Editor's note: Tef Poe is an artist from the St. Louis area. Through powerful imagery and complicated honesty, he has earned a reputation as one of the best rappers telling the story of St. Louis, which is about much more than one place. Poe has been featured in music publications such as XXL and Urb Magazine. His project The Hero Killer was released on January 2 and was followed up this year by a full-length with DJ Burn One entitled Cheer For the Villain. Follow him on twitter @tefpoe. Get The Hero Killer here.
In light of recent global tragedies, many things have gone through my mind concerning the treatment of Muslim Americans in this day and age. Islam is a beautiful religion, but like all religions, it does unfortunately have blood on its hands.
As a black American, I'm aware that Christianity proudly sports the blood of my ancestors and spits it back in our faces when we remind folks how it was introduced to black people in America -- via slavery, fear and control. The world functions primarily off of fear and control -- these two dynamics alone will make the most sensible, compassionate human beings do the most inhumane things.
In America we rush to mainstream media to see the violence produced by Islamic extremists, but we seldom discuss the actual history behind it. The television screen overflows with images of missile-toting men with black and white scarves over their faces. We see the images of young kids throwing rocks at tanks in Palestine. These children might possibly throw stones at these war vehicles as a defense mechanism for their lives, but in our media that story isn't depicted. For the sake of sensationalism, the story is about the radical, machine-gun-carrying extremists who hate America with all of their hearts.
This is a stereotype that has done harm to our image abroad and feeds the notion that the American public isn't capable of thinking critically and analyzing the information fed to us via media outlets. The flip side to this is the fact that most of us prefer to remain ignorant about global conflicts and the ties between American imperialism and global oppression. Americans aren't here to abolish things such as racism and capitalism because these are the primary tools that keep our political system afloat. The fear that capitalism may not quite be working in the complete interest of everyone in our country is used to influence the hatred and subjugation of minority groups. The fear of ending slavery transferred from being an issue of morality into an issue of economics.
Black people stationed at the bottom must remain at the bottom in order for this country to function. These are the secrets of capitalism: We must sponsor as much hate as possible and act as though we are clueless about its origins. American Christianity and the way Americans view Islam are both tied deeply into the thirst for war and consumption. The illusion is that everyone is capable of winning; the reality is everyone does not win, yet our system stays alive by "acting" as if we intend to be fair and impartial in our dealings with each other.
Comedian Paul Mooney says there comes a time when everyone gets their "nigger wake-up call." Poor black people, poor white people, Latinos, members of the LGBT community have long since gotten theirs. The "nigger wake-up call" for Islam in America was issued on September 11, 2001. It has never been retracted, and it has actually been strengthened by none other than Barack Obama.
The arrival of a black president has done very little for race relations in the Middle East. There are two sides to every story -- and I'm not saying we are the only morally irresponsible party at the table -- but I am offering a contribution to this discussion from a different perspective.
We remain blind to the land occupation taking place in Palestine. We act as if our allies in that portion of the world have not ravaged Africa and punished African people for simply existing. We continue to act as if America was not founded on the heels of the Christian crusades. Jesus is vexingly still depicted as uber white. Our perspectives are jaded and influenced by mass machines that do not strive to actually give a fair, balanced and properly informed perspective to the public.
Even in the city of St.Louis, police officers have sought training from the very same people oppressing black and brown people on a global level. The moral compass is never in the favor of the oppressor, yet the portrayal of such events by the media would suggest that a far different story is being told.
A Palestinian kid throws a rock at a tank, and instead of speaking out against the people who sent the tank to the village, we classify the villagers as the villains. A young black man or woman in Ferguson throws a water bottle at an armored vehicle, and suddenly they are in the wrong -- as if a line of soldiers with M16s isn't occupying a suburban neighborhood.
We have a deep-seated issue with perception. The challenge is to look outside of yourself and see the scenario from a different lens.