Our Plan to Combat Racial Injustice

by Aug 3, 2020

As an organization dedicated to justice and mutual understanding, we at CAIR Oklahoma recognize our responsibility to end the insidious racial injustice that permeates our country. From education to health care to policing and criminal justice, we have seen time and time again that American systems do not respect or value Black lives.

We believe that our faith and our principles demand justice for all people, which will not be achieved without an unwavering and unapologetic commitment to the protection of Black lives and the ending of entrenched anti-Blackness wherever it occurs. As our faith teaches us, we are obligated to confront injustice in all its forms, including and especially the ending of unjust systems such as racial hierarchies, xenophobia, and misogyny.

For far too long, anti-Blackness has permeated our community – anti-Blackness in the form of both expressed, conscious acts of racism and bigotry, but also in the subtle and insidious forms of implicit bias that run rampant and unchecked.

To this end, CAIR-OK has chosen to manifest our commitment in a Five-Point Plan to Combat Racial Injustice. While these actions alone may not stop the tide of hate and indifference, they can help to empower our community to address racism, implicit bias, and prejudice within our walls. We commit to enacting these five strategies with yearly review periods and frequent evaluations, both internal and external, to determine if we are meeting our commitments to these goals.

The 5 Point Plan

Addressing Implicit Bias. The most insidious forms of racism are not associated with explicit, conscious thought. They are the implicit, unconscious biases that are inculcated into American culture and absorbed through the media we consume, the schooling we receive, and the world in which we choose to move. Without recognizing our own implicit bias, we cannot begin to address the harms done to our Black family at the hands of our subconscious decisions.

  • Action Item: All CAIR-OK Board and Staff members will undergo implicit bias training to be carried out within 90 days. This training will be conducted by an outside organization or firm and will be followed up with a series of mechanisms to address the issues uncovered through the implicit bias training. This training will be conducted yearly and repeated in a practical format for any Board or Staff who are added to the CAIR-OK family.
  • Action item: In addition to undergoing implicit bias training, CAIR-OK staff and board members will undergo a racial equity training that will help guide future commitments through CAIR-OK work. This training will be conducted on a yearly basis to build upon the foundation created by implicit bias training, as a “next step” to addressing internalized anti-Blackness and racism.

Educating ourselves and our community. Black history is American history. Black thinkers, writers, academic, scholars, artists, and more have given incalculable value to American culture – yet we rarely can name even the most prominent Black contributors to the artistic, social, and cultural benefits we enjoy. We must learn our history, including the dark history of enslavement, discrimination, disenfranchisement, racial terror, and mass incarceration, to understand where we are as a country and to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.

  • Action item: The Staff and Board of CAIR-OK will spend time each month to read, share, and discuss works by Black authors and creators, in order to educate ourselves on the experiences of the Black community.
  • Action item: We commit to learning and implementing accurate language in our conversations surrounding race, racism, and white supremacy. We recognize that the experiences of African immigrant, African-American, Black Arab, and Black American Muslims are not the same and cannot be replaced with one another in terms of experiences, opinions, or practices. Identity is not monolithic, and communities cannot and should not be described with inaccurate terminology.

Accurate and Equitable Representation. Although Black, African, and African-American Muslims make up a substantial part of the American Muslim community, they are underrepresented in positions of leadership at every level in a majority of Muslim organizations. This is an unacceptable failure. We cannot teach those we cannot reach; we cannot provide for the spiritual, cultural, and legal empowerment of the Muslim community without including the voices and perspectives of our Black, African, Black Arab, and African-American family.

  • Action item: We will take a close look at the demographics of our Board and Staff and will focus on the need for diversity in adding new members to the CAIR team. We will prioritize the addition of diverse Board and Staff members, with an eye to diversity of race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender, class, educational background, and other aspects of marginalized identity.
  • Action item: We will develop a thorough anti-discrimination policy for both staff and board, where those who have experienced discrimination can report it safely and be shielded from retaliation. This policy will provide for independent assessment, protection for retaliation, and appeals mechanisms. This policy will be developed within the next 90 days and revisited on a yearly basis to ensure that it continues to serve its function. We also understand that intent matters less than impact, and that unintended harm is still harm.

Prioritizing of Black voices. Muslims are not a monolith. The American Muslim community is comprised of a wide, diverse variety of racial and ethnic backgrounds. However, for too long, Black voices have been silenced, both in the larger community and at home in our own mosques and Islamic centers. We do our community a disservice by endorsing and hosting public speaking events with homogeneous contributors, because they cannot reflect the many varied experiences that constitute our Muslim community.

  • Action item: When planning any event that involves public speakers, panelists, or guest contributions, we commit to ensuring that our lineup accurately reflects the nature of our community. We will not attend or host any public speaking events that do not make an attempt to include a speaker who can share their experience as a Black, Black Arab, African, or African-American Muslim. Where we are invited to events that do not attempt to reach equitable inclusion principles, we will point to our commitment to ending racial injustice as a factor for our non-participation and invite the hosts to consider adopting similar policies.
  • Action item: We commit to repudiating and avoiding the use of appropriating language in our messaging. We will not share or post graphics, nor shall we create, media that erases the Black struggle for liberation. We also will avoid the pernicious tone policing that silences Black voices through the guise of “politeness” or “correct language.” All stories deserve to be told in the voices of those who experience them – even those that are not palatable or comfortable for their audience.

Racial Justice framework for civil rights work. We understand through our study of history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc., that the marginalized aspects of identity are not separable. We are committed to a policy that ensures our external work mirrors our internal commitment to the principles of justice, equity, and liberation that must inform every part of our mission. We cannot act in a manner inconsistent with our principles; thus, our actions should be driven by a firm commitment to ending racism wherever it occurs.

  • Action item: Zero tolerance policies for race-based harassment, bullying, use of slurs, etc. CAIR-OK Staff and Board understand that in their roles as leaders and representatives of the community, any spreading of racist ideology or stereotypes can be cause for immediate consequences, up to and including dismissal or termination.
  • Action item: We commit to only allying ourselves with organizations that also hold principles of justice. We will not work with people who wish to denigrate our Black family members.
  • Action Item: We commit to a thorough understanding of the myriad ways that racism affects our communities. Housing, healthcare, education, policing: all are inextricably tied up with the racism that permeates our culture. We cannot begin to address these problems if we look at them in isolation, devoid of context; instead, we must apply a lens to all our work that takes into account the racism embedded into the structures in which we function.

Future Outlook

This document is not intended to be exhaustive, nor is this a final draft. We understand that as we grow in our understanding of the ways that race shapes our experiences as American Muslims, so too must our commitments grow and change. This document shall be revisited on a periodic basis and should serve as a starting point, not a finish line; a statement of intention, not simply a statement of principles. Our faith demands that we promote justice and end oppression wherever it occurs, beginning within ourselves and filtering outward until it informs everything we do in our roles as staff members, board members, and leaders.