I do not have one Muslim friend. Not one. I’m not even sure how I’d go about making a Muslim friend. I suppose I could do as one fellow suggested and go through the phone book looking for Muslim-sounding names and call somebody.
“Mr. Patel? Could I please speak to Mrs. Patel? … Mrs. Patel? You don’t know me, but I am looking for a Muslim friend and I was wondering would you be my neighbor? ”
For far too long Tim and I lived in a community that I promise you was only 7 percent minority — of any sort. And, just for the record, this was a town in Oregon, not Georgia. I cannot tell you how many times I complained about that. Having been raised in a military family in the South, I was used to a completely different texture. I missed the diversity. I missed hearing different dialects, different stories.
Living in a community where everybody looks alike and thinks alike is its own form of hell. It’s like that Groundhog movie where you wake up every single day to the same old thing. Imagine having to sit across the table from Pat Robertson every morning and every night. He’d probably be entertaining that first day but I bet after a month of him, we’d all be scanning the phone book for a Muslim friend.
What’s truly disturbing is that not only do I not have one Muslim friend, I have never had a conversation with a Muslim. Well, nothing beyond, the friendly exchange of commerce having to do with cab fares and motel rates. I’m not sure how a person lives in America and manages to avoid any conversation deeper than that, but I can tell you it’s entirely possible. I’ve done it.
Sometimes it feels like there’s a racist woman inside of me trying to take over my entire personality. She’s the reason I feel uncomfortable talking about all this. She nudges me, reminding me that I know people who think that the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim. She tells me that a lot of people will be offended if I write anything about the Muslims I don’t know.
Best to be quiet, she says. Don’t upset people.
Sometimes, I’d like to strangle the racist within me.
If only I could get a firm grip on her.
What about you? Have you ever struggled with this? How have you gone about silencing the racist within?