“Terrorist!” “Bin Laden!” “Go back to your country!” came the shouts from the other car.
Inderjit Singh Mukker, a father of two on his way to the grocery store in his Chicago suburb, pulled over when the vehicle behind kept tailgating him, according to the Sikh Coalition. The 53-year-old Sikh man, who wears a beard and turban, expected that the person in the other car would just drive past.
Instead, the Coalition says, the other driver got out and stormed toward him, reaching into Mukker’s car and repeatedly punching him in the face. Mukker lost consciousness and had to be taken to the hospital, where he received treatment for a fractured cheekbone, bruising and blood loss and six stitches for the lacerations on his face. [Link.]
There’s a video which I can’t bring myself to watch, looking at the man’s face is devastatingly heart-breaking. What surprised me was how angry this made me. It took a second to realize that my jaw was clenched and that I was gnashing my teeth. I wasn’t even angry with particularity at the guy who perpetrated the attack. I was angry with our society. Read the comments to this story, and you’ll find people who are utterly missing the point. There are comments that don’t venture very far from, “How dare he beat up a Sikh! Sikhs are cool! They’re nothing like those fucking Muslims!”
At work a while back I was at work helping a random White guy who was a customer at [MAJOR RETAILER] and asked if he had our loyalty card. He did and it identified him as working for a local university (where I happen to be a student, incidentally.) I asked if he taught there, and he said he was a professor. I asked what his field was and he seemed to hesitate before exhaling a somewhat diminutive, “Islamic Studies.” Some days I look more Arab than others and at work I made sure my name tag is the monosyllabic Anglicized form of my real name (it says Abe). I think I pleasantly surprised him when I asked (in Arabic) if he spoke any. Still, his reaction told me that he had received unfavorable reactions in the past.
I just… don’t know what to do with all this crap. I left Islam after a realization that all religion is pretty much bullshit, but I’m a swarthy Arab guy with a beard (I look weird without facial hair, trust me) and I know that people make assumptions. I can see it coming even before they do, sometimes. The thing that sickens me most though is that I’m not afraid. I’m not scared of ending up like the man in the article. The reason that I’m not afraid is that I know that people are, by and large, not violent if not provoked. Pretty much everyone is a little racist, and I’m conscious of the fact that systemic widespread racism is not enough to lead to proximal violence at every turn. Yet I know that a not insubstantial number of people are willing to perpetrate violence against me if given the right provocation and opportunity… and I’m not afraid. I’m not saying this because it means that I’m this brave person. I’m actually a very mild-mannered, and almost timid guy.
I’m saying this because I cannot begin to express the contempt and fury that I have for people who won’t help refugees, people who are desperate for safety, who are afraid of them. I cannot claim that no refugee will ever harm anyone ever. That’s an impossible standard for any population of people. Still, when you consider their numbers and even do something simple, like count the number of dead from the Paris and Hebdo attacks and compare them to traffic fatalities or our seemingly weekly American mass-shootings you realize that in the worst case, it’s a small indiscernible bump in the amount of suffering in this country. So how fucking dare they be afraid? What kind of a coward is so completely cowed by the specter of marginal risk that they would fail to help people in need? I don’t know what to call that level of chicken-heartedness. Hell, I’ve been around chickens before. That’s an insult to chickens.