American race relations and unrest seem to be more discussed than ever. Although they are contemporary issues, the start of discrimination and the search for equality has been with America every step of the way.
Past abuses continue haunting the native American community
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]F[/button]rom a young age, children hear lies about the exact details of Native American history. The tragic truth of American Indians’ background often gets covered up and replaced with stories of Christopher Columbus, who, at most, was a little forceful with the indigenous people of the New World. Other well-known teachings include Sacagawea’s story and the first Thanksgiving, where, after Squanto shared his life-saving farming methods, the Indians and the Pilgrims became the best of friends during a fun-filled food festival. For the 5.2 million Native Americans in the United States today, the lack of knowledge on the more heinous historical events proves frustrating.
“The Native Americans just want people like us to go and learn about their culture and share it with others more than they want us to go and help them. They want others know about what is going on and everything they’ve gone through,” said junior Alexis Garrison, who went on a church-organized trip to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota this past July. “They’re not really doing mission trips [on the reservation] anymore, it’s more of teaching culture and spreading the word rather than coming, staying for a week and then just leave thinking you made this big difference when you honestly didn’t.”
What’s even more upsetting to many is that the Native American assimilation efforts by white settlers from centuries ago continue to affect tribes today, and Native Americans feel that not enough people know about it. Edith Leoso, a Tribal Historic Preservation Officer with the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa in Wisconsin, believes widespread acknowledgement of those events is the best way to help tribespeople cope.
“There are acculturation and assimilation methods that were used against us in the past. The results of those methods have reverberated into the future to today. Why is it that those things from the past have affected us today? I think that’s something that isn’t taught at school and isn’t really talked about a whole lot, and one of the reasons why is because it evokes white guilt,” Leoso said. “For us, it’s like in order to heal from this, we need some kind of affirmation that this did happen. Something happened not too long ago the other night on MSNBC, and within four minutes an individual summed up 500 years of things that have happened to Native American people.”
Leoso is referring to Lawrence O’Donnell’s Aug. 24, 2016 episode of his nightly news show, “The Last Word.” In his four minutes of summarizing white Americans’ mistreatment of Native Americans, O’Donnell ended by connecting those actions to yet another overlooked problem currently transpiring: the objections over the North Dakota Access oil pipeline.
Last April, hundreds of members from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe gathered in protest over a pipeline under construction from North Dakota to Illinois, and the protests stretched into September. The tribespeople want construction of the oil pipeline to stop because their reservation is near the planned path. An oil leak could be disastrous, and the pipeline would also cross ancestral lands and burial grounds. So far, police have arrested 20 protesters, and the pipeline company has sued many others for fighting for the environmental safety of their land. Recently, however, the federal government stopped construction on a pipeline section that would have crossed a river near the Standing Sioux Rock Reservation.
Today, media companies are around to cover occurrences such as this one, but decades ago, most went unnoticed and unmentioned. Leoso concludes that the suppression of the hardships undergone by Native Americans is what has caused such rampant self-destructive problems among many communities.
Youth falls victim to terrifying trend
Trigger Warning: If you experience discussion of suicide as potentially traumatizing, it may be best to read no further.
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]A[/button]ccording to a 2006 report from pbs.org, Native American adolescents are nearly three times more likely to commit suicide than the overall national population. Other problems have proven to be destructive among Native Americans, with alcohol dependency rates three times greater than the national average. Alcohol-related deaths make up almost 20 percent of all Native American deaths, compared to less than five percent for the overall population. It is also approximated that 70 percent of Native Americans will suffer from a mental disorder during their lifetimes. Leoso is clear on what the key to reversing these issues is.
“Educate people. It should be a standard part of our history in our education system. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard from adults, people who are professors, ‘I’ve never heard about this,’ ‘I’ve never heard of this happening to Indian people,’” Leoso said. “And it’s like, ‘Okay, how come you’ve never heard about this?’ It’s something that nobody really wants to talk about. Indian people have been involved in nearly everything that has gone on in this country, but nobody really talks about it.”
Garrison second-handedly experienced the issues frequently faced by Native Americans during her time at the Pine Ridge Reservation. While on the trip, she and others from St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church helped fix a Native American woman’s house. They bought and installed all new appliances, ripped out old stucco and chicken wire from the walls as well as painted and cleaned the interior. The group also participated in activities to learn about the local tribe. Members of the reservation taught them native songs, how to play the drums and about their history through stories and documentary clips.
