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THE MEDIA AND RACISM: THE BIRTH OF ISLAMOPHOBIA 

In every society and in every culture, the media plays the role of an important and major institution. Many consider the Media a teacher, since we learn from it, since we hear it every day and since it helps form our opinions, judgments and biases. The media teaches us what we should value, what the norm should be, what people should look like, how we should treat others who look differently and how they should behave in our society. The media is the Agenda Setting King that decides how the people will act as a nation. The media that is supposed to be factual, non-biased and democratic has in fact created a powerful voice that is right and strong and cannot be held down. It has formed the consensus and a pressure for society to conform to it and not deviate from what is said to be ‘normal.’

Over the years, the Media has constantly targeted minorities or different Ethnic groups so that they are perceived as ‘violent, ignorant or criminals.’ From the early 1800’s African Americans have been targeted by the media. Even though some journals or Hollywood movies depicted reality, it still encouraged more racism. Many laws put down by governments helped bring the hype down once the black movement took pace but the media still shows ‘Blacks’ as being inferior, illiterate, thugs or criminals. White kids learned from the Media and the portrayal of blacks that they treated Black children rudely and as unequal. A white girl was reported to have called a Black kid ‘Baby maid’ because of how often Black people were portrayed as maids. Even though this incident took place in the 1960’s, it is important to discuss it because it still associates itself with the people. By the year 2011, only 6 African American women had won an Oscar, and in 2011 Octavia Spencer won an Oscar for her acting in the movie ‘Help’ where she had played a role of a maid. Out of all the roles that thousands of black women have played, it was shockingly the role of a maid that was awarded an Oscar.  It wasn’t surprising to know that the award deciding team mainly consisted of 90% men and mostly white men. (RISE, 2013)

It hasn’t just been the Blacks that have been targeted by the Media. During World War, World War 2 and the rise of the Nazis, Jews were majorly criticized by the German Media. Every young child growing in Germany knew that he had to learn to hate the Jews. Journals taught in School highlighted that Jews were evil and that they made the German land impure. During Hitler’s regime, the media was his best friend. He pulled one string and he was able to put out his ideology of ‘racial supremacy’ on screen, on radio and store it forever in literature.

Racism has therefore been evident in Media since Media took power. You would believe that laws would have helped control Racism but the rise of democracy has given a higher power to the media to voice on whatever they want. “I have the right to say whatever I want to say because I live in a free country,” “If you don’t like what you’re seeing, switch the channel,” or “If you can’t handle differing opinions, get off a Public Forum,” are common dialogues many of us must have heard at one point of our lives And it makes you wonder since when did opting for freedom of speech mean choosing humiliation, generalization and racist remarks.

In the recent years the international Media was able to create a new phenomenon called “Islamophobia.” Wikipedia defines it as a: prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of Muslims or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim. This term came into prominence after the 9/11 incident in America but became existent since Muslims began moving into the Western world. The term “Terrorists” is very easily associated with people from Arab countries and the Middle East. Muslims in the media are violent, uneducated, extremist, rapists and murderers.

A famous way of humiliating Islam and its followers is by the use of cartoons. Over the past few years, illustrators have used their imaginative talents to create embarrassing stereotypical cartoons about the Muslims that portray them as hypocritical extremists who can never accept democracy and therefore do not deserve democracy. The image of a Muslim in illustrations and drawings is always one with a turban, a long beard, wearing slippers, carrying some kind of a weapon or another accompanied with a camel. The drawings represent that Muslims are still uneducated and live in extremely underdeveloped countries without technology or infrastructure making it a point that the entire race should be looked down upon as inferior. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqPWB95iOGs, 2007)

The media representation of how a Muslim looks like is vital to discuss because of the number of hate crimes that take place around the world. In 2012, an Iraqi American woman who covered her head with a scarf, a mother of 5, was found brutally killed in her own house with a note that read:”Go back to your country, you are a terrorist.” These attacks are not only directed towards the Muslim community but also towards others who resemble Muslims such as Sikhs. Sikhs wear turbans like Muslims in Arab countries do and keep long beards in accordance to their religion and so look alike to them. In fact, the first casualty of a hate crime in post-9/11 America was a Sikh-American named Balbir Singh Sodhi.  According to official reports, his murderer said he killed Sodhi because “he was dark-skinned, bearded, and wore a turban.” Islamophobia is so popular that there was a full research carried out on Obama’s background before he could be selected as the future President of America to ensure that he wasn’t a radical Muslim. (Singh, 2012)

