Controversial Thought of the Night

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I had the honor of lecturing about my work to students at Kansas State University. It was only a few days ago, that I discovered someone by the name of Kristine wrote this about my visit to the school newspaper:

Can anyone say an Islamic terrorist gaining dupes???? I am sure that he as an agenda, like most Islamist. But we are not hearing about that. Sort of like how Hitler was the biggest contributor to the ASPCA of Germany, but that never comes out till after the dupes have adopted his programs. Islam is devil worship, an authoritarian system of governance, and evil. Those are the facts. Now if you want to go around being a Stockholm syndrome victim, as in “they must hate me because of me, so I must be like them”, wake up. The JIhadist and Islamist want you to either submit, or join. Sort of like being in gang. Either you a Crip, or you an enemy.

I met a lot of amazing and kind people at Kansas State University. And I know everyone reading this will say this comment is just one person – but it hurt. It’s painful to think that someone can be genuinely alarmed just because I’m brown and have the last name “Ahmed”. And they probably aren’t alone in that thinking.

I have to admit, shortly after reading this comment, I kind of decided to curl into bed and sleep a bit for a good chunk of the day. So, clearly I don’t have as thick a skin as I hoped. And maybe, what I’m about to say next, is not something I’d be saying if I wasn’t hurt.

But, it seems to me, the more prominent, more distinguished, and more successful anti-poverty “speakers”, “advocates”, and “champions” (coming from my generation and my age group) are those who racially, religiously, and ethnically resemble the “Western donor” than those who racially, ethnically, and/or religiously resemble the recipients.

I have no doubt that if I went on stage not as brown-skinned “Shawn Ahmed” but as a paler-skinned “Shawn Adams” there wouldn’t be comments like the above sent to the school newspaper. And who knows? Maybe the idea of helping those in need in distant countries would have been more palatable to people like Kristine when it’s coming from people who are more like her and less like me.

  • MikeLombardo

    I wouldn’t worry. That’s an absolutely moronic thing to say. I say fuck em. “Fuck em.” (c) 2011 Mike Lombardo.

  • MikeLombardo

    I wouldn’t worry. That’s an absolutely moronic thing to say. I say fuck em. “Fuck em.” (c) 2011 Mike Lombardo.

  • http://twitter.com/firebyfire Samantha Elizabeth

    The level of ignorance in that girl’s comment is extremely frustrating.

  • http://twitter.com/Jory_Caron Jory Caron

    That’s why i will never contribute to the ASPCA…

  • Be strong

    You are a role model to be admired. ‘Kristine’ is a person who has a long way to go before she is fit to be heard by anyone but a therapist. Anyone who creates a positive, leadership oriented and public persona will attract the venom of people who don’t like themselves very much. It takes practice to figure out how to shift the hurt of these incidents into a place where you can step back and see the commenter as a person who is unhappy and in need of help.

    It is true that sometimes negative experiences can make us stronger, perhaps this is one of those experiences for you. There are far more people who admire and respect you than those who would try to hurt you. Focus on the positive people.

  • http://twitter.com/Scratchingcat Ute Orgassa

    Dear Shawn

    You know I already commented on this on twitter and I pretty much knew that a blog post on this by you would come out of this hateful comment. So let’s take this apart a bit more, shall we?

    Obviously this comment hurt you. Even though people who are in the public eye need to be thick skinned (and don’t kid yourself, you are very much in the public eye), they are also allowed to have feelings. So, yes, you spent some time on this, but now the best thing is to move on. And in moving on you might want to stay clear of doing a similar thing to what the commenter did, which is to generalize.

    This Kristine seems to be afraid, very afraid of people who are not exactly like her. Out of that fear, with some helpful enforcing of stereotypes along the way, I’m sure; grows hatred. Her fear of Islam is unreasonable. Every religion has their nutcase zealots and a whole mass of non-violent followers. Anyone who doesn’t know that might want to look up the crusades. This heightened fear and hate just shows you that this girl is close minded and not very experienced with life.