Although the local people had a strong sense of identity and heritage, many were emotionally broken from the abiding crises plaguing their community.
“There were like 80,000 people on the reservation. Some of them had given up on their native religions because of what has happened to them in the past and what the government has done to them. The government tried to get people to forget their old religions and convert them to Christianity and Catholicism,” Garrison said. “They’re also not allowed to sell alcohol on the reservation anymore, so they have to go out of town to buy alcohol. A high percentage of the people there had drinking problems, and now it’s against the law to buy and sell alcohol there because of that.”
Crystal Lee, the Director of Youth and Family Ministry at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church, organized this year’s trip as well as the church’s first trip to the reservation last year. Lee first heard about the Pine Ridge Reservation while attending Augustana College (now Augustana University) in South Dakota. The campus chapel did a service trip twice a year to the reservation, but Lee was unable to go during her time as a student. When Saint Andrew’s decided to go on a service trip, Lee remembered the Pine Ridge Reservation and thought it would be a good opportunity to provide service as well as a cultural experience.
“I took away a better understanding of the history of the Native American people — both specifically for the Lakota and in a more general sense. Knowing the history opens up a better understanding of their current status and how they have come to live in these conditions,” Lee said. “I am looking at the possibility of going again next year. Saint Andrew’s has created a friendship with the Pine Ridge Retreat Center.”
The woman whose house Garrison and Lee helped fix talked to Garrison’s mother about the high suicide rate on the reservation. The woman knew all too well of the seriousness of the problem because her own daughter had ended her life. She said the average suicide rate on the reservation for kids over the age of 12 is 30 percent. In May 2015, the New York Times published a story about the Pine Ridge Reservation’s high suicide rate, reporting that nine people between the ages of 12 and 24 killed themselves since Dec. 2014. These statistics have plagued the culture of adolescents there, with a somewhat commonplace “game” among young people that includes drawing numbers from a bowl to determine in which order they will commit suicide.
Violence from out of the past keeps Native Americans in the shadows
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]Y[/button]et another frequent issue among Pine Ridge adolescents is teenage pregnancy. Garrison learned that this is a result of the widespread sterilization of Native American women conducted by the Indian Health Service (IHS) in the 1970s. The Government Accounting Office conducted an investigation on the matter in four of 12 affected areas and released the results on Nov. 6, 1976, which showed that the IHS, a government-created agency, performed 3,406 sterilizations from 1973 to 1976. Per capita, this would have been like sterilizing 452,000 non-Native American women at the time.
Further research calculated that 25 to 50 percent of Native American women were sterilized in six years. This continues to affect Native Americans today, like the people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, many of whom don’t believe in using contraceptives and no longer trust the federal government after having almost an entire generation of women sterilized without their consent.
The fact that such historical happenings are not publicized bothers Garrison. She said even her parents, who both grew up in South Dakota, were unaware of the tragedies occurring in their own home state. Other problems, like the fact that Native Americans are the ethnic group most commonly shot by the police despite only making up 0.8 percent of the population (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice), are also not as highly publicized as they should be.
“Nobody wants to be reminded that there are Indians still living,” Leoso said. “Other than the “Twilight” movies, where the Indians are just there on the Northwest Coast, a lot of people are under the impression that there aren’t that many Native Americans left, when there are actually millions of us.”
Lee certainly got the impression of federal indifference during her time at the Pine Ridge Reservation. The government did not keep its promises regarding land to the Sioux tribe and kept changing boundary lines through different treaties to make the reservations smaller. Today there is still a large debate about whether or not the Black Hills mountain range should be returned to the Sioux tribe because it is considered sacred land.Other instances, such as the Wounded Knee Massacre that occurred on the Pine Ridge Reservation, have broken the Native people’s trust in their government.
In 1890, the people of the reservation took part in the Ghost Dance movement, during which they were told that they had been defeated and enclosed in reservations by American soldiers because they had angered their gods by abandoning traditional beliefs. Many Sioux believed that if they rejected the white men’s rules, the gods would destroy all non-believers, including the white men. This worried the government, and on Dec. 15, 1890, police arrested and killed the Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, which resulted in a conflict that claimed 150 Native lives. The incident was originally not labeled as a massacre; the soldiers involved even received medals of honor.
