Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Students open up about black, Muslim concerns


Many black lives are taken every day, wrote Cheyenne Lillard, because the African-American community is “afraid to understand each other” and incapable of “acceptance, love, kindness, and patience.” She’s a staff reporter for The Torch, the student newspaper at Rich Central High School in south-suburban Olympia Fields, Illinois, and she wrote that just a few days before Donald Trump was elected president.

A political cartoon (Nia Reeves / The Torch, October 19)

In her op-ed, entitled “More love, less hate,” Ms Lillard reminds us that hatred has no color—or religion, or ethnicity, or gender, or age, or even party affiliation. Kids may not care much whether you’re a Republican or Democrat, but they’re tuned into hatred and bigotry pretty well. So student newspapers, which might be edited by staff a little, don’t typically support one party or candidate or the other, but they feature writing about issues that are important to students.

Ms Lillard writes:

We can stop this madness towards each other, by simple things such as stopping the violence before it gets out of hand, solving the problem by talking it out, and if that avails to nothing, walk away. Treat your neighbor as you would want to be treated.

Noor Raza, a staff writer for The Comet, the student newspaper at Catonsville High School, just west of Baltimore, opens her latest op-ed with a Muslim greeting, “Assalaamu alaykum,” which in Arabic means “Peace be upon you.”

Reports have surfaced from around the country of Christian boys pulling off the hijabs of Muslim girls in middle and high schools. Before the election, I would have thought such reports wouldn’t make the news, but this time is different. While each instance may not be newsworthy, the sum total of these reports shows an increase in bullying nationwide.

Ms Raza hoped to address people’s fear of something they don’t understand by providing them with a little information about an important issue: why some Muslim women wear the hijab.

“Muslim men and women are required to be modest while mingling with unrelated members of the opposite gender,” she writes. And for her, that modesty is accomplished by wearing a hijab and covering her face and hair, and in other ways as well: “How they speak, the way they communicate, their laugh and the way they joke around, their etiquette in general.”

It struck me, as I read her piece, that this need to explain the reason for her hijab wasn’t all that different from Ms Lillard’s attempt to ease people’s fear of accepting and being patient with each other. Both pleas convey the same sort of peace, love, and understanding of each other that we can’t get enough of. Ms Raza concludes:

Non-Muslims often wonder … why a female would ever voluntarily want to hide what every other woman takes pride in revealing—her beauty. Take it like this: I’m a lollipop that hasn’t been opened. I mean, would you like a wrapper-less lollipop or a covered one? I hope a covered one. Muslim women preserve their beauty for their “one and only,” their future spouse.

Look, Christian women have similar ideas about their one and only, and they sometimes express that with clothes as well. A middle school girl once told me she thought about modesty like a Christmas gift. When you give someone a present, it’s much better if it’s an original gift from you than if you’re just re-gifting it.

We join our voices with these students in calling for an increased level of understanding between all Americans. This mutual respect and honor we have for each other’s traditions is not political correctness. Nor is it a safe space. Rather, it is simply love—for fellow Americans, fellow human beings, our country, and our new president-elect.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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