Sunday, December 11, 2011

Note to Lowes: Being Muslim doen't make you less American

Recently a new show debuted on TLC, and the Florida Family Association said:
"All-American Muslim" is propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law.  The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish.
Or, to paraphrase: "they only showed the normal Muslims, so people might get the idea that there are Muslims who live normal lives like normal Americans." The horror. And so Lowes pulled its ad buy from the show.

Lowes was not duped. By pulling their ads, they suggest that to portray Muslim people, even individually, as legitimately American is somehow controversial. This is fundamentally what racism and xenophobia are about, it is the active denial of another's right to be American. Lowes apparently objects to a portrayal of normal people who happen to be Muslim as normal people who happen to be Muslim. It's important here to notice that there was no misconception as to the show's content. Lowes was not somehow convinced that the show is sympathetic to Al Quada and the Taliban, or is otherwise subversive. The show makes the assertion that there exist deeply patriotic Americans who happen to be Muslim, and so Lowes pulled its advertising dollars.

My wife is ambiguously brown looking, and tells me that I "don't get it."  Obviously I don't; I've never been followed in a store because somebody thought I was Mexican, and I've never had eggs thrown at my house or tomatoes at my head because they thought I was Muslim, but I thought I understood how much I didn't get it. Clearly I was wrong.

I always chalked it up to a few rednecks, which is easy for me to do. People know that I won't tolerate racism around me, so others tend to hold their tongues, and as I am white, most people see no reason to direct bigotry at me. I assumed that when she said "you don't get it" she meant that I don't get what it feels like, but I thought I understood how widespread it was.  I thought I understood how common it was. I thought I had a feeling for how pervasive it was. I was clearly wrong.  Lowes is big, Lowes is national, and Lowes is exactly the sort of far reaching corporation that I thought would be above this stuff on a national scale at least, so my outrage is not just at Lowes and the other companies that bowed to pressure from the FFA, but also at myself, because I thought I knew how much I didn't get it, but I was deeply wrong.

So, if you're as upset as I am, do what I did, and call and complain.

Call Lowes Customer care at 800-445-6937, ask to speak to a supervisor, ask them why they withdrew their advertising dollars, and tell them what you think.  The supervisor I spoke to told me the move was not in response to the show itself but instead in response to the controversy around it, so I told him that I felt responding to bigoted controversy in such a way was tantamount to denying the right of these people to be American, and I found that deeply offensive.

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