On Monday, President Donald Trump reinstated what has been coined the “Muslim ban,” an executive order banning travel to the United States from six Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A similar executive order was signed in January this year and sparked an uproar. The ban initially included Iraq, which has since been removed.
When the original ban was passed in January, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the chaos. Though I was born and raised as an American Muslim to a family that hails from Egypt — a country not listed in the executive order — the implications of the move remained blatantly clear to me: Muslims were no longer welcome in America. I spent the day alternating between Facebook posts of solidarity, the anger-filled Tweets of my friends and Instagram photos of protests and rallies that had erupted across the country.
But on Monday afternoon, when an eerily similar ban was reintroduced, I was met with the deafening sound of silence and the blatant absence of acknowledgment on social media. In this silence, I have spent a lot of time trying to pinpoint what exactly about this ban is different from the previous one. What makes the banning of citizens of six majority-Muslim countries more comforting than those of seven? Have we already become complacent about the policies of a president who aims to keep the bad “dudes” out of the country by enacting political violence against a religious community that has long stood trial for a crime it didn’t commit? Is it because there are no protests to manifest our anger and our hurt? Is it because the #NoBanNoWall hashtag isn’t trending anymore? Your answers to these questions will undoubtedly look different from mine, but one thing that should not look different is your renewed outrage that the ban is back, ultimately unchanged.
What we Yale students often forget is that solidarity is not passive. Our social media activism only means so much when often times it continues to be the bodies of people of color that bear the burden of oppression once the trend has passed and the protests have faded. It’s exhausting to have your hurt commodified into social capital exchanged for likes and self-congratulatory comments. It’s exhausting to have your hurt questioned because the brown of your skin doesn’t match the seven shades of brown that have been declared to be oppositional to American values. My Muslim identity doesn’t make me a prop, free to be staged and spotlighted when needed, then tucked away for the second act.
In the age of fast activism — read: Facebook activism — liberal complacency is alarmingly gaining ground through social media posts and ad hoc protests. It is becoming increasingly easy to mobilize people through the use of Facebook events and trendy hashtags, but as the crowd size grows larger, so does the theatrical nature of the protest. Time and time again, those who are meant to be at the center of the movement are relegated to the wayside, watching frustratedly as their oppression is turned into 10 seconds of entertainment on an observer’s Snapchat story.
The interconnectedness afforded to us by social media can be used for so much more than hashtags. For your solidarity to be worth anything more than a few likes, it needs to go beyond jumping on the bandwagon of liberal movements. Use Facebook to say that you went to the phone banking event on Cross Campus yesterday to oppose the Muslim ban. Use Facebook to support the fundraiser launched by the Yale Muslim Students Association to allocate funds for expanded space and resources on campus. Use Facebook to facilitate actual dialogue with actual Muslims about their actual experiences, instead of using the platform to engage with the hurt you are feeling for them.
Stop allowing liberal solidarity to start and end with a hashtag, and use a platform that has proven to be a mobilizing force to do the work the Muslim community has been doing long before it became #cool.
Noora Reffat is a sophomore in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .