Leonard Pitts Jr. argues that American Muslims need more cultural ambassadors who can serve the same role that Bill Cosby did for African-Americans, in his column, “‘All American Muslim’ — A Lost Opportunity For Understanding:”
A few words on what American Muslims need.
We were discussing this, an olive-skinned Muslim man and I, at a banquet last year, when he said a wistful, poignant thing that has stayed with me ever since. “We thought we were white,” he said.
Not “white” in the sense of race, whatever that unscientific word means. Rather, white in the sense of assimilation and admission, white in the sense of people from Ireland, Armenia, Cuba, Hungary, southern Italy and other places who, upon arriving here, were regarded as threatening, nonwhite outsiders and required to earn their whiteness, their acceptance, over several generations. When the man said American Muslims thought they were white, he meant they thought they had successfully navigated the trail blazed by all those other people from all those other places.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001. All that progress — and 3,000 human lives — went up in smoke, and Islamophobia stormed America.
What American Muslims need, I told him, were cultural ambassadors, Muslim actors, singers and joke tellers who could change American consciousness through American televisions, multiplexes and iPods.
Which is why I was pleased last year when the TLC network premiered “All-American Muslim,” a reality show about five Islamic families. And it’s why I was disappointed when it was canceled last week, an apparent victim of low ratings.