Cross-Post: Addressing Islamaphobia and Xenophobia

This entry was originally posted on the ACPA Coalition for Multicultural Affairs Asian Pacific American Network Blog on January 5th, 2016.

By: Jacqueline Mac, 2015-2017 Co-Chair


Soon after the Paris attacks, I was on the phone with a family member when the topic came up. While we connected on the tragic loss of life, there were multiple questions that arose from that conversation that had me heavily questioning the media my family member consumed. Questions about why those people are taking innocent lives, why those people are so violent, and how they are starting to fear those people. It was clear to me that my family member carried no differentiation between ISIS, Muslims, and terrorists.  In a flash, the anti-Chinese sentiments in the 1800s, the Japanese American Internment, the 9/11 backlash against Muslims and Sikhs, and current plight of the Syrian refugees came flooding back to the surface of my mind.

I was initially speechless, having an out of body moment, before realizing that I could choose to lean into this learning opportunity – instead of remaining silent and venting about it later (no judgment here, because sometimes, I choose to hold my tongue for self-preservation).  I began to explain what I knew about Islam from readings and friends, what I’d read about ISIS in the news and on Wikipedia, and my opinion on terrorism and those who perpetrate terrorist acts. I also brought in the danger of being fearful of the Syrian refugees, and tried to connect it to our own Vietnam War refugee story.  In the end, I don’t know if I made any difference – as the family member deflected to another topic. However, what I do know is that the opportunities to have these conversations will continue to come up – and that I own my role and responsibility as a social justice educator to engage in them.

At this intersection of religion, nationality, immigration status, and race, I am choosing to engage in conversations within those communities with whom I identify, those communities that harbor Islamaphobic, xenophobic, and/or anti-Black attitudes and sentiments in inter and intragroup settings.  These are communities with which I can serve as an ally, and to defer the space I take up to those whose space and voice is denied.  Below are some resources I’ve personally found helpful to my own learning and to support these conversations.  It’s messy and interrelated – and it was my intention to not parse out or separate the resources too much.  Please share in the comments other resources.

Hear Other’s Voices:

Engage In Your Own Learning & Action:

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