If there is one thing my friends know about me it's that I LOVE my hometown. Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Home of MTSU, the TSSAA state basketball tournaments, and of course my very large family. When people ask where I'm from I never say outside of Nashville. I say Murfreesboro or as the people here in Illinois like to call it- "the place where we stop on our way to Florida." Growing up in Murfreesboro was fun, easy, carefree, and a place that I always thought I'd like to raise my children. After leaving the Boro I realized how lucky and sheltered I'd been. I've lived in Illinois and Connecticut and when people there make assumptions about Tennessee and ask if I ever experienced racism or intolerance I always say- not to my face. Murfreesboro wasn't like that. My mom was in the first class to integrate Central High School. As a matter of fact I didn't know all black high schools still existed in the United States until I met people from Memphis in college. I grew up naive and protected from hate. So imagine my shock at seeing my hometown on the national news - for hate crimes committed at the construction sight of an Islamic mosque. The construction vehicles used to break ground for the mosque were vandalized and one was set afire early Saturday morning. For the fourth time in as many years my hometown had been on the national news.
- Adam "Pacman" Jones was arrested outside of Sweetwater Saloon in Murfreesboro and charged with public drunkenness and disorderly conduct in 2006. (My ESPN friends had a field day with this one).
- The Good Friday tornado of 2009. Seeing the devastation moved me to tears.
- The severe flooding this past spring. Again crying ensued.
- And now the vandalism and protests against the building of the mosque.
YIKES! The last one hit home. I was eating lunch at work on Monday when I heard the name Mufreesboro come from the television in the break room. I looked around filled with guilt as most people in the room knew where I was from. CNN's Rick Sanchez began re-telling the story and there was nothing I could say to defend what happened. Then Sanchez began an interview with the chairman of the mosque planning committee, Essam Fathy. Wait I thought...I know him. Sure he's got more gray hair than he had when I first met him but I'd know that kind face anywhere. See I met Essam Fathy when I was four years old. He's the father of one of my oldest friends, Bassma. Bassma and I were buddies from the word GO. Her family also lived next door to my aunt so it seemed as though we were family for a time. I never thought of the Fathy's as different and when I realized we weren't of the same religion I didn't know that mattered to other people. I never thought everyone had to be black, Baptist, and upper middle class like me. So who cares right? As a child I was only allowed to spend the night at two of my friend's homes-Bassma's and Shelby's. The first two friends I ever made. Two friends that I still keep in touch with. Bassma comes from an Egyptian family of the Islamic faith, while Shelby's family is southern, Christian, and white. Why did my parents only allow me to stay with them? Because they knew and cared for their parents. My mom went to school with Shelby's parents and knew I'd be safe. She also knew nothing bad would happen to me with the Fathy's. After seeing and reading the stories of the vandalism at the mosque site I longed for the Murfreesboro I grew up in. Not the one on CNN and in USA Today for religious and /or racial intolerance.
In an overly Christian state and town I know that there are people offering help and support to our Islamic neighbors. If they follow Christ then they know this is not the way to "stand up for their beliefs". I also know the perpetrators of this crime are a small group and do not represent my entire town, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt every time I hear it on the news.