“The events still have a large impact on the people and how they perceive the government. It is hard to trust a government when they have proven to be untrustworthy in the past,” Lee said. “They want to keep their identity as a people, but there are few job opportunities on the reservation and if they do leave the reservation, they deal with racism in the cities and towns nearby. It also costs money to move; if they did not have a job on the reservation they would not have the money for a deposit and first month’s rent. The Native Americans are not in a position where they can move forward or try to diminish the problems on their own.”
Yet despite the many injustices Native Americans continue to face, a large portion of them still support their neglectful government by joining the military. As reported by an article from theguardian.com, Native Americans make up 1.7 percent of active duty forces even though they make up only 0.8 percent of the national population. A member of the Pine Ridge Reservation told Garrison that this is because Native Americans see it more as fighting for their land instead of for the government. Leoso believes it’s just in their blood.
“We’re natural-born people who are accustomed to fighting for a lot of things. It goes all the way back to the Civil War. I don’t think people know that Native Americans were fighting in the Civil War, as well,” Leoso said. “We fought wars for 150 years before we stopped fighting them, and then after we stopped fighting wars, people were like ‘Okay, all we know how to do is fight,’ so we started going into the military.”
Native Americans may be natural-born fighters, but that doesn’t take away the emotional trauma of warfare. Leoso mentioned that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was a huge effect of past tribal wars and led to alcohol use and alcohol abuse among Native Americans. Many people don’t know that entire families were killed in those wars, and many of the family members who survived tried to self-medicate with alcohol.
The remaining people have adapted to their circumstances and modernized themselves to fit into society, which Leoso says is not difficult for them because they’ve been doing it for centuries. What is difficult is for others, including the government, to accept that the Native Americans are able to do so. Although there is much that can be done to repay the Native Americans for what they’ve gone through, Leoso simply wishes for some acknowledgment.
“The government needs to come to terms with the faults that they made to Indian people and come to some resolution to that and provide reconciliation for that. Today in Canada, there’s the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, [so] at least they formed a committee over there to say that they did wrong to Indian people,” Leoso said. “Whether that’s going to go anywhere or have any impact, at least they got that far. Over here, it’s like ‘We’ll meet with you but there’s really nothing we can do,’ when there really is something they can do, but they just don’t want to do it.”
African American experience evolves with educational reform
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]A[/button]fter several decades of dormancy, African American rights have returned to the conscience with the help of events like the Ferguson protests and the genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement. These discussions focus on polarizing and often violent topics like police brutality; however, is not as hotly contested is the more mundane parts of the black experience. 50.4 million American children will go to school, including 7.8 million black students. As they return to class every day, the events of the outside world still impact them as they learn.
“Ferguson had a major impact on not only African American students, but all students,” Assistant principal Deborah Greene said. “Normally I think we walk around with blinders on, accepting what we hear and see, but Ferguson brought to light what we often don’t want or have the energy to address.”
Like Greene said social and political change sways education, it is crucial to remember that education itself has swayed society and politics. The 1954 court case Brown v. Board of Education marked a turning point in American schooling when it renounced the practice of segregated schooling. This was followed in 1965 by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which started programs to help support disadvantaged students while it simultaneously challenged the federal tradition of not intruding on education. Reactions to these actions were hotly contested in the American public and the latter is still a subject of debate today.
“The attitude toward African Americans in schools is almost unrecognizable today as compared to a hundred years ago,” Pulitzer prize winner Dr. John Matteson said, “…. In 1916, the majority of whites would have been utterly shocked to see black students attending the same classes as their own children. While prejudices still obviously exist, they persist on a much more subtle level, and the situation really has improved tremendously.”
By the 1980s, there had already been tremendous change in the attitude toward desegregated schools. Matteson describes an embracing and integrated experience through his collegiate career at several Ivy League institutions.
Deborah Greene remembers having many opportunities to succeed in Columbia but not without any hurdles to jump. While she was an athletic student, the cheer team denied Greene a chance to compete, as the unspoken rule was there could only ever be one black girl who could cheer. Despite this, she still tried out and did her best every year.
“A challenge I faced in both junior high and high school was never feeling recognized for my talents and strengths,” Greene said. “I will never forget, during my senior year in [the 1980s], I was told by my counselor that I should do domestic work.”
