Originally published in The Northwestern
The Richard Sherman — current cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks — saga was a complete portrayal by the media through the looking glass of Twitter and other social outlets. The excoriation that he received from them labeled him as a thug, a racially biased stereotype of the persona of an angry black man.
In his words he described the use of the word ‘thug’ as the newly accepted way of saying the ‘N’ word.
We as a nation have written the words, “All men are created equal” in our Declaration of Independence. We must now match these words with our actions and beliefs, using Black History month as a reminder.
I believe one of the last steps to completely removing racial inequality and honoring Black History month at the same time, is by getting rid of our personal racial prejudices that harbor these aforementioned stereotypes in the first place.
Those who were calling Mr. Sherman a thug overlooked the fact that he was a scholar athlete in high school or that later became a Stanford grad.
I personally remember during the first presidential election of Barack Obama, people whom I knew very well said similar inane comments about him too: “I don’t think he is even smart enough to tie his own shoe laces, let alone manage a presidency.” They overlooked the fact that he had graduated from Columbia and Harvard, or that he served as the president of Harvard Law Review, or that he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for twelve years.
This is not just politics because it goes beyond than just being a Republican or a Democrat. In 2007, then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del) said the following words about fellow Democrat Barack Obama, “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.”
An incident that best describes these inherent racial prejudices in America (perceptively) was the 1982 California governor’s race. The African-American then-Mayor of Los Angeles lost despite being ahead in polls going into the election. This phenomenon was later called the Bradley effect where many non-black voters overtly professed to vote for Mr. Bradley but at the polls voted for the other non-African-American person.
I know from a personal perspective that being a Muslim does not put me into any particular race but it does not stop some people from thinking that either. For instance, the Oak Creek shooting last year at the Sikh Temple was because the gunman thought that they were all Muslims. He did not look at the fact that Sikhism is a different faith altogether and the fifth largest organized religion in the world. He only took sub-continental persons of a certain skin color to be Muslim.
I know that Muslims can be of any race and color. I am personally inspired by the words of the Qur’an where it describes that stereotypes are the worst things possible and our differences are there so that we can recognize what we have to offer each other (Qur’an 49:12-14).
The last sermon on Mount Arafat of Prophet Muhammad for me epitomizes the mindset we must all have to achieve complete racial equality. He said, “An Arab possesses no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab over an Arab. A white is no way superior to a red, nor for that matter, a red to a white …” This education was the only reason why a former black African slave (Bilal), a great companion of Prophet Muhammad, was able to be a leading scholar of his time.
His words can also act as a guideline for us in America to ending all personal racial prejudices that we harbor within ourselves. We can then have the ability to stop the typical stereotypes that are created because of them and truly honor Black History month by beginning to dissipate racial inequality in America altogether.