I have been deeply troubled by the extreme actions of radical actors in my cultural community. The fallout of the events surrounding Paris, San Bernardino and — even to this day —? 9/11, have put me and many others like me in a very difficult situation. The vast majority of us are not extremists, and we despise these radical viewpoints as much as anyone on the outside looking in. And yet, many have insisted that we — the moderates and rational among us — have not done enough to denounce extremists.
So let me say this on behalf of all of my people: We are sorry for Donald Trump.
Like Trump, I am a white, upper-class, Wharton-educated, balding, American male. The demographic variation between me and Trump is much smaller than the differences you will find among the diverse groups we sweepingly refer to as “Muslims” or “Arabs.” Simply because Trump and I share several demographic characteristics does not mean we share anything else. His comments and rhetoric regarding Muslims and recent terrorist attacks do not represent me or anyone else who happens to share our demographic profile. It would be ridiculous if someone assumed I support (or even have sympathy for) Trump’s fringe viewpoints, such as his suggestion to keep a “Muslim database” after the Paris attacks or his delusional insistence that Muslim Americans were partying in the streets on 9/11.
Of course, this all goes without saying. Nobody has ever assumed that I share any of Trump’s other colorful characteristics or misguided political opinions. Nobody has ever held me responsible for the deplorable actions of other white, WASP-y, American males. In fact, nobody seems to have been held responsible at all in some cases (e.g. the 2007 global financial crisis).
And yet, after every terrorist attack, the animosity and bigotry against Muslim Americans intensifies. Media pundits and online commentators alike ask, “Where are the moderate Muslims? Why don’t they condemn these actions in their communities?” (No need to bother with the fact that they do.)
The idea that Donald Trump speaks for white American men or Wharton graduates or even all Republicans is absurd. Equally absurd is the idea that the beliefs and dispositions of all Muslims are represented by the images and videos of terrorists we are constantly exposed to in our media feeds. Neither Muslims nor I am obligated to apologize for the actions of extremists who happen to look like us.
Even though the rational and level-headed among us bear no responsibility for the actions of unrepresentative extremists, we do have the practical responsibility to ensure that our public discourse doesn’t get hijacked by polarizing rhetoric. It is our obligation to make sure well-reasoned, nuanced ideas from all over the political spectrum get amplified in our public discourse.
It is true that the next major terrorist attack will likely be perpetrated by radical Muslims, but that does not justify unilaterally discriminating against millions of Americans based on their religion or ethnicity. Let’s not let lazy stereotypes and irrational cognitive biases determine our policies and behaviors. Rather, let those of us on all sides of this divide stand up for civil liberty and stop holding entire demographic populations responsible for the actions of unrepresentative extremists.Comments powered by Disqus
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