The American civil rights movement has fought for decades to make all men and women living in the United States well and truly equal — and as Black Lives Matter has successfully proved in recent weeks, it still has a long way to go. Some are asking whether or not such a victory is even possible in a country where nearly half of the population votes for a man like Donald J. Trump. The movement has also shed light on a different subject: namely the number of actors who have been forgotten.
Malcolm X was an African American Muslim. So is Keith Ellison, a public prosecutor and Attorney General living in Minnesota. But it seems those players and their roles in building this movement have been long forgotten or are still ignored, especially with hate groups spreading misinformation at an alarming rate.
Ellison sought to enter the civil rights movement and law enforcement from a young age. He was only four years old when the National Guard stormed through his hometown. It was 1968. It was just days after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Prosecutors often get a bad rap, but when an African American gets arrested or hurt, he often sees it firsthand. And he’s there to offer help, whether referring individuals to personal injury attorneys or helping keep perpetrators behind bars.
Imam Mahdi Bray, who acts as the National Director of the American Muslim Alliance, said, “We have a long history dealing with violence by extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. When a lot of people think of terrorism, they think of 9/11. But for me terrorism was on that day in 1956 when my grandfather’s home was firebombed by the Klan.”
Domestic terrorism has continued long after the events of 9/11 aroused the patriotism of Americans everywhere. In recent weeks, young African American men have been found hanging from trees — only to have police rules those obvious murders as “suicide.”
Black men do not commit suicide by hanging themselves from trees.
Bray explained, “What’s happening in the US is what has happened for many years. We are suffering from systemic racism and violence. What happened to George Floyd has happened to many African American Black men who have basically experienced death and lethal violence by law enforcement.”
Bray described his own transition to Islam in the mid-1960s as very organic. Many Black Americans at the time were focusing on events transpiring in the Middle East, where predominantly Muslim populations reside. It only seems fitting that the oppressed from one region would band together in solidarity with the oppressed from another region.
But at a time when American sentiments are wholly focused on both minorities living in the United States, it can put Bray and others like him in an unwanted spotlight. Misconceptions continue to run rampant throughout the country, but he remains committed to ending them.