August 20, 2010

Half a Century: The "NYC Mosque" and "A Raisin in the Sun"

Greetings. Earlier this week, in Google Buzz Meets the New York City Mosque Controversy, I noted how Google Buzz was proving invaluable in discussing the controversies surrounding the New York City Cordoba Community Center and mosque project. That thread, which I began last Saturday, has now grown to over 260 comments, the vast majority of them very substantive. The thread continues to grow.

A recurring theme in this saga is the concept -- proposed by detractors of Cordoba -- that the project should be built elsewhere as a matter of "courtesy" simply because there are persons who are uncomfortable with the project being two blocks away from the the site of the World Trade Center. In passing, I'll note that the mosque operating at the Pentagon, itself a target on 9/11, has been fully functional for years, reportedly without any complaints or problems. [Addendum (August 21, 2010: News stories calling the facility at the Pentagon a "mosque" are actually referring to a nondenominational chapel regularly used for a variety of services, including by Muslims. This was built over the rubble of the 9/11 attack at the Pentagon, and as previously noted there have been no reported issues or problems with Muslim prayer activities taking place in the facility. More details.]

In any case, New York's Governor Paterson has apparently proposed swapping some state-owned land in an attempt to move the project elsewhere, and the "if you're not wanted in an area you shouldn't move there" theme has been picked up by many politicians (especially ones looking over their shoulders at the upcoming midterm elections, and wanting to promote the perceived "populist" view regarding this matter).

But haven't we been through all this before? We have indeed, and Sidney Poitier's classic 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun portrays a stunningly similar -- and equally obscene -- view from a half century ago (still very much alive in some parts of this country today, unfortunately).

Watch this scene from the film, as the pleasant, well-dressed gentleman from the homeowners' association politely tries to dissuade a black family from moving to a new home and "upsetting" the residents in the area.

The parallels with the NYC Cordoba situation, with Governor Paterson and other politicians ironically taking on the role filled in the film by John Fiedler, are all too obvious, all too shameful, and deserving of the same repugnance that I hope we all feel when watching that celluloid scene.

The more things change, the more they stay the same? It doesn't have to be that way. That's up to us.


Posted by Lauren at August 20, 2010 09:04 PM | Permalink
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