It’s 911 today. I’m sure most of us recall that dreadful day what we were doing when we heard the announcement. I was on my way to the gym to hit some early morning heavy iron before starting with my workday. Today, I want to look at the race issue via this short video someone loaded at Upworthy. I would suggest that you take a look at the video because it’s a clever setup to talk about issues on Muslims in America, white Americans and the terrorist problem. There’re many memorable characters in this video saying some very important things. Two particular characters in the video struck me because they hold opposite views. I’m sure they will also make an impression on you.
The first character is the man with two earrings. He agreed with the seemingly racist actor about the terrorist threat and the difficulty to identity them among the Muslim population. I know this is a big concern in many parts of the world. I think most of us will stay on the knee-jerk level by calling this man a racist. I’m going to be gracious and not jump down his throat so quickly. Instead of playing the minority race card, I want to suggest something that we need to think about: fear. The man’s seemingly racist (though he didn’t seem very angry about the Muslim man at all) disposition seems to be his expression of fear. He was afraid of our government’s (or our own) inability to identify terrorists in our midst. The problem then extends beyond his prejudice to our government. Fear can sometimes come in the form of racism, but it doesn’t have to. Perhaps, deep down, this man is not racist and that he has lots of friends of different races. He was just afraid and probably quite ignorant about races associated with Islam.
Is there a solution to his fear? Obviously, sensitivity training will not do. We have more sensitivity training now than before 911 but hate crimes still exist. Stronger security at the airport also will not do because they screen at random (even frisking old ladies and toddlers). The mindless but “stronger” security actually increases fear. If the man’s fear arises out of ignorance, perhaps, a stronger educational system would help us all. Our educational system centers on “us” in how “we” become who we are, rather than looking at how we fit into the greater history of humanity. This does not help. We’re a country where world history cannot be learned until high school, and we don’t learn it well at all. Another solution perhaps is for the government to get less involved in risky business of war where it is none of our business. Our meddling in other people’s business only brings more reasons for fear because we stir the hornet’s nests of terrorists. Our foreign policy has not helped allay our fears. I pray that our legislators who are getting ready to vote on Syria would honor the victims of 911 by voting no on war. Problems in Middle East needs to be solved by governing bodies of that region.
The second person who struck me was the hero of the video: the American soldier. This soldier denounced the bullying behavior of the racist actor (without knowing that the event was staged). The racist actor, who was quite different from the guy with two earrings, was actively racist. He was not just fearful and ignorant, he was bullying the Muslim storekeeper. The soldier basically said that the reason why he defended the Muslim storekeeper was because he was defending the liberty of such a person living in our country. He was doing his job. Many of us find him heroic. As a racial minority, I find him endearing. If we have such heroes to stand up against bullying, there’d be less racist incidents against minorities. The soldier however also reveals a problem of our country. We have a lot of liberty which allows people of different convictions to practice whatever they wish, including holding ideologies quite different from what US stands for. While solving the bullying problem immediately, the endearing soldier has not resolved the problem of outsiders coming in to abuse American liberty.
When we have liberty, we have risks. We can’t have liberty without risk. Liberty and risk will always stand in tension in our great country. A multiethnic and multicultural society comes from liberty. Such a society also risks people taking advantage of the system. 911 reminds us that there’re still lots of unanswered questions we need to address.
As Christians, how would we look at the above issues? Christians are members of the civil society. They have to follow societal laws and so on. At the same time, Christians can do things that’ll make the society better. In the case of conflicts with Muslims, how about reaching out to understand them more, not just as potential converts (and we all know it’s very difficult to convert Muslims) but as potential friends? A lot of the world have this perception that Christianity is a white religion in America. That’s because it is! Sure, there’re white Muslims too but most of the Muslims in this country are not white. The first bridge builders (and not fear mongers) should be Christians. Perhaps, that’s the best way to honor the fallen in 911.