Sharing is Caring

I’m still working on that post about arrogance and whiteness (you’re excited, eh?) and have found all kinds of interesting things just by googling “anti-racist” and “arrogance.” Here’s a little snippet from last night’s search:

U can't see knapsack but black kitteh can

“Bringing white people and people of color together to discuss race can be like placing pre-algebra students in a calculus class. The people of color are often so far ahead of the white people that they would have to slow down in order to let [the white people] catch up. And since “catching up” involves extensive emotional processing, it does not happen quickly. This can be endlessly frustrating to everyone involved, people of color may feel cheated out of their own growth around race while white people may shut down or feel inadequate, scared, and intimidated.” From Perspectives on Urban Education Spring 2009, “Becoming an Anti-Racist White Ally: How a White Affinity Group Can Help.”

But The Mozzies shant be having that problem because we only fear Allah and love nafs controling via self-introspection, right?

 

BTW, I found this lolcat captioned like this on a blog of a white student who insists white privilege does not exist and was fairly upset that his black professor even suggested it.

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Thinking About Subtle Racism: Heard This One?

We are all equal, with equal opportunities and racism does not exist. White Americans statistically fair better in economic status and even in general employment status because they worked hard for it. Therefore the experience of African Americans and other minorities with lower economic status and higher rates of employment must be because they don’t work as hard—even though we are all equal, they do not exert equal effort. And we all have equal opportunities. And racism does not exist.

What is really being said here is that African Americans and other minorities are not created equal, because their drive is weaker and they are lazy—therefore they are not equal– they are inferior to hard working white people. Or  they don’t have equal opportunities. Or racism, by the way of white privilege/preference does still exist. Which is it?

Inter-Racial Distrust and the White Muslim

One of my prompts for topic consideration in the White Privilege and The Ummah Carnival was not well received, actually it was the only topic scoffed. I said:

  • Maintaining or discarding White American cultural norms. Fact Observation: Many white people are not trustworthy and they are arrogant—does that change or remain when we become Muslim?
  • I admit my word choice there was not stellar. However, the fact is, brace yourself, there does exist (with statistics and research to back it) a generalization for many people of color to distrust whites.  And vice versa. In the prologue of her book Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education, MacArthur award winner Danielle Allen explains the dynamics of inter-racial distrust and cites a “2002 statistic that says that only 35 percent of Americans think people can be trusted.” And the same statistics cite that “African Americans are even less trusting.” But, what I am really trying to keep the focus on is white Muslim accomplice (residual from jilhaliya), so let’s look at why we may be nontrusting of other Muslims, as well as our own untrustworthy behaviors and how I (and others) see arrogance as related to this issue.

    If you are a white Muslim and you don’t hold very many Muslims of color close to your heart, you don’t talk to many other than at the masjid for a couple hours a week, a month or a year–why do you suppose that is? And if Muslims of color are not beating down your door (other than to marry you) to befriend you–why do you suppose that is?

    The lovefest that many of us converts thought was going to happen after we said shahahda did not happen. Many of our jilhaliya baggage remains, both individually and culturally. Often, even when we insist that we are free of such baggage–yet can easily see it on other people–there is subtle, unconscious stuff happening that we just don’t know about.

    In a cheesy titled article from way back  in pre-Obama 2002, “Why Can’t We Just Get Along? Interpersonal Biases and Interracial Distrust” researchers Dovidio, Gaertner, Kawakami, Kerry, Hudson and Gordon “examine how interpersonal biases can contribute to these different perspectives [of white Americans and Black Americans] and ultimately to interracial distrust that can undermine race relations.” Their studies and experiments kept the focus on whites’ contribution to the problem, “In particular, we propose that there are four aspects of contemporary prejudices held by Whites toward Blacks in the United States that contribute to the divergence of perceptions and interracial distrust in the United States today.” They also acknowledged that these white prejudices extended beyond blacks to other minorities:

    • (a) Contemporary racism among Whites is subtle
    • (b) these racial biases are often unintentional and unconscious
    • (c) these biases influence the perceptions that Whites and Blacks have of these same behaviors or events, and
    • (d) these racial biases have different consequences on the outcomes for Blacks and Whites.

    The researchers explain how the subtleties of Aversive Racism play out, and it completely mirrors what we see in the Ummah. Firstly, racism is now illegal in the US, so no (reasonable) person will admit to it, and also white Americans have adopted egalitarian values and therefore believe that they are not a minutia prejudice:

    egalitarian {adjective} – asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life.

    Sounds like the Muslims right? We say we are all equal (period).

    I am one of those folks who grew-up truly believing that racism no longer existed (except for maybe in the south) because that was what I was told by my white parents, mostly white educators and white dominated media. So when I saw and read about racism within the Ummah, I pointed fingers, but not so much at African Americans, more so at born Muslims. Again, the Orientalist in me unconciously reared her head. Those same folks who taught me racism was extinct, also taught me that the Muslim Middle East is inferior to my West.

    The study asserts that Whites have “feelings of anxiety and uneasiness” about blacks. Elsewhere I have read that whites can be so fearful of being called “racist” they simply won’t engage with blacks or other poc, to the point of not looking them in the eye! The Dovidio & Co article explains that:

    “Because aversive racists consciously endorse egalitarian values and deny their negative feelings about Blacks, they will not discriminate directly and openly in ways that can be attributed to racism. However, because of their negative feelings, they will discriminate, often unintentionally, when their behavior can be justified on the basis of some factor other than race (e.g., questionable qualifications for a position).”

    Again, I ask you, how many Muslims of color do you hold close to your heart? Have over for dinner? Call to check on regularly? Visit while sick? Give salams to? I don’t want to hear that they don’t do it either, we are looking at us. We are supposed to make excuses for others, but making excuses for ourselves is one of the subtle ways aversive racism works:

     “[Whites’] behavior can be justified on the basis of some factor other than race.”

    When I questioned the cut-off point with which to make excuses for my white sisters, I took a little flak for my observation:

    “I did notice a pattern amongst a few of my white sisters to say they would do stuff and then “flake.” But really the untrustworthiness runs much deeper than just hypocritical flaking . . . the way I see it as related is that white folks just don’t call each other out for it. They ‘forgive’ each other, but are less ‘forgiving’ of people of color. Generalizations based on my observations, that’s all I got.”

    So it may be absolutely unrelated that I have been repeatedly flaked on and had unconsummated invitations extended to me by white sisters, and perhaps nearly everybody does this — repeatedly? And Allhualim what was the intention with each individual instance, but let’s remember why flakiness can be so detrimental:

    Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0112:

    It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (may peace and blessings be upon him) said: Three are the signs of a hypocrite: when he spoke he told a lie, when he made a promise he acted treacherously against it, when he was trusted he betrayed.

    I threw my “flakiness hypothesis” out there after reading Jamerican’s observations on White Privilege and Office Culture:

    “True story: At my previous job, I was told during a performance evaluation that my response to requests is often negative. When I asked for an example my supervisor mentioned a time when she asked me to attend a function that was on the other side of town. My husband at the time and I only had one car which he generally used because his job was further away than mine. (My supervisor knew this). Anyhow, when she asked me to attend the function I told her that I would not be able to because I did not have transportation. Apparently, I was supposed to lie and tell her that I would see if I could arrange a ride. Since I didn’t do that my response was considered to be negative. (After some time I noticed that my White co-workers, no matter what they were asked, no matter how difficult, or unrealistic the task was, would smile and say yes or would say they’d try- even if they knew they couldn’t.)”

    Jamerican, who is a Jamaican American Muslimah, was perceived as negative when she was being honest. White co-workers were given the benefit of the doubt–repeatedly. This behavior may be elusive and even unconscious to whites, but it is clearly seen by those who actively confront racism, “And this is one of the ways in which I believe privilege functions. White people give other white people the benefit of the doubt, maybe even when it’s not deserved.”

    In one of their experiments to test the hypothesis of aversive racism, our researchers (Dovidio & Co.) found that when “test” job candidates with weak qualifications were reviewed by white “test” employers, the white candidates’ skills were seen as stronger than they really were where as the black candidates skills were seen as weaker. Equal skills, yet the preference was for white.  The researchers describe these results as “Whites may give White candidates the ‘benefit  of the doubt,’ a benefit that is not extended to outgroup members.” This is one of the subtle ways that aversive racism exists, we extend the benefit of the doubt more liberally to our own. Making excuses for a sister is encouraged, but what about that sincere naseeha and wanting for your sisters what you want for yourself? Is hypocrisy and/or injustice what we want for each other?

    And do you extend excuses to your siblings of color, or are you extending the wrong kind of excuses to yourself: “However, because of [whites] negative feelings, they will discriminate, often unintentionally, when their behavior can be justified on the basis of some factor other than race (e.g., questionable qualifications for a position)*”(Dovidio).

    *My emphasis. So what kind of factors prevent you from extending yourself to Muslims of color? Do you label them rude? Backwards or uncivilized? Uneducated? Belonging to such and such Muslim affiliation and therefore unworthy of Muslim adab (manners)? Or worse, do you have suspicions about an individual based on stereotypes:

    Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 90:

    Narrated Abu Huraira:

    The Prophet said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for the others’ faults and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relation with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O Allah’s worshipers! Be brothers (as Allah has ordered you!”)

    Allen explains the necessity of opening lines of trust to break the cycle of inter-racial distrust:

    “Trustworthiness generates trust. Our life is much better when we can and do trust our fellow citizens. If both parties are working to prove themselves trustworthy and to test the trustworthiness of others, then it starts to generate a culture where greater levels of trust are possible.”

    Since this is getting epic, I will have to come back to “those arrogant white people,” inshallah. But I hope you come away from this recognizing that if you do carry some of those jilhaliya behaviors, such as wrongfully extending unearned excuses one way but not extending fair excuses another, you will see how that makes you untrustworthy.

     

    The Carnival is Here: White Privilege and The Ummah (Updated 6/4)

    Welcome to The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?* *Them is non-Muslims, Us is the Ummah

    My intention behind this carnival, for the sake of Allah of course, was to initiate some dialogue about race related issues within the Ummah focusing specifically on white Muslim privilege. Problems stemming from racism, nationalism and privilege within the Ummah are not a secret, except maybe to new converts or newly transplanted Muslims, but in my experience I have only seen very, very little talk about these problems coming from white Muslims–and mostly is has revolved around implicating others. So, inshAllah, I hope that this carnival may be a starting point for white Muslims to begin self-critical affirmative efforts to better ourselves–because that is what we are supposed to do, for the sake of Allah.

    Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed, in my experience, this has been educational–but not fun. I really appreciate the thoughtful work of the folks below, they have given much to consider. I will add new entries to this post as they are sent in, please let me know in the comments if you have a post to add.

    Please respect each other and fear Allah.

    Lucky Fatima demonstrates the numerous ways that white privilege continues to permeate her life and even flourishes in Muslim settings. “We see Ourselves and other whites as unique individuals, but we see native Muslims as part of Their cultures and blame any contentions we have with them on cultural deficits. This is a very deep issue with white privilege.” Everything I say is to myself: Some thoughts on white privilege in the Ummah for Brooke’s Carnival (Added June 4th)

    Safiyya of Shaalom 2 Salaam presents her unique perspective of converting to Islam from Judaism–she may look white, but looks aren’t everything. “When I become a Muslim, I thought the anti-semitism and racism would not exist. I was naive.” The White Privilege and The Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?

    Safiya of Outlines reveals the disadvantages of being the sought-after White sister and acknowledges the necessity to reject elusive cultural norms, “The concept of White superiority is alien to Islam, in fact it’s haraam and so it is one that White Muslims must work very hard to shed, without seeking any reward.” Being Muslim While White Privileged also, check out her carnival: Celebrating Muslim Motherhood

    Yusuf of Indigo Jo Blogs takes a broad look at the intricacies of race, culture and privileges within the UK  Ummah, and the problem of “whititude.” “[Whititude] describes the attitude that [white Muslims] have a certain enlightenment that is lacking in the established Muslim community.” White Privilege and the White Convert

    Ginny’s Thoughts & Things Unpacking a different kind of bag, Ginny expounds upon the complexities of confronting privilege while faced with discrimination and overt ableism. “All I can tell you is what it’s like to be a blind white Muslim who benefits from white privilege but doesn’t always understand how.” Hesitant Thoughts on White Privilege

    Hajar of Tales From An American Nomad  chronicles her evolving examination of privilege and isms, “I don’t want my children’s views to be skewed by that subtle, yet oppressive sense of meritless entitlement that comes with the oppressors’ mind-set.” De Facto White Privilege and a poem too! The Whipping Girl

    Krista of Muslimah Media Watch calls out western (especially white) sisters for upholding supremist idealogies, it’s still us vs. them. “Whiteness and Western identities are reinforced as superior and above the problems that are found in cultures deemed foreign, rigid and violent.”  Unpacking the “Culture” Argument 

    Bin Gregory Productions looks at what being “white” is and how that transfers into American subcultures, such as converting to Islam. He also gives a guy’s perspective of white male Muslim privilege.”White privilege and institutionalized racism are a tremendous negative force in American society … But it still doesn’t transform white-skinned people into a People called White in any meaningful or positive way.” Oh Man, White Muslims Again

    Sabiwabi of Oy, Habibti details the stereotypes and stigmas that many white Muslims face within their communities. ” Please don’t ask me more than once where I am from or ask for some sort of proof or tell me that I could be your cousins’ sisters’ niece from Turkey because she looks exactly like me.”  White Muslim, Sounding Off

    Me of Here turned the finger inward to see how my privilege works within the Ummah. “For me, addressing my own white privilege is a necessary step to further remove myself from the residual behaviors of my jilhaliya.” A Residue Remains: Using White Privilege in The Ummah and Inter-Racial Distrust and The White Muslim

    Umar Lee AKA/ The Brother You Want to Shut up (who is used to getting flack for sharing his perspectives), addresses white Muslims’ avoidance of critical introspection. “I believe that white is based on what you are not and not on what you are and someone who lives a life according to the sunnah is one of those things you cannot be.” More on Whiteness and Islam Debate

    Nzingha’s Soapbox demonstrates the ways that her privilege fluctuates as an American Muslim back home and in the lands of the Muslims. “My white privilege is put into question in the US because I am a convert to Islam, but than because I am a convert it is more meaningful in the ME especially since I am white.”  I’m a White American Girl

    A Residue Remains: Using White Privilege in The Ummah

    A friend of mine told me this week that I am seeing racism and white privilege everywhere. Well, I am, because as Angela Glover Blackwell explains in this very easy to watch video “Structural racism is racism baked into society…baked into the consciousness.” It is everywhere. Recently I have begun to look at where I see it play out in my life—to my advantage.

    As this deadline has approached, I have asked myself repeatedly why am I doing this carnival? Of course I am doing it for the sake of Allah, but what does that mean?

    Everywhere doesn’t preclude the Muslim blogospere, where issues related to nationalism and racism are ever present. I have repeatedly seen comments from both genders and varying ethnicities who affirm that there is no place for racism/nationalism in the deen. And this is true. But the problems exist, so shouldn’t we be actively working to eradicate them? People are, but in my experience I have only seen very, very little talk about these problems coming from white Muslims–and mostly it has revolved around implicating others. And where I do see discussions about racism/nationalsim and other isms in the Ummah, problem solving is often interrupted with a Muslim “blocking move,” such as ”They aren’t on the right manhaj, so there is no use in dealing with them” or “Nationalism has always existed, it is unavoidable” or the one you see in the anti-racism blogosphere as well “There are much more pressing issues to address than a bunch of over-sensitive whiners!” The response to that last one is often, “Don’t you think injustice is a pressing issue?”

    Don’t you?

    Here is some of the ultimate guidance that has been left to humankind, and is often paraphrased regarding these issues, but has been reduced to a hollow maxim:

    “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.” ~Muhammed(sallallaahu ‘alayhe wa sallam)

    Unearned privilege is injustice. For me, addressing my own white privilege is a necessary step to further remove myself from the residual behaviors of my jilhaliya.  The utterance of shahada does not eliminate a couple or more decades worth of habits, attitudes, behavior, cultural baggage, etc. Pork is easy enough to quit, swearing takes a bit more work, but what about learned behavior that we don’t recognize that we have learned–like white privilege? I didn’t know I still had it until very–too–recently.

    As an aside, it is well known that many of us, when new Muslims, develop a strong case of convertitis and are quick to disparge the cultural, not-so-Muslim behaviors of some born Muslims. I had this, I still get a touch of it from time to time. But I will no longer believe that I have entered into this deen pure–without my own baggage. Pointing fingers at (literally) others’ stuff is part of my superiority baggage, so again, this is an attempt to turn the mirror to myself.

    For the past year, I have been struggling to work within my community. My community is really small. Though sources have cited about 3,000 Muslims here, I have never seen more than a few hundred at the Eid prayers. We have yet to create a bonafide community with a masjid (actually there is one ethnically-based masjid that is exclusive to one minority), school and other services. It seems our options are to either continue waiting some more decades for a dominant group to control things, deal with each other, choose virtual isolation or, of course, move away – which is what many of us wait to do while doing nothing for the current community. Segregation is an option and does exist to some degree. I’m not sure if the time had come that we should retreat to a mountainside with our flock—but it often feels that way.

    Many of us have tried individually to start up community based services and activities, but they often flounder and flop nearly immediately. Other than having a place to pray and a fairly ethnically segregated Sunday school, I can’t think of a service that has been consistently available to the community in the six years that I have lived here. After failing to organize with folks a couple of times, I just left it off. Recently, I reengaged when I saw a few of my sisters struggling just as I had and I hated that for them. Finally, I seemed to have grasp that I really wanted for them what I wanted for myself—a community!  Since I had seen what it was like to have a good handful or two of sisters come together to do community building and then quickly drop off after a few meetings, I decided that maybe if I just kept a seat warm it could somehow help. I did not expect to last a year! Though I did make lots of dua about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I also ran into many of the Muslim blocking moves.

    While I thought I was just bench-warming, Jamerican suggested the problem of “[Muslimahs] using Muslim community White privilege to dictate norms to other- brown- Muslim women.” I had no idea what she was talking about, but I became concerned that I may not be working  for my community, but rather I may be forcing my agenda all over my sisters. And what would my agenda be? Very possibly, to do things my way, the right way, the whi–argh. Yep, that was it. Jamerican may have meant something different, and this idea probably plays out in different ways in different settings. For me it looked nearly superficial as our work was mostly benign initially, but I am really thankful that another sister in the group has been exploring these issues too and she now also sees it. We are actively working to find a new balance, where we contribute, but do not try to dominate—directly or subversively. So here’s what it looked like:

    Our group of a couple dozen women has one minority majority, about 5-6 white convert sisters, and then one or two sisters each from different backgrounds. Often we would seem to meet a stalemate as a group and my internal response would be that I could not “wrap my head around their way of thinking.” This is classic Orientalist behavior, baked into my “cultural DNA.” They (the Orientalists) are from my people, you know, and their indoctrinations have not failed to affect me, ironical since I am now Orientalized somewhat—anyway– The fallacy (and it does go both ways really, but again I am looking at my stuff) is that they are (amongst other things) irrational beings, and since they don’t make sense, we simply cannot understand them and should not bother ourselves trying. And we didn’t. Instead we would say, “I don’t understand” and make plans to do what we thought was best as if we had to make decisions for the group because the group was not able to as a whole. Astagfirallah, it is embarrassing to admit. The thing, I (and my white sisters who also admitted to confusion) wouldn’t even try to dialogue with the rest of the group. This is how I see us as maintaining our learned behavior of arrogance. Part of white privilege is that we have learned to believe that we are smarter than everyone else:

    “Another way that racism harms white people is by denying them the ability to develop their critical thinking. This is due in part to the constant, regular reinforcement that white is right. White people are raised in an environment in which they are regularly assured of their superiority. Their experts are white, like them.”

    This is arrogance, which we should all work to eradicate from ourselves.

    What I have chosen to do is not exactly novel. Some Muslims know it as shura. I’ve started talking with people. Asking more questions, and waiting more patiently for answers. The last meeting we had I no longer felt a great burden (another jilhaliya baggage ) to dredge through our work. I recognize that it is ours.

    “[Heidi] Zetzer believes the first, and easiest, way to initiate this transformation [of changing white privilege dynamics] is through dialogue. Honest and multicultural dialogue is the first way to build alliances which can then ‘transform people and systems and turn intention into action,’ thus slowly changing the persistence of white privilege.”

    I had hoped to address that initial conversation starter about white privilege which has got so much attention, but I haven’t finished it yet. So, inshAllah, I will post “Distrusting the White Muslim” in the next day or so.

    Recon Not What I Hoped For

    I had hoped that Resist Racism would be helpful, I don’t agree with all the opinions and tone, and I am sorry that it has fueled this already hot topic. I’m no expert, I don’t have examplary netiquette, I’m stumbling along, and please forgive me if I was off target. If anyone does “take what they like and leave the rest behind” alhumdiallah. See you Friday, inshallah!

    Readers, Before You Go Any Further: Some White Muslim to White Muslim Advise

    –because we know that you love advice.

    Not So Yummy Business

    Although the White Privilege and The Ummah Blog Carnival has barely just begun, I see plenty of people coming by to show some interest and some folks already stepping in it as they say. While you patiently wait for the rest of the posts, inshallah, please give some attention to the the work of these folks who have already spent considerable time contemplating and actively working to eradicate racism and unearned privilege; we can learn a great deal from them and don’t have to repeat all the nonsense that is already repeated ad nauseam:

    Racism 101 from Resist Racism is a fine place to start.  “#2 Sanctuary is not segregation” is worthy of contemplating as we certainly see enough of this in the Ummah. Consider why– from a new angle — one neighborhood has 3-4 masjids. We will also see plenty of #9, and it’s good to keep in mind that just because one is married to a person of color, one has not been absolved of all their privilege and tendencies to wield it: “#9 A claim to anti-racism cannot be made based on any variation of the “black friend defense” (Mexican boyfriend, Asian wife, children of color, etc.).” Number 13 is one that I am currently grappling with as I had hoped that the Mozzies could have a bit more patience for each other, but I fully respect this assertion and am better and better coming to understand it’s necessity: “#13 People of color are not responsible for the education of white people.” To better understand #13, you really, really should read The Helplessness of White People.

    And before you make any comments, print out a copy of We Heard It Before and keep it within sight while reading all the carnival entries–or at least read it! Again, we’ve only just begun and we’ve have already seen #2, #4, #6, #9, #14 and #16. Some of this will be unavoidable as we are not social scientists, we are talking about personal experiences and observations–BUT–your experience does not make you an authority, nor does it negate reality–White privilege exists. Reading the comments to the Resist Racism posts will also give you some luminous pearls.

    Initially, I had intended for this carnival to be open to only Muslimas (from all backgrounds) as I was concerned that gender issues would further complicate the sensitive but necessary issue of white privilege, but since brothers have shown an interest, then here is an opportunity to take a closer look at some of your stuff. White male college instructor Steven P. Scacht uses McIntosh’s popular backpack to further illustrate the workings of male privilege.  I particular feel #19 as it is still fresh in my mind from-err-last week:

    “#19. When attending school I can often count on the teacher (he or she) to perceive my inquiries and presence as more important than the females that are in attendance.” (if you prefer to skim, please at least read his list at the bottom of his article).

    A word about generalizing: Obviously not ALL white people do _____ actions ALL the time or even SOME times or EVEN ever. Do not assume that “white people” means ALL white people including you–though it probably means a whole lot of them 🙂

    “[S]urely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition”

    How could I leave out Racialicious!? Go there too.

    Love and Peace, for real, for the sake of Allah.

    The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?

    The Carnival goes up this Friday, the 22nd, inshAllah.

    The White Privilege & the Ummah Carnival: What Does it Mean to You, Them and Us?* *Them is non-Muslims, Us is the Ummah

    Submissions (ideally) Due Wednesday May 20th  but will keep adding as you come along, inshallah. Please leave a link if you put up a post on your blog, thanks.

    For a hot minute I was worried that I would never get around to doing this, but I’m glad it did take me this long as I have had a chance to germinate some ideas that I would have otherwise not had time to ponder.

           The idea for taking a closer look at white privilege in the ummah came from a comment discussion with Jamerican Muslimah. At that time, I had mostly only thought about my white privilege in terms of how mine was revoked when I joined a religious minority (in the US) and put a little square of cloth over my head. **(I recognize now that my privilege was not revoked, but it certainly felt that way). I think this experience must be quite shocking for most new Muslimas and especially for white women who had taken so much for granted in western societies.

           I have mostly worked from home since I began covering and so when I did interact with society, as a Muslima, it was mostly fairly superficial, such as running errands and taking the kids to the park–where the other mommies don’t talk to me so much anymore. When I recently went back to school, I was quite shocked at the treatment I perceived that I was getting from my peers and professors to the point where I actually thought I may be getting a little paranoid or developing some kind of social anxiety disorder. Finally, I did an experiment where for the first several meets of my winter courses I fully “hijabed” in a cap and scarf to class, and sure enough it wasn’t me, it was them.

           Anyhoo, I digress. You see, this white privilege carnival could very easily be a giant rantfest about how if feels to have your white privilege card revoked **(or seemingly so), and though that could be very self-satisfying, I think there is a possibility for this endeavor to be much more thought-provoking.

           The White Privilege and The Ummah carnival will be open to all Muslimas—white, passing, woc, converts, indigenous Muslimas, 1.5 generation, etc. ** I was thinking just Muslimas, but will include brothers too. The topic is widely open to your interpretation and even rants about the loss of privilege are welcome. Here are a few starter ideas to get things going:

     Jamerican had made these suggestions:

    •  Something I’d love to see a White Muslim woman blog about-confronting their White privilege in the larger society (suddenly becoming the ‘other’)
    •  And also within the Muslim community (being the sought after White woman)
    •  Using Muslim community White privilege to dictate norms to other- brown- Muslim women

           That bit about “dictating norms to other-brown-Muslim women” immediately raised some eyebrows, and I don’t think I would have been able to see those dynamics prior to her mentioning it, so inshallah I will try to address that somewhat in my post, but hope other folks will give it some good thinking about.

           It is fairly well known how sought after white Muslimas are, but I don’t necessarily think this works out well for many sisters. It would be nice to hear about these sort of experiences from a first-person perspective.

    It would also be good to hear about:

    • Being a white Muslima amongst the Muslims in the lands of the Muslims. Is it easier to go abroad? Are we treated better?
    • The Great Equalizer? How does being Muslim affect race relations?
    • Extra-attention/sensitivity doled out to the White shahada.
    • How does class continue to affect white Muslims? What are the differences in experiences between white privilege for upper/middle class white Muslims and working-poor/poor white Muslims?
    • Maintaining or discarding White American cultural norms. Fact Observation: Many white people are not trustworthy and they are arrogant—does that change or remain when we become Muslim?

            When I initially shopped this thing around, I got a wide range of responses including that white privilege doesn’t exist and also that white privilege ceases to exist once a white person becomes Muslim. I don’t agree with either of those positions, but  I would include posts written from those angles as all opinions are valid.

           For those of my siblings who are in doubt that white privilege does exist, I would like to share a couple my experiences with recognizing my privilege from my jilhaliya.

            When I was in my early twenties, myself and another prospective renter where looking at a fabtabulous studio to rent in a not-so-desirable neighborhood (the Tendernob/Upperloin). As we stood in front of the bay windows and the apartment manager gave as all the details, I remember thinking that I “had it.” The other prospect was a middle-aged Asian man with a noticeable accent. Though I suspected he probably made more money than me, he would probably do less damage to the place than me, and he would probably actually pay the last month’s rent rather than use the deposit—I knew I would get the apartment, and I did.

           A few months later I was taking a train trip across the country.  I was awakened to an announcement that we had crossed some state line and law enforcement officials would be randomly checking people’s luggage for contraband. Immediately two officers entered the car and started slowly moving down the isle towards me. In my backpack, stowed at my feet, was a cache of illegal material—to my relief, the officers didn’t even seem to look at me–instead they went straight to the two black men a few seats behind me. I didn’t know what it was called, but I knew right then that I had it.

           Need more explanation? Peggy McIntosh has written an excellent article that illustrates what it is, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Please go read the whole article; here are a few from the list of 26 privileges. I have crossed out those that were revoked when I began wearing hijab:

     1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

    2. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area, which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

    3. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

    4. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

    5. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.