Hispanics and Muslims have common cause
CHICAGO — Hispanics have common cause with Muslims. To so many, we are “the other.” Our dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin set us apart as “foreign.”
Muslims and Hispanics also share the diversity paradox — people think each of our groups is homogenous, even though Hispanics don’t all share the same country of origin, language, history, cultural norms, education level or citizenship status. Same goes for the Muslim community, which is bound only by faith.
Our growth and visibility terrify people. Hispanics are still the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population — now from births instead of from immigration — while Muslims are the fastest-growing religious group in the world and are projected to increase in North America’s population from about 3.5 million in 2010 to 10.4 million in 2050.
And get this: Latinos are increasingly shrugging off Catholicism and Christianity. And as American Latinos have risen in population, they’ve accounted for a larger share of those who’ve turned to Islam. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Latinos represented 6 percent of all converts to Islam in America in 2000. That figure increased to 12 percent in 2011.
And both groups eat goat.
Yes, goat, the meat that The New York Times made such a point to include in its story about the father of one of the San Bernardino shooters.
“Around Christmas one year, [a neighbor] recalled, the father asked where he could buy a goat; he especially wanted a pregnant animal, saying that goat fetus was a delicacy. [The neighbor] helped him get two. They ate one, and the family kept the other alive in the backyard, along with some chickens, where neighbors heard it bleating.”
Must it be said that there is nothing special or strange about eating goat meat? It is one of the most popular meats in the world and, according to The Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the number of goats slaughtered has doubled every 10 years for the past three decades. In 2011, we were closing in on eating 1 million meat goats a year. (I like my “cabrito” spit-roasted, it’s succulent.)
Silly stereotype sensationalism aside, by any measure Latinos share many of the same issues with Muslims. And we should be rallying to support our Muslim community as they come under attack by the most effective kind of ignorance there is: the kind driven by fear.
Yes, two Muslim people — one of whom was born in Illinois — carried out a vicious attack on county offices in San Bernardino in the name of the Islamic State. It’s terrorism, people say.
Of course it’s terrorism. Just like when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Or, for that matter, like any number of recent mass killings: Newtown, Tucson, the Boston Marathon, the Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, the Aurora movie theater and last month at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs.
Our terrorism problem is predominantly homegrown. So if the bad guys are almost always “us” — meaning U.S.-born, culturally American and rarely from minority groups — then there’s no reason to focus our fears on “them,” meaning immigrants, refugees and basically anyone with dark features.
Unity is a difficult word to wedge into an argument that is increasingly being framed as two-sided: one good, one evil. But the courage to unite as a country is what we need in order to keep our citizens and residents from turning on each other.
Courage to confront issues like the proliferation of hateful rhetoric on the radio, social media and the Web — and from leading political candidates. Issues like unethical journalistic practices that glorify mass killers and gain profits from clicks on stories with outrageous headlines or articles replete with red-herring details.
We need the courage to address basics like the lack of quality, affordable mental health services in most communities. And the dearth of opportunities for young people, mostly men, who increasingly feel marginalized without many prospects for a real future.
Yes, there is plenty to fear right now — another outbreak of mass violence could happen anywhere, at any time, by anyone. But mistrust rooted in bias against race, ethnicity or religion does nothing to alleviate those fears, and makes us a poorer country indeed.
At the bare minimum, the dark-skinned, dark-eyed goat-eaters of America must unite — we’re all equally at a false risk of being confused for a credible threat.
Esther Cepeda’s email address is email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.
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