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August 2, 2016 Off

What Khizr Khan Teaches Us About America

Every­one Should Take to Heart Mr. and Mrs. Khan’s Under­ly­ing Mes­sage About the Evils of Prejudice

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

Khazir Khan - DNC

Like mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, I was enthralled by the pre­sen­ta­tion of Khizr Khan at the Demo­c­ra­tic National Con­ven­tion. It was not only a high­light of the con­ven­tion, but also a moment par­tic­u­lar to the chang­ing Amer­ica of the 21st century.

Yet at the same time, Khan’s story is clas­si­cally Amer­i­can: an immi­grant want­ing to bring his fam­ily to this coun­try, “not,” in his words, “because of reli­gion, but because of its values.”

Gen­er­a­tions of immi­grants of dif­fer­ent faiths and back­grounds have been attracted to this coun­try exactly because of these values—the free­dom to choose one’s life, to think as one likes, to observe one’s reli­gion as one chooses, or not to fol­low any reli­gion. Immi­gra­tion has indis­putably been an engine of Amer­i­can eco­nomic suc­cess and insep­a­ra­ble from Amer­i­can ingenuity.

Indeed, what is clas­sic in Mr. Khan’s story is how quickly this immi­grant fam­ily inte­grated into Amer­i­can life. Khizr Khan attained an advanced law degree and became an attor­ney. Their mid­dle child, Humayun, joined the army out of high school and, later, while prepar­ing to enter the Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia Law School, he was called up to serve in Iraq.

Humayun’s story, his ser­vice, and his heroic and tragic death on behalf of his coun­try in Iraq in June 2004, res­onates so pow­er­fully because every Amer­i­can can iden­tify with it—because we are a nation of immigrants.

Captain Khan

It wasn’t the fact that the Khan fam­ily is Mus­lim that is the core of this tale, though the Khans clearly are proud of their Islamic faith. It is the fact that they are Amer­i­cans who believe in Amer­ica and who made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice for the coun­try they loved.

For us at ADL, this event had par­tic­u­lar significance.

First, it spoke to our long under­stand­ing of the value of immi­gra­tion to this coun­try. Back in the 1950s, ADL worked with the young sen­a­tor from Mass­a­chu­setts, John F. Kennedy, to pub­lish his work A Nation of Immi­grants. The val­ues pre­sented by Khizr and Ghaz­ala Khan at the con­ven­tion were the very val­ues embod­ied in JFK’s clas­sic book—that we are all immi­grants in one way or another, all con­tribut­ing to mak­ing Amer­ica what it is. It is this fea­ture of our soci­ety that makes us exceptional—what makes us American.

Sec­ond, back in 2010, we sought to con­vey the kind of mes­sage so pow­er­fully deliv­ered by Khizr Khan when we hon­ored a dif­fer­ent Mus­lim Amer­i­can who had given his life for his coun­try. Kareem Rashad Sul­tan Khan was a New Jer­sey born Amer­i­can Mus­lim who vol­un­teered to fight in Iraq. Laid to rest in Arling­ton National Ceme­tery, Kareem was killed by an impro­vised explo­sive device in 2007 and was posthu­mously awarded the Pur­ple Heart. His mother Elsheba accepted the honor on her son’s behalf at our annual “In Con­cert Against Hate” at the Kennedy Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

We recall this only to point out what should be self-evident—that Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan is another of many sto­ries that need to be told about Amer­i­can Mus­lims’ sac­ri­fice and con­tri­bu­tion to our country.

It has been heart­en­ing to see the response to his remarks from many politi­cians as they have stood up on behalf of the Khans. They and many oth­ers real­ize that scape­goat­ing of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans not only threat­ens the fab­ric of our soci­ety, but weak­ens us in our bat­tle with Islamic extrem­ism by play­ing into the tropes of ISIS recruiters that seek to por­tray the U.S. as an enemy of Islam.

While the fight against stereo­types is a col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­ity, it has been a sig­nif­i­cant part of ADL’s mis­sion since our found­ing. My hope is that in the wake of this episode, in this effort we have won many new allies who rec­og­nize that in order to be for our­selves, we must stand by one another.

His­tory shows that one of the strongest gen­er­a­tors of prej­u­dice and stereo­typ­ing is fear: fear of the unknown, fear of the other. In the case of Mus­lim Amer­i­cans, that fear is often con­jured by invok­ing anx­i­ety about ter­ror­ism. Indeed, Khizr Khan’s remark­able pre­sen­ta­tion reminds us that, when it comes to the over­whelm­ing major­ity of Amer­i­can Mus­lims, that fear is not only mis­placed; it is unfair, dan­ger­ous, and un-American.

Surely, the threat posed by Islamic extrem­ism is real. Self-proclaimed Islamic extrem­ists have employed ter­ror and shaken com­mu­ni­ties around the world. We have recently seen unspeak­able vio­lence per­pe­trated in Brus­sels, Bagh­dad, Tel Aviv, Istan­bul, Paris, Nice, San Bernardino and Orlando.

