Our Judgement of People on Based on Religion

I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was only a second grader at the time, but I was there, and I remember many details about that fateful day. I remember seeing the terrorist attacks on television. I remember my coming home from school really early and not really understanding why that was the case. And I remember the grief my parents felt that day.

However, today, September 12, marks the anniversary of the start of another tragedy, a tragedy that became evident by September 12, 2001, and continues today. The tragedy is that Muslims are marginalized, or even attacked, because people associate that religion with terrorism, and Sikhs are marginalized or attacked because various head coverings make others think that Sikhs look Muslim. It’s a tragedy that started when people first found out that the hijackers committed terrorism in the name of a very warped version of Islam.

Now I trust that none of us are the ones directly committing these tragedies against Muslims and Sikhs. But I worry that many of us, myself included at times, are enablers of hatred against Muslims and people who look like Muslims.

I hear this enabling all the time.

Every time someone talks about Islam being a barbarous religion, that person is enabling hatred of Islam. Every time someone talks about Islam is a religion of hate, that person is enabling hatred of Islam. Every time someone talks about all Muslims as if they’re all on a quest to destroy the United States, that person is enabling hatred of Islam.

I could continue the list, but by now I think my readers get the point. The point is that, while none of us may be directly behind the anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence, anti-Muslim rhetoric, or even silence in the face of others’ anti-Muslim rhetoric, can create motivation for people to commit violence against Muslims and people who are mistaken as being Muslim (often Sikhs).

So at this point, maybe some of you are expecting me to tell everyone to be careful with the words all of us say. Now yes, I agree that we should generally be careful with the words we say, because the last thing that any of us wants to do is to somehow give fuel to violence.

But I am calling for something more. Namely, I am calling for everybody to stop judging people based on what religion they are, and instead look at how individuals live out the religion (or lack of religion) they have. If someone is a Muslim who advocates for basic human rights around the world, then that’s great! If someone is a Christian who is big into war, that’s not so great, even if I share the same religion as the other Christian.

Martin Luther King, Jr. tells us “not to judge by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” In the context of judging people based on religion, I suggest a quote similar to Dr. King’s: we should not judge people by the name of their religion, but by the content of their character.

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Blog News Time!!!

This blog has been up for a few months now. While this blog has been eye-opening for me as a writer and hopefully for all of you as readers, I want to discuss a few pieces of important news for the immediate and longer-term future.

First, I will start to include posts from others’ blogs on this blog.

I have seen a variety of posts over the last several months (ever since I started blogging) which exposes me and/or others to injustices that I/we may be blind to or blindly commit. I want to make room for such posts on this blog.

By including posts from others’ blogs, we can have a variety of voices contributing to the dialogue of injustices that we are blind to and/or are blindly committing.

Second, I will start having “Throwback Thursday” posts on Facebook and Twitter.

On some Thursdays, I will post links to past blog posts I’ve written. I won’t do this every Thursday, but I will do it on Thursdays when: a) I think a blog post relates to something that’s on the news these days, and/or b) I think that we need some reminders that are presented by a past blog post.

Finally, I won’t publish a post next Tuesday.

I will not post a post on Tuesday in observance of Labor Day the day before.

In conclusion…

I want this blog to be a resource which helps all of us to become more just. By including the voices of others, I really believe that this will help Blind Injustice become the resource it’s capable of being.

Where to Donate and Where Not to Donate

I was going to post on a different topic this week, but given the events in Texas and Louisiana, I decided to go in a different direction.

I want to start this post by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the people in Texas and Louisiana that are being hit hard by Hurricane Harvey. While I enjoy tracking storms (as I say in my own bio), I do not enjoy seeing people suffer like this. I hope that these areas recover and recover quickly.

Of course, some of us will try to help these areas recover quickly by giving to charities that are supposed to help hurricane victims. I deeply appreciate this desire, and people down in Texas and Louisiana will appreciate that desire as well.

However, I warn all of us to please be careful with where we give our money. I give this warning because not all charities do the positive work that they claim to do.

