know what you are thinking. If this guy can make the connection
between these two very different issues, he deserves a prize.
Well, readers, hold onto your hats and let’s see where this
ride takes us.
are many things about the insane, Islamophobic debate concerning
the proposed NYC Islamic Center that have struck me. Among
these is the fact that this Center has been proposed for
a while and there was no controversy, at least until the
pot was stirred by opportunists. The other curious feature
of this “debate” has been the use of the word “sensitivity.”
I have been struck by how demagogues of different varieties,
in attempting to sound sincere, have suggested that they
have no problem with a mosque or cultural center but that
it is somehow “insensitive” to place it near the site of
the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
idea that it is somehow insensitive is predicated on the
fundamental belief that the attack was an attack carried
out by the masses of Muslims or by some Muslim entity that
represents the billion plus Muslims on this planet (sort
of along the lines of when the Japanese government ordered
the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941). The facts demonstrate,
of course, that this is not what transpired. So, if one
recognizes that the attack was carried out by a small band
of clerical fascists using the cover of Islam in order to
advance their agenda, this is no different than the Ku Klux
Klan hiding behind Christianity in the terror that they
carried out over the years against African Americans, Jews,
Catholics, Asians, Latinos, and labor union organizers.
Christian religious institutions were not banned in proximity
to any of these groups, at least last time that I checked.
there is another aspect to this matter of “sensitivity”
that makes me shake my head. Specifically, there is a selective
use of the notion of sensitivity by vast stretches of white
Putting a Muslim religious institution near Ground Zero
is somehow insensitive, but the repeated abuses of Native
Americans, whether in folklore, chants, ornaments, or the
names of sports teams is somehow not insensitive.
am I missing?
about it for a moment. The Native American population in
at the time of Columbus
was somewhere between 80-100 million people by most estimates.
Within a century there was a massive die-off of Native Americans
through genocide and disease, both brought over by Europeans.
This die-off was in the range of 80%. So, we are talking
about one of the most dramatic, horrific destructions of
a population in human history. Yet, when it comes to Native
Americans, how sensitive are white Americans?
brings us to the Washington Redskins. With all due respect
to my black and white brothers and sisters who are enamored
of this football team, it is probably
worth reminding everyone that “redskin” is a term that is
equivalent to “nigger.” Native Americans and their allies
have, time and again, made this point. They have made this
point politely and diplomatically, as well as militantly
and vocally. They have pointed out that having a team with
that sort of name (along with teams in other sports, such
as the Atlanta Braves in baseball) is, you guessed it, insensitive.
Yet pleas for sensitivity have largely gone ignored. Native
Americans have been told that they are over-reacting; that
they should not take any of this personally; that it is
actually raising awareness in the USA of the status of Native Americans.
Americans have, largely, felt that such responses are disingenuous
at best. They are the ones that faced land displacement,
genocide, and massive infections, yet when they have asked
that a team simply change its name - an action that is not
exactly unknown in the field of sports - their position
is ignored, if not ridiculed.
when I hear any discussion about the insensitivity of placing
an Islamic Cultural Center near Ground Zero I am nothing
short of dismayed. The placement of the Center there was
a demonstration of the need for tolerance and of open opposition
to the clerical fascists who abused the name of Islam. It
was not a victory dance or a mocking of those who perished
on 11 September 2001.
the same cannot be said for those who have defended the
retention of the name “Washington Redskins,” or those who
so arrogantly and smugly do the “tomahawk chant” when the
Atlanta Braves hit the field.
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with
the Institute for
Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfrica
Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which
examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.