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We Must Keep Our Shared Humanity at the Forefront
A perspective from Allen Buansi
The weeks since the horrific, condemnable terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel on October 7th have been a trying, devastating time for people and families connected to Israel and Gaza.
So many innocent lives have been lost, and many more have been forever changed. I do not claim to have a good grasp of the history between Israel and Palestine and cannot speak with any authority about how we get peace and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. I mourn for them, and I hope and pray for an end to the violence.
What I can speak to is the disturbing lack of empathy and the hatred that have become pervasive in the weeks following October 7th. Threats and violence against Jews and Muslims have sharply increased.
Antisemitism has been used for a long time to marginalize Jews and divide our country. Stereotypes of Jews as “dirty”, “corrupt” and “menacing” have persisted over centuries. It has been alarming to see the vitriol and threats hurled against them on college campuses, online, and in the streets. Examples include the reviling and insulting images of the Star of David in trash cans at rallies. The Star of David is a holy symbol for Jews, and its debasement is a dog whistle to those who maintain long-standing hostility against Jews. Common phrases heard at protests such as “from the river to the sea” and “by any means necessary” have instilled fear and signal further violence. There have been numerous, credible reports of violent threats made against Jews and Jewish institutions.
Islamophobia has also been used to dehumanize Muslims and break our common bond. Since well before the tragedy of 9/11/2001, Muslims have struggled against stereotypes as “radical”, “violent” and “brutal.” I recall news coverage from years ago of a man sitting in a car outside of a mosque holding an American flag. His intent was to “send a message” by intimidating and threatening innocent Muslims. In 2015, here in Chapel Hill, three Muslim students were brutally murdered in their home just because they were Muslim. And six years ago, former President Trump signed an executive order to ban people from predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country. Although it was later repealed, recently, he has threatened to reinstate a ban if he becomes president again.
Even before October 7th, I saw how ill-equipped our state was to respond to acts of hate. Earlier this year, I joined fellow State House Representatives Nasif Majeed, Caleb Rudow, and Maria Cervania in filing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, so North Carolinians have much-needed legal tools to root out and combat hateful acts of violence and protect minority communities.
In our great country, we are entitled to free speech, to mobilize and speak out about how we feel and think. However, with this right comes great responsibility. Foremost, we must be empathetic. We must get informed and better understand the complexities of these issues. We must listen to one another. We must be respectful. We must be compassionate. To do otherwise condemns us to a continuous cycle of hatred and violence. When an affected group of people says that something is offensive, we need to stop, listen, and engage respectfully. Collectively, we have failed to do this.
I urge folks to think long and hard about what you post and tweet on social media. Think long and hard about what you say on the streets, in a statement, and on a sign. Without equivocation, let us acknowledge one another’s humanity and avoid using violent rhetoric. In the end, we must practice the inclusivity we preach.
“Viewpoints” on Chapelboro is a recurring series of community-submitted opinion columns. All thoughts, ideas, opinions and expressions in this series are those of the author, and do not reflect the work or reporting of 97.9 The Hill and Chapelboro.com.