A Test for the Soul of America
“O you who have accepted faith, reverence G-d and speak a word directed to the right.” (Qur’an 33:70)
As people of consciousness and faith it is incumbent that we add our voice to those good people across America who have been outraged at recent actions of our government that pits one group of people against another and threatens the basic human and civil rights of minority populations.
Over the last few weeks, the United States government took actions resulting in the adverse impact to minority groups including South American immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, and Hispanics. These actions include: 1) the Trump Administration separating the children from immigrant families fleeing oppressive social, economic, and political circumstances and seeking refuge across the U.S. border with Mexico, and; 2) several U.S. Supreme Court decisions including the third version of the “Travel (Muslim) Ban,” minority voting rights, and racial gerrymandering. While each of these actions seems separate and distinct from the other, there is a common thread that connects them all. They adversely impact vulnerable minority populations.
In the case of the separation of families on the southern border, we see children being ripped from the arms of their parents, detentions in prison-like settings (including cages), and separated families unable to reclaim their children, some of whom are infants. These morally reprehensible actions are reminiscent of the worst chapters of American history. Examples include internment camps where U.S. citizens of Japanese descent were forced into during World War II, and the “reservations” that sequestered Native Americans for decades. The underlying reality is that the targeted group is perceived to be a THREAT to the rest of America. The stated rationale by those controlling the levers of governmental power dehumanizes the target population justifying inhuman treatment. The contradiction is ironic in a society that was founded on the inherent worth of all persons as “created equal” with G-d given rights of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
This pattern repeated itself in another form that became known as the “Muslim Travel Ban.” In a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision, that split along ideological lines, the court upheld the third version of the Trump Administration’s ban on travel which included several Muslim-majority countries. The so-called “Travel Ban” was a third attempt to craft a Presidential Executive Order that would withstand legal challenge. The original version stemmed from President Trump’s campaign promise to ban the entry of Muslims into the United States. Muslims were one of several minority groups that have been demonized under the current President with demagogic rants and blatant lies.
Two other recent 5-4 decisions of the Supreme Court (Husted v. A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and Abbott v. Perez) also threaten minority communities relative to voting rights and racial gerrymandering. In the former, the court upheld an Ohio law that purged voters from registration rolls if they fail to return a post card confirming their place of residence or don’t vote in two election cycles. In the later, the court allowed the state of Texas to use election maps that a lower court ruled could disenfranchise Hispanic and African-American voters. Both decisions adversely impact minority communities and undermine civil rights according to legal analysts and civil rights organizations.
These four examples represent an undeniable pattern that reveals a test and struggle for the soul of America. Will we be led down a path of ethnic and tribal division with minority suppression for partisan advantage and political power, or will we find the moral courage to transform our country according to the ideals of our founding principles? During times like these, it is incumbent on people of consciousness and faith to speak to a higher moral standard that challenges our country to rise above mean-spirited, biased and craven governmental actions and strive for a “more perfect union.” Our faith also teaches us that our hopes and good intentions must be supported by social and political action that will promote the good government that America is capable of.