by Atif Qarni
Since Donald Trump’s win last November, we have witnessed an increase in hate speech and racially motivated attacks across the country and here in Virginia. That includes an increase in racist bullying in school divisions across Virginia, including right here in Prince William County, where I teach.
In recent months, we’ve seen Muslim kids called terrorists, Latino kids called “illegals” and told to go back to their country, and black kids having pencils thrown in their hair. This emboldened, post-Trump-election, racist attitude is present in our schools, and is creating a hostile learning environment for many minority students.
Meanwhile, over the past year, we have seen right-wing political candidates fan the flames of xenophobia and bigotry by demonizing marginalized groups. For instance, Corey Stewart – Chairman of the Board of County Supervisors in Prince William County – ran a Trump-like campaign during the Republican primary for Governor this year. Astonishingly, Stewart nearly beat Ed Gillespie, despite being outspent 3:1 and not having much establishment support.
Now that Gillespie is the Republican nominee for Governor, he has decided to energize Stewart’s base for the general election by using the same race-baiting tactics. Sad to say, but the fact is that the Trump-supporting base of the Republican Party is rotten to its core and devoid of humanity. For nearly a month, Gillespie’s campaign has run a despicable ad against the Latino immigrant community, depicting them as gangsters, rapists, and murderers.
With this type of hateful campaign on our airwaves, it is imperative that people from every community stand up and send a united message to politicians that demonization of any marginalized group will not be tolerated. The fact is, if we fail to stand up for each other, we are making any and all of us vulnerable to demonization and attack.
That’s why, as a Muslim and a South Asian, I take particularly strong objection to members of my community supporting Ed Gillespie. This is a man who clearly showed us who he was and what he’s all about when he ran that race-baiting attack ad against Latinos. And, as was the case with Donald Trump in 2016, we should believe that this is what Ed Gillespie actually believes. Now, of course, it’s ok if we don’t agree on all issues and if our values are different —some of us are liberal and others conservative, and that’s ok. We can accept and embrace our differences. But racism is NOT a conservative or liberal issue—it is a human issue. We cannot vote against our own self-interest as human beings.
For South Asians particularly, we must remember our own history as a colonized people of the British empire. Colonizers used fear tactics and brute force to exploit and demonize people in the Indian subcontinent – turning one minority group against the other – because they knew that a divided people was a conquerable people. The British viceroys hand-picked local officials called “rajas” from the native populations to ensure that British laws were being enforced. These officials were well-financed sycophants, token representatives who directly benefited from the subjugation of their own people.
In 2017, we cannot afford to have members of our community — the South Asian or Muslim community — work alongside politicians like Gillespie. We cannot be angry about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and not at the same time be angry about Gillespie’s ad that depicts Latinos as violent criminals. White supremacy is not only about tiki torch rallies and whites chanting racist slurs. It is about the belief that white people are superior to all other races and should therefore dominate society.
This MS-13 ad by Gillespie is the definition of white supremacy, and we must label it appropriately and denounce it publicly. We cannot stand next to the oppressors while others in our community are attacked. We must stand up to bigotry and hate. For that reason, on November 7th, we should all let Ed Gillespie know that we will not be tolerate intolerance — by voting Democratic up and down the ticket.