A Letter

Dear Trump Supporter,

I am not afraid of you.

I know you are good and kind. You brush your children’s teeth before bed and eat oatmeal for breakfast. You shop online and binge watch television when you’ve had a tough day. I do those things, too.

Martin Luther King’s words, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other,” flash on an old fashioned television at the Civil Rights Museum in Atlanta. The museum is a testimony to an era of unnecessary hate and the people who died trying to make love win.

They have a simulation exhibit. If you put your hands on the counter, the earphones on your ears and close your eyes, you can experience (to a degree) what it was like to sit-in at a counter in protest. I sat at the simulation counter, put the earphones on my head and closed my eyes. When I heard the crack of a piece of wood across my back, my stool shook. In my right ear someone said he was going to put a fork in my neck, while in my left ear someone laughed. It was horrific. I opened my eyes at the end and could barely move. I thought, how did they do that? And I said very quietly to myself, human hate is so very real.

Northerners like to think “that was in the South” about issues of hate. We have an arrogance about our liberal and loving mind set. In Minnesota, this attitude is compounded with ‘Minnesota Nice”, meaning: Even if someone doesn’t genuinely feel kindness toward you, she will smile anyway.

So I was very surprised to see posts about vandalism and harassment at the University of Minnesota. The Muslim Students’ Association sign had been defaced with the word ISIS, and a letter went out from the administration offering support to anyone who felt scared.

So I wondered if I was scared and I wondered if I should get extra security for Daybreak, which sits right in the middle of campus.

Minority and marginalized communities in the United States have faced horrific violence and punishment when they have asked for basic human rights (like sitting at a counter designated for whites). Today between police brutality, broken treaties, unchecked gun violence, domestic violence, and all sorts of other violences, the world seems to be falling apart. Yet, during the Prophet’s (s) lifetime, the early Muslims were wrapped in burlap and slowly burned over hot coals, tied together and dragged through the city streets, and put in chains and imprisoned. During these tough times, they came to the Prophet (s) and asked him to pray for their relief. It is one of the few times where a narration records his (s) anger. He recounted how people before them (early Christians) had been buried in the sand and their heads sawed in two, or pulled apart limb by limb – and all because they believed in God. He reassured them that relief is coming, but that patience was necessary. He called on the companions to value what they were fighting for, enough to be patient during the struggle.

Indeed the history of the Civil Rights movement in the United States is a history of patience. We are asked now to stand up and be counted, and I hope that we will be brave, clear and strong. I hope that we will be patient with the people who hate us – the people who fear us.

So I say again to you – the Trump supporter, the people who painted ISIS on the Muslim Students’ Association sign, my neighbor with the Trump sign on his lawn – I say let’s have coffee. We can talk about our cars or our dishwashers – mine has been extra loud lately. We can chat about our spouses and how they don’t pick up their socks, or our adult children and how they don’t call home often enough.

Hate and fear were the downfall of Anakin Skywalker. Yoda knew. I will not let them be my downfall and I invite you to join me on the light side, the side of courage and love.

How do you take your coffee?

With love,

Tamara Gray

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