In the current political climate, buzzwords such as “oil,” “the Middle East” and “terrorist” are constantly thrust into the faces of the American public. Including modern-day witch-hunts in Congress, blatant stereotyping in the media and outright acts of hatred, a new type of racism is pervading our society. The latest villain of America comes in many forms — the Muslim, the Arab, the Arab Muslim — but can best be summarized by a single phrase unfortunately immortalized by the popular film Team America: World Police — “Dirka dirka!” Texas, no stranger to discrimination of many varieties, has participants in this new vilification of Muslims and Arabs as well, perpetuating the stereotype of uninformed, ignorant Texans throughout the United States.
The Los Angeles Times published a story Nov. 1 about the radio ad of Texas handgun instructor Crockett Keller. In the ad, which was played on the local station near Keller’s hometown of Mason, Texas, about 100 miles west of Austin, Keller advertises his beginner’s concealed handgun class. Later in the ad, Keller qualifies, “If you are a socialist liberal and/or voted for the current campaigner in chief, please do not take this class. You’ve already proven that you cannot make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as required under the law. Also, if you are a non-Christian Arab or Muslim, I will not teach you this class.” The video has reached more than 37,000 hits on YouTube and has sparked intensive debate on the issue of terrorism and ignorance in America.
Speaking in that slow, familiar Texas twang, Keller blatantly discriminates against Arabs and maligns liberals as incapable socialists. As the YouTube clip went viral, Keller encountered much criticism from both YouTube users and news stations across America reporting on the intolerant ad. One resounding agreement among YouTube commenters: “Texas is a disgrace to America.”
In the eyes of many, Texas has proven itself to be the prejudiced simpleton of the South, wielding weapons and name-calling a minority. From the legacy of questionable politicians cum president (and potential president) to the presumed regard that Texas should be an independent republic, the most damaging stereotype is that of the racist Texan. Though not true of all Texans, this stereotype continues because of a lack of sufficient condemnation of discriminatory language or actions.
While this video may seem a far cry from the opinions of most educated Texans, this form of racism has manifested itself even in politically modern cities such as Austin and, even more disappointingly, on UT’s campus. For committing crimes as repugnant as riding the E-bus or purchasing gas from 7-11, Muslim students, in addition to Indian students, have encountered discrimination in the form of racist epithets, threats of physical altercations and demands to “go back to [their] own country.” At a campus as diverse and notable as UT, these forms of outright discrimination are disgraceful and contrary to our university’s achieving progress and success in the future.
Though Texas is characteristically considered racist, we cannot disregard the racism exercised by our entire country. How can we prevent this plague of prejudice within our society when many elite figures, including wildly popular politician Herman Cain, are spreading these stereotypes? Attempting to generate widespread appeal, he regularly expresses his contempt and lack of trust for American Muslims and Arabs. In addition to stating that any community has the right to ban mosques, he also charges that he would issue a “loyalty test” to only Muslims were he to ever appoint them to government positions and erroneously fears the spread of Sharia law in American courts. The fact that the current top Republican presidential candidate overtly harbors ill will to a specific segment of our population demonstrates that this discrimination is becoming normalized in society.
Keller’s ad has now been removed from air, but the YouTube clip remains popular on the web, just as the idea of prejudice against American Muslims and Arabs remains prevalent. This dangerous discrimination not only affects the lives of American Muslims and Arabs, a vital part of our country’s “melting pot” population, but also damages our society as a whole. As Texas increasingly becomes one of the most influential states, Texans need to reject these prejudices and abolish the perception of our state as a hub for racism. Harsher condemnation for discrimination, such as Herman Cain’s suggested policies, and education and dialogue about unfamiliar cultures are mandatory for our country’s progress.
Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.