By Kerwin Holmes, Jr.
-What flavor Kool-Aid do you want?
This is a running joke for many of us who have ever had the experience of being around family on a hot summer day when the family-server-of-the-juice comes up to ask us what would be our order for the day. The heat makes the only liquid around stream across our foreheads, and the gnats dot the air like pepper seasoning on white rice. What we choose to respond isn’t “cherry” the label on the sugar flavor packet. Boy, get out of here with that! Es rojo, pana! Red!
Now, some will say that my story I have just typed is full of prejudicial stereotypes. That is okay, I do realize that I am not Toni Morrison or Whoopi Goldberg or Gabriel Iglesias. I can’t be like these people. I cannot mention anything that can be remotely stereotypical unless I’m referencing my latest novel, my latest opinion, or myself. Nevertheless, John 19:22.
Why put that random excerpt on here? I thought this was about CNN? Man, I knew it, the power of the blog would get to this man. Yes, yes, and yes. You should reread the blog motto on the homepage; the power of the blog has gotten to me.
But what I illustrated is what I want to analyze quickly.
For any person familiar with the experience that I just described, the story probably first caused personal memories to resurface. Then, probably immediately, you began to have considerations for the qualifications of the person making your memories resurface, whether I myself am qualified or not to address these things. Then came the thoughts of whether I am authentically reminiscing on these things personally or merely cajoling them stereotypically (which really wouldn’t be a problem if I were any one of the three persons I mentioned). See, we operate on norms and sets of norms. Some things we consciously decide to tolerate in certain settings, even giving specific persons exclusive privileges to do so. (Sometimes we give them on the very basis that they don’t have any exclusive privileges, and justify it by saying “This person speaks what’s on everybody’s mind.”)
But, the whole deal of calling cherry Kool-Aid “red Kool-Aid” is based upon norms. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I am willing to wager that most of you who understood and connected with my story also grew up calling grape Kool-Aid…grape Kool-Aid. It isn’t purple, it’s grape. See, another selective norm.
So, let my next statement stand in its context. We don’t want to be ignorant and stereotype ourselves to choosing grape Kool-Aid all of the time. Sometimes grape Kool-Aid sucks. A lot of times grape Kool-Aid sucks. Sometimes, around certain persons, we don’t want to even be seen with grape Kool-Aid. Red Kool-Aid is best. And honestly, I like the red flavor better anyways. CNN works the same way. Ding, ding, ding. That makes Fox News grape Kool-Aid. Some of us like that analogy.
I have been saying for years now that CNN and Fox News are both two sides of the same ignorant coin. They both are Kool-Aid, just different flavors, and those who love them will chug its juice (in their own respective flavor). One side unabashedly doesn’t hide its often politicized jargon and supports itself on rhetoric that many Americans in today’s younger generations do not relate to at all. CNN uses very chic graphics along with a marketing to decidedly liberal persons and college-educated persons. This means they use decidedly liberal authorities to commentate on rising issues, and since most of these authorities are easily found in major education institutions like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, their rep among the liberal arts academy goes stellar with each cameo appearance. And since institutions like these cause shock and awe in circles across the political spectrum, a norm of CNN being better informed is established. But, any comparison done by a person who honestly measures the content of CNN with Fox News shows that both news agencies often air their stories about the same issue at the exact same time. They both also immediately try to portray the random world event according to their own worldview. And, they often have two persons from very polarized worldviews yell over each other for a couple of minutes in “debate discussions” that are ultimately intended to support the worldview of the news agency hosting the debacle…er I mean debate. Why? Social norm: it is what both news agencies have marketed themselves on, what we expect them to do, and what we allow them to do. Plain and simple.
Now, I have long grown sick of CNN trying to turn every instance of violence against minorities into a racial issue. I am a “minority” myself, and I know that racialized violence happens so please do not try to educate me about the years of my life that I have apparently been missing before you arrived to educate me about them. Yeah, that’s right, I’m talking about you, the one who just popped all ten of her fingers to gear up for doing damage to my comments section. Calm down. At the same time, some acts of violence are just caused because people are jerks, scared, or just mistaken. As a person who inhabits a “minority space,” I have had plenty of people treat me cruddy just because they had cruddy days or were just generally cruddy people. And yeah, people make mistakes mistakenly too. I really don’t want the racialized violence issue to turn cry-wolf. Because when that happens, we will all already be in grave trouble.
