David Jennings, the northern California field director for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was caught sharing a meme that some are criticizing as being offensive because it "dehumanizes Muslim women," The San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday.
The meme shows a group of standing umbrellas with the caption saying, “I spent 30 minutes talking to them to learn more about their culture until the barman told me they were umbrellas.” He posted it saying “lessons learned from my terrorism mentor … Guess I need more work.”
[caption id="attachment_1246318" align="aligncenter" width="646"] (Photo: screen capture via SF Chronicle)[/caption]
Jennings swore that the meme was a joke meant to be poked at himself. In a statement he explained it was “directed to a former co-worker and instructor in Arab culture and was meant to poke fun at myself and use me as an example to show that everyone can and should keep learning about people from different cultures, including people like me with extensive experience working with different cultures and traditions.”
He went on to say that he was horrified it would be taken as anything other than mocking himself.
“But upon further reflection, I understand how it could be interpreted otherwise and am truly sorry,” he said. “It was not my intention to offend anyone and I hope that the explanation of my intent assuages any hurt the post may have inadvertently caused.”
He currently oversees immigration enforcement in California from Bakersfield to the Oregon border as well as Hawaii and Guam, The Chronicle wrote.
“That he did not see the problem with his post until it was pointed out worries me about his ability to lead and carry out his duties, particularly as they relate to immigrants from Muslim-majority countries,” said Council of American Islamic Relations Bay Area chair Zahra Billoo. “Unfortunately this follows the trend that our President and his administration have set in their offensive and often dangerous language.”
Dalia Mogahed, research director for the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, said the image reinforces the “othering of Muslims as a strange, almost alien species, dehumanized to the point of being mistaken for inanimate objects.” The meme, she said, “plays on the stereotype of silent and subjugated Muslim women, where the non-response of the umbrellas was not an immediate tip-off that these weren’t human beings.”