Tuesday, 12 July 2016

When Muslims Are Racist (I Will Call You on It)

If Asra Nomani hadn't done this previously, she sure has now - Nomani has come out as an anti-Black racist. This lengthy post is an examination of Nomani's recent Heat Street article, as well as some of her social media posts.

Heat Street is a social commentary website co-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Nomani's piece fits in very well with the overall tenor of Heat Street. Notice the way that Nomani impugns Black People as "violent" and "loud" before one has scrolled far enough to actually read her article. Both of those characterisations are racist tropes. There is more, though.

Heat Street Article Screenshot

Inside her piece, Nomani expands on her racism:
We stopped when I spotted the line of police. “We’ll be safe next to the police,” I told my friend. It is a difficult truth to acknowledge: After watching the streets of America burn from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore, we feared violence from the protestors, not the police. Little could we know, we were — metaphorically, at least — in the sniper’s line of fire, with targets on the backs of police, six of them to be injured, five of them to be slain, hours later.

In Belo Garden Park, studying the crowd of demonstrators, I had told my friend: The tenor of the Black Lives Matter movement — with headline moments of storming stages, seizing microphones, sabotaging a gay pride event, expressing rage and even hate to police — had alienated even liberals, like myself, who care deeply about racial justice.
Later, Nomani continued in the same vein, saying, "We must face the wounds of social injustice with a nonviolent spirit of reconciliation and healing."

The above two paragraphs and separate sentence contain the following:
* sense of safety near the police
* accusations of protesters setting streets on fire in several cities
* association of self with police in victimhood
* conflation of Dallas sniper with Black Lives Matter (BLM)
* hyperbolic exaggerations of BLM activist actions at a Sanders rally
* hyperbolic exaggerations of BLM activist actions at Toronto Pride
* underhanded tone policing
* intentionally dishonest portrayals of BLM's attitudes towards the police
* highlighting the race of her friend
* respectability politics

In addition to these, Nomani chose to highlight the race of a police officer who took a photo of benevolent interactions between police officers and a protester in her Heat Street article. Nomani then went on to comment further in a shared video post on Facebook, where she continued with the inherently violent trope and the angry trope and implied that people would be concerned for her safety. In another Facebook post, Nomani claimed that President Obama shared her concern over "violent" Black protesters (oops, no he didn't). Finally, in a post on Twitter, Asra Nomani re-iterated the "violent" trope, engaged again in tone-policing, and claimed that Black Lives Matter is not concerned about racial justice - but she is. (Reminder: BLM is composed of - get this - Black People. Nomani, on the other hand, is not a Black Person.)

The image files for screenshots of the Facebook and Twitter posts will be included after the end of this post.

To update the list that I started above, I can add the following:
* focusing on the race of a "good cop"
* lack of safety around Black People
* Black People don't know what is good for them, but we do
* non-Black people do racial justice better than do Black People

All of these amount to the following racist tropes or attitudes:

1. Police, Safety, and Race
2. Black Protesters as "Violent"
3. Identifying with Police
4. Dallas Sniper
5. Sanders Rally
6. Toronto Pride
7. Tone Policing
8. BLM and the police
9. Tokenisation
10. Respectability Politics
11. Model Minorities
12. Paternalism
13. White Supremacy

By way of analysing and combatting each of these racist attitudes, I offer the following reader.

1. Police, Safety, and Race
* See also Soya Jung's 2014 article on Asian-American Privilege in Race Files.

Accumulated Police Experiences
Rod K Brunison
University of Alabama
"A substantial body of research had investigated the social ecology of policing and the disproportionate effects on police procedures and wrongdoings on black citizens (Bass, 2001a; Meehan and Ponder, 2002; Phillips and Smith, 2000). These studies detail the diverse injuries to residents of distressed communities, including unparalleled experiences with being watched and detained (Browning et al, 1994; Fagan and Davies, 2000; Hurst et al, 2000; Jones-Brown 2000; Kennedy, 1997; Weitzer, 1999); irreverence (Mastrofski et al, 2002; Weitzer 1999); arrests (Smith and Visher, 1981); the use of unwarranted physical and deadly force (Jacobs and O'Brien, 1998; Smith and Holmes, 2003; Terrill et al, 2003; Terrill and Reisig, 2003; Weitzer, 1999; Worden, 1996); officer misconduct (Kane, 202); as well as slower response times and fewer police services (Anderson 1999; Klinger, 1997; Smith and Klein, 1984). In addition, it is particularly African-American young men who are  disproportionately burdened by these negative experiences (Brunson and Miller, 2006a, 2006b; Hurst et al, 2000)."
* Study Supports Suspicion That Police Are More Likely to Use Force on Blacks
Timothy Williams, New York Times
07 July 2016
"When force is used, a new study has found, the race of the person being stopped by officers is significant. The study of thousands of use-of-force episodes from police departments across the nation has concluded what many people have long thought, but which could not be proved because of a lack of data: African-Americans are far more likely than whites and other groups to be the victims of use of force by the police, even when racial disparities in crime are taken into account.

