by Ujala Yousaf
Recently during a high school research project, I stumbled upon a piece of artwork called No Racism, a surrealist oil painting by Italian painter Stefano Ilad. The first thing that I noticed were the various colors. The lizard green, chocolate brown, licorice black, and cookie peach all captivated my eyes. Additionally, I noticed that the painter painted a man with a Hitler mustache. I was surprised to see that the painter put something associated with Hitler; but then I thought about the message or idea that was being conveyed. I listed many ideas in my head and thought that it was about racial ideology because of the mustache. However, there is a deeper message to this painting.
The artist showcases the division between war and peace and the decision of good versus evil. The author also divides the face by using different shades of skin color. In the middle of the face and around the eyes, the author uses a light peach color. But on the rest of the face and mostly towards the edges, the painter uses a variety of black and brown shades. This painting to me, highlights the division we have in our society and this factors into our beliefs which causes us to judge. I feel like we are pressured to fit into labels and groups because that is how society functions. However, society should not be based on skin color or the region we live in. As a Muslim girl, the one motto that I live by is what the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said in his sermon on Mount of Mercy, in the Plain of Arafat. He stated, “As God has made you one brotherhood, so be not divided. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab over an Arab; nor is a white one to be preferred to a dark one, nor a dark one to a white one.” My eyes gravitated towards this painting as it reminded me of this saying. The Prophet of Islam is warning about the division we currently face and see in our modern society.
To the outside world, America seems like a diverse society and land for new opportunities. However, in reality, it is a society still filled with racism and discrimination. What I’ve discovered as I’ve gotten older is that this racism is not new, but has been occurring throughout history. So this Black History Month, let us remember how racism still affects African Americans in our society. Let us not forget Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and Philando Castile. Let us not use Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotes to be trendy, but also continue his and other activists’ visions of economic and civil rights for all people and an end to racism once and for all.
Ujala Yousaf is a graduating high school senior from Northern Virginia. She plans on attending college in the fall to study Environmental Science. Growing up in an immigrant household and visibly Muslim, she's learned to navigate between her faith, culture, and societal expectations in America. She enjoys relating her personal experiences to seemingly complex issues in the hopes of making hard topics easier to talk about. She hopes to educate others on taboo topics and expressing her desire to change the world through her writings. In her free time, she enjoys reading, painting and watching various hockey and football games.
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