In a country that is deemed to be an accepting, tolerating, and most importantly safe place for everyone to live and thrive, no matter their ethnic or religious background, we have seen and continue to see crimes and violence related to just that: ethnicity and religion. Only a few days ago, Ahmad Al-Jumaili, an Iraqi immigrant who arrived in America only a month ago, after fleeing violence in his homeland, was gunned down by an unknown shooter accompanied by three others. It is ludicrous that a man, who for 36 years lived in a war-struck country, and woman, who counted the days until her husband finally came to a “safer” place, were separated forever within their first month together in the United States. The saddest part is that these kinds of hate crimes have had a seemingly sharp increase over the past months: the shooting of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, the murders of the three Muslims in N.C., and, although not criminal, the racist chant by the fraternity SAE of Oklahoma State University. As a nation, and as a people, no matter the country one comes from, we should look upon these tragedies and see that there is still so much more work to be done in the face of injustice.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the first American Women’s rights activists, once said, “The history of the past is but one long upward struggle to equality”. We have come a long way, but there is still a long uphill battle that must be waged. In order to progress as a community, we must first leave acts like the murder of Ahmad in the dust on the road of progress. We live in a country that is considered to be a cultural melting pot, but even then there are still those who deny certain groups of people the privilege of calling themselves ‘American’, because they appear to be different, and resort to violence to express their sentiment. The question that we must ask ourselves is, “What does it mean to be American?” and on a greater level, “What does it mean to be a human being?” Only after we answer these questions, only after we realize that we are all equal, can we be safe from the cruel clutches of hate and all the violence that comes with it, anywhere from Iraq to the United States.
Justice may never be served to the woman who waited 460 days to see her husband again, only to have him killed in front of her within days of their reunion. Justice may never be served to so many families who have lost their loved ones to hate crimes. However, together, and only together, can we as a people progress and atone for these actions, and pave over them, so that we may never feel the need to oppress our own culture or ethnicity, or conform in order to feel safe. Instead of conforming, identify with your own ethnic background. Don’t let this identity create a barrier between you and another, and instead, let it be something that makes you unique, which would eliminate the hate towards certain groups.
– Written by Ziyad Khan (redefy leadership team member)