie March in honor of Trayvon Martin, scheduled to begin at Union Square at 6 p.m. EST.

A petition on Change.org calling for the prosecution of the man who killed Trayvon, George Zimmerman, is nearing the 1-million signature mark. As noted on the event’s Facebook page, today is also the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

If you do attend, or are donning a hoodie for the event, please use this space to talk about your experiences today.

The Boxers Uprising: How Roland S. Martin And CNN Both Got It Wrong

By Arturo R. García

The only surprise was how long it took CNN to suspend contributor Roland S. Martin after the uproar he instigated during the Super Bowl this past Sunday. What’s not surprising is who hasn’t gotten the same punishment for similar offenses.

Which is not to excuse Martin for any of the poorly thought-out joke he threw out on Twitter during the game about this (NSFWish) underwear ad.

Continue reading

Voices: On the Jan. 16 GOP Debate

Juan Williams, Fox News: Speaker Gingrich, the suggestion that you made was about a lack of work ethic and I’ve gotta tell you my email account and my Twitter account has been inundated by people of all races who are asking if your comment was not intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities … you saw some of this reaction during your visit to a black church in South Carolina by a woman who asked why you refer to Barack Obama as a “food stamp president.” it sounds like you’re trying to belittle people.

Newt Gingrich: first of all Juan, the fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by barack obama than by any president in americanhistory. I know that among the politically correct, you’re not supposed to use facts that are uncomfortable. Second, you’re the one who, earlier, raised a key point: the area that oughta be I-73 was called by Barack Obama a “corridor of shame” because of unemployment. Has it improved in three years? No. They haven’t built a road, they haven’t helped the people, they haven’t done anything. One last thing … so here’s my point: I believe every American, of every background, has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness, and if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job, and learn someday to own the job.”
– Video via The Grio

Continue reading

Announcements: Melissa Harris-Perry Has Her Own Show!

By Andrea (AJ) Plaid

The yet-to-be-titled show will start on Saturday, February 4, and will air Saturdays and Sundays 10AM to noon.

Well, Twitterville wasted no time in helping Dr. Harris-Perry christen her new program. Hashtagging as #NameMHarrisPerrysNewShow, some people chimed in with monikers tying into Rick Santorum’s ridiculous backtrack on saying people misheard him saying “blah people” instead of “black people” in discussing Black people and public assistance.

@cnmoffat Blah Like Me.

@paulhlin How about “Blah with Melissa”?

and even the R’s Managing Editor Arturo chimed in with:

Good Morning Blahmerica.

Other were inspired by her well-known love for New Orleans (and the city’s football team). Several chimed in with “Who Dat?” or some variation with the word “bayou.”

Some others came up with some play on popular vernacular:

@AngryBlackLady Is MHP Gonna Have to Choke a Bitch?

@AngryBlackLady Keepin’ It Real w/ MHP

@thesadredearth “S’up with Melissa Harris-Perry

@Besnaz Quit Playin’

@problemwiththat Hard in the Paint

or one that Dr. Harris-Perry said she likes: “Represent with Melissa Harris-Perry.”

Quite a few of us thought of phrases that reflects her role as an academic/writer/public intellectual:

@MagicLoveHose Surveying the Wreckage with Melissa Harris-Perry

@RandomExcess Front and Left

@RufferinAK Civil Discourse

@RLM1911 Politics 101

@Shoq Politics Matters, with Melissa Harris-Perry

@Besnaz Think Twice

A couple of people (including friend of the R Rob Fields) suggested using the name of her latest book, Sister Citizen. I came up with “The Intersection.” (I even have the opening sequence: panorama shot of Dr. Harris-Perry coming across a couple of literal intersection. It goes to aerial shot that follows her cross the streets and the words “race,” “class,” “gender,” “politics”,” and so on going by like cars that stop as she passes. It goes back to Dr. Harris-Perry enters the MSNBC studio and readies for her appearing on the air. The final shot is a close-up of the front of her desk with the show’s logo, “The Intersection.” Cut to live shot of Dr. Harris-Perry. And she starts the show.)

Any way we look at it, we think the show will be great.

Here’s what the good professor said about her new gig:

“This is an extraordinary opportunity…[a]ll I’ve ever wanted to be is a teacher. Phil Griffin and MSNBC are giving me the chance to have a much bigger classroom. I’m particularly excited to join the growing weekend lineup where we have a chance to take a longer and broader view of the week’s political news.”

We’re looking forward to seeing this work!

Photo credit: madamenoire.com