Rose Hamid is a soft-spoken, 56-year-old flight attendant. She was concerned about the warped view of Muslims many people were getting in this presidential election. Friday night, she decided to attend a Donald Trump rally in South Carolina to give his supporters the chance to meet a Muslim face-to-face.
Hamid wore a white hijab and a bright blue shirt saying, “Salam, I come in peace.” She also wore an 8-pointed yellow star with the word “Muslim” on her shirt. The star symbolized the 6-pointed Stars of David that German Jews had to wear to identify themselves under Nazi rule.
Rather than loudly yelling during Trump’s speech, she simply stood up in the stands behind the stage in silent protest when Trump started claiming that Syrian refugees were affiliated with ISIS.
Hamid meant well, coming with a constructive outlook. “I have this sincere belief that if people get to know each other one-on-one that they’ll stop being afraid of each other and we’ll be able to get rid of all of this hate in the world…” she recalled. “So that was really my goal to let people see that Muslims are not that scary.”
Unfortunately, a placid 56-year-old woman was indeed too scary for Trump’s supporters, who started chanting his name as a signal to police. As officers escorted Hamid and three other silent protestors from the venue, many nearby attendees jeered her exit. Someone asked if she had brought a bomb. Another man temporarily blocked her way with a Trump sign, repeatedly making the “thumbs-down” motion with his hand.
The Republican frontrunner’s response? “There is hatred against us that is unbelievable. It’s their hatred, it’s not our hatred.”
Only Trump, who has thrived on pitting Americans against each-other more than any other presidential candidate in recent memory, could turn the obvious wrong his fans committed into an example of their own victimhood.
Despite the ugliness unleashed, Hamid’s gracious reaction stood out.
In a follow-up interview with Don Lemon, she noted that the Trump supporters near her were “lovely” people. She also noted that one woman even shook her hand as she was escorted out, saying “I’m so sorry this is happening to you.” Hamid argued that Trump’s rhetoric had whipped otherwise decent people into a mob mentality.
Hamid even refused Lemon’s opportunity to demean Trump’s supporters with lazy stereotypes. The host had asked why “you would even go and put yourself in that position . . . to be around those people?”
Her reply was profound.
“Because I don’t want to think of them as ‘those people.’ I think that’s what the problem is, that we look at people and we categorize them as ‘those people’ who are ‘bad people’ and ‘these people’ are the ‘good people.’ And I believe that people in all camps are decent people when you get to know them, as was evident by the people who were around me who were very lovely people, but it’s when you get that hateful rhetoric going is what incites people.”
Hamid’s comments point to a larger truth we ignore at our peril in American politics: The more we treat political differences as culture wars divorced from the substance of ideas, the less we can expect to accomplish.
It’s easy for some liberals to take the shortcut of calling Oregon protesters domestic terrorists. Some look scary and say pretty wacky things. It’s harder to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth about mandatory minimums and the excessive amount of land the federal government owns in the western U.S.
Similarly, it’s easy for some conservatives to write off Ferguson or Baltimore protesters as “thugs” because some exploited the unrest to loot and burn. It’s harder to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth about a bankrupt criminal justice system that locks up or kills too many minorities and gives police near impunity for abuses.
In both scenarios, critics make a lot of unfair assumptions about groups of people who come from different communities they don’t understand. Without the courage to learn about others and reach out to them in turn, it’s all too easy accept limits on other Americans’ liberties.
Rose Hamid showed that courage. America needs more men and women like her.