In the decades after Greene’s graduation even more change has occurred. Trentynne Davis, a current RBHS senior, is African American and he looks to the past to appreciate the struggle of black students. He now can pursue his own interests and take challenging courses freely. He sees this privilege as a chance to help educate his peers on the reality that not every pupil has his opportunities in and outside of the classroom.
“High school is the time in which young students begin to develop their own opinions, so it’s unlikely that issues such as these won’t be discussed in classes or in social groups,” Davis said. “My goal is to encourage people to understand that we all have a limited perspective of the world and to show them how issues such as these cannot be fully understood unless [we are] willing to look at them from different perspectives.”
Even as the time ticks away, the struggle remains
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]B[/button]ut even in the 21st century, black students still must overcome the barriers put between them and achievement. In 2014, only 73 percent of black high school students graduated throughout America, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The deficit increases past high school. A black child only has a 30 percent chance of having a parent with a bachelor’s degree while a white child has a 40 percent chance, according to U.S. News and World Report. These statistics are not the result of any individual fault, but rather the systematic blocks that African Americans constantly face.
“Those challenges have to do with overly large classes, underpaid teachers, watered-down standards, an unhealthy obsession with standardized testing and a failure of government, both state and federal, to adequately fund and support education. They also have to do with home environments that place little emphasis on reading, exposure to the arts and other sources of cultural development,” Matteson said. “It’s also a problem when the more privileged population goes out of its way to preserve a de facto segregated atmosphere, either by moving out of mixed neighborhoods or opting for private schools as a means of avoiding contact with children of other backgrounds.”
As an educator, Greene has seen through her own eyes and the eyes of her students to what extent prejudice can hurt a pupil.
“Poor students and students of color continue to face the most obstacles in their education. These students continue to have a hard time finding their place in our schools. We often want them to assimilate rather than be themselves,” Greene said. “Students of color continue to battle discrimination and racism. Our culture — with the help of the media — is saturated with stereotypical images of what African Americans are and how they act. No matter how wrong it is, some whites have a strong misconception of them.”
Even with the many obstacles the black population faces, progress is still being made. Columbia Public Schools (CPS) endorses the slogan of “We Are One” to promote equality among its students. Greene believes that this program as well as the more publicized advancements and achievements of African Americans, such as having a black president inspire African American students. Davis agrees with Greene that part of the key to success is showing all students that they can be prosperous.
“Educational institutions need to show African American students that they are extraordinary. It sounds like a very generic answer, but I believe that my own success is due to the fact that I have never believed that I couldn’t be anything I wanted to be,” Davis said. “The truth is that African American students don’t always have a fair chance at a quality education due to their situations, be they personal, economic, or social. Understanding that is crucial to helping them overcome these situations.”
Latino citizens face politicized discrimination
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]”S[/button]hut up. It’s none of your business,” sophomore Valeria Velasquez politely articulates in response to the occasional “Are you illegal?” comment summoned by her peers during a heated discussion of immigration.
She gives this reply not because she’s shy or fearful of revealing herself but because, either way, she knows their responses would aggravate her.
Velasquez was born and raised in Nicaragua, a country in Central America. At six years old, her family moved to the United States followed by her aunts and uncles who now reside in California and New Jersey as U.S. citizens. Although Velasquez herself has not obtained this coveted status, she and her family retain the legal rights to live in the United States.
Like 74 percent of Latino voters in America, according to a national voter survey performed by Latino Decision, a Latino political publication, Velasquez does not favor Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Calling Mexican immigrants “criminals, drug dealers and rapists,” sexualizing and belittling notable women and mocking a disabled New York Times reporter at a rally, Trump has notoriously climbed his way to the top of the political sphere.
Although not of Mexican descent, Velasquez knew that Trump’s argument was not directed solely toward Mexicans, but to the Hispanic community as a whole. An offensive flaw she found in Trump’s remarks toward Mexicans was his daring act in painting the Latino community as unruly in one bold stroke.
“I wasn’t particularly shocked — the things [Trump] said weren’t revolutionary or particularly innovative insults. In a society that doesn’t bother to get to know our community and has their own messed up perception of us, the things he was saying were only startling because they were so clearly spoken,” Velasquez said. “Generalizing a group of people and stating that ‘Some of them, by assumption, are good people’ is something that is so unapologetically offensive. In the grand scheme of things, don’t all [groups of people] have a couple black sheep that commit crimes and ruin their overall image?”
