TheReligiousLeft.org

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ahmad Ali Could Be Trayvon Martin

By Dawud Walid 
CAIR-MI Executive Director

There is a national discussion going on regarding the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old Black American honor roll student, by 28 year old triggerman George Zimmerman regarding the role of race and demonization and how much rights private citizens have or don’t have in using deadly force for public safety purposes.

Zimmerman, who has a track record of calling the police regarding “suspicious” (meaning Black) males traveling through his neighborhood, pursued Martin for looking “suspicious” (Black wearing a hoodie) and shot him due to him carrying the very dangerous weapon of Skittles.  Ironically, Zimmerman was arrested in 2005 for resisting arrest and committing battery against a law enforcement officer. Now, he has taken on the role of playing a keystone cop in following and questioning “suspicious” looking people.

To be frank, I was appalled when I heard about this murder, but I was not shocked at all.  As a Black male, who was raised in the South, my parents and grandparents warned me, as so many Black boys continued to be warned, that when traveling in certain areas on foot or driving through certain areas, to be extra cautious.  “Don’t walk with your hands in your coat pockets… Don’t be too loud… Don’t argue with White men that provoke confrontation… Don’t look at officers in their eyes too long… Don’t make sudden moves when pulled over by police and keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times…”  There is a long history in America of fatal shootings of Black males based upon racial animus.

At the heart of the discussion regarding the shooting of Martin is the question of how can we curtail the tendency of many to demonize or other-ize people due to bigotry, or as a mechanism, driven by insecurities, of uplifting one’s self over others. Black men have been subjected to such demonization since the days of slavery with overseers, then from officers and “concerned citizens” like the White Citizens Council in post-Reconstruction America.  Now, there are armed militias in the southern border states, who do the same with Latinos under the guise that they are watching for criminals crossing the border, as if the majority of Latinos in those states aren’t documented and don’t abide by the law when in fact this is not the case.

Zimmerman saying that Martin looked “suspicious,” which prompted him to start a confrontation, had me thinking about how young, brown Muslim males are currently seen by many in America as suspicious, just like young Black males, be they Christian or Muslim.  Would Zimmerman have acted the same way if he saw a young Arab-American honor roll student named Ahmad Ali walking down the street wearing a white robe, or if he saw a South Asian class president named Muhammad Hussein walking down the street wearing jeans and a hoodie?  I can’t say for certain that the outcome would have been the same, but the mentality of people like Zimmerman would prompt the same suspicion.

I hope that through Martin’s tragic death, we can have more conversations about getting to know each other, and decrease the tendency of other-izing each other as Americans.  The stakes are too high if we do not.  Just ask Trayvon Martin’s parents.

Dawud Walid is the Exec. Director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), and a board member of the Metropolitan Detroit Interfaith Workers’ Rights Committee. A decorated US Navy veteran, Dawud has presented about Islam/interfaith dialogue at over twenty institutions of higher learning, on panels with int'l leaders and academics, and in media outlets including Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC Radio, FOX, NPR, the New York Times, USA Today, and the Wall Street Journal.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this. Trayvon's tragic death should obviously never become a means to an end, but God-willing it may spark some desperately needed conversations in this country.

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  2. Well-said, brother.

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  3. Salam
    You are so right brother..whos to know whos the next target from ignorant people like Zimmerman. The media runs the world and determines peoples perception unfortunatley. Maybe this was a sign from Allah in disguise..to open peoples hearts, minds and ears.
    May Allah have mercy on Trayvon's soul and strengthen his familys hearts.

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  4. As salaamu alaykum, Br. Dawud.

    Thank you for this piece of down-to-earth information.
    Injustice should be fought from every corner of the society.

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  5. In Solidarity with Trayvon Martin by Suhaib Webb:

    http://www.suhaibwebb.com/society/domestic-affairs/in-solidarity-with-trayvon-martin/

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  6. Thanks so much to everyone for their comments, and thanks again to whomever shared the link to this incredibly moving khutbah from Imam Suhaib Webb. The sermon and Dawud's article are both powerful reminders of the deeper issues underlying Trayvon's death, the need for real conversation and real solutions to these issues, and the role that we, as people of faith, can play in these processes.

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