I’m not planning to make this blog into a litany of endless social injustices, despite what it may seem like as I follow up two Trayvon Martin posts with one about Shaima Al Awadi. But her case is worth noting as well, as it also points to a sickness of racism that continues to run through the veins of America—not just toward those who are born citizens (like African-Americans and most Hispanics) but also toward those who come here to enjoy the same rights and freedoms we do, and to contribute to our society and culture.
For those who aren’t familiar with the case, go here and here for some brief news stories. But the jist is this: An Iraqi woman (a mother of four) was found beaten to death in her California home, apparently with a threatening note next to her body saying she was a terrorist and should “go home.” Reportedly, the family had received a threatening note before but had dismissed it as a prank. Short of an unlikely finding that some family member or other person close to her killed her and used the note as a cover-up, what we have here is another hate crime…a crime committed for no good reason but to vent rage at someone “different.”
There is a similarity here with her and Trayvon, in that he looked “threatening” to George Zimmerman in part for daring to wear a hooded sweatshirt, and Shaima wore the traditional hijab of her Muslim faith. Trayvon was almost certainly seen as a thug for his clothing almost as much as his skin color, and Shaima was likely seen as a terrorist or sympathizer of terrorism for her clothing, which was a part of her religious faith. A religion, I might point out, is practiced overwhelmingly by people who don’t want terrorism any more than the average Christian or Jew does.
The painful irony of this situation is that apparently Shaima came to the United States to flee the brutality of the Saddam Hussein regime when he still lived and ruled in Iraq. And then, in a land build by repeated waves of immigrants, she is seen as an enemy instead of the next wave of contributors and citizens, and killed in an act of senseless violence.
I admit I’m not as personally offended on a deep, heartfelt level with this case as with Trayvon. If I got torn up about every sick and violent tragedy that makes the news I’d be a basket case. Trayvon’s situation strikes hard for me because I have a son and daughter who are biracial and a Black wife. I have Black in-laws. Many of my online friends are Black (probably more of my offline friends would be, too, if I wasn’t stuck in the whitest state in the nation). And African-Americans have been systematically shat upon for centuries in this country. But the Shaima case still hurts.
Even formerly reviled immigrant groups like the Chinese, Irish, Italians, etc. in American history pretty much have been embraced, but Blacks continue to be “other” in the view of society. I wonder if the overblown threat of terrorism (oh, I know it’s a real threat…but it’s still been blown up beyond what it is) means that Arabs may end up in the same boat as Blacks and in many places Hispanics…always seen as some “thing” that contaminates American purity.
It’s depressing. A woman beaten to death out of hate, when she wasn’t the enemy.
Just because she practiced a religion misused and twisted by terrorists and because she had the same ethnic background as many of them.
I wonder how my pale-skinned brethren would feel if Blacks just started beating on random Whites on Wall Street for wearing the threatening and oppressive three-piece suit or on small town Main St. for wearing a baseball cap that marks them as a potential racist redneck?
Of course, it wouldn’t be a learning moment for America; it would just be an excuse to go out and oppress, beat or kill the Blacks who didn’t do the evil. Nothing changes there, right?
May Shaima’s family find the strength they need to keep going on and move beyond this tragedy while also keeping the memories they need of Shaima. The same for Trayvon’s family.
It’s just a pity more Americans aren’t crying out for justice in this case or even Trayvon’s. I’m disappointed. We should be better than that, as a country that says it’s free and open and accepting. As a country that claims to be above petty abuses and unethical behavior.
But we aren’t. We’re fast becoming a nation directed by thuggery, and that’s not a place we should be.
Bottom line: If we can’t get outraged—from the halls of Congress to the meeting halls of Main Street America to the pool halls of the most sketchy neighborhoods in the cities—when our citizens start killing women and children for the perceived wrongs of other members of their racial/ethnic/religious/whatever group, we don’t have any damned business telling anyone else anywhere else in the world what to do.
Put up or shut up, America.