But, as the Amer­i­can Pres­i­dent Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt said in the face of a much grander threat, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He explained that “name­less, unrea­son­ing, unjus­ti­fied ter­ror which par­a­lyzes needed efforts to con­vert retreat into advance.” What we need at this hour is to draw on that great Amer­i­can reserve –hope– that has sus­tained us through so many dif­fi­cult moments in our past and is the surest guide to our future.

Humayun Khan was an Amer­i­can hero, but his story is not an excep­tion to a rule. His family’s story is far more rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Mus­lim Amer­i­can aspi­ra­tions than the phan­tas­magor­i­cal stereo­types so often used to por­tray Muslims.

More than any­thing else, we can only hope that the atten­tion appro­pri­ately accorded to Khan’s remark­able speech and the hero­ism of his son will deliver a pow­er­ful blow to those in this coun­try who would seek to blame an entire peo­ple, reli­gion or eth­nic­ity for the ter­ri­ble deeds of the few extremists.

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February 26, 2014 Off

Stereotyped Theme Parties Are Way More than a Joke on College Campuses


It hap­pened again. Col­lege stu­dents dressed up like mem­bers of a “cul­ture” for a stereo­typed theme party.

In the most recent exam­ple, soror­ity stu­dents at Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity were pho­tographed wear­ing som­breros, thick mus­taches, pon­chos and hold­ing mara­cas. They also por­trayed other nation­al­i­ties. What’s worse is that these types of par­ties are not anom­alies, but com­mon occur­rences on col­lege campuses.

African-themed par­ties; “thug,” “hood” or “ratchet”-themed par­ties; and Asian-rager par­ties all tend to fol­low a sim­i­lar for­mula. They are fueled by the per­cep­tion that stereo­types mock­ing racial or cul­tural groups are fun and funny.

On the sur­face, some may say, “What’s the harm? They are just col­lege stu­dents hav­ing fun.” But is this really humor? The answer is: not when the “humor” dehu­man­izes and mar­gin­al­izes real peo­ple, and not when it per­pet­u­ates harm­ful stereotypes.

These par­ties reflect a per­sis­tent neg­a­tive atti­tude about peo­ple of color that is cen­turies old. It’s more than a joke; it’s an expres­sion of prej­u­dice against groups of peo­ple.  And these instances have a long-lasting effect by cre­at­ing an envi­ron­ment that tells stu­dents of color they are not wel­come or respected at that college.

Accord­ing to FBI sta­tis­tics, 48 per­cent of hate crimes per­pe­trated in the United States were moti­vated by race, so there is much work to do. The U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice also reports the third most com­mon loca­tion nation­wide for a hate crime to occur is on a school or col­lege cam­pus and 60% of known hate crime offend­ers are under the age of 24.

Col­leges have an oppor­tu­nity to chal­lenge over-simplified, stereo­typ­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tions of peo­ple by con­sid­er­ing the fol­low­ing steps:

  • Speak out and con­demn every instance when racist or other dis­crim­i­na­tory lan­guage and images are used
  • Edu­cate social Greek orga­ni­za­tions and other stu­dent lead­er­ship groups that they have an oppor­tu­nity to uplift the school’s rep­u­ta­tion and val­ues on diversity
  • Edu­cate about stereo­types, and chal­lenge their use in casual and for­mal set­tings. Work with stu­dents to unpack their biased beliefs and under­stand the poten­tial impact of those beliefs
  • Invite stu­dents to take respon­si­bil­ity for cre­at­ing a bias-free school campus

For hand­outs and infor­ma­tion on “Chal­leng­ing Your Biases” and “Cre­at­ing a Bias– Free Learn­ing Envi­ron­ment,” please visit our Web site for anti-bias resources.



Las fies­tas con temáti­cas de estereoti­pos son mucho más que una broma en los cam­pus universitarios

Ocur­rió otra vez. Los estu­di­antes uni­ver­si­tar­ios se vistieron como miem­bros de una “cul­tura” para una fiesta temática de estereotipos.

En el ejem­plo más reciente, los estu­di­antes de una her­man­dad de Colum­bia Uni­ver­sity fueron fotografi­a­dos luciendo som­breros, grue­sos big­otes, pon­chos y soste­niendo mara­cas. Tam­bién rep­re­sen­taron otras nacional­i­dades. Lo peor es que este tipo de fies­tas no son algo raro, sino even­tos comunes en los cam­pus universitarios.

Las fies­tas con temática africana; fies­tas  con temáti­cas de “matones,” “rufi­anes” o “gol­fos”; y las par­ran­das con temática asiática tien­den a seguir una fór­mula sim­i­lar. Son ali­men­tadas por la per­cep­ción de que los estereoti­pos que se burlan de los gru­pos raciales o cul­tur­ales son diver­tidos y graciosos.

