My family and I are proud Pakistanis and Shia Ismaili Muslims, and we pride ourselves on the notion that our faith preaches pluralism and peace. We are fortunate to be a part of a community that exercises justice and advocates for the best quality of life for all of God’s creation.
However, oftentimes I catch some people from our community, especially the older generations and recent immigrants, discussing topics on race and culture in derogatory terms. While the bad experiences of a few are amplified, the good is often overshadowed.
My grandparents happen to have rather socially liberal views. They encourage me to pursue what I love, don’t expect me to compromise on my higher education, and are rather accepting of those different from us.
Nevertheless, the Black Lives Movement confuses them. The media that they consume on a regular basis shows the side of the protests that have escalated. This means that they’re conditioned to believe that because of this movement, Black people have become violent.
Of course, they believe this, it’s what they’re shown. They watch the news in Urdu, it’s what they understand- and Pakistani news struggles to show the peace and reasoning behind these protests.
So when I was sitting with my grandparents, and my grandmother or dadi asked me “why is the Black community rioting?”, it didn’t sit right with me.
I began my conversation with the basics. “This country was built on the basis of the oppression of Black people.”
As first and second-generation immigrants to America, we took U.S History courses- spending two, maybe three weeks on slavery. Our parents and grandparents never did. They needed a place to start.
I continue, “For hundreds of years, the Black community has been oppressed at the hands of the government, and even with the Civil Rights Movement, systematic oppression continues to take place.”
I then moved on to explain the impact of the Black community on us. “We wouldn’t be living here if it wasn’t for them. The Hart-Celler Act, a direct result of the Civil Rights Movement, allowed for the abolishment of a quota system for the entry of aliens and immigrants into this nation.”
When they countered with, “I understand this, but that doesn’t make looting and rioting right,” I proceeded to show them things they had yet to see.
Peaceful protests and demonstrations in our city, law enforcement tear-gassing peaceful protestors, members of the Black community blatantly shutting down looting efforts. These are things their media outlets hadn’t shown them yet.
With this conversation being had, my grandparents are now more informed. They are beginning to understand the roots of the problem, and side with the oppressed. It’s okay for our elders to still not process what is going on, but they now stand more informed on where the problem stems from.
Our elders are not unkind. They raised us to be the people we are today and have always pushed us to fight for equality. Sometimes, they might just need some help to become more informed, and that’s where we step in.