Islamophobia & Racism Continue To Thrive

The term "intersectionality" refers to the idea that axes of identity like race, gender, and so on are interconnected, and that these connections create overlapping systems of discrimination. A common criticism of the concept of intersectionality is that it conflates different manifestations of oppression. This criticism is misguided; co-resistance is not about conflating forms of oppression, but rather about finding solidarity with other folks who have also experienced systemic violence. So, for example, when we see that a "Muslim-free" gun shop is raffling off a Confederate flag painting by George Zimmerman — who killed Trayvon Martin back in 2012 — or when we see that Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller thinks bombing "the Muslim world" with nuclear weapons would lead to peace, we must recognize that these acts of violence are not isolated. Rather, they are symptoms of intersectional systems of discrimination, and must be tackled as such.

Let's take the Zimmerman example. Last month, Florida Gun Supply owner Andy Hallinan released a video in which he stood in front of a Confederate flag and said that Muslims were not welcome at his store because he did not want to "arm and train those who wish to do harm to my fellow patriots." Then, on Monday, Hallinan announced a contest to win an original Confederate flag painting by Zimmerman, after which both men will split the proceeds. Zimmerman approached Hallinan and offered his support after learning that the latter was facing a discrimination lawsuit filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. In a video released by Florida Gun Supply, Zimmerman told Hallinan why he wants to support him:

Labeling everyone and anyone that has a Confederate flag as a racist is just not right. That’s one of the reasons I chose to reach out to you and see what I can do to help. ... I was painting the American flag when I heard of you getting sued by CAIR, and I decided I would do for you what the American people did for me.
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First of all:

Take a look at the intersections of systemic violence here. Zimmerman is painting the Confederate flag, an undeniably racist symbol. He also shot and killed Martin, whose death resulted in the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement. He is lending his support to Hallinan, who is clearly Islamophobic, in the form of the Confederate flag — and flaunting that support. Anti-blackness and Islamophobia are certainly different forms of oppression, but they frequently intersect, as they are both examples of the public fear and hatred of "the other." The alarming thing is that Zimmerman and Hallinan can publicly do these things without being immediately shut down for disseminating hate speech and perpetrating violence, while Muslims and black people all over the world are criminalized and dehumanized on a daily basis, often with no justification whatsoever.

On top of all this, we have Miller, a Texas agriculture commissioner whose Facebook page posted a photo implying that bombing "the Muslim world" would lead to peace in the same way that bombing Japan in 1945 supposedly led to peace. Miller has justifiably come under harsh criticism, but neither he nor his team has apologized for the appalling statement. Time and time again, Islamophobic sentiments — under the guise of satire in the case of Charlie Hebdo, for instance — are disseminated with limited consequences. Simultaneously, people with power and influence — like Republican frontrunner Donald Trump — can say horrendously racist things and get away with them, because that is how white supremacy and white privilege work.

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

It is exactly for this reason that Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton's response to Black Lives Matter activists was so disappointing, and exactly for this reason that the West's willingness to mobilize after the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo frustrated so many people — why does whiteness always get a pass? Why don't white people feel the need — the urgency — to take on the responsibility of educating other people on racism and other forms of institutional violence so that marginalized people don't always have to put their lives on the line to do so?

Zimmerman, Hallinan, and Miller don't exist in a vacuum. Their actions are not isolated, and the fact that Zimmerman and Hallinan are teaming up in their racism should serve as an indicator of that. Co-resistance and solidarity are absolutely critical, as is the work of allies, because systems of oppression continue to accumulate strength at their intersections — intersections that often operate on the basis of "othering" those who are different from the "norm."