A sim­ple vista, algunos podrían decir, “¿Qué tiene de malo? Son tan sólo estu­di­antes uni­ver­si­tar­ios divir­tién­dose”. Pero, ¿es eso real­mente humor? La respuesta es: no cuando el “humor” deshu­man­iza y mar­gin­al­iza a per­sonas reales, y no cuando per­petúa estereoti­pos perjudiciales.

Estas fies­tas refle­jan una per­sis­tente acti­tud neg­a­tiva sobre las per­sonas de color, una acti­tud de hace sig­los. Es más que una broma; es una expre­sión de pre­juicio con­tra gru­pos de per­sonas.  Y estos casos tienen un efecto duradero al crear un ambi­ente que dice a los estu­di­antes de color que no son bien­venidos ni respetado en esa universidad.

Según estadís­ti­cas del FBI, el 48 % de los crímenes de odio per­pe­tra­dos en Esta­dos Unidos fueron moti­va­dos por prob­le­mas raciales, así que hay mucho tra­bajo por hacer. El Depar­ta­mento de Jus­ti­cia de Esta­dos Unidos tam­bién informa que el ter­cer lugar más común a nivel nacional para que se dé un crimen de odio es una escuela o cam­pus uni­ver­si­tario, y el 60% de los crim­i­nales de odio cono­ci­dos son menores de 24 años.

Las uni­ver­si­dades tienen una opor­tu­nidad de desafiar las rep­re­senta­ciones exce­si­va­mente sim­pli­fi­cadas y estereoti­padas de las per­sonas, teniendo en cuenta los sigu­ientes pasos:

  • Opon­erse y con­denar cada ocasión en que se util­ice lenguaje o imá­genes racis­tas y discriminatorias
  • Edu­car a las orga­ni­za­ciones sociales grie­gas y otros gru­pos de lid­er­azgo estu­di­antil para que ten­gan la opor­tu­nidad de ele­var la rep­utación de la escuela y sus val­ores sobre la diversidad
  • Edu­car sobre los estereoti­pos y desafiar su uso en ambi­entes for­males y casuales. Tra­ba­jar con los estu­di­antes para desar­raigar sus creen­cias pre­jui­ci­adas y enten­der el posi­ble impacto de dichas creencias
  • Invi­tar a los estu­di­antes a respon­s­abi­lizarse de la creación de una escuela libre de prejuicios

Para fol­letos e infor­ma­ción sobre “Desafiar sus pre­juicios” y “Crear un ambi­ente de apren­dizaje libre de pre­juicios”, por favor vis­ite nue­stro sitio Web para obtener recur­sos con­tra el pre­juicio.





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January 11, 2013 Off

The Trouble With Make Me a “Stereotype”

Appli­ca­tions for smart­phones and tablets have become an emerg­ing seg­ment of the online and enter­tain­ment indus­try.  As with videos, blogs and social net­work­ing plat­forms which came before, Apps are now being cre­ated that some con­sider funny, but which  actu­ally cross the line from humor­ous to offen­sive.  Recent exam­ples include two free apps on Google called “Make Me Asian” and “Make Me Indian,” that allow users to edit pho­tos in ways which play on racist stereo­types. Users of the app can darken skin color, change eye shape to an “Asian” slant or add eth­nic acces­sories like an Amer­i­can Indian head­dress.

Young chil­dren often make fun of Asian Amer­i­can class­mates by pulling their eyes to make a slant or play “Indian,” com­plete with head­dress or a “war-cry.” As adults, this is the very kind of think­ing we try to chal­lenge in our chil­dren.  We want them to under­stand and respect dif­fer­ent cul­tures, not belit­tle or ridicule them or make assump­tions about all mem­bers of a group based on com­mon stereo­types.  We teach them that every­one has dif­fer­ent phys­i­cal fea­tures, qual­i­ties and char­ac­ter­is­tics that have noth­ing to do with the groups to which they belong.

Stereo­types make over­sim­pli­fied gen­er­al­iza­tions about peo­ple or groups with­out regard for indi­vid­ual dif­fer­ences. The prob­lem is that these gen­er­al­iza­tions soon become beliefs about groups which form  the build­ing blocks for prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion, fea­tures of life that have seri­ous impli­ca­tions for us all.  Apps like “Make Me Asian” and “Make Me Indian” and a score of oth­ers built on this con­cept play on per­ni­cious stereo­types that mar­gin­al­ize indi­vid­u­als and groups. Though the global com­mu­nity is racially and eth­ni­cally diverse, these kinds of apps pro­mote the kind of think­ing that being white is the norm and every­thing else is defined as “other.”

As a soci­ety, we spend much of our time inter­act­ing through our mobile devices, but when we choose so-called enter­tain­ment that rein­forces these kinds of stereo­types, we have to con­sider whether we might be con­tribut­ing to the per­pet­u­a­tion of the inci­vil­ity that lim­its everyone’s opportunities.

The Anti-Defamation League strives to remain vig­i­lant of emerg­ing issues in our dig­i­tal world and com­mu­ni­cates reg­u­larly with many of the major com­pa­nies on issues that are raised by the community.

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