Impact of intolerance lingers
Improving the quality of education is critical in order to combat the social and economic inequalities faced by blacks, Muslim Alliance-invited guest speakers said Wednesday.
University of California-Berkeley graduate Hashim Ali, UH associate history professor Robert Buzzanco and Sheik Farouk Abdulghani discussed the alleged repercussions of enduring racism, imperialism and Zionism.
Ali’s segment traced the history of racism targeted toward blacks, beginning with Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas in 1492, when he said that European explorers first succeeded in subverting and displacing indigenous people.
"The reality is that many people celebrate Columbus Day as, ‘Indigenous People’s Day,’ celebrating that, even after all that happened in 1492, we’re still here," Ali said. "Columbus Day is known as the day America was discovered, but how can it be discovered when there were people already there?"
Beginning with the founding of the United States, Ali said that prejudice toward blacks has prevailed throughout history largely because of "European racism," where instead of conquering and incorporating them into society, blacks have been constantly denied any form of cultural identity as Africans or Americans.
Ali compared early blacks to a bonsai tree, a plant that is often forcibly transplanted from place to place by having its roots and top cut away.
"We are really a dwarf people. We know nothing about our cultural roots," he said. "Because of racism, we were stripped of this."
Despite the lingering effects of European influence, Ali said that education is the key to improving the quality of life for all blacks.
"We are building more prisons when we should be building more schools," he said. "The more degrees people have, the less people will be going to jail. The best kind of reparations African-Americans could ever receive are better academic institutions."
Buzzanco traced the history of U.S. imperialism, placing emphasis on the reemergence of possible colonialist ambitions associated with the Iraq war and U.S. support for Israel.
Buzzanco said that many Third World countries are hindered in their progress to become modernized by Western capitalism.
"If you give a food stamp to a poor woman, that’s considered welfare," he said. "But you can write billion dollar checks to developing countries and then force them to deal exclusively with your company, and that’s just business."
Buzzanco said that much of the world is slowly becoming united against the occupation of Iraq as the war has continued into its fourth year.
"What President Bush has done is unify the world in a way that has never been done before," he said. "We’re exercising American power in the old 19th century European way."
Abdulghani said that many of the conflicts occurring in Israel today might have been avoided had the United Nations not displaced thousands of Palestinians after World War II for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in 1948.
"When Israelis pulled out of Gaza, the media showed people crying and weeping and being driven out of their homes," he said, referring to the relocation of illegal Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. "If you think it’s sad that you’re being driven out of your home of 50 years, then what about the people who have lived on that land for a thousand years – that should be a much sadder story."
Abdulghani addressed what he said is the Western media’s tendency to cast all Palestinian sympathizers as terrorists.
"They have repeated it enough, that all Palestinians are terrorists, so that people start to believe it," he said. "These people have all kinds of economic embargoes and sanctions, so they can’t get weapons, and even if they throw stones, they’re considered terrorists."