A message from the Center for Muslim Life newsletter, June 5, 2020. To subscribe click here.
As-salaamu-alaikum to my Duke Community,
To the Muslim students, faculty, and staff of Duke, I pray you are safe and well. To the Black and African American students, faculty and staff of all faith traditions and no faith tradition, remember that the prayer and will of the oppressed is powerful!! May our prayers be answered and our actions be guided to affect positive change.
We all may be processing what’s happening in America in different ways. I want to remind all of you that the staff at the Center for Muslim Life is here to support you. You can meet with me, by clicking HERE. You can also reach out to any of the staff if you need to talk or process your thoughts:
- Imam Waheed: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Samaiyah Faison: email@example.com
- Maryam Arain: firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to set up an appointment.
NO JUSTICE = NO PEACE may seem like a cliché. However, I believe it is the best slogan to help people understand what is happening on the streets of America. We are witnessing the NO PEACE. Yet, it is the lack of justice…it is the NO JUSTICE, that occurs first. Police brutality that targets Black people is only one piece of the NO JUSTICE. The mindset and culture that enables a police officer to look into a camera with no fear of accountability, while he publicly treats a Black man as 3/5th of a human being as George Floyd begs for air, for mercy, for his mother, and for his life is NO JUSTICE. The fact that many still do not understand why this felt like a modern-day lynching is NO JUSTICE.
The mindset and culture that makes two white men feel like they have the right to chase down Ahmaud Arbery and murder him in broad daylight is NO JUSTICE. The Police who arrived seconds afterwards and made no arrests after witnessing a Black man bleeding out on the street surrounded by two white men with smoking guns is NO JUSTICE. The District Attorney who protected the two men with a legal argument explaining why there were no grounds for an arrest is NO JUSTICE. The fact that many still do not understand why this felt like a modern-day lynching is NO JUSTICE. The fact that the video, and not the Justice System is what led to the arrests of the two men two months after the murder is NO JUSTICE. It is this lack of understanding that perpetuates NO JUSTICE and guarantees our failure to respond appropriately when a noose, a symbol of lynching, is hung on campus. It is the ignorance of generational trauma and institutional racism that allows one to focus on the flames of rioting instead of the simmering coals of NO JUSTICE.
Black Americans fought through NO JUSTICE and reached the Presidency of the United States. Black Americans endure NO JUSTICE and still achieve excellence in all domains of society including law, politics, arts and sciences. Yet, a Black medical doctor is painfully reminded that he will be handcuffed and detained while loading his own supplies into his own vehicle in front of his own house because a police officer wanted to be called, “Sir.” Blacks are well aware that our presence and success is threatening. We are reminded in both subtle and murderous ways. On one hand, neighborhoods that attract too many Blacks will force others to segregate and relocate. Do schools with too many Blacks feel as elite? Do resorts with too many Blacks feel as exclusive? Avoiding these discussions allows NO JUSTICE to grow. On the other hand, Blacks remember the murderous destruction of Rosewood in 1921, Black Wall Street in 1923, a Philadelphia neighborhood in 1985, and many others that have been erased from history and buried under the mantra of Truth, Justice and Liberty for All.
Many Americans do not see the intentional Jim Crow laws that exist today which allow NO JUSTICE to thrive. NO JUSTICE convinced America that it no longer exists. It is this lack of understanding that blinds many Americans to the intentional NO JUSTICE policies, laws, and culture that actively exist in housing, schools, prisons and neighborhoods. The gated neighborhood where Trayvon Martin was murdered was NO JUSTICE because an un-known Black man peacefully walking in most of America is considered suspicious. The fact that Trayvon’s killer was acquitted and is out free today because the system encourages him, and others, to stand their ground against Black people is NO JUSTICE.
The fact that many young students are not aware of the L.A. Riots is NO JUSTICE. The riots did not happen when video surfaced of Rodney King being brutally beaten by a gang of police officers as he laid on the ground. The riots happened a year later when all the officers were acquitted and there was NO JUSTICE. If the trees of Duke Forest were pens and the Eno River were ink, I would not be able to write all the names of Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Freddy Gray, Sandra Bland, Amadou Diallo, George Stinney, Davontae Sanford, Kawaski Trawick and the millions of individuals who are not captured on a cell phone video or Netflix special.
The thousands of Black people who get arrested, charged, and sentenced for crimes they do not commit and spend decades in prison is NO JUSTICE. Members of the Exonerated 5 who came to Duke is an example of NO JUSTICE and how one’s Blackness makes one ineligible for the Justice that other Americans expect. How will history judge us for complaining about rioting today after forbidding a conversation about NO JUSTICE yesterday, when Colin Kaepernick was banned from the NFL for peacefully bringing attention to police brutality and racism in America?
When the flames of rioting are brutally extinguished by the government under the cloak of justice and safety, the simmering coals of NO JUSTICE will remain. When our attention is once again diverted to the NBA, the NFL, the new Marvel movie, the next scandal and the next war, we must not lose sight of the reality of NO JUSTICE. Extinguishing the simmering coals of NO JUSTICE will not be easy. We must be brave and bold. It may not happen in our lifetime. It will be uncomfortable. But it is necessary to continuously work towards it.
I encourage the young generation to study the past to learn how to move forward. Speak to your elders and find out why they feel overwhelmed to see the same images from 60 years ago after they sacrificed blood, sweat, tears and lives to establish JUSTICE. Find organizations that are working towards the JUSTICE you seek and help them with your bright minds and healthy energy.
NO JUSTICE = NO PEACE. I pray we understand, and that the events of 2020 allow us to see clearly.
Chaplain Joshua Salaam