As-salamu Alaikum Mahmoud,
We don’t actually know one another in real life, but as fate would have it, we happen to be “friends” on Facebook (no doubt because of activism related to Palestine). You are the first person in my Facebook feed that shared something related to George Floyd’s death (may he rest in power). Little did I know at the time, why. I have to admit, it was a shock to me to learn that the 911 call which sparked off the series of events leading to George’s brutal death at the hands of the police, came from a store owned by you, someone I was directly connected to, and a fellow Arab and Muslim.
I don’t pretend to know what you are personally going through. And as a Muslim, I know that only Allah knows the contents of your heart. It is also not my place to judge you. I am certainly not accusing you of being a bad person and I have no ill intent toward you or your family. I do think a mistake was made, a horrible one – and that mistake led to a man’s undeserving death.
I have so many questions for you? You say you are “required” to call 911 when you suspected that someone was passing a counterfeit bill in your store. I would love to know more about these requirements…is 911 required, or could you call the non-emergency instead? Wouldn’t the Secret Service be the correct agency vs. the local police? What is the penalty for not calling? How would anyone know if you didn’t call? Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently? Of course, in the end, none of these questions can undo what is done or bring George Floyd back.
I do however believe that what occurred presents to us, as Arabs and Muslims, a challenge to finally do the work required of us. Work, that cannot right this wrong, but inshallah, may ensure that George Floyd’s death is not completely in vain. Some of the work I speak of is to:
- Name and take responsibility for, and eliminate any and all anti-blackness wherever it exists in our community.
- Recognize our relative privilege in these scenarios and how our privilege to, for example call a cop, might be weaponized against any black person we call them on, whether it is our intent or not.
- Have serious and thoughtful dialogue about how we may be participating or benefiting from the extractive economies that continue to decimate historically black and brown neighborhoods.
- Organize, challenge and actively resist any and all legal requirements that are putting black and brown people in potentially deadly encounters with law enforcement of any kind and develop concrete alternatives to calling the police whenever possible.
- Engage with and ask black leaders and activists how we can best support them – be allies, no…accomplices to their struggle toward liberation for themselves and in turn for ourselves and all peoples.
After all, I suspect you would agree that the same systems (which are rooted in white supremacy), that allowed George and countless other black and brown people to be murdered by police, are the same ones that keep our communities here in the U.S. under continual scrutiny and surveillance. And, are the same ones that have our brothers and sisters back home living in open air prisons and in constant fear of bombs dropping on them in their sleep. These are the systems that both devastate in deadly ways, as it did for George – and that also chip away at us in smaller ways denying our right to exist as we are (like, for example, when you have to tell people to call you “Mike” when your name is actually Mahmoud, as I notice you do).
I respect that you have been supportive of the movement calling for justice for George Floyd. And, I appreciate the respect that you and your family appear to have garnered from the black folks in your community and George Floyd’s family, so you may be asking, “What more can I possibly do?” as you read this. But I know in my heart of hearts, that you…and, we as a community must do better. We must do more. So, in the end, I am not calling you out, but calling us all “in” toward that end.
My request and my wish is that you move past the “survival mode” posture you have been exhibiting and step into your power during this difficult time, to lead. Not in the traditional way, that leadership is often thought of, by taking charge or prescribing solutions. I ask that you instead, remain curious. That you ask those who are most affected in your community by this tragedy how you can best support them in their efforts. In short, to lead, by being led – to organize our community locally there in Minneapolis, to work, not only for the things that serve their security and livelihood, but for those things that allow all people in that community to, not merely survive, but to thrive.
If this sounds appealing to you on any level, I am here to support, encourage and build with you in any way I can – just reach out.
In striving and steadfastness toward justice for all and with love. – – Dean