At the Law for Black Lives Summit in New York City this past weekend, hundreds of lawyers, activists, organizers and law students were in attendance and ready to play their role in the Black Lives Matter movement. The unrelenting question was beyond our race and personal experiences, why do Black Lives Matter?
Arab Americans and all immigrant communities enjoy and depend upon the freedom, liberties, rights, and government policies hundreds of thousands of African Americans sacrificed their lives to have. Without Black Lives you would not have been allowed to enter this country and become a citizen, you would not have the right to vote, you would not have the opportunity to go to college, you would not have the right to use the same bathroom and facilities as Whites, you would not have the right to marry outside your race, you would not be considered human. The list of rights secured by African Americans, although inalienable rights that we should not have had to fight and die for but did, is endless.
Racism, discrimination, profiling, bias and stereotypes is not a new phenomenon created after 9/11 against Arab Americans. This country was founded upon divisions and classifications where African Americans were not equal, 3/5 of a person, and our Native American brothers and sisters were not even considered a person. Institutions were created and laws enacted to not only keep African Americans segregated from the rest of American citizens, but to isolate the community, to keep African Americans in poverty, to limit their education and employment opportunities, to monitor their actions and speech, to portray them as ugly, animals and criminals. Sounds familiar? This same pedagogy has just been recycled and used against Arab Americans.
Immigrants are misconceived by the selling of the American dream, that you can make it if you work hard and everything will be okay once you are a citizen. However, the traffic stop, arrest, and death of Soror Sandra Bland (Omega Rho) showed us that this is not true. Soror Bland’s rights were violated by an overzealous police officer because of her race. Soror Bland was dragged out of her own vehicle without probable cause of violation of any law, and brutalized because she knew her rights and was not silent about invoking her rights.
All communities of color lives, freedom, and liberty are at stake. We need to understand that we all must protect each other like in Louisiana, where African Americans were not silent once the profiling of Muslim and Arab Americans by police officers in traffic stops began post 9/11 and against Latinos post-Katrina’s legal migration of workers to help with reconstruction. We are stronger in numbers, and they fear the day we all unite and we are no longer silent. We are living in the midst of the modern day civil rights movement, and we are ready to legally, politically, and socially defend the movement, are you?
Yolanda Rondon, Attorney for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee