I recently learned about your decision to pull advertising from All American Muslim, and read your half-baked non-apology. Of the many points I could address, there was one line that stood out to me as particularly odious: “Our team includes people who are descended from early Europeans who came here escaping religious intolerance, and newer Americans who include many religions.” Ironically, the very next claim you made was that you “get what America is all about”.
Do you? Because when I think about the highest ideals of our country and what makes us Americans, I think of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, that declares that all Americans born or naturalized are equal citizens, which by extension, I think, means not putting them into meaningless categories as “older” or “newer” Americans. I wonder, if you were born in this country and I was born in this country, how are we going to figure out which one of us is a “newer” American? It seems to me a fundamentally American value to understand each person as an individual to be judged on the merits of their choices, and not to make distinctions between them based on the actions or identities of their parents, relatives or ancestors.
I’d also like to point out that, in addition to being a rather dangerous distinction that reinforces the baser structures of privilege and exclusion in our country which we should all be trying to dismantle, this “early Europeans” and “newer Americans who include many religions” dichotomy is sloppy thinking that does not reflect the complex realities of ancestry, identity and faith in the 21st Century.
Take myself as an example: many of my ancestors were among the first English to settle the Virginia and Massachusetts colonies, as well as the Dutch and French Huguenots who settled the Northeast back when old New York was still called New Amsterdam. I was raised Protestant, but in my mid-20s my heart settled on the path of Sufism.
Many of my ancestors did come here escaping religious intolerance, and when I partake in the many Sufi practices that fill me with peace, I think I’m not very different than my Puritan ancestors, or my Huguenot ancestors, who pursued God in the way that their hearts called them to, in spite of the intolerance that was much more dangerous for them in 17th Century Europe than modern Islamophobia has proven to be for me.
Although my main point has been made, I also just want to comment on the claim both you & Lowe’s are making, that you aren’t caving to Islamaphobia, just trying to avoid controversy, which is not only a specious but also a spineless argument. I understand that some companies prefer a safe neutrality, but the brave ones trust their consumers to be intelligent enough to understand the difference between supporting creative expression and endorsing the views of the creators they’re funding.
I have the privilege of working for a youth arts program funded by Adobe. When it comes to creative expression, the youth in this program are fearless. They take on Islamophobia, homophobia, racism and global poverty, just to name a few of the many controversial topics addressed in their art. Adobe’s stated policy is to give youth a voice, and they don’t base their funding decisions on how the public is going to feel about what these young artists have to say. That’s an example, to me, of corporate courage, which I think in the long term will be rewarded. What you did is a little like defunding the Cosby Show because it didn’t portray black people as gangsters and drug addicts. Our society continues on a slow but steady march towards tolerance, inclusiveness, and understanding, and eventually the “safe” path you took will leave you high & dry.
Photo via Loonwatch.