No one stood up for him when an angry man pushed his way toward him and angrily accused Deepinder Mayell, a lawyer of Advocates for Human Rights in MN, of being a Refugee. The moments of fear that followed, and the lack of action taken by the stadium security, prompted him to write an emotionally charged and dead-on Op-Ed for the Star Tribune.
It was my first Minnesota Vikings game and my first NFL game. I am not new to football, though. As an undergrad at Boston College, I went to many Eagles games, and I played junior varsity football. I knew what to expect on the field. I was excited, and, as I found my seat, I thought about bringing my family to a game in the new stadium.
What I didn’t expect was for a man to push aside other people and point his finger in my face, demanding to know if I was a refugee. He needed to make sure I wasn’t a refugee, he said. There was anger in his face and vehemence in his accusation.
I was stunned. He didn’t know anything about me. We were complete strangers. But somewhere in his mind, all he saw was a terrorist, based on nothing more than the color of my skin. He was white, and I wasn’t. He didn’t see anything else.
If this were to happen to any of our family members, we would be furious, and afraid. Yet here in America a man felt that someone else’s skin color gave him the right to not only accost that person verbally but to determine whether that person was allowed to be in a public place.
As Mr. Mayell’s OpEd states, what the coward doing the accusations didn’t know about him is abundant.
He didn’t know that I have lived in Minnesota for the past four years, that I was born and raised in New York and that the words “Never Forget” may mean more to me than to him. He didn’t know that when I went home and my children jumped on top of me and asked “How was the game?” that I’d be holding back tears as I told them about racism instead of touchdowns. He didn’t know that I am an attorney and the director of the Refugee and Immigrant Program at the Advocates for Human Rights.
The vehemently bigoted person that stole Mayell’s experience and instilled fear in him due to their own problems with hate and fear should be ashamed of themselves.
It was also abundantly clear that he didn’t know about refugees, dignity or freedom. He didn’t know that if he were speaking to a refugee, he’d be speaking to someone who feared persecution due to their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or social group. He didn’t know that many refugees are victims of some of the worst human-rights abuses occurring on the planet, ranging from being sold into sexual slavery to being killed in mass executions. He didn’t know that being a refugee is a badge of resilience and honor, not danger.
Our own politicians are feeding the hysteria and hatred that caused this craven hate speech, in the heart of a state known for “Minnesota Nice,” but the people around Mr. Mayell, they are also implicit in this. Why did no one stand up and say, “Hey, this is America, not Nazi Germany – he doesn’t need to ‘show you his papers.’ He isn’t suspicious, he isn’t doing anything we aren’t doing, and as far as I can tell he hasn’t screamed any anti-American rhetoric. Go sit down and enjoy the game!” Why didn’t anyone go get security FOR him? This entire event shows one man’s strength of character – and it isn’t the bigot’s or the many people that could have stepped up to help.
When we allow this to happen right next to us, we are choosing to allow it, we are supporting hate.
Feature image via screen capture