My dear mother is a sweet, supportive, 66-year-old white woman from rural Kentucky. I love her without hesitation. Yet, on a daily basis, both as a journalist and an activist, I confront white privilege, white supremacy, and the devastating effects of systemic racism in our country and around the world. Out of necessity, though, I have always been forced to be nuanced and carefully parse how I approach my feelings about white people in general, in great part because I’ve always had this wonderful white woman, who first taught me to stand against racism, as one of the essential pillars in my life.
On many occasions, probably hundreds, after some horrible incident of racism or bigotry or police brutality in America, or the failure of our justice to truly hold white people accountable for those wrongs, I’ve been in the room with black friends or family when I’ve heard the phrase, “I hate white people.” As pale as I am, people have no qualms saying it in my presence. I don’t join in, but I understand. Whiteness is a problem. Since it was first created as a philosophy of domination in which color was used to give and take away access and privilege it has always been a problem and always will be.
Yet we must always resist the urge to throw an entire race of people under the bus even if we truly despise whiteness or white privilege or white supremacy. It’s an easy temptation to oversimplify our emotions into dangerous generalizations, but we must resist such urges.
I said all of that to build a bridge for something else I am about to call out. Like you, I watched in horror last night as I learned about the horrific attack in Manchester at the Ariana Grande concert. I am appalled. At least 22 people were killed and ISIS is taking credit for the attack. This morning I began seeing the first images of the named victims, many of them little girls the ages of my own four daughters. While we all are showing wonderful pictures of these sweet children, our unspoken understanding is that the carnage there in Manchester was severe.
We should all be upset at what happened in Manchester, but what happened there is no excuse to slide into Islamophobia. Whoever did this is no more a Muslim than those who lynched African-Americans during Jim Crow were Christians. Wearing the garb of a faith no more makes you a follower of that faith than me wearing a Steph Curry jersey makes me a Golden State Warrior.
From the beginning of time, people have perverted religions to justify the worst possible behaviors imaginable. This man who decided to blow himself up at the exit doors of the concert venue just as families exited was not a Muslim.
Suicide itself is forbidden in Islam. Well over a billion Muslims believe this. Murder, doubly so of innocent women and children, is forbidden in Islam. This is commonly understood and peacefully observed by everyday Muslims all over the world. These terrible, ignorant violent betrayers of Islam who blow themselves up in the names of causing such carnage are not Muslims. Their acts are fundamentally un-Islamic. They not only violate the letter of Qur’an, but violate the spirit of it as well.
This bastardization of Islam is not unique. One of the early ships in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was actually known as the “Good Ship Jesus.” The very people who were capturing, chaining, then selling human beings for a life of slavery saw absolutely no conflict of interest between such actions with their Christianity. Early leaders of the KKK, including those who lynched black bodies, were regularly deacons and church leaders. I’ve literally been called a nigger on Twitter by actual people who describe their Christian faith in their social media bio.
Of all the friends I have, none are more consistently warm, peaceful, supportive, and kind than my Muslim friends. They are actual Muslims, though. In a day and age of fake news and fake politicians, perhaps nothing is more dangerous than fake Muslims and Christians – who cloak themselves in the accouterments of religion but do so for the asinine and insincere reasons.
It’s sad that this must be said, but you must find a way to be angry at what happened in Manchester without hating Islam and it’s more than 1.5 billion adherents. That’s not OK. Blaming all of Islam for what this idiot, or for what the few hundred other idiots like him have done, is not just simple, it’s both dumb and dangerous. You are better than that.