So how can people determine where they should or shouldn’t give their money? I have a few dos and don’ts, in no particular order:

  1. Saying this will be controversial, but don’t donate to the American Red Cross. I have to admit that this is somewhat personal, because my family in New York noticed after Superstorm Sandy that the Red Cross was more interested in photo-ops than helping people (an observation confirmed by a National Public Radio story two years later). These problems are well-documented, not just by an editorial I wrote while I was in college, but also by the sources I cited in my editorial (and, quite frankly, many sources not cited by my editorial). You want to give to a charity which has a good track record with natural disasters, and unfortunately the American Red Cross isn’t one of them.
  2. Don’t donate to a charity which lacks an established reputation. This seems obvious, yet there are so many scam charities which prey off of the big hearts of people.
  3. Do look at charity rating systems, such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau Wise Charity Alliance. Charity Navigator in particular is helpful because the organization’s pages for charities give you an idea of how transparent an organization is, what percentage of your donations go to the services a charity delivers, and more. These measurables are very important when you’re trying to determine whether to donate to a charity.
  4. Do research into what organizations have a presence in the area hit by the disaster. Speaking from my family’s experiences after Superstorm Sandy, some of the best work is usually performed by organizations that already had a presence in the area. Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the best work in Louisiana and Texas after Hurricane Harvey is performed by organizations which already have a presence in that area.
  5. If there are any charities which did particularly good work after a natural disaster you experienced, do consider donating to said charities if they are going to be in the area hit by Harvey. You want to donate to a charity which has a positive track record with handling disasters, so there’s no better way to do that than donate to charities that helped you when you had a disaster. The only condition, of course, is that the same charity will be working in the areas hit by Harvey.

Even if you follow these dos and don’ts, there’s no guarantee that you will donate to the perfect organization. But hopefully this post has increased your chances of donating to a charity which helps people recover from Hurricane Harvey. After all, being blindly unjust in a situation like this is to give money that doesn’t go directly to victims, without even realizing that your money doesn’t go to the victims.

Why the Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act Felt Bittersweet

A few weeks ago, many disability rights advocates celebrated the 27th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On July 26, 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed this landmark legislation into law.

I wanted to be in a celebratory mood on the anniversary of the ADA. Yet, as I suddenly remembered how far people with disabilities still need to come before they have the same opportunities as able-bodied people like me, the anniversary felt a little bittersweet.

Now, don’t get me wrong—in spite of the statement I just said, I think that the ADA is arguably the most significant piece of civil rights legislation in the last fifty years (the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965). It is a piece of legislation that improves the lives of millions of Americans, and it is a piece of legislation which, in many cases, enables disabled people to have access to the same opportunities that their able-bodied counterparts have.

While the legislation has improved the lives of millions, it still has a way to go to give disabled people the same access as able-bodied people.

For example, while transit access has improved for people with disabilities, they don’t have access equal to their able-bodied counterparts. One need not look further than the fact that subway systems in New York, Chicago, and Boston, for example, do not have universal wheelchair access (though New York’s situation is much worse than that of Boston or Chicago).

Furthermore, while many buildings now have ADA access, the quality of that access (in the form of things like elevators and ramps) can widely vary. Sometimes the ADA access is top-notch, and sometimes the access leaves something to be desired (everyone can probably think of examples of unreliable elevators).

There is the potential for people with disabilities in many cases to have opportunities similar to able-bodied people like me. But in many areas, that potential hasn’t been fully realized, even though the ADA was passed over a quarter century ago. And there is a certain disappointment, a certain bittersweetness, that I feel as a result of this potential that hasn’t been fully realized.

But why should you all, as readers, care about my being bittersweet about the anniversary of the ADA, let alone one of the reasons I feel bittersweet? I think all of you should care because my bittersweetness is a reminder for all of us that the advancement of disabled persons’ rights did not end with the ADA. Instead, the uneven progress in accessibility for people with disabilities is a reminder that there is still much to advocate for.

Reflecting on the Events in Charlottesville

As my readers know, Blind Injustice is a blog where I talk about injustices that some of us may be blind to or blindly commit. I have that focus because I feel that there are many forms of injustice that we are complacent to or downright commit without realizing.

However, given the events of the past few days, I think it’s important to somewhat divert from the focus of the blog and talk about a very visible and hateful incident (or set of incidents) of injustice. Namely, the events in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The events in Charlottesville demonstrate that there are still injustices which are very painful, overt, and visible to everyone except those committing the injustices and their supporters. Among those injustices on display were bigotry, white supremacy, and calls for ethnic cleansing.

While this blog hopefully exposes some of us to a number of blind injustices, I hope that we also don’t ignore very visible forms of injustice such as what was shown by white nationalists in Charlottesville. To the contrary, all of us must call out the white supremacist terrorism of last weekend for what it was, and denounce it for what it was.