By: Maria Margarita Caicedo
As a week has passed from the Legacy of Malcolm X event Thaqalayn Muslim Association (TMA), and JHR held last week, I continue to reflect on what the speakers said that evening. As Isabel Iglesias (President of JHR) wrote in her review, the three speakers– Ethan Cox, Hajj Hassanain Rajabali, and Dr. Randy Short– were all different people with different backgrounds and different aspirations. Yet, there they were before us that evening speaking about what a depleted state of affairs we live in, where people are constantly denied their rights and injustice continues everywhere. I found that from all the different voices there were that evening– including the spoken word artists Jamal Rogers and Nasim Asgari– there was one universal lesson to be taken: we must not be afraid to fight for rights for the sake of humanity.
It was Rajabali’s words that began to evoke the lesson for me. He spoke about how slavery has changed from what it was before to what is now: indeed, the traditional cold iron chains of the past are gone, and it is no longer an institutionalized trade. However, this does not mean slavery really has disappeared. Today, we deal with psychological chains. These are chains that bind the marginalized through societal norms of exclusion, oppression, and ignorance. Even more concerning, Rajabali said these are the chains most difficult to break out from because they are buried deep into normal social patterns, the shackles remain unseen. But there is still a demand to break those chains: we have a duty as citizens to free the weakened and save them from abuse.
Consequently, the people must be willing to open their eyes to the truth and see what really is happening in the world; however, It can be a terrifying thought to open our eyes to the truth. First, it requires recognizing silently oppressed people are a reality. When we admit this, we see what horrors we complacently live with on earth. It is a shocking mirror to look at what humans are able to do, and the terrible consequences that can ensue from those actions. Those who are comfortable in their blinded life would naturally feel uneasy when they finally see the ugly humanitarian crimes persist. But that is what must happen because complacency when so many suffer is sedation to humanity.
Second, acknowledging the abused can be terrifying because it can seem like there is no way to free them. The norms of their oppression are so engrained in our society, those habits can be hard to break. Furthermore, it can appear like there are no channels to voice their struggle. Cox mentioned that the media has come to perpetuate the oppressive systems in place, using what should be a podium for the people as another tool for silencing the marginalized; Dr. Short condemned governments for serving only the powerful rather than the weak. The battle seems daunting and impossible.
However, Dr. Short made a powerful point that we must all remember: “we must be martyrs for the truth”. The same way Malcolm X sacrificed himself for the sake of human rights, we must all risk ourselves for others. At first, it can seem like we stand alone when we stand up for the oppressed. But if it is collectively done, then the fight is no longer individual but communal. Furthermore, we make a louder voice for the oppressed and empower them to free themselves from the chains; no longer is the fight so daunting because we are all together.
Ethan Cox said in his speech, “Journalists must comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comforted.”
Though it is a great thought to consider as a journalist, I feel that it can be universally applied. When there is so much injustice in the world, and so many people silently suffering in systems that purport their dismay, all people must strive to comfort those afflicted. And doing this will stir the comforted, troubling them about how their lives encourage the humanitarian crimes. Do not back down in light of them, though. Our responsibility to our fellow humans comes first and we must prioritize fighting for rights over protecting privilege.