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Staying silent or speaking out

February 20, 2010

There are times when I’ve observed racist behavior and stayed silent because of fear; fear of not saying the right thing, fear of misinterpreting something, fear of retaliation. Bystander response to racist actions tends to fall into one of three categories: I agree with the action and don’t think it’s racist or I know it’s wrong but don’t know how to respond or I know it’s wrong and I speak up.

I just viewed an enlightening video of an experiment done by ABC news to see how people would respond to blatant racist remarks and actions toward a Muslim woman.

Here’s the link: 

How Muslims are treated in the U.S.A.

I am reminded that standing against such actions by speaking out, even if imperfectly, disrupts the silence that perpetuates racism. The video also demonstrates the common humanity we have with each other if we can discard the stereotypes we have been given about people who we think are different from us.  The people who speak out in this video give me hope.

I’m reading a book called How does it feel to be a problem? Being young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi. It’s a collection of personal stories of seven young Arab and Muslim Americans from Brooklyn and how they live their lives as members of what the author calls “communities of suspicion.”  It is challenging me to confront the stereotypes that still reside within me. I think the speaking out has to be done to oneself as well as towards others.

How does it feel to be a problem?: Being young and Arab in America

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