On Monday, May 25, 2020, while the majority of the U.S. (and the world) remained on lockdown due to the highly contagious COVID-19 virus, George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is just one in a long line of police killings of Black people in the United States.
As Muslims, we are commanded to work unceasingly against oppression and injustice. We are told by the Prophet (peace be upon him) to change evil with our hands and tongues.
Muslims have always been present for Black Lives Matter events and various other protests. We have organized and fund raised for a variety of social justice issues. Here are five ways we can continue showing up, doing something about police violence and killings of Black people.
1 – Acknowledge and correct our own internal bias:
Refuse to engage in defending these killings by looking for Floyd’s human flaws or the circumstances of his killing. It doesn’t matter if a victim had a history of some kind. Nor if we “like” them or agree with any of their life choices. It doesn’t matter if they really were doing something wrong or illegal when they were stopped by police.
Also, challenge your beliefs about police officers, the carceral system, etc. and then educate yourself about the immense racial disparities and ways these systems function by feeding on Black people.
We must address our own internalized anti-Blackness and assumptions about the supposed criminality of Black people. We must stop looking for justifications for these murders. Stop calling the police, and learn about alternatives!
2 – Don’t just get active when men are killed:
Black women and children, as noted above, are at the exact same risks as Black men. Breonna Taylor (Louisville, Kentucky) died in March, but no one was protesting for her and the story didn’t pick up major steam until after Floyd was killed.
Much of Taylor’s story was tailored around the injustice of her boyfriend being arrested for his single self-defense shot when their house was invaded. As Muslims who care deeply about injustice, and who are frequently misunderstood in our own issues around gender rights, we should be quick to elevate the stories about women as well.
3 – Talk about these injustices responsibly:
Black people have repeatedly asked that non-Black people not share videos or images of brutality against Black people.
These images are harmful for multiple reasons. They traumatize other Black people, desensitize non-Black people towards anti-Black violence, sensationalize and normalize the violence, and turn Black death into a spectacle similar to the historic practice of lynching postcards.
Those lynching postcards were not made to record the historical record with intentions of teaching about and criticizing them. They existed for white people to relive the experience again and again, or to live vicariously through an incident they were not able to be a part of. They were made for enjoyment by racists.
Even well-meaning people frequently engage in this same activity under the guise of “showing the truth,” but we do not need to see the horror so viscerally to believe it really happens or to know it is wrong. At the same time, please do talk about these incidences and how wrong they are.
Have conversations with your non-Black friends about these issues. Be responsible in those conversations for how you frame them and have boundaries for how your friends speak about them in your space also. For example, now is not the time for non-Black people to critique the methods by which Black people are demanding justice. We should support those efforts. Let’s take a lesson from the Islam family who owns the Gandhi Mahal Restaurant in Minneapolis. They fed protesters, allowed their dining area to be used by medics, and then accepted when their restaurant was accidentally burned when a fire spread. They continue to support the protesters.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” We cannot be silent – we must address these things with our tongues and our hands.
4 – Contribute to bail funds, medical funds, and other support for activists and protesters:
Protests have erupted in numerous cities beyond Minneapolis and Louisville to Columbus (Ohio), Atlanta (Georgia), Oakland (California), Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti (Michigan), and many more. Many of those peaceful protests have also been met with violent police repression.
There are several funds that exist and you can send money directly to support protest/demonstration organizers in your own area.
Consider sending money (and/or requested supplies) to help the Black Vision Collective of Minneapolis, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, the NorthStar Medical Fund, the Louisville Bail Fund, the Columbus Freedom Fund, and others across the country. Don’t forget to support memorial and hospital care fundraising by trustworthy family members of the victims as well.
Prioritize funding Black individuals and Black-run organizations. Don’t forget to continue supporting local mutual aid funds that support Black people in your own community as well.
5 – Sign petitions, send emails, and make phone calls to demand elected officials take appropriate action:
Muslims should be a visible presence for justice.
Send strong messages to local officials reminding them that they are being watched. Tell them they will not be re-elected if they don’t take appropriate actions. Let them know that what we believe those appropriate actions are does matter.
There are many petitions you can sign, you can easily contact your own representatives using Resistbot, and you can directly contact police chiefs, mayors, etc. in cities where these oppressions are happening to demand an end to the killings the violence against demonstrators. You can also demand the prosecution of officers involved.