Senior Patrick Burnam, president of Young Republicans and a Trump supporter, acknowledges that people can interpret Trump’s remarks against Latinos as extreme; however, he perceives Trump as a man who will put America first. Burnam believes in Trump and his competency to serve American international interests.
“I think that the whole Latino Hispanic rhetoric separates us as Americans,” Burnam said. “Rather than focusing on how Trump is actually running a campaign to better America, we focus on how petty words tear each other down. Although Trump will be a force for real change in Washington, he still needs to win first.”
Burnam believes Trump expresses his viewpoints aggressively with the right intent to address a problem that politicians have ignored for decades.
“The illegal immigration nightmare on our southern border needs to be contained,” Burnam said. “Illegal immigrants not only drain our country of funds dedicated to American citizens, but allows for the elections in our democracy to be skewed.”
The song remains the same
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]U[/button].S. History teacher Bryn Orton says there is no real beginning to anti-sentiments regarding certain ethnicities or demographics. Categorizing and classifying people has always been a part of human nature, but does not mean that racism and xenophobia will always prevail.
“We should never lose sight of the fact that in the last 100 years our circle of moral sentiments has increased drastically. Kids at RBHS sit in their studies classes during Socratics and say things like ‘Racism will always exist’ just like their grandparent used to think ‘Different races will never be able to live together peacefully’ and their parents used to say ‘Women will never be able to hold public office’ and so on and so forth. Things tend to look impossible until they happen and then everyone looks back and wonders why it took so long,”Orton said.
Orton juxtaposes the Nativist movement of the 1900s — a political position of favoring inhabitants over immigrants — with today’s changing demographics and economy. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in 2012, more than 40 million immigrants lived in the United States. In 2014, 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants lived in the U.S, 5.1 percent of whom made up the U.S. workforce.
“Nativism isn’t purely a response to social change; it’s also a response to economic uncertainty,” Orton said. “Throughout our history, it is clear that the waves of immigration that the U.S. has experienced has brought tremendous economic improvement. [However,] each wave of immigration is considered, at the time, to be bad for the economy.”
Immigration is central to the idea of the“land of opportunity.” Yet throughout the nation’s history, tension between immigrants and so-called natives has existed. One persistent assumption is that immigration brings crime, according to research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.
“The broad generalizations of illegal immigrants are rampant. That all immigrants are ‘rapists’ does not describe the real problems that illegal immigrants pose to our society,” Burnam said. “It is easy to get caught in the sensationalism of this issue, but the fact of the matter is that one American citizen killed or harmed by an illegal immigrant is too many.”
Velasquez doesn’t recall any specific, explicit acts of racism, and compared to the average person, she regards her life as “pretty normal.” Other than people miscalling her “Mexican,” she faces the pressure to shatter the stereotype that she and her ethnicity are often branded with. With this effort due on her part, when other Latinos succumb to the stereotype surrounding them, she feels deep disappointment.
“Whenever I hear about a Latino that has committed rape or murder or any other crime on the news or through word of mouth, I feel humiliated because I know that their bad crime eternally feeds our image,” Velasquez said. “I think to myself, ‘This is why Americans and other people think we’re this way. Because of you people, the majority that isn’t like you at all has to try to erase the image that you keep creating. [The majority] has to live with your consequences.’”
Despite the behaviors of others, Velasquez said she is still proud of her heritage. She considers herself an American, but her Nicaraguan roots tie back to the country she was born in, her pride and dignity.
“It’s hard to measure a culture’s influence. Latinos, like other minorities, have always been on the front lines pushing Americans to live up to our bold ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence,” Orton said. “[In terms of racism and injustice], people need to learn how to think critically. A [critically] thinking mind is also a compassionate mind. When I critically and intensely study the world around me, I find myself feeling increasingly attached to not only the plight of others, but also the achievements of others.”
Additional reporting by Grace Vance
Acts of terror bring violence for Muslim Americans
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]R[/button]BHS parent Aziza Rashid and her husband just wanted to look for furniture. The only customers in the store, they entered a shop in Kingdom City, Mo. on a quiet afternoon.
The Rashids browsed the selection, expecting one of the workers to come offer assistance, but as minutes turned into hours, they instead tracked down an associate to offer help.
