I think it’s fair to say that we’re all afraid. There is the expected fear of finding jobs and getting into graduate school and even just making the grade in Biochemistry (or so I’ve been told). But now we see bombings every day on the news, schools that have been shot-up, and children’s bodies washing up on a Turkish beach, and we are right to be scared. But from what I’ve seen on social media and from comments and discussions around campus, we are being afraid of the wrong things. We should be scared of the darkness and evil that seems to be growing everywhere, afraid of how our races are still causes for division, troubled by how people are treating each other, and disgusted by anyone who blames the actions of one on an entire people.
We are repeating history every day because we can’t seem to learn that just because someone has a different skin color, a different religion, or a different background it does not make them the enemy. But every time a Jihadist commits an atrocity, we are quick to judge all Muslims, or one black man’s actions are blamed on every African American. Rick Santorum summed this thought process up when he was quoted in the New York Post: “The fact of the matter is not all Muslims are Jihadists and no one… would say that. But the reality is, all Jihadists are Muslims.” First of all, if they are killing anyone, they are not Muslim. Islam condemns murder. Second of all, gross generalizations help no one and are almost always inaccurate. Didn’t your mother teach you not to stereotype people because it’s usually wrong, Mr. Santorum? Defining a person by a stereotype makes it easier to view someone as less than a person and is damaging to everyone.
We generalize and compartmentalize because we are scared, and that makes us blind. People don’t want to help Syrian refugees because many are Islamic and “could be terrorists” but in reality, they are running from the terrorists. They have lost their homes and their families because those that falsely claim their religion have murdered and destroyed these people. Follow the due process for refugees, which is very lengthy with many background checks and safety precautions, but at least give them a chance to find sanctuary among our comfort here. These people are dying and have nothing and are desperate for a helping hand and yet we are afraid of disrupting our comfort so we turn a blind eye.
Yet I see a lack of fear when a white man shoots up Planned Parenthood or a group of white men take over an Oregon Wildlife Refuge or murder church members or school children. Religion or race isn’t the identifier typically and they are not generalized to represent the normative of the white population. I do not know their religious beliefs because they weren’t reported. But why aren’t their religious beliefs or skin colors blamed? Every time a person of Middle-Eastern descent or a person of color commits a crime their religion and race is displayed and cited. So I can’t use their religion, but race is clear so if I would take Rick Santorum’s earlier thought and apply it here then I should be afraid of all entitled white men instead of just these specific individuals who committed these crimes.
I am afraid of entitled white men, but I know that not every Caucasian male I see wants to harm others. I realize that there are extremists in every group and I could be a future victim, but that does not give me justification to fear an entire religion or people. I recognize that we are all afraid. But we need to have courage and not become cruel. Our lives are not worth more than any other. My life, because I am white and privileged, is not worth any more than the most hopeless refugee. My life is worth the same as any of our Muslim peers. The comfort of my world should not be preserved at the cost of the suppression or denial of anyone.
I am afraid of what will happen to us if we don’t wake up and recognize that we are all human. We are all flawed. We are all amazing. And we all need to help each other. I am commanded to love my neighbor as myself (Matthew 22:39), and I’m pretty sure my neighbor isn’t limited to a geographic location in this context or limited by race or religion. I know I am not defined by another’s actions, but that is what we do when we define a race or religion by the actions of a few. Everyone is guilty of this, but we need to stop. We need to stop being afraid, and start being courageous. We are humanity and we should not have to be afraid.