The Muslim ummah is also seen as a minority community within an American context. But, CNN has been handling the issue of Islamic violence very wrongly. For example, when the Colorado Springs Shooting of November 27, 2015 occurred, people from CNN, the Daily News, the Washington Post, and The Week all were quick to point out the violent rhetoric of pro-lifers as the blatantly obvious cause for the madness that we heard about. Hmm…a pro-lifer (someone who is pro-LIFE) murders others for being in a Planned Parenthood clinic. Well, if pro-lifers have such a mortally violent rhetoric against human beings at the core of their ideology, then those assertions can be believed. But even when hundreds and even thousands of humans are killed by Islamic madmen who cite verses (ayat) from the Quran and Hadith traditions (and most Muslims live by the Quran and the Hadith of their tradition), there are efforts taken by the same news people to make the violence appear like it has nothing to do with Islam at all. To even try to suggest such would be islamophobic and racist. (Since when did an international religion transform into a “race?” What, do all Muslims magically morph into Arabs?) To even try to believe that the full-grown men in Syria and Iraq who are carrying out what their religious clerics teach are trying to abide by an Islamist religious commitment would be, well, dehumanizing to all Muslims including the terrorists. To believe that the self-proclaimed Islamic State is trying to establish a new caliphate, is enabling. Even when these very people tell us, after murdering dozens of people before our eyes and citing authentic religious verses for their deeds, that they do this for their interpretation of Islam according to a long-established philosophic tradition, we shouldn’t believe them as they articulate the reasons for their actions. Because that would be ignorant.
Well, I’ve already written a lot, so a peek into the Islamic history of violence could be done by you guys on your own time. Start at the military campaigns of Muhammad as told by Islamic sources. Better yet, start with Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari, Hadith sources that are among the most well-respected in the Muslim community. Maybe look up the etymological history of the word “assassin.” And for those believing that these modern wars are the result of the two centuries of sown imperialism that the United States is finally reaping, look up the First Barbary War that occurred after the American country was 18 years old with barely a strong enough navy to protect itself let alone the American coasts (jizyah started that one).
But hey, I’m a Christian who should be worried about the Crusades, right?
Anyway, if CNN knew more than I do about Islam, then they would necessarily have more exposure to Islam than I do on a personal level. They would know more than one religious Muslim from more than one Muslim community and school of philosophy. Because they are a corporation, they would at least ensure that reporters covering stories about Islam would have sufficient knowledge about Muslim terminology and beliefs. You know, things like how “Allahu Akbar” is an Arabic phrase of declarative faith and celebration that can be heard multiple times by anybody who even visits a single masjid (mosque). Or, maybe they would know that “as-Salaam alay kum” (Peace be unto you) is usually returned with a “walay kum Salaam” (And peace be unto you). As long as they have been covering Islam, they may even have gotten glimpses of how diverse the Muslim community is in thought and practice, tolerance and intolerance. See, simple things.
But what happens when you have neither the connection to the community, the legitimate exposure with which to measure content quality, nor the ability to produce authentic judgments of a person’s honesty in expressing themselves within a cultural context?
Congratulations. “Allahu Akbar” is now the “magical phrase” that terrorists use before they start terrorizing people. Kinda like how “red Kool-Aid” is the ignorant phrase used by persons who can’t read sugar flavor packets.
Thank you, CNN. Thank you, red Kool-Aid.
Careful for when you hear “Allahu Akbar” a billion times walking past the peaceful American masjids because, of course, you wouldn’t bother going inside of one. Also be vigilant for when you hear it during Muslim holidays or even among your Muslim friends, assuming you have any, when they engage in obligatory salat (prayer). Also be careful for the occasional Arab Christian who may be unfortunate enough to have Arabic as a first language and wants to praise the Christian God in his own language.
Oh, and if you are a Muslim who believes that secularizing society should be as fairly intolerant to you as it is to the rest of organized religious America, especially when it comes to a public high school mandating students write down a confessional creed for homework that according to Islam holds the uber-religious weight of transforming a nonbeliever into a Muslim just by repeating it, CNN may never have met you. They may be very surprised when they do.
*Thank you, Asra Nomani for not being Reza Aslan. CNN clearly needs a bit more diversity. Oops.