Western news channels haven’t failed to criticize Muslims either. Fox news is a media channel that is famous for such controversies. A comment made by a Fox News Radio Host, Mike Gallagher, suggested that airports should have a separate security check-in line that is just for Muslims. This increased scrutiny towards Muslims and they were given a handful at American immigration. (RACISM, 2012). News channels make sure that they cover news that scapegoat Muslims as terrorists. Suicide bombings that take place in America such as bombings in school or open fires in schools are never given as much attention when they are done by Americans themselves. The news is covered for a few days and then let go by claiming that the criminal’s actions were committed because they were mentally disturbed. However, when a similar incident takes place and a Muslim is involved, psychological issues are never an option but terrorism is a definite link. Such a case involves Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who shot up a processing center at Fort Hood. Major Nidal Malik Hasan was a former United States Army psychiatrist and Medical Corps officer. He was reported as found stressed and socially isolated by his work along with the soldiers. When he fatally shot 13 people and injured about 30, the news media started to highlight how he was always anti-American and in contact with some Imam ignoring the fact that he was in a mentally exhausting job. Never is it ever seen that an American serial killer is given as much attention in the news as much as a Muslim criminal is and ironically by simple population dynamics alone, more often than not, Caucasians are the shooters, the mass murderers, and the teen killers. That isn’t journalism, it is Racism. (Ross, 2011)

I feel it is necessary to mention how the Media coverage changed since the 9/11 incident. Till now, the incident is mourned every year at its anniversary, and even though some might feel the aim of the coverage is in the memory of the lives lost and families affected, it is also a reminder of the terrorism that occurred and the enrage it caused therefore reinforcing Islamophobia over and over again. 9/11 was an extremely tragic and disastrous event that took place in 2001 that ended up labeling Muslims as terrorists and murderers, but the number of people who were killed after 9/11 attack have been far more. People who did not know anything about Islam learned what it was through one incident. In the year 2002 onwards there were 481 hate crimes against Muslims (Smith, 2013). Based on a research, By February 2002, opinions of Muslim Americans, Muslims, and Islam began to grow more negative. The largest change came in the number of Americans who said Islam “encourages violence.” From January 2002 to September 2003, this number increased from 14% to 34%. Furthermore, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice found that approximately 75 percent of hate crimes are not reported in official FBI statistics.

 The plane attack became the number one reason to enter into Afghanistan and declare war on Afghanistan. Since then, the media has failed to cover the war thoroughly. It has accounted for only 4% of the national news (Stetler, 2010). When it first began in October 2001 it was given attention but the on-going draining war soon lost all coverage. In a research it was concluded that many Americans were not even aware what was happening in Afghanistan and why the American forces were still there. While the plane crash in 2001 did kill several innocent souls, the war that has been going on since 2001 and still hasn’t ended properly killed more than 110,600 people including innocent civilians. The question of why this is never reported comes into my mind. As a human being I wonder why a Media that considers itself democratic, unbiased and one belonging to a country that is always standing up for equality and fairness, was not able to project the news properly? The issue was at large one concerning the world since many countries have actively been involved in the war against terror. A striking and common-sense explanation is that Americans are supposed to look “good” not evil. Americans cannot be labeled murderers. For the large amount of coverage that focused on the war, the citizens were brainwashed and persuaded that the war was good for them because it was just to protect them from the Muslims. Friends living in the U.S at that time recall days they remember when they were pointed fingers at and hollered at: “You deserve to die!” (Quoted:Zain Shabbir).

