For this Sunday's edition of the New York Times, Aziz Ansari took to the pages of its opinion section to pen an essay about how afraid he is for his family in a world where the flames of hateful rhetoric and prejudice are being fanned by people like Donald Trump.
Ansari's parents are Muslim, and he opens his piece with a conversation he recently had with his mother via text where he discourages her from going to the mosque following the horrific attack that killed 50 people at Orlando nightclub Pulse. "I am the son of Muslim immigrants," he writes. "As I sent that text, in the aftermath of the horrible attack in Orlando, Fla., I realized how awful it was to tell an American citizen to be careful about how she worshiped."
He continues to pull from his own experiences and interactions with loved ones and dear friends, stressing that the number of terrorists who identify as Muslim is dwarfed by the millions of peaceful Muslim Americans: "The overwhelming number of Muslim Americans have as much in common with that monster in Orlando as any white person has with any of the white terrorists who shoot up movie theaters or schools or abortion clinics."
This is the truth that people like Donald Trump intend to obscure each and every single day with their calls for racially and religiously-motivated hatred, and Ansari doesn't shy away from drawing those conclusions in a powerful way here:
A few months after the attacks of Sept. 11, I remember walking home from class near N.Y.U., where I was a student. I was crossing the street and a man swore at me from his car window and yelled: “Terrorist!” To be fair, I may have been too quick to cross the street as the light changed, but I’m not sure that warranted being compared to the perpetrators of one of the most awful incidents in human history.
The vitriolic and hate-filled rhetoric coming from Mr. Trump isn’t so far off from cursing at strangers from a car window. He has said that people in the American Muslim community “know who the bad ones are,” implying that millions of innocent people are somehow complicit in awful attacks. Not only is this wrongheaded; but it also does nothing to address the real problems posed by terrorist attacks. By Mr. Trump’s logic, after the huge financial crisis of 2007-08, the best way to protect the American economy would have been to ban white males.
According to reporting by Mother Jones, since 9/11, there have been 49 mass shootings in this country, and more than half of those were perpetrated by white males. I doubt we’ll hear Mr. Trump make a speech asking his fellow white males to tell authorities “who the bad ones are,” or call for restricting white males’ freedoms.
Ansari's piece isn't just a compelling, personal must-read that stares down the harmful ugliness of xenophobia and hate: It's an important condensation of the bedlam playing out in headlines and talking points, both on the senate floor and in the 2016 presidential election. Read Ansari's op/ed in full here.