"The report, to be released Friday by the Center for Policing Equity, a New York-based think tank, took three years to assemble and largely refutes explanations from some police officials that blacks are more likely to be subjected to police force because they are more frequently involved in criminal activity.

"The report found that although officers employ force in less than 2 percent of all police-civilian interactions, the use of police force is disproportionately high for African-Americans — more than three times greater than for whites."
Based on these readings, one can see very clearly that Black People's experiences with the police are disproportionately negative. Many Black People and Black organisations have informed that there is a broad sense of fear among Black People for the police. Nicole Hannah-Jones's March 2015 article in Politico, "A Letter From Black America: Yes, we fear the police. Here’s why." is one of a myriad examples of such explanations. See also Will Jawando's The Root article from 27 August 2015, "What Makes Black Men Run From the Police?." The link between that fear and police treatment of Black People is obvious.

2. Black Protesters as "Violent"
* This is related to the "riot" trope in which whites assume that Black protesters are throwing a violent riot. See my points #5 "Sanders Rally" and #6 "Toronto Pride" for more about Black Lives Matter's protest history. In addition, have a look at all of these "peaceful" white "rallies."
+ White People Rioting for No Reason
+ 11 Stunning Images Highlight the Double Standard of Reactions to Riots Like Baltimore

America actually has a long, rich history of white riots. See this Wikipedia entry for more information. But enough digression.

If you sound 'black', Americans automatically think you're violent
Lizzie Dearden, Independent
8 October 2015
"When participants rated each character’s height, muscularity and size, the scores were statistically equivalent for the 'black neutral' character and the 'white criminal' character. Daniel Fessler, the study's co-author and director of the UCLA Centre for Behaviour, Evolution and Culture, said: 'In essence, the brain's representational system has a toggle switch, such that size can be used to represent either threat or status. 'However, apparently because stereotypes of black men as dangerous are deeply entrenched, it is very difficult for our participants to flip this switch when thinking about black men. For study participants evaluating black protagonists, dangerous equals big and big equals dangerous, period.'"
Using the information from this article, one can see that Asra Nomani's constant references to Black People's "violence" are part of a racist syntax that she employs in her writings.

3. Identifying with Police
* Whilst Desi Americans are generally among the Muslim American population that is subjected to heightened scrutiny, including surveillance, as well as discrimination and anti-Muslim violence, Desi Americans have also integrated well into American society. Michael Kugelman covers this in his Dawn article, written on 24 May 2012. What we saw from Nomani's experience with and expectation of the police, however, we more the kind of attitude that we whites generally exhibit ourselves. She expressed, "We'll be safe next to the police." See my point #1, "Police, Safety, and Race." Black People simply do not have the luxury of expecting safety from the police - a vastly different experience than we whites have. In addition, read Maisha Z. Johnson's "20 Examples That Prove White Privilege Protects White People From the Police," on Everyday Feminism, written 15 June 2015. Johnson went into some detail explaining her 20-item list, and it is well worth one's time to read her article.

4. Dallas Sniper
* The Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas was peaceful until the sniper opened fire; and there was a spirit of co-operation between protesters and the police. The Dallas sniper, Micah Xavier Johnson, was not part of BLM. He expressed frustration with BLM. Black Lives Matter distanced themselves from him. Furthermore, Johnson's own life experiences as a military vet living with mental illnesses may well have contributed to his disintegration and self-destructive behaviours (which included sexual harassment).

5. Sanders Rally
* It should firstly be noted here that when Black Lives Matter disrupted Bernie Sanders in Seattle, no-one got hurt. This needs to be re-emphasised, because listening to some people whine and carry on, you would think that there had been bloodshed.

No-one got hurt.

* To learn more about the import of BLM's action at the Seattle event last year, it is a good idea to listen to the very person who was most affected by the disruption - Bernie Sanders himself. He said, "We owe a debt of gratitude to the Black Lives Matter movement."

* The Matter of Black Lives
Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker
14 March 2016
(long biography of the movement - no mention of "violence")

* A Year of Black Lives Matter
Clare Foran, The Atlantic
31 December 2015
Over the summer, activists began publicly, and unapologetically, disrupting presidential candidates at events and campaign rallies. The strategy got results. Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley rushed to release detailed criminal-justice platforms after high-profile clashes with Black Lives Matter activists. In August, Hillary Clinton convened a meeting with activists who showed up at a New Hampshire campaign event intending to disrupt it. ... Student protest also reached new heights on college campuses around the country. High-profile protests at the University of Missouri and Yale University over discrimination and racial insensitivity led to resignations at both schools. ... Critics have characterized student protests as a plea for special treatment that infringes on free speech. Many activists view that as an attempt to dismiss, and shut down, what the movement is trying to achieve, and argue that the criticism operates from a premise that fails to acknowledge profound racial inequity.
6. Toronto Pride
* Again: No-one got hurt.

* Black Lives Matter Protest Proves Pride Needs More Empathy, Less Prejudice
Joshua Orstroff, Huffington Post Canada
04 July 2016
Twenty-five minutes is about the length of time we wait through commercials and trailers for a movie to start. Twenty-five minutes is how long it should have taken my six-year-old son and I to get to the Pride Parade from Parkdale rather than the hour-and-a-half that it actually took. Waiting twenty-five minutes is not suffering or being taken hostage. Claiming this during a protest by a community that has suffered greatly over the years, including being disproportionately carded and killed by police, is as insulting as it is ironic.
7. Tone Policing:
* See #18 on this copy of Peggy Mcintosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack."

* What We Can All Learn From Nicki Minaj Schooling Miley Cyrus on Tone Policing
Maisha Z. Johnson, Everyday Feminism
September 1, 2015
"Racist stereotypes like the Angry Black Woman aren't only applied to Black women who are 'excessively angry.' They’re applied all across the board to make sure Black women never speak up when we're in pain – even when our words and anger are justified."

Using this article as a guide, one can spot the following in Nomani's writings: #3. You're making your cause look bad, and #5. This is counterproductive. Nomani also used another item from this article, but I have categorised it elsewhere.

8. BLM and the Police
* This issue actually gets covered quite well throughput the rest of the post.

* Even so, read this.
A Tough Weekend for the Black Lives Matter Movement
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
10 August 2015
The Black Lives Matter movement is in no way to blame for the incident [of gunfire that erupted on the streets of Ferguson]... Some members of the public will wrongheadedly conflate Black Lives Matter activists and the criminals who used the cover of Sunday’s anniversary and the accompanying protests to fire guns, beat up and rob a St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper reporter, and smash the window of a small business that serves Ferguson. There is no evidence that those criminals were participants in the Black Lives Matter movement. The vast majority of its members have been nonviolent all year, conducting themselves with uncommon bravery and restraint in difficult circumstances.
For a better understanding of the unrest that took place in  Baltimore, the following is a highly recommended read.

The Baltimore Riot Didn't Have to Happen
David A Graham, The Atlantic
30 April 2015
There's a familiar narrative around this outbreak of violence that makes it fit into our experience of past riots—Ferguson to Los Angeles to Detroit to Hough. The arc is scripted: Citizens get angry, tensions build and build until they boil over, violence erupts, and then people go home and the city begins the process of cleaning up. But after two relatively quiet and calm nights in Baltimore, that arc doesn't seem to apply. Instead, there seems to have been a consistent level of peaceful anger for two weeks, punctuated only by two moments of destruction. In that light, Monday's riots aren't the natural climax of increasing anger but instead an entirely avoidable tragedy that might have been forestalled had city officials made different decisions.

