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Role of matriarchs in ending racial profiling

Pro-Pakistan and pro-Muslims United States Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held: “It was after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis that systematic racism has raised its ugly head but with the Muslims’ ban and stigma on Muslims, attack on immigrants, stereotyping of the Muslim community, we are facing this with all perspectives.”

Webinar arranged by the American Muslim Multi-faith Women Empowerment Council (Amwec) where civic and faith leaders, educators, elected officials, law enforcement and minority communities joined for a compassion conversation on the role of women on ending racial profiling.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee held that women were the healers of the nation and more than ever the USA needs the leadership and power of women from all backgrounds to promote peace and end racial profiling: “In terms of transformational changes, no matter what our faith or background is, we can join together with one voice to change law enforcement from warrior (against any community) to guardians.

“We want to stop burying 17 years old boys like Trayvon Martin, or 12 years old like Tamir Rices” she said while adding that people from all background should strongly support and advocate for HR 7120-the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act.

Sheila feels privileged to name the first bill after George Floyd and get this amendment done. A member of Congressional Caucus and a fellow Californian, Lee asked women to meet with law enforcement to make them understand that it is not just federal laws that are trying to change their behavior but you want to change their hearts as well. “Due to systematic racism, over 50% of people, mostly African Americans men, over the last couple of years in particular with police interaction, have lost their lives,” she added.

While talking about disparities in areas of healthcare, education and well-being, she said it is important for the nation to look at how to end systematic racism. “We collectively must stand against Muslim ban, discrimination against immigrants, permanent status of DACA students giving them access to citizenship (Supreme Court has given a delay).”

Earlier, Anila Ali, President, Amwec while opening the discussion said women are maternal pillars of the society possessing unique perspectives and skills sets. Racism, bigotry or hatred can be addressed through dialogues across racial, religious, political and cultural differences and forging a greater sense of solidarity and social cohesion and bridging the divide.“Our differences are not natural or static but they are socially constructed and we as a society have to determine which differences are apparently important.”

Anila said it was after a personal experience post 9/11 attacks when she along with her family was disembarked from the aircraft due to her being a Muslim and a Pakistani, that she rose to the occasion and found creative and positive solutions to these problems faced by thousands of people coming from different countries.

“I partnered with a Jordanian American to make a documentary on our personal profiling encounters. The film and the activism around it pushed the Dept of Homeland Security to develop the Trip Program which allowed frequent travelers like MeToo get a redress number attached to their flight reservations to avoid false match screenings. Later, millions benefited from that program,” said Anila.

Talking about how to build relationships across the lines of divisions and rebuild a better future for the next generation, Mayor Ali Sajjad from the City of Artesia, said after the killing of George Floyd, they held an interfaith candle light vigil in the region by bringing all the communities across faiths and religions together to send a message of peace and tolerance.

Ali Sajjad said they are also planning to invest into different communities in Artesia city to create partnerships with good law enforcement people who rendered a great job to protect the city.

Having 35 years with Los Angeles police department and had run the Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau for 10 of those years, former Deputy Chief of LAPD Mike Downing observed that successful character of any country reflects the way they treat their women. “I believe in empowering people, leveraging community resources, and solving problems to help build trust between communities and law enforcement.”

Downing termed racism, discrimination, bigotry as an Achilles’ heel in the country, society and law enforcement. Many police departments have gone through fair and impartial policing but it hasn’t changed the DNA and character of law enforcement and society. Continuous trainings and strong political leadership at national, regional or local level will have an impact on how the idea of explicit and implicit bias is expressed. He said Weapons should only be used when needed but never on a protest or demonstration or parade.

Chief of San Diego Harbor Police which covers San Diego Bay and the area around the bay and also the airport, Mark Stain Brook said all the chiefs in San Diego County met twice last week with minority community leaders and listened to them. He said in San Diego County, 18 police departments together decided to discontinue the Carotid Restraint, commonly known as a “Chokehold,” which is a barrier to communication with some of our new communities.

“This was much before the recent events. We had also been working on de-escalation trainings, training on intercultural communication, diversity, inherent bias, and excited delirium. Our officers are specifically trained to intercede when another officer is intentionally or unintentionally violating any of our policies and make sure that it gets reported,” Mark Stain Brook held.

Chiling Tong, ACE National and Founder International Leader Foundation (ILF), said they have been working closely with the Congress and administration to help Asian American business owners to overcome their business challenges and begin to recover from the huge impact corona virus pandemic has had on their businesses.

“As a minority we stand in solidarity with the black community who are peacefully protesting around the country demanding action and justice for the killing of African-Americans and to address economic injustice in their community. Many businesses, especially minority owned business, have fallen victim to a few bad actors, who infiltrated peaceful protest,” Chiling Tong said.

Shelly Moore Krajacic, Executive Officer, National Education Association (NEA), board member Amwec and an educator, says we need to recognize the biases that exist within the structures, and within the educators. “About 80% of all public school teachers are women and the preponderance of those are white women.

“That puts a question mark on the exhibiting system and how educators are taught and trained.” Shelly insisted on being intentional while talking about race. “In order to bring change, we got to have serious explicit talk about race with the students of color as we have failed them so far in the history of this nation,” said Shelly Moore.

Donna Thomas, an educator teaching students with IEPs (students with special needs), for the last 26 years, while sharing her personal story, said in the initial years she was the only black teacher in her school:“You can imagine the kind of conversation that I would walk into the teachers’ lounge and hear. Sometimes I would educate or to have a conversation and a lot of times I would just let it roll off or ignore it.”

Donna says Black Lives Matter Movement is now taken more seriously and though her community feels afraid to call police if something happens because “when we look at the white police officers we automatically think that they will beat us down or kill us. I know that is not fair”. She said solution lies in education and having conversation on this issue.

Chief Robert Arcos, Director of Operations, LAPD, who oversees the operations in all 21 police stations in Los Angeles, admitted that Police accountability is a must and we should root out systematic racism, police brutality and biases. “The recent movement with a lot of persistent youth asking for accountability is at the root of a culture that needs attention. It is not just about passing a few legislative motions but needs a lot of work together.”

Amir Ehsaei, Special Agent Incharge, Counter Terrorism, FBI, says in order to remove external biases, they have incorporated community dialogues in many of their programs to build trust and remove fear of law enforcement. “Under FBI programs we visit elementary, middle and high schools to talk to kids and also invite their parents for talks. Internally, we are making sure to promote a diverse group into the management. We also have cross cultural mentoring component.”

Peter Levi, Regional Director, Anti-defamation League (ADL) suggests dialogue, education and learning through local advocacy and activist organizations, to fight hatred and bigotry. “No one is born bigot. Bigotry is not learned explicitly but implicitly through books, movies, or society, where biased deliberations are not the conscious choice.

“Bias is universal but we don’t educate people about unhealthy biases, based on gender, role of women and men, race, religion. In terms of policy, we have to ask ourselves, has the race or the color of George Floyd anything to do with using the police force against him”.

Levi noted: “It is not just one bad cop that did it, there were three others who watched and did nothing. The question finds its roots not only in the culture of the law enforcement but also in our society. The policy needs to address these systemic issues in terms of racial justice, housing justice, economic justice, education justice.”

He suggests a multi-pronged approach to address racial profiling. “Systematic racism, micro aggression, implicit bias may be new to our vocabulary but we all need to understand their impact on our communities.”He says we should not be indifferent to any policy, bigotry or a biased joke on a dinner table, or a comment we see online or on mass media. “But it requires huge efforts,” Peter Levi maintained.

Webinar 2Webinar arranged by the American Muslim Multi-faith Women Empowerment Council (Amwec).

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M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.