Over the past couple of weeks, Tulsa has seen some beautiful highs and some hate-filled, crushing lows. For some reason, we hosted Donald Trump and 15,000 people turned out to see him. Alarmingly, some of those people were not there to gawk, but actually embrace Trump as a presidential contender. Trump has been outspoken about his desire to effectively force all Muslims to be on what would be a “Muslim registry” of sorts.
Historically, singling out “others” and using them as a scapegoat for all problems has been very effective (think Japanese internment camps, for example) so at least Trump’s plan has a historical precedent.
In spite of our apparent willingness to welcome a hate-filled hairpiece into our hearts, many Tulsans have been involved in creating a visible backlash against the Islamophobia which is becoming more and more apparent and dangerous.
About a week ago a group of young people—college students, home for winter break—planned an anti-Islamophobia rally as part of a movement they are calling Hate Free Tulsa (#hatefreetulsa). It was literally freezing outside, but a sizable group of folks participated to show their support for Oklahoma’s Muslim community. While a small portion of the crowd identified as Muslim, the majority of the crowd did not. Seeing so many folks who were not Muslim come together in the freezing whether to support Muslims was incredibly heartening. It was a beautiful display of allyship.
The rally was at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. This park is in the Greenwood district, and was created as an attempt at “reconciliation” for Tulsa’s 1921 race massacre, as well as all of the racism and discrimination that existed and continues to exist in the years since then. The park is a symbol of a community that wants to do better in the future, but that recognizes the incredible damage of its past.
The park is almost certainly too little too late. People died and an entire community was burned to the ground. Reparations did not happen in any meaningful way. What happened here is not forgivable, but we can make sure it does not happen in the future.
Trump’s stance on Muslim Americans is incredibly dangerous—and it is that exact kind of overt hateful rhetoric that leads to violence.
In December, a handful of Tulsans got together to start “The Peace Project.” This project involves calling all Tulsans who “stand for peace” to have their picture taken.
Each participant is given a chalkboard that says “I am” and “I stand for peace.” People fill in their names or occupations or whatever they want to say about themselves, and then their picture is taken.
So far, hundreds of folks have participated in the project. This past week, the project was at the Little Blue House’s weekly lunch (12pm, Wednesdays) along with several students from TU’s Muslim Student Association.
Tulsa is at a crossroads at which each citizen has to decide whether they stand with American Muslims or against them.
Because TU has such a diverse student body, and because so many of our students are Muslim, non-Muslim students are at an important place in deciding what kind of campus our campus will be.
Will our campus be an example to Tulsa of a place where non-Muslims have chosen to love our Muslim neighbors and classmates and friends?
There are a lot of opportunities for us to visibly show our support. As hate and discrimination becomes more and more visible, it becomes increasingly important to be visible in our love and support.
Next time there is a rally, stand outside in the cold to fight against discrimination. Next time there is a “Peace Project” photo shoot, come get your picture taken to show your support for all Tulsans.
As non-Muslim students at this University and as non-Muslim Tulsans, we have to choose whether we want our community to be one of love or hate. It is up to us.
I choose love.