It seems there weren't even all that many students interested in a rowdy march—maybe 75 to 100. But when they got to the mall, they were met by a phalanx of police in riot gear, which increased tensions. (It's also a departure from the general tactics of Baltimore Police over the last two weeks—officers have typically tried to give protestors a wide berth to demonstrate.) The mall is also a transportation hub for students, and many students of all ages who were not involved in the "purge" were therefore present in the same place and trying to get home. But police were forcing riders to get off buses and preventing them from getting on other buses and trains. The result was a large group of young people stranded together with no way to leave, facing off against a line of police, likely scared and unsure of what to expect. Unsurprisingly, the situation boiled over. Once police started backing off, some faction of the crowds took advantage of the anarchy and began setting fires and looting.
9. Tokenisation
* Asra Nomani points out two people in her narrative as being Hispanic: her friend, and a cop. There was no reason to highlight their race, unless she was looking to score credit with other non-Black persons for having other People of Colour around her. We are sorry to inform you, Ms Nomani, that all of the brownies have run out, so your points don't count for anything.

10. Respectability Politics
* Don’t criticize Black Lives Matter for provoking violence. The civil rights movement did, too.
Simone Sebastian, Washington Post
01 October 2015
In which Simone Sebastian quotes Martin Luther King, Jr twice:
+ "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
+ "[Direct action] so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored"

* Where Does The 'Pull Up Your Pants' School Of Black Politics Come From?
Leah Donella, NPR
22 October 2015
"You know what we're wading into here: respectability politics, the notion that problems in the black community spume from within, and that by adopting a certain lifestyle, black people can inoculate themselves from discrimination."

* Respectability politics won't save the lives of black Americans
Zach Stafford, The Guardian
12 October 2015
The reason why being ‘respectable’ doesn’t work is because no matter how respectable you may be acting, your performance isn’t undoing the very real systematic ways in which our world operates.

Wearing a tie doesn’t rectify the fact that black people are incarcerated at six times that rate of white people. You having the ‘right job’ doesn’t give a black person a job as the community faces an unemployment rate of twice that of white people. And saying #AllLivesMatters doesn’t take the bullet out of the literally countless black bodies shot dead by police officers.

Instead, believing that our lives only matter when we ‘act right’ only fuels the very dangerous ways in which our world operates. It protects the structural racism that no one ever wants to talk about or challenge. And it inevitably makes you believe that your life depends on a well enunciated “yes, sir.”
* The Definition, Danger and Disease of Respectability Politics, Explained
Damon Young, The Root
21 March 2016
The best one [recent example of respectability politics] I can cite is Bill Cosby’s infamous pound cake speech. It was given during an NAACP awards ceremony in 2004, and he spent much of his speech admonishing black people for everything from (lack of) parental skills to how giving a child a “black” name assured that he’d (or she’d) be in prison one day.

It shifts responsibility away from perpetrators (which in this context would be America) and places it on the victims (which in this context would be blacks in America). Instead of requiring the people and the institutions committing and propagating racist acts to change, it asks the people harmed by the racism to change in order to stop being harmed by the racism. Which is like getting shot and then getting blamed for standing in front of the bullet.
11. Model Minorities
* "Model minority" is defined here, but what I was thinking was that Asra Nomani was setting herself up as a "better-behaved" minority who has "more right" than do Black People on how to run a Black Rights campaign. In this case, the model minority is not being set up based on race, but rather based on behaviour. This is linked with "Paternalism" and "White Supremacy," which is not surprising given the nature of so-called race relations in the States.

12. Paternalism
* As the "better behaved" model minority, Ms Nomani seems to think herself divinely mandated with the right to tell Black People how to run their movement. Using the trope of inherent Black violence and the tool of respectability politics, Nomani asserts herself over Black People as their benevolent superior.

13. White Supremacy
* This is the sum total of all of the above, in combination with Nomani's wilful ignorance of things like police treatment of Black People by police, the nature and conduct of Black Lives Matter protests, even the series of events constituting the Dallas mass shooting. Nomani uses several forms of tone policing throughout her writings. All of this combined aims at the goal of silencing Black People in order to preserve Nomani's comfort. This says something deeply disturbing about how Asra Nomani qualifies her own comfort compared to actual Black Lives. - something which I addressed in another blog post.

Nomani's Shared Video FB Post


Nomani's Video Share FB Post

Nomani's Tweet


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