A Fairfax County School Board member gave a fiery commencement speech last week in which she warned the graduating – mostly minority – high schoolers that they are about to step into a capitalist world filled with racism, white supremacy and “extreme versions of individualism.”
Abrar Omeish, the school board’s lone Muslim member, delivered the keynote address before a graduation ceremony for Justice High School in Falls Church, Va. on June 7.
The president of the student government introduced her, noting that she campaigned for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and that her father, Esam Omeish, was a “leader and board member of the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center” – the namesake of a mosque attended by two 9/11 hijackers in 2001, and the radical imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, and Nidal Hasan, the alleged 2009 Fort Hood shooter.
The beginning of Omeish’s speech, reported first by The Daily Wire, was relatively uncontroversial as she commended the graduates – switching between Arabic, English and Spanish – for overcoming obstacles, both personal and academic.
“Today we checked off a box in your academic journey. As a human being, you have developed and you have grown,” she said.
But her speech quickly took on racial and class-based overtones – while at one point acknowledging that the school is sitting on land stolen from the Manahoac people, a Native American tribe.
“You understand that social justice is only political for those that can afford to ignore it,” she told the graduating class. “You understand that ‘neutral’ is another word for complicit. And you have made a choice to take a stand.”
She warned the graduates that they are stepping into a divisive world that will try to keep them down but implored them not to be discouraged.
“That’s exactly why I’m here to tell you to remain steadfast,” she said, “to keep your eyes on the prize.”
She told the graduates that their leadership will be desperately needed.
“Our world is overwhelmed with need. We struggle with human greed, racism, extreme versions of individualism and capitalism, white supremacy, growing wealth gaps, disease, climate crisis, extreme poverty amidst luxury and waste right next door. And the list goes on,” she said.
But though the world is unfair and unjust, she said, “your truth, your courage and your path to uplift those who are not heard, will leave you on the right side of history.”