Rashid wears the hijab, one of the most visible signs of a Muslim. She chalks the inattention up to a microaggression, an unintentional insult or snub based upon a person’s marginalized group.
Hate has roots, hidden deep in the past
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]F[/button]or Rashid, the incident was one of islamophobia, first defined in 1991 as “unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims,” according to the University of California – Berkeley. Kristen Sekerci, a member of Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative to reduce islamophobia, says that the phenomenon has been occurring for generations.
“Islamophobia has been around long before 9/11,” Sekerci said. “Since the Crusades, when European Christians sought control of Muslim lands in what is currently the Middle East. The growth of it today stems from 9/11.”
On Sept. 11, 2001, The terrorist group Al-Qaeda hijacked four planes and used them to kill and terrify the people of the United States, causing more than 3,000 deaths. Because the hijackers were Muslim, many began to resent the Muslims in their community, sparking fear in the Islamic communities all over the nation. Two at the time, senior Maryam Bledsoe recounts one of the many stories her mom told her following 9/11.
“There were these people on the radio, and they were talking about how the Muslim countries — they didn’t specify between Afghanistan or Iraq or whatever — just that the Muslim countries should be bombarded, like, ‘We should wipe them out’ talk on the radio,” Bledsoe said. “My mom told me that was one of the scariest things she had heard since moving to America. The such intense hatred, that they were like ‘We’re not going to distinguish between Muslims, all of them do not deserve to live.’”
In contrast, only positivity met Rashid immediately following the events of 9/11.
“After everyone in our neighborhood heard about 9/11, one of my neighbors — a Caucasian, the person I least expected to say anything — told me if I needed anything [I should] call them,” Rashid said. “That night, all of my neighbors came to our house asking if we were okay, if we needed someone to get groceries for us if we were scared to.”
Fifteen years have passed since 9/11, and research indicates that Muslims face more violence because of their faith than previously. According to Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, American Muslims are likely to encounter attacks six to nine more times now than after 9/11. Despite this, Rashid believes relations between Muslims and the surrounding community have improved.
“Before 9/11, a lot of times [Muslims] were seen as outsiders, as ‘the other people’,” Rashid said. “Not a lot of people were educated on Islam, but now, I think people are more aware of us and our faith, and are more willing to listen to us.”
She doesn’t mean everyone, though. Rashid blames the rise of extreme views concerning Islam on Western media’s influence.
“It’s not news. It’s not journalistic media anymore,” Rashid said. “It’s entertainment media, and with the current presidential election where a lot of the rhetoric is about Latino Americans and Muslims, [the media] latches onto these comments and makes a big deal out of them to get viewer attention.”
Violence seeps into minds from angry voices
[button color=”” size=”” type=”square_outlined” target=”” link=””]S[/button]uch statements include proposals offered by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump concerning Islam, like banning any Muslim travellers to the country.
This correlates with the rise of islamophobic incidents. For instance, there have been at least three separate occurrences of violence against Muslims by Trump supporters, according to Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative.
Bledsoe argues that while these islamophobic instances are tragic, they are not what Muslims every day typically experience in terms of discrimination and being labelled as outsiders.
“I think the most prevalent part of islamophobia we see now, and probably the most important to address, is how Islam and Muslims are seen as counter-Western,” Bledsoe said. “They can’t really be Western or American or European or whatever it is…I didn’t really understand it until I started wearing the hijab, but my mom would get stared at a lot because she wears hijab, when she goes into public spaces. That’s not really islamophobia, though, that’s just being confronted with something different.”
Bledsoe said she has never experienced intense islamophobia, the kind that cause vandalism or murder. The kind that motivated someone to shoot at the house of a family friend in Florida, following the San Bernardino attacks in December of 2015. For that, she is grateful.
“As far as personally being attacked…I mean, people say stupid stuff to me a lot, but I’m very lucky I live in Columbia because it’s never been outwardly, ‘I hate you because you’re Muslim,’ ‘I think what you’re apart of is evil and it doesn’t belong here,”” Bledsoe said. “I’ve never heard that explicitly said to me. Everything I’ve ever felt was a bit islamophobic was like somebody saying, ‘Oh, are you related to Osama bin Laden because you’re wearing the hijab?’ Just stupid stuff that kids say; it’s stuff that doesn’t affect me on a personal level.”