Got your attention in the headline, didn’t I?
Contrary to what you might be thinking in this moment, I’m not actually going to be talking about White Privilege (though I have before — and I can again).
In this moment, in the aftermath of terror attacks across the world (Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and more — terror has struck many places in recent history) that give understandable rise to fear and sadness, I want to actually speak about a privilege that even I have: religious privilege.
At any moment, I can walk down the street of my hometown without anyone knowing what religion I practice. I can conceal it if I wish. My skin color may lead a person to be concerned for other reasons (because ‘”not immediately labeled as a threat” is not a privilege I have in the arena of race, unfortunately), but my religion? No one ever seems to worry about that.
My heart goes out to my friends who walk through the world wearing the hijab, niqab, turbans or other religious garments that cause people to instantly judge them. They can’t hide (though let me be clear, hiding is not the goal here; being allowed to live your faith without fear of oppression or violence, however, is).
I do not fit the narrative we’ve put out into our societies about what a “terrorist” is. Therefore, I don’t face that level of scrutiny in that area. I have that privilege.
“So what?” you may ask (and many have asked, when I talk about White Privilege), “Am I supposed to feel guilty for something I can’t control?”
No. Because guilt doesn’t fix anything.
But actions do.
My friends who are Muslim live in a world that chooses to label them without really seeing them or knowing anything about them, let alone speaking to them. So learn about them. Read about their religion from their own scholars, read about them from outside scholars (diversify your source pool, don’t just take one person’s word for it). Speak with them directly.
Now I don’t mean find a random Muslim on the street and accost them with questions. Generally, I find that no sane person appreciates such interactions.
But I do encourage the exploration of multicultural events in which Muslim believers are a part. I do encourage the building of relationships.
Then, once you’ve done that — once you’ve reached outside of yourself to learn more and connect with the real people of the Muslim religion — start to advocate. This can take the form of anything from the simple correction of misinformation on social media to serving as a physical human shield between those who would seek to terrorize the world and those who have been terrorized enough. Use your privilege to amplify those still peaceful voices that are too often unheard.
Because where people are heard, people can be better understood, and people who are better understood are better valued — and better utilized — in society to help all of humanity live side by side in harmony.
Unity through diversity. This is what terrorists really fear. This is what we have the power to create.
So let’s create it.