The United States continues to grow more unwelcoming to Muslims and people with brown skin, as one of the most public political figures in the country continues to preach hatred and intolerance. And it’s begun to seep into our sports arenas, as this column from Deepinder Mayell in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune attests.
Mayell is the director of the Refugee and Immigrant Program at the Advocates for Human Rights, and was publicly harassed by a fan demanding to know if he himself was a refugee. His account of the event is horrifying, and we’re re-posting an unusually large chunk of it here to do our best to make sure you read it.
In that moment, I was terrified. But what scared me the most was the silence surrounding me. As I looked around, I didn’t know who was an ally or an enemy. In those hushed whispers, I felt like I was alone, unsafe and surrounded. It was the type of silence that emboldens a man to play inquisitor. I thought about our national climate, in which some presidential candidates spew demagoguery and lies while others play politics and offer soft rebukes. It is the same species of silence that emboldened white supremacists to shoot five unarmed protesters recently in Minneapolis.
The man eventually moved on. I found security staff, and with a guard and friend at my side, I confronted the man on the concessions level. I told him that what he said was racist and that what he did scared me. I told him that I was afraid to return to my seat and that I was afraid that people were going to hurt me. I told him that what he did makes me afraid for my children.
Somewhere during that second confrontation there was a change. Maybe some humanity crept inside him. Maybe he felt the presence of the security guard. While he said he was sorry, his apology was uttered in an adolescent way that demonstrated that he felt entitled to reconciliation as much as he felt entitled to hurl hatred. He wanted to move on and enjoy the game. I told him that I didn’t want his apology. Rather, I wanted him ejected from the stadium because he made me feel unsafe.
The security staff talked with him privately. I don’t know what was said. He was not removed. Apparently, the Vikings do not think that hate speech and racism are removable offenses. My gameday experience was ruined. I tried to focus on the players, but I continued to take glances at the man who sat just a few yards away. I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder, wondering if he had inspired someone else. It was clear that I would not be bringing my family to a Vikings game.
This scene parallels Donald Trump’s presence in the political sphere, and why it’s so damaging. Sure, the hysterical anger of one stunted individual is not representative of any sort of majority. But it’s the uncomfortable silence in place of what should be loud and vehement disapproval that portends bad things for this country and the people living in it.
We strongly encourage you to read the rest of Mayell’s column, and be a voice in opposition to this evil that is growing bolder every day.