It’s ugly, and I blame the Republicans, especially the Tea Party and Trump fans, the latest incarnation of our nativist know-nothings. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has run a personal account of an encounter with one of those assholes.
It was my first Minnesota Vikings game and my first NFL game. I am not new to football, though. As an undergrad at Boston College, I went to many Eagles games, and I played junior varsity football. I knew what to expect on the field. I was excited, and, as I found my seat, I thought about bringing my family to a game in the new stadium.
What I didn’t expect was for a man to push aside other people and point his finger in my face, demanding to know if I was a refugee. He needed to make sure I wasn’t a refugee, he said. There was anger in his face and vehemence in his accusation.
I was stunned. He didn’t know anything about me. We were complete strangers. But somewhere in his mind, all he saw was a terrorist, based on nothing more than the color of my skin. He was white, and I wasn’t. He didn’t see anything else.
He didn’t know that I have lived in Minnesota for the past four years, that I was born and raised in New York and that the words “Never Forget” may mean more to me than to him. He didn’t know that when I went home and my children jumped on top of me and asked “How was the game?” that I’d be holding back tears as I told them about racism instead of touchdowns. He didn’t know that I am an attorney and the director of the Refugee and Immigrant Program at the Advocates for Human Rights.
Let’s not whitewash this any more. I used to think islamophobia was a silly concept, that thinking Islam was a wretched, stupid belief was entirely rational. But what I’m seeing over and over is that rejection of a false belief is largely a pretense for many of these people, and really they’re just looking for an excuse to rage against people of Middle Eastern descent.
But here’s an antidote: a British soldier who lost a leg in Iraq writes about Muslim people as complicated human beings. We need to prioritize those voices over those of resentful bigots at football games and Trump rallies.