On March 15, a white supremacist carried out a massacre across two mosques in New Zealand, leaving 50 dead and many more wounded. The gunman was met with “Hello brother,” as he entered the door of a Christchurch mosque before opening fire on worshippers inside, stripping them of their humanity.
For Muslims across the globe, Friday prayers at local mosques offer a sanctuary for practicing their faith among a loving community. A faith that western media outlets, American political leaders and even those within our own Duke community scrutinize, misrepresent and attack. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, called the attack “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence” that added to a growing list of mass murders stemming from white nationalism. This organized, premeditated slaughter of innocent individuals in their place of worship is only the latest manifestation of white supremacy ideologies making headlines. Last Friday afternoon, the fascist terrorist was delusionally intent on fighting so-called “white genocide” by targeting a population he saw as a threat. Muslims being viewed as a violent invasive community is the result of decades-long large scale campaigns of vilification targeting both the faith and its people by some of the most powerful international actors—including American political leaders like President Trump.
From college campuses to the national political stage, when marginalized communities push back against white supremacist rhetoric, they’re often met with cries for free speech and the insistence that anti-immigrant sentiments are nothing more than opinions in the marketplace of ideas. However, the past few years especially have been ample evidence for the magnitude of ramifications these right-wing ideologies have. The consequences of tolerating white nationalism has included the murders of fifty Muslims in a New Zealand mosque, nine Black worshippers in a Charleston Church, six Sikhs in Wisconsin, a woman in Charlottesville, and eleven Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue. To separate the racist, xenophobic and sexist ideals at the foundation of white supremacy from white supremacy's role in the murder of millions through the centuries is nothing less than inexcusably disrespectful to the countless victims.
The normalization of white nationalism and white supremacy we are witnessing unfold before us must be taken as a serious, existential threat to humanity. It is our obligation to call out politicians, media outlets and institutions that—under the guise of free speech—give it a platform. In addition, we must call out the hypocrisy that has given white supremacy a pass in our societies. It is an egregious and vile discrepancy that racial justice organizations like Black Lives Matter have been dubbed by the FBI as “Black Identity Extremists” while growing white supremacist groups aren’t classified as dangerous. The federal government’s categorization of minorities fighting for basic civil rights as extremism speaks to how deeply white supremacy is embedded into our institutional systems.
The reality is that white supremacists aren’t as far removed from us as we’d like to believe. The individuals that attended that mosque were stripped of their futures and ripped from their families; these tragedies will continue to happen unless we confront the ideological roots wherever they are. Thoughts and prayers are no longer enough. We have the right to feel grief and heartbreak, but we also have a moral obligation to defeat white supremacy.
This was written by The Chronicle's Editorial Board, which is made up of student members from across the University and is independent of the editorial staff.