    Then you come in and pretty much shatter her whole view on life. You are this guy who does good in a place that you are familiar with and you get to be the one who inspires everyone and who does not comply with her view of people that are other than her at all. You shattered her safe little bubble of the world. Of course she responds the only way she knows how, with hatred and destruction. She threw every hate filled image she had at you. You really must have moved her.

    Back to you. You know how to imagine people complexly. Some days it is harder than others, but you do know. So, I am sure that you will recover from this bout of over generalization. And you might even be right a little bit. But just know, for every negative response you get, there are at least ten positive ones and also, if someone has to lash out that much, you clearly made a big impact in their life.

    Keep on doing what you’re doing, you’re damn good at it.

    Best wishes,

    Ute

  • http://twitter.com/KateVinee Kate Vinée

    Decepticons say horrible things not because of something wrong with you but because of something wrong with them. She wants to hate somebody, and you just happen to be handy.

    There are thousands and thousands of Nerdfighters who know how awesome you are and who deeply appreciate the work you do, and our opinions are actually based in reality.

  • http://twitter.com/starkruzr Jarett

    a) I laughed. Hard. What a maroon.
    b) Dude, do not let some random woman who doesn’t know you AT ALL get you down. What a pile of crap that came off her keyboard.

  • http://twitter.com/blueskies Blue Skies

    You really mustn’t take to heart anything said by someone with such a loose grip on the concept of grammar.

    Turning people like Kristine into educated, reasonable adults is as big a challenge as ridding the world of poverty. Maybe even more so: at least those in poverty want out, Kristine is probably happy in her bubble of ignorance.

    But you can’t fix the entire world on your own… We’ll have to hope that she meets someone in her life that challenges her beliefs (and maybe performs miracles).

  • http://twitter.com/blueskies Blue Skies

    You really mustn’t take to heart anything said by someone with such a loose grip on the concept of grammar.

    Turning people like Kristine into educated, reasonable adults is as big a challenge as ridding the world of poverty. Maybe even more so: at least those in poverty want out, Kristine is probably happy in her bubble of ignorance.

    But you can’t fix the entire world on your own… We’ll have to hope that she meets someone in her life that challenges her beliefs (and maybe performs miracles).

  • Tara Meghan

    You are right on all counts. I think you’re even right to be thin-skinned and hurt. It sounds about the right response. SUCKS. That sucks. It sucks in the moment, for the actual personal attack, and it sucks for every broader issue it illuminates.

  • http://twitter.com/KyleeAnne Kylee-Anne

    And extremely sad.

  • Bialos76@newpaltz.edu

    Shawn, you are one of the most amazing people in the world. What you do Is outstanding and courageous. You are a role model for our generation. Don’t let some girl’s narrow world view get you down.

  • http://twitter.com/eclecticmum Katherine Cornell

    I know I’m not alone in seeing you as an incredible inspiration and the first person to really show me the real face of global poverty and to show me a concrete way that I can help. Remember, there are those of us out there that racially, religiously, and ethnically resemble that commenter yet can still hear and respond to the message you are sending!

  • maggie

    Hi, random read here, but what you are doing is admirable, so please don’t stop. We need more people to care. I am not from your religion, but what you are doing is good, and that’s all that matters.

  • http://www.microfinancette.com/blog Michelle Mount

    Shawn LOL it’s KANSAS for god sake what do you expect :-) Honestly it’s not known as the USA’s bowl of brains and liberal thought.

    Part of standing up is changing perceptions. People like that girl show that there’s more that needs to be changed. It shows that what you are doing is SUPER necessary. Maybe you didn’t realize but you’re not just helping visibility to the the needs of Bangladesh you are unraveling the underlying prejudices which keep people from helping Muslim countries in the first place. This should make you more motivated not less! Just spend a minute being sad for the pain which is spread through the world because of ignorance, then get out of bed and continue.

    Much love, we’re so proud of you, keep up the good work!

  • Brian

    Shawn, I’m a K-Stater who attended that lecture and talked with you afterward. I loved the talk and you really got me ‘rethinking charity.’ Don’t let a hateful comment like that get you down, keep up the good work!