By now, most of us have not only watched Childish Gambino’s “This is America” video, but we have also read a number of articles analyzing it for all its meanings. “This is America” is saturated with references to decades-old stereotypes, modern popular culture, and recent tragedies in African-American communities. But that’s not it. Childish Gambino hasn’t even gotten to the point yet. None of those things are the point, and they’re even hard to notice. These references are just the background. The point is that we’re distracted. We don’t even notice the background because we’re distracted by his dancing, his words, and his actions.
This is where the video becomes extremely relevant to American Muslim communities. We may not be experiencing the same levels of hardship and violent attacks and danger (like in the background of the video), but we are just as distracted.
Two weeks ago in Johns Creek, Shukri Ali Said’s sister called 911 for mental health assistance. When the officers arrived, Said was wielding a knife, and when she refused to put it down, they shot and killed her. Yes, many of us are sharing this story on Facebook, but how many masjids are acknowledging her and taking a stand against what happened to her? What is the community doing to help our brothers and sisters dealing with mental illness? And how are we supporting their families? We are just too distracted to invest in this.
Over a year ago, at the Women’s March in Atlanta, dozens of people were holding signs in support of the Muslim community, and specifically Muslim women. You would imagine that Muslim families would have attended the march in the hundreds, showing support for their own community members in the face of a new racist president. But no, that didn’t happen. Our brothers and sisters of other faiths have stood up for us at several rallies since then, at the steps of the Capitol building, at the airport, and at Centennial Olympic Park, but the Muslims themselves are just “too busy” and distracted to participate in their own advocacy.
Bullying. Deportation. Travel bans. Violent attacks. Ugly rhetoric. These are the types of direct attacks on Muslims happening everyday in America. In America! But where are the millions of everyday Muslims taking these issues on? Distracted. We have a small pool of volunteers who puts together classes and events for the youth and the community, who runs humanitarian organizations, who leads Sunday School programs and youth groups, who sits on masjid boards, but where is the other 99% of the community? Distracted.
Linda Sarsour and Omar Suleiman and Edward Mitchell can only do so much to open our eyes. When they share news of the ummah, we cannot just click “Share,” state our quick opinion, and log off. We have to show up. We have to get involved. We have to be the change we want to see. Just like the African American community and other minority communities, we cannot continue to be distracted.