Sunday, April 21, 2013

To Megan in Pensacola

I heard you speak on NPR. You were born in this country and a muslim. You have had a brother killed serving in the United States military and another brother presently serving the United States in Afghanistan.

I think what struck a chord with me is that you could be my daughter. If you had been borne to me you would have grown up a white, Southern Baptist in Georgia. You would have had a different American ethnicity but one that also shares negative connotations.

Let me share a few thoughts.

1. When someone has the need to let you know your religion or coloring or opinion is suspect. Remember it is all about them. It is their ignorance, insecurity or perchance for bullying that you are witnessing.

Remember they could be ignorant but have the potential to change their mind. We all carry prejudice which we are lucky to lose as we learn.

2. You are not responsible for what other people people of your ethnic group have done. Southerners are heaped with the blame of racism and segregation of African Americans. Racism is wrong. Sometimes Southerners confuse this blame with the need to explain that all people have the capacity for good and bad.

There are bad people in every group of people. Think about the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. He had a wonderful father and great family. He choose his evil doing. His family would have done anything to prevent the bombing.

3. Listen to people relieve their hurts and insults. For you it will be about fears or sheer ignorance. Think about these people who accuse President Obama of being a Muslim. Now communist, cult leader would be an issue. But exactly what is wrong with being a Muslim.

African Americans have told me about ways they or their families had experienced racism. I learned that they weren't telling me because they wanted to make me feel guilty. They wanted to share their indignity in the very human sense of relieving the burden to a sympathetic ear.

Don't be defensive. It may be the next day, it may be ten years from now. That individual will process your actions.

4. Safety.  There are dangerous people who perpetrate meanness. If someone threatens you, file a police report. If someone looks like they could do you harm, avoid them.

It's the old adage about a wolf wearing sheep clothing. Sometimes that loud mouth with hurtful statements would defend you from physical harm and that person you thought seemed so nice could be dangerous.

The world is an unsafe place, don't leave your purse in a grocery cart and walk away, be careful who you give your social security number to, don't get in the car with strangers. This list is so long.

5. Teach your children well.

6. Don't apologize. 2.6 million muslims live in the United States. They are not responsible for what 1 or 2 or ten people do. I am not responsible for the actions of unstable or criminal white, anglo-saxon, evangelical people do. Recognize that there are going to be Muslims that do evil just like any other group of people.

7.  Have faith. Watch the movie "42" The world has always been an unstable, imperfect place. There is hope. Look at all the people who ran to help the victims of the Boston bombings. They had no guarantee more bombs would be there.

This is your country. It's not perfect but it is your country and you don't have to prove anything to anyone about your loyalty, etc. You are an American.

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