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.


21 thoughts on “Sharing is Caring

  1. Jennifer – I’m saying this with complete sincerity: I am really sorry that your parents choose to leave you in such an emotionally and physically dangerous environment. And I hope that you come to understand that the actions of a very few children do not represent the majority of mature poc (people of color), nor does it negate from centuries of systematic racism. I deleted your comment because it broke my little tiny policy.

    BG – Those are flowers in your kufi, right? Working the “friendly Muslim” look? Link funny. Thanks

  2. Astaghfirullah, sister, friendly?! Don’t let the flowers fool you. Deep inside, I have cultivated a deep burning seething hatred of the kuffar for the sake of Allah.

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

    hmmm, I really am wondering why you said this after posting this paragraph about discussing race(which is obviously totally spot on)….does it have to be an either/or situation?

    why would the latter prevent such conversation?

  4. I was meaning “while white people may shut down or feel inadequate, scared, and intimidated”–only fear Allah, right? And not shut down if this is an area they (like me) are exploring these issues as to identify any nafy stuffs such as residual or suppressed racism.
    I had considered making that more clear–you know I often think I am being perfectly clear–how do I forget that is not so easy?

  5. I do get this Brooke. I mean, look at how during the carnival people, a few white Muslims who are talking about these issues, are putting “white” in quotations or did not even want to claim that they were white or that they had white privilege because they don’t understand what whiteness is. Honestly there is very little difference between the typical stuff I hear from many white Muslims and stuff the non-Muslim whites say when it comes to this stuff, word for word like they are parroting the stuff anti-racist blogs/books say that white people say do deflect from their whiteness and negate their white privilege. I mean, total cop out stuff. We don’t automatically get it just cuz we face discrimination or because we spend most of our time in the context of POC and are often presumed by people who don’t know us to be POC because of our Islam—but we still don’t get it w/out thinking about it—that ole self introspection you mention . The white dominant know- everything voice, the narrative we are raised with pre-Islam, still feeds a lot of our thinking.

  6. Fatima – In my exhaustion I read “I don’t get this” and I nearly crawled under my desk 😉 Everything I am reading has been produced in the states and I have even read that the US is ahead of the rest of the world in race dialogues–that is both comforting and horrifying. So, geography does have a huge role in how these conversations are coming in. I’ve seen a few British Muslims insist racism is not a problem in their country. Interesting, because I read a study awhile back focused on Muslim British school girls of South Asian decent and how ALL participants experienced the “savior complex” from their white teachers who told them that in the UK they could leave off the old world practices of their families. And in Australia race discussions have barely even been touched upon (and the reality is that children like Asiya’s are far more vulnerable to racism than my own.)*Retracted, I don’t think so.
    So let’s all just keep talking as much as we can, k?

  7. I get you know, I read the nafs controlling as being about controlling anger, ie. the other discussions we,ve had. As I said I think the comment that you have quoted is spot on.

    Part of the problem also is that people really aren’t reading properly what others are saying. It seems a quick skim read is made in some cases and then a whole lot of assumptions are made. Either that or some critical reading skills have been left behind as the person is advancing so greatly in other areas, perhaps race relations?!!!!

  8. With regards to geography and race relations, do you really think that the US is “ahead of the world” in general? My assumption as an outsider would be that in certain pockets of society it is ahead, but that this doesn’t necessarily transfer through to all. It’s certainly not the picture that we get of the US from outside, but perhaps this is a result of George Bush’s America. There is a stereotype however that Americans think they are ahead of the world in everything!

    I’m not sure if my kids would experience more racism than yours, certainly not just by their being Australian. The extent to how much racism that they experience here has very much to do with where we live and where they go to school. In my city, there are some very white areas (usually the most expensive suburbs) and then areas which are hugely multi-cultural, such as where we live. At my daughter’s school, the amount of people from non-English speaking backgrounds originally would be about 98%. In her age group, no one thinks twice about race or religion. I would like to move to the country however, and I know that I just can’t without causing my kids unnecessary pressure. Rural Australia is very Anglo-saxon and they would be bound to experience racism and religious vilification.

    I guess what I mean is that I don’t necessarily think that Australia is MORE racist than America because it is not as practiced in discussion of race. There is definitely a naivety, and perhaps Australians coming into discussions like this are more likely to fit into the category described by your paragraph above, simply because of lack of exposure to such conversations. But I don’t think ignorance in this regard necessarily equals more racism(unless you are rigidly adhering to a checklist and viewing everything in exceedingly black and white terms (no pun intended), again what is important is intention.

    I’m just wondering what happens when you take this discussion to small town America, is it really advanced?