In many Western countries, the media is deeply influenced by international news. Even though the largest population of Muslims resides in Indonesia, all films and images are concentrated on Muslims belonging to the Middle East or other Arab countries. News articles on Islam are largely negative and misrepresent the religion as well religious terms such as “Jihad,” leading to the Us and Them divide in communities creating alienation and isolation for Muslim residents abroad. (Dr Shahram Akbarzadeh, 2005)

The Media does not solely promote Islamophobia in the United States but in other countries as well. The Danish media is well known for its controversies related to Muslims especially with its cartoons produced 2005 onwards that caused uproar in the Muslim world. In a research carried out, 4 major Danish newspapers were studied and it was concluded that 58% of the articles that were dealing with Islam and Muslims were negatively portrayed dealing with topics such as extremism, terror, sharia, freedom of speech, democracy versus Islam, and women’s rights all in the negative light. Other issues of different minorities were highlighted as them being poor, unfairly treated or ethnic crime while all about Muslims was related to religion and values alone (Sara Jul Jacobsen, 2013). In Australia as well, the media is extremely racist in reporting about Muslims. The words “Arab” or “Muslim” were associated with terrorism in 89 per cent of articles that appeared in Sydney’s two major newspapers in the year after September 11, 2001 (Munro, 2006). Even the British Media has carried out extremely biased reporting of Islam and Muslims. Many renowned Novelists and writers have criticized Islam writing articles titled: “I am an Islamophobe, and proud of it,” written by Polly Toynbee; Guardian’s columnist. Another article titled: “Islamaphobia? Count me in!” By an author of The Independent. If any of these writers had been anti-Semitic they would be hated on and labeled Racist but because majority of the population agrees with whatever they read and hear every other day, nobody is willing to raise a voice (Oborne, 2008). When citizens of a country are repeatedly injected with a statement, in time they believe it to be true. It’s like the statement, lie over and over again and it becomes the truth. “From 2001 to 2006, the number of UK non-Muslims who said they felt threatened by Islam rose from 32%t to 53%. By 2010, a further survey found that 75% of non-Muslims now believe Islam is negative for Britain, and that Muslims do not engage positively in society; with 63% not disagreeing that “Muslims are terrorists.” Such sentiments from the larger part of the society lead to the alienation of Muslims in Britain. (Ahmed, 2012)

It’s not only Newspapers or news channels that illustrate Islam as an Evil religion. Many Hollywood movies, TV seasons and even video games pass on a similar message. A number of prominent Hollywood movies such as the Iron Man, Delta Force and Syriana all showed Muslims as being criminals and terrorists and rightful of being killed. Recently, a new movie; Zero Dark Thirty, is clearly Islamophobic. After watching the film, a bunch of people started to comment on Social Media specifically Twitter, tweeting: Zero Dark Thirty makes me hate Muslims, Zero Dark Thirty wants me to shoot at Arabs with assault rifles (documentary).  This is a great example of the power that media has over its audience and how even a fiction movie can create a mindset and influence people to an extent that they make such racist remarks with such ease.

 Homeland is a Television Series that is an American Political Thriller based on the Israeli series Hatufim. It has a high rating of 8.8 making it a favorite of many. This series can also be viewed as Islamophobic by many who are unable to comprehend the real subliminal messages that are anything but racist.

Moving towards Interactive media, a lot of video games have been banned in Pakistan and other Muslim countries for being Racist. Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide was a game that was created in 2008. The game was a shootout game that had the aim of killing all Muslims. “Medal of Honor: Warfighter” and “Call of Duty: Black Ops II” are two extremely popular games that were banned in Pakistan as well. These games showed Pakistan in a negative light, showing that the ISI Intelligence of the country was aiding Al-Qaeda. A game as such that is played all over the world increases Islamophobia because it associates all Muslims with the Muslims that are labeled as “Terrorists.” (Shams, 2013)

Lastly, I’m going to talk a little about the impact of social media on creating and encouraging Islamophobia since we often  underestimate the power of social media. Youtube is watched by millions of people all over the world. There are no limits to the amount of videos one can upload and no restrictions to viewership. Often, any video that seems to be racist or unsuitable is flagged as inappropriate and removed but in 2012 an anti Islamic video was uploaded and Youtube as well as Google disagreed to take it down saying that it was freedom of speech to allow it. The video was a trailer of a movie called Innocence of Muslims that maligned the prophet Muhammad and ended up provoking protests in many Muslim countries. The plus point of social media is that it is a medium that is accessed by many more individuals than a single news channel can ever reach. It is a common public forum that shows the same to everyone everywhere. Any upload on Youtube is spread all over the world, so that any video symbolizing hatred towards Islam will be watched by many and in the end will be influencing many. (Sethi, 2013)

