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Racism is American’s Original Sin

Kamis, 04 Juni 2020 | 11.35 WIB Last Updated 2020-06-04T04:35:25Z


by Imam Shamsi Ali* 


Apparently there is an evident paradox in America. On the one hand we claim to be a hero of human rights, justice and equality. In fact, America has been known to be a promoter of human rights, justice and equality to many parts of the world.

Sadly on the other hand, we are witnessing a deep darkness in the history of this nation. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police officers last week has created an unrest, chaos, and various forms of unwanted realities in some parts of America.

As a member of a minority community in this country such treatment is certainly not a surprise to me and many others. But I personally, for a long time, have been in defense of this nation maintaining this nation is a great one we it comes to the values that it embraces dearly.

My argument has been that racial profiling cases, no matter how bitter they might be, do not represent the true face of America. I admire the Constitution, and the universal values that the nation is proud of and promotes all over the world.
Roots of Racism

Some days ago I mentioned in one of my interviews that the “sickness of racism” in America could possibly be considered the original sin of this nation. 
This means that racism in this country is not a new phenomenon. It’s been a part of the nation’s history going  way back to the beginning of America.

All know that the real Native Americans are those who are known today as “Indians”. These are the people who are the real natives in this land. All others are immigrants, including those who arrived yesterday or centuries ago. All immigrants, including those of European origin, have no right to claim to be the “real” Americans, while others are  new comers.

History tells us that when the Europeans arrived in this new land, there were received with open hands and hearts by the Indian Native Americans. In fact, they celebrated the Thanksgiving Day together to thank God for the great harvest of the year.

Sadly, that celebration shifted to apparently a celebration of the European (White) victory over the native people. More sadly over time  native Americans, were not only were marginalized, but faced virtual annihilation.

a similar experience happened to the black (Africans) who came to this country forcefully through slavery. Since their arrival they have never been treated fairly. Unjust and discriminatory treatment has been for long time become an acceptable norm towards African Americans in this country.

The continued mistreatment of African Americans by the White people in America led to what is known as the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr in the 60s.

Later in the history of this nation we found injustices and discriminations against minorities continued. After World War II, we remember how the Japanese Americans were treated badly in this country including having their property and businesses taken away and being incarcerated in  concentration camps.

Mistreatment of Hispanic immigrants, especially those who came from Latin America, continues till today. Also Asians, and even those Europeans who came from a country such as Northern Ireland experience discriminatory and unjust treatment by their fellow Whites in this country.

Then  came horrible treatment for the Muslim Community. Besides Muslims being perceived as Immigrants, and non White, the religion of Islam itself has been wrongly perceived to be a dangerous ideology.

Islamophobia and hate against Muslims in this country is not new and in fact is rooted in the history of the USA. Some mistakenly believe that Islamophobia began with 9/11 in 2001. In fact Islamophobia has a long history in this country. 9/11 surely was the pinnacle of it. Some Americans thought by the tragic events of the 9/11 they got the justification to prove that Islam is the enemy.

The election of the current administration is certainly a product of that tendency of this country. Those racists and anti non Whites have become more open and aggressive. The rise of White Supremacy and White Nationalists, and not just in America, by the way, is also an evident result of that chronic sickness of this nation and many other parts of the world.

The point I wanted to underline here is that racism and mistreatment of the minorities in this country has been an historic and even I call it the “original sin” of this country.

Our shared responsibility

It is a fact, and no one can deny it. The killing of George Floyd and many more before him, that led to this current unrest and even violence in come cities throughout the country, should and must remind us of our great responsibility. This responsibility is shared by all Americans.

Justice is equivalent to life itself. Living our lives with injustices is death. And racism is equivalent to the devil. The Devil (Iblis) was the master of racism and the first racist being in the history of the creation.

Therefore, this societal sickness must be faced and fought against together and collectively. All Americans must stand up against it and be courageous to defend their constitutions and the values they are proud of. For this we need courage and honesty.

Moreover, we remind those who are in leadership positions, particularly those in political leadership: You have not only the moral obligation to ensure justice and equality among the people you lead, but also the constitutional responsibility to lead this nation to its highest values that it holds dearly.

Your failure to do that is clearly your failure to lead the nation. This nation needs a role model. And the most important role model should come from their own leadership.

With that I am still confident that America is still great and powerful. Despite all the challenges we are facing, we feel deep confidence in our constitution, and more importantly in the values we are all pruod of. God wills! (*)

New York City, 3 June 2020 


* Imam/Director of Jamaica Muslim Center & President of Nusantara Foundation.
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