    I have to add that educated people are often more annoying than non-educated people however, because of their assumption that they simply cannot be ignorant.

  9. I don’t think Americans “get it” more than Brits or Aussies. Not by a long shot. It has to do with exposure to core concepts like white privilege and what racism really is. A white Brit, and American, and Aussie will all sound the same if they haven’t got a clue about white privilege. There is a popular definition of racism, and then there is the definition used in anti-racism activism. I think most whites (and also many POC, at least in my experience) who haven’t been “clued in” will parrot the “I don’t see color, I see human” “we are a rainbow/multiculti/melting pot society.” Most ppl in all of those countries can recognize very overt racism (yet whites still have a tendency to excuse, down play, and defend it many times) but are very very blind to more subtle, and IMHO more damaging subversive forms of racism like systematic and institutional racism, positive stereotypes, and so forth…

    I think it is distracting and counter productive to look at which place is “more racist” American North versus South, OZ versus UK versus USA, etc…of course the racism dialogue is slightly different in each place, but there are so many parallels, and the systematic and institutional racism is much the same. All of our countries have very major issues with racism and in all of our countries whites are very blind to it…and though POC feel it because they live it but many times since they haven’t been clued in on anti-racism, don’t exactly have the tools to articulate exactly what’s going on so they tow the line and repeat the multi-culti BS, or can identify racism directed at them but not at other groups and may use racism against other groups, etc. There really is a big veil over everyone’s eyes.

    how nice to use a veil metaphor but not about hijabs or niqabs. anyhoo…salaamz

  10. LF, my comment was for Brooke, part of a longer conversation we have had off-blog about the differences between America and Australia. I wanted to explain to her that I hadn’t meant that I think levels of racism are necessarily different, despite certain sections of American society being much more used to conversations about race.

    ‘I think it is distracting and counter productive to look at which place is “more racist” American North versus South, OZ versus UK versus USA, etc…’

    The manner in which we have been discussing it is entirely relevant and not at all distracting, because it sets the context for the discussion. It’s not that we were looking at which place is “more racist”, but that exposure to discussion surrounding race (and the tone and amount of emotion usually involved) will definitely impact upon the way a person involves themselves in the conversation.

    At this point, I can’t help but suggest that perhaps you should stop being so patronizing and assuming to have so much authority. Being patronizing is far more likely to distract and derail a conversation. Being “clued-in” about racism is far more than being able to parrot a list of determiners of white privilege, and then apply them like a first year psychology student to each and every person that displays behaviour or sentiments that seem to fit.

    The issue of key importance here that is being missed is context. We need to really attempt to understand or read what another is saying, otherwise we are just bouncing stereotypes or categories off each other. Because I am worried about how to navigate raising a biracial family, it is assumed that I am saying I don’t have white privilege. Because I object to being yelled at or treated with sarcasm or mocked, then that is simply defensiveness caused by my white privilege. Because I apply my understanding of Islamic Spirituality to such situations and believe that we need to try to transcend our personal rancour or anger, then I am simply being blind and scared to leave my comfort zone.

    All along I have stated that it is then intention of a person that matters. Unlike others, I don’t assume to have a complex understanding of the dynamics of race-activism, I don’t doubt that there are many areas in which I have an enormous amount to learn. There is a vast distinction between saying “I don’t see colour, I only see humans” and using that to deny the existence of racism, and wanting to relate to others on fundamentally respectful human terms ie.that regardless of race or colour we attempt to listen to one another and treat each other respectfully. And this idea that there IS a human standard, is very much part of Islam.

    But this whole conversation seems to be filled with people trying to get the better of each other.

    The idea that there is one standard of race-activism and that some people of colour don’t understand it simply because they haven’t been “clued-in” or “educated” sounds very much like the way some white women approach feminism, particulary with regards to Muslim women. But perhaps that’s not what you mean, I get that oftentimes, people can sense a ‘wrongness’ without being able to express it verbally.

    What I am suggesting is that if we are too militant about reading and understanding racism through particular definitions, without really looking at context and intent, then we are likely to just get wrapped up in arguing about things that have no relevance, and to be blind to situations where people are genuinely seeking improvement and understanding. In other words it just becomes about egos and people trying to prove where they stand.

    It’s this, that makes some people want to run away from activism related discussions, not denial that the discussion needs to be had.

  11. Asiya: Completely up to you to take what I say as some kind of patronizing and egotistical sophomoric analysis. I just call it as I see it, though. Maybe that’s what you think you are doing here, right? These conversations are indeed hard to have.

  12. LF, yes I have felt that you are being patronizing, simply because mostly your comments are left after mine and they seem quite snide. It has seemed more like you want to TELL it as you see it(which means pointing out how stupid so many people are), rather than be involved in a dialogue. And fair enough, this is an internet discussion, it’s not like we are sitting in each others living rooms having coffee. There’s always room for misinterpretation. If I have misunderstood, and taken your comments too personally, then I’m sorry about that. I’m not trying to attack you in any way, I’m just not wanting to be patronized.

    As I have said to Brooke elsewhere, I have questioned my choice of words and thought maybe I’m just not being clear enough about what I mean (I do write these comments with three small kids trying to sit on my head and I’m heavily pregnant and we all know that kills brain cells). That being said, other people have understood. Anyway in the greater scheme of things it’s all largely irrelevant what people make of my words, and yes it is up to each one of us as to how we interpret the words of another. It’s also up to us to take responsibility for what we say and how that impacts upon another. For that reason, I apologize if what I said seems harsh or unreasonable. If we all had some level of concern for how we treat the people we are in conversation with, then perhaps these conversations would be a little easier.

  13. Asiya, Sorry it took me a few days here, I have been feeling too icky to sit and try to use my brain much.

    Asiya said: With regards to geography and race relations, do you really think that the US is “ahead of the world” in general? My assumption as an outsider would be that in certain pockets of society it is ahead, but that this doesn’t necessarily transfer through to all.

    Me: Well, that’s why I said it is both “comforting and horrifying” to read that. Comforting to know that it is being discussed and horrifying because it doesn’t seem to be nearly enough. Look at what is happening with the Supreme Court and Sotomayor—to me this should be a non-issue. The Supreme Court should already represent the diversity of this nation, yet it does not, and all the attacks that are happening are just absurd. I feel like we should be past this stuff as a nation, but instead we have to pull up the rugs (that all this was formerly swept under), pull up the baseboards, the foundation, purify the landfill underneath, make reparations and then rebuild.
    And people are doing that, but not everyone is on board. For instance, on my campus (note to those unfamiliar I am a near-grown, returning student, not a spring chicken) diversity is thrown around ad nauseam, yet the core requirement does not address “diversity” directly. Unless you choose specialty classes in black studies, eco-studies, native studies, women studies, etc, these discussions that need to take place amongst all students are not taking place. I am completely unaware of what is happening on a highschool level, but since we can see people are getting out of highschool (whether graduating or not) and maintaining the same social structures, I’ll guess that not enough is being done.

    Asiya said: I’m not sure if my kids would experience more racism than yours, certainly not just by their being Australian. The extent to how much racism that they experience here has very much to do with where we live and where they go to school.

    Me: Yes, I have to retract that statement. My simplistic thinking was based on the ethnic racism Lebanese/immigrants experience and that trickling down to your children, plus the bonus prejudice of Islamophobia. Though my kids are 1st/2nd generation Americans, there is no shortage of immigrant hatred here—even in the Muslim communities—but my children are also isolated/protected (like yours) in such a way that they do not currently experience any prejudice. That would be completely different if they were in school. A friend’s daughter (9 years old) has been repeatedly asked what her mother is in their new small town and once after explaining she is Muslim, the other child responded that “all Muslims want to do is blow up the world.”

    Asiya said: I guess what I mean is that I don’t necessarily think that Australia is MORE racist than America because it is not as practiced in discussion of race.

    Me: I don’t think so either; again I had wrongfully thought that your kids may experience more than mine based on the specific anger targeted to their father’s background. I really am very new to even thinking about all these. As I like to say, I grew up in a rainbow-hue bubble and really am uneducated about how racism currently plays out in the US—the rest of the world, forget it, I know nothing other than that America is a huge oppressive force upon much of the world. But I do have a lot of interest as I am getting a glimpse of how it has affected me and my deen and how it affects communities. It is so difficult to community build just in dealing with personalities, and the racism, prejudice and well-preserved stereotypes create infinite hurdles.

    Asiya said: I have to add that educated people are often more annoying than non-educated people however, because of their assumption that they simply cannot be ignorant.

    Me: Is that a dig?! J/K, I think you mean educated on the specific topic of racism, yeah? I think it is really easy to be “educated” on something in that rote-learning kind of way, but it takes much more time and work to really understand my own contribution to the problem and how to undo my accomplice. I think it also takes some practice, as does all behavior modification. Also, once you begin to look at the enormity of systematic racism, it is kind of overwhelming, which I hear is why many white folks just don’t do anything. Again, that would be a grave mistake for me, as it equates to accomplice in oppression and injustice.

  14. Brooke, what you initially assumed about the potential for my kids to experience racism because of their (half) ethnicity and religion is totally correct. there’s a huge amount of distrust and hatred within the wider Aus community, at times