Islamophobia has gotten so common-place in the U.S. as of late that one American mother decided she needed to speak out and use her own white privilege to help correct what has largely been a very narrow, racist view of Muslims across the nation.
Kate Downing Khaled is a white, American woman who grew up in the Midwest and Canada as a Methodist. She considers herself to be “your average mom of three young boys living in Minnesota.” Her father is an American and her mother is Canadian American. Yet at 25 years old, the now 33-year-old converted to Islam “after many years of curiosity and study.”
“I was looking for a more meditative practice,” she said.
Khaled emphasized just how much of an “average American” she is by sharing that her family roots can be traced back to both the Mayflower and John Adams. She wrote in her pro-Muslim, pro-acceptance statement on social media, “I could literally register as a Daughter of the American Revolution.”
But Khaled was drawn to prayer, and she liked “Muslim’s frequency of prayer.”
Her own transition to the Islamic faith further blossomed when she met her husband in graduate school. Taqee Khaled is a first generation U.S. citizen, and Muslim himself. His parents are from Bangladesh. But, Khaled said, she’s really been amazed to witness the “blending” of their families.
“It’s beautiful to see my parents who grew up in America, and my in-laws build this beautiful relationship,” she stated.
But beautiful as Khaled’s experience as a Muslim American has been, by and large, she hasn’t been able to shake the stench of Islamophobia from the air lately, especially since the Paris attacks, San Bernardino mass shooting and Donald Trump using the media to polarize a nation by calling for things like an “all-out ban on Muslims” – even American citizens who happen to be abroad. It’s getting harder to live under that pressure as a Muslim in America. The sudden shift across the nation has Khaled worried about her sons.
“It would break my heart if they weren’t accepted,” she said.
That’s when Khaled decided to take to Facebook and say something, drawing attention to how her country is ripping her at the seams, forcing an arbitrary, misguided divide between her country and her identity. And between the two, Khaled refuses to choose, nor should she have to do any such thing.
Of her statement, Khaled stated, “I thought maybe if I was lucky a couple of my friends from high school who may have some fear of Muslims may read it and be less scared.”
I am a stark example of ‘us’ and ‘them’ living in one body. I shouldn’t have to share these private parts of my identity, but I’m not sure what else to do. Muslim Americans, like me, need your help and support. The way I see it, the ‘us’ that I love is hurting the ‘them’ that I am. And I really need you to start understanding: The ‘them’ that you see is actually a beautiful part of what makes ‘us’ great.
The post has since gone somewhat viral, garnering thousands of likes and shares. Messages of support also soon flooded in.
But would this post have been nearly as effective in the U.S. of A. if it had been posted by an African American or any number of people with a slight olive tone in their complexion?
Khaled is basically saying, not all Muslims are “terrorists” who appear to be of Middle Eastern decent. There are American Muslims, even white Muslims. Your stereotypes are off-target and offensive. Trash ‘em.
That is all true, well and good, and kudos to her for widening Americans’ perspective of Muslims. Her statement helps expand the dialogue regarding Muslims and Muslim Americans while breaking down the walls of the convenient little boxes people always try to limit other groups of people to throughout time.
But the ability for someone to try to improve America’s Islamophobia by pointing out there are even white people, even former Christians who are Muslim, can’t help but leave a little something less than savory in Uncle Sam’s mouth.
The sad but good news is that Khaled’s statement in this country will likely do a bit of good, and her intent is positive. As she told BuzzFeed News, she wanted to present “a positive online face for her religion,” and spread the message of love, acceptance and peace across the nation, if not beyond. “People need to understand that Islam is as diverse as America, and part of what makes America beautiful is that we can all practice what we believe in peace together,” she stated.
But the sad aspect of Khaled’s statement and action is that we still live in a country where one can use their white privilege at all, even in a manner such as Khaled has done — even when the intent is for positive change.
That is not a statement against Kate Downing Khaled, nor her action, but more so the ugly reality of America’s tenacious racism. At least Khaled is using it on itself for the right reasons. It’s just that she’ll have to understand if the rest of us hold our noses a little bit in acknowledging her contribution.
Featured image by Kate Downing Khaled via Facebook.