By Blair Jackson, for the Mitzpeh, @blairacudda
As a part of the Muslim Student Association’s “Unity Week,” Students for Justice in Palestine and the Organization of Prison Abolitionists hosted “From #Palestine2Ferguson,” a presentation about how Palestinian oppression can be related to police brutality in the United States, Nov. 16.
“There are many, many parallels,” said Rev. Grayland Scott Hagler, a Washington activist who gave his speech in Mckeldin Library to about 100 students.
“The systems of oppression … they’re always very similar to each other,” Hagler said. He said he visited Israel and made many connections with forms of African American oppression in the United States.
He remembered the feelings he had while going through checkpoints with Palestinians. “The message is clear,” he said. He explained that Palestinians are treated without rights in police occupied territories and as if they “had no right to live.”
This kind of treatment is seen all over the U.S., he said. It’s a “unique struggle” where one group sends the message that another is beneath them. That group cannot expect protection, its place is clear, and it can’t move higher as long as the oppressor is in control, he said.
Hagler said there are neighborhoods in Baltimore that look just like refugee camps outside of Bethlehem, and that jails in the U.S. “are overflowing with people of color.”
“I’ve discovered that we have to challenge racism no matter where it is,” he said.
He added that the way Americans talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the media relates to how they spoke about African Americans in the past. Americans talk about how many Israelis have been killed, but ignore the Palestinians who have been killed in much larger numbers, he said. In the past, no one said anything about crimes against African American people because it was something that the dominant white population did not need to concern itself with.
“Many people face the same system of oppression and lack the support,” said Manar Dajani, a senior business major and co-president of SJP. “You know for a fact that you are not alone although the media tries to make you think so.”
“It’s always interesting who we choose to grieve over,” Hagler said. He then referenced the U.S.’s reaction to the tragedies in Paris, saying that we gave immense attention to the city while tragedy constantly occurs around the world.
“A Palestinian life is just as important as a Parisian life,” he said, comparing it to how a black life is just as important as a white life.
Fighting for justice is extremely important in times like these, Hagler said. Students at this university are lucky to be in a diverse community that can jump into solidarity, he said.
“Break down the barriers and hear each other’s stories,” Hagler said.
“It’s important that people are able to form alliances and get together to fight for all,” Soulyana Lakew, a senior economics major, said. She came to the event after inspired by “the activism that has been going on around campus about police brutality.”
Racism is a hard topic to talk about, Hagler said. “You have to say things in a strong way for people to hear when they don’t want to hear,” he said.
“The fact that we shouldn’t worry about who likes you or not when you are fighting for justice is a powerful lesson to take away,” Dajani said.