Prejudice and racism are the enemies of democracy and freedom. We can never work together to solve our country’s problems if we are divided along racial, religious, or cultural lines. This is why I was concerned to see that in Europe, anti-Muslim sentiment and support for far-right extremist groups are spreading.
Anti-Muslim prejudice also exists in our own country, as evidenced by the opposition earlier this year to the construction of mosques in New York and other U.S. cities. More recently, Republicans Jake Knotts and Josh Mandell have been criticized for making bigoted statements about Muslims.
Racism has reared its ugly head several times within the Tea Party movement, although to be fair most Tea Party organizers have tried to keep their movement focused on fiscal issues. The racists may not speak for everyone in the movement, but they are a threat to those who truly seek reform, as are the right-wing conservatives that have hijacked the Tea Party in an effort to return Republicans to power.
But conservatives are not the only ones guilty of prejudice. California Representative Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat, recently made the statement that that Vietnamese people were trying to seize power from "us" (Hispanics).
As long as we think in terms of “us versus them,” our country cannot live up to the ideals expressed by visionaries like Jefferson, Lincoln, and King. If we value our freedom, we must be vigilant and stand against those who would exploit fear and prejudice for political gain.