Over the years, Pakistan and other Muslim countries even blocked Facebook for not taking down Anti-Islamic pages such as one inviting people to draw images of the Propher(PBUH). A report concluded that many Facebook pages have previously ranged from “The Islamic threat” which passed about 113,000 supporter mark and continues to rapidly grow, to “Mohammad the PIG” which vanished after reaching 2000 supporters. In the 50 pages, the report documents 349 images of anti-Muslim hate. (One, 2012)

Tweet wars and status wars are also very common now days. In 2011, a popular hashtag on Twitter was #blamethemuslims promoting Islamophobia. 

From my own experiences as a Muslim that has had interactions with various Westerners; I have learned the effect of Media portrayal. The question, “How do you speak such good English?” or “Do you ride on camels back home?” is a common question that I was asked by friends belonging to the West. It shows how strong the Media is in communicating a certain image, one of Muslims being illiterate and fundamentalists who come from extremely underdeveloped countries lagging far behind the rest of the world. Many were also inquisitive to know why I am a Muslim but I do not cover my head since all do.

After much research and evaluation I have come to the conclusion that the Media is a strong tool that shapes the society and its values. Not all of the Media is bad, not all that is heard and seen is false but I believe that the Media still doesn’t do enough to reverse harmful and destructive perceptions about Muslims that till not eliminated will continue to divide societies and encourage hate. Islamophobia is the result of events that have taken place, reports and representations made and shown related to Muslims as well as not educating the audience of what Islam really is. That, in my opinion, is one of the attributes of any Media- to transmit correct information. Journalists are responsible for the stories that people re-tell.

~Faisal 



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Anonymous inquired: "Hi, is it possible to be ethnically white but not white passing? I'm of Mediterranean and spanish-Jewish ancestry as well as Northern European. But I don't look white at all and I don't know how to identify."

I am not the best person to ask.

You can still be white but have non-eurocentric features i.e. like Mila Kunis. 

But idk what that has to do with your identification at all? You are still white.



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Anonymous inquired: "I personally think that being Arab is a large ethnic group with many different sub divisions within country and clan and simply proclaiming Arabs white or black is not only incorrect but a means of separation. It's almost like pitting us against each other and growing the already tense atmosphere of colorism in our community."

^^READ THIS EVERYONE!!!

I wholeheartedly agree with your statement. Colorism is starting to become a widespread issue and is started to become a means of segregating large ethnic groups into smaller groups.  On applications and such, Arabs are being labeled as “White” which is becoming an issue because not all Arabs identify themselves as “White/Caucasian” or have the characteristics of white individuals. It does not matter what your skin color is. If you identify yourself as Arab, you are Arab. Sadly, this option does not exist because the world is unaware of this.

~Faisal



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Anonymous inquired: "I'm an Arab from Algeria and I have very dark skin so at first glance people tend to simply classify me as Black or Indian. Yet as an Arab from Algeria being forced to put Black or African American on my forms while my sister places White or Caucasian makes no sense to me and I think is a major problem. My Arab friends from Sudan also have similar problems where they are all Arab and Sudanese yet some are classified Black and others White."

I understand the issue in how you should identify yourself on a application, but I personally don’t like to involve myself and become a victim the societies system of labels. Lately, I have been just checking the “other” box and am still waiting for the day that Arabs will have a box so that we can correctly identify ourselves. 

I know on some applications it will say that being Arab is a subsection to the “White/Caucasian” check-box which perplexes me. I personally don’t know what advice to give you regarding your African roots, but I would just identify yourself as “other” on applications.

When it comes down to it, it’s whatever you feel most comfortable identifying yourself as just never lose sight of your true identity. I wish you the best of luck in this journey to self-discovery. 

~Faisal 



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Anonymous inquired: "What do you think about Arabs being classified as white?"

Personally, being of Arab descent and having to conform to societies labels, and put myself down as “White/Caucasian” is infuriating. I lived my entire life struggling in the Unites States because I am from Saudi Arabia and as a result of Islamophobia existing in the U.S. (but that’s a whole different topic…).

Being labeled as “White/Caucasian”, it becomes troublesome for Arab-Americans who are in the process of identifying themselves. For an Arab-American, there is a double-spectrum and it becomes difficult to establish themselves in society because you are not accepted in America because one is of Arab descent and vice-versa. Many Arab-Americans become lost in the system and don’t know how to identify themselves. Whites/Caucasians have been the ones to oppress people of Arab descent so Arabs who associate themselves with those labels is when it starts to become detrimental.

I personally believe if you are going to label me as white, I expect the privilege that comes with that label.

Are there any other Arabs that could possibly contribute their perspectives?

~Faisal



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The Portrayal of Islam in Social Media  

Islamophobia is truly disgusting and social media continues to perpetuate such ignorance by blanketing Islam and the Islamic culture with statements that Islam is “a religion promoting extreme acts of terrorism” and that Muslim parents are “disciplining their children to sacrifice their lives in the name of Islam” and are “strapping bombs to their children” in the name of Allah swt.

If people could separate themselves from social media and immerse themselves in the Islamic culture for just one day, one will realize that Islam is a religion that promotes peace and tolerance towards others. Islamophobia continues to be fueled with immeasurable amounts of ignorance and hate. Organizations such as EDL are inciting fear in order to influence the opinions of others through the display of extreme acts of terrorism committed by Muslims (9/11) and false accusations. When one’s primary source happens to be a television or computer screen, the viewers are being educated a distorted portrayal of the Islamic faith creating false perceptions on what Islam truly is. After all, society has conditioned people to believe whatever they see on T.V. and online.

 Why is it that media only portrays the negatives of Islam and Middle-Eastern culture, but the endless slaughter of Muslims in countries like Africa, and the famine and war in areas of Gaza, Palestine, etc… continues to remain undiscussed or covered in media? Why is Islam being described as the equivalent to extreme-Fascism, but we are never given concrete examples or information to truly back up these arguments?

 Coming to the United States, a country that promotes the freedom of faith/religion, I often hear disparaging remarks towards Muslims as a result of their beliefs and most often are persecuted by their peers. When one usually thinks about the United States, the word “freedom” comes to mind as it is something that is promised when one comes to the Unites States. The promise of religious freedom is one of the primary reasons that immigrants move to the United States to build a new life for themselves and their families. Religious freedom is a core American value protected by the Constitution, and ensures that people of all faiths are allowed to “practice their faith free from intimidation and discrimination”. As human beings, we need to promote not only religious freedom, but freedom to believe. Once we are able to accomplish this, we could finally grow as a country.

 ~Faisal 



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cocoa020 inquired: "I was browsing Your Fave Is Problematic and I saw the Selena Gomez post. I was just wondering, why was it bad that she had a henna tattoo? I think they referred to it as 'mehndi'. I was just wondering if it's really bad/racist or why it is called appropriation. I've gotten two henna tattoos before and I don't see it as racist, because it was just a beautiful flower design and a wolf. Selena's (I'm not a big fan of hers, it just caught my eye.) was just as presumably innocent."

The short answer is that she was appropriating henna and traditional henna desgins. (Henna is called different things in different places. In India, for example, it is called mehndi)

The use of henna itself is not appropriation because it is a type of dye. But the use of designs meant to mimic traditional middle eastern and south asian ones is appropriation.

In the case of Selena Gomez, her entire image for that one song was meant to portray to be ~exotic~ and used a lot of orientalist imagery, like the henna designs. I mean, she wore the bindi and traditional South Asian outfits and used them as props to portray an “ethnic” show,

Because her mimicking of traditional designs and overall appropriation, that is why she was wrong and racist.



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TN Tea Partiers freak out on TV reporter for covering their effort to block Muslim cemetery | The Raw Story 

Tempers flared in a confrontation between anti-Islamic activists and proponents of a plan to build an Islamic cemetery adjacent to a mosque in Murfreesboro, TN.

WSMV Channel 4 reported that supporters of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro asked the judge presiding over the hearing to recuse himself from today’s hearing about an injunction to stop the ICM’s expansion. The motion was granted, infuriating opponents to the cemetery plan.

Supporters of the Islamic Center said that Judge William Corlew lll ruled against them in the initial fight over whether to allow the mosque to be built at all in 2010. Federal judges overruled Corlew and construction proceeded.

The Islamic Center and its attorney John Green didn’t believe it could get an impartial ruling from Corlew in the matter and he recused himself from the hearing.

“We’ll go to another judge because the Islamic center didn’t think Judge Corlew could give them a fair trial. I think it was sad today for all the people took off work to be here,” said Lou Ann Zelenik, a local Tea Party officialand longtime opponent of the Islamic Center.

Green said that the “degree of hyperbole and misinformation” in the case has reached a point of true “absurdity.”

In the hallway outside the meeting room, mosque opponents turned nasty, jostling and shoving, then insulting a mosque supporter and ordering him not to film them.

One elder gentleman accompanying Zelenik said that Islam is “not a religion” and told ICM supporters, “You’re the ones that’s lying.”

The Murfreesboro Post reportedthat Zelenik’s group even turned on Channel 4 reporter Larry Flowers — who is African-American — barking at him, “Who are you?” and attempting to manhandle him.

“I don’t have a dog in this fight, so you do not touchme,” said Flowers angrily as one Tea Partier shoved him. “You hear me?”

Zelenik ran to represent Tennessee in Congress, challenging freshman Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) in 2012 and losing. Zelenik’s stridently anti-Islamic campaign rhetoric earned the contest the sobriquet“the craziest GOP House Race of the year” as each woman tried to prove that she was more staunchly anti-Muslim than her opponent.

The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro was just the beginning of a sweeping plan for an Islamic takeover of Tennessee and the imposition of “Sharia law,” Zelenik said. She endorsed two conservative legislators to attempt to ban the practice of Islam in Tennessee as a form of treason.



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Tom Rogan - Alice in Arabia and the Foul Idiocy of Censorship 

This is about the recent cancellation of the “Alice in Arabia” show from the ABC Family line-up due to very reasonable outcry from Arab and Muslim communities. (For more info on the response to the show, click here or here.)

And to put it simply, this article is full of crap! 

It claims that the outcry from concerned Arab and Muslim communities in American should “never have been able to succeed.”

And then goes on to talk about how this show would have benefited American cause it would have shown the lives of women in Saudi Arabia.

But this ignores the fact that the show would have trivialized the experiences of Saudi Arabian women (and Arab women all over the world) and stereotyped all Arabs.

The sheer fact that there were no Arab or Muslim members of the creative team shows that this show was going to be nothing more than a horrible rehash of outdated, imperialistic stereotypes of Arabs.

To say that ABC Family shouldn’t cancel it despite outcry from the community of people that the show was claiming to represent is ridiculous.

It also ignored the COUNTLESS statements written by Arab Americans and organizations representing Arab Americans saying that they wish ABC Family would reach out to Arabs and Muslims to create a nuanced television series that would represent them better. (Where they said they would want to show the lives of actual Muslims while also addressing complicated issues such as treatment of women in some countries). It could show all facets of Arab-American and Arabs in other countries without painting this black-and-white picture of the “Good Muslim who has assimilated to American Life” vs. “The Oppressive Muslims ~Over There~” as the show seemed to suggest.

It is not like Arabs and Muslims do not want to talk about the broader social problems that affect their communities around the world. We just don’t want those stories being told entirely by non-Arabs and non-Muslims.



awaitingmyescape:

h-e-a-v-e-n-s-tears:

uncensoredhijabii:

theblackdalia:

letnoorshine:

Footage I got of being HARASSED by Lou Ann Zelenik and others after a court hearing. Islamaphobia is alive and well in this part of the U.S. I’ve never, ever experienced anything like this in my entire life. Please share this video. Spread awareness.

Notice how they treat her, the black cameraman, the people around them. Notice how they feel they are being put “in the back of the bus”. Notice the raging issue in this video. Stop pretending this is not real. Stop pretending this country is advanced enough to even fathom a future as a post-racial society.

Absolutely sickening.

these people are so disgusting

I’M TRYING EXTREMELY HARD TO FIGHT BACK THE URGE TO FIND THIS BITCH