#BlackLivesMatter OKC: We Will Not Let These Fears Stop Us

by Phillip Chapman, CAIR-OK InternJul 12, 2016

I once had a professor who said, “you can’t begin to fully understand history until you try to get into the mindset of the people who lived it.” I can delve into the psyche of ancient cultures and see how their fears, beliefs, education, and daily experiences created and shaped their world. Something I cannot do, however, is enter the mindset of many of my contemporary peers.

I don’t understand the hate they propagate.

I can’t understand racism or xenophobia or bigotry.

You can partially excuse old-timey folks’ prejudices because they didn’t understand science, and thought that plagues were God’s vengeance and sneezing was your soul trying to escape. A fear of outsiders was actually healthy because you didn’t know if they were here to steal your crops or spread diseases. WE HAVE SCIENCE NOW. WE UNDERSTAND HOW (most of) THE WORLD WORKS. IGNORANCE IS NO LONGER GET AN EXCUSE FOR BEING A BAD PERSON.

Deep breath. Let me take a step backwards.
I’ve lived in Oklahoma for (almost) my entire life, and I don’t care for it. I am perpetually disheartened by the ignorance and hatred displayed by Oklahomans. I have seen first-hand how or legislatures and governor treats minorities and the disenfranchised. An Oklahoma congressman can post Islamophobic rhetoric that calls for the death of all Muslims on Facebook. He will then follow his poisonous rhetoric with Bible quotes. I have seen men and women carry Confederate flags, a symbol of oppression, and fervently wave them when President Obama visited Oklahoma City. I have seen mosques graffitied and Muslims threatened and abused. I have heard the threats leveled towards my friends in the Muslim community. Oklahoma is sick with hate.

On Sunday, July 10th, I attended the Black Lives Matter rally in Oklahoma City.

It was awesome, and I mean that in the Oxford Dictionary sense of the word. As in, “Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear”, not “whoa dude, this taco is awesome.”

The rally was extremely impressive. More than 2,000 people representing every race, creed, gender, identity, and age were in attendance. I never believed that there would be this many people willing to stand-up in 100° heat for 3 hours out of love and solidarity with their neighbors.

The undertaking was daunting. I walked into a horde of hot, loud, and passionate people. I wasn’t sure where I needed to be or what I needed to do. The prospect of an individual trying to make a positive change is daunting. It is easy to feel like there is nothing you can do to change the status-quo. How can any person stand against the monolithic institutions of racism, police brutality, a corrupt justice system, greedy out of touch career politicians, or the ignorance of the masses?

The answer is by acting. We showed up thousands strong and unified each insignificant voice into a deafening cacophony in pursuit of justice and peace.

I admire everyone who participated.

I admire the strength and willingness to impart positive change that the people in my community exhibited on Sunday. I admire the professionalism of the police force who were there to keep us safe. I admire the people who crossed the lines to shake hands with, hug, and take photographs with the OKCPD. I admire the men and women who spoke to the crowd. These leaders have used their positions of power and prestige for the good of others instead of personal gain.

I am apprehensive. I hate that this is even an issue.
I am apprehensive that this is only the beginning and that things are going to get much worse before they get better. I am apprehensive that fear and hostility and vitriol are going to literally Trump love, peace, and community. I am apprehensive that the bigots who shout slurs are going to get their way. I am apprehensive that come November our country might factionalize to an irreparable degree.

I am fearful.

I am scared for my friends of color. As a white man I understand I am privileged. I will never face the same kind of fear and unabashed hatred that people of color face daily.

I am fearful that something will happen – that a mosque will be burned down, that children will be injured, that even one more innocent person will be harmed because of intolerance. I fear the people who wave Confederate flags. I fear the man with the megaphone who shouts Islamophobic rhetoric, spreading the hate and fear that put Oklahoma Muslims in danger. I fear for my black friends who are also Muslim who are being attacked from all sides just for being themselves. I fear the fact that many of the people who are the most vocal and angry activists for gun rights are the same people who are the most intolerant. I fear the men who will carry guns to purposely frighten innocents as they go to their houses of worship. I fear that level headed Republicans are going to bow to the radicals.

But . . .

I will not let this fear stop me.

We will not let these fears stop us.

We will persevere. We will dismantle the oligarchy of discrimination. Things will get better because we are strong and we are determined and the worse things become the harder we will strive.

I do not understand the anger and fear that people lob at minorities. I do not think that I ever will, but I do understand the kind and passionate people who took to the streets on Sunday. As a group we can spread our positive message of compassion and unity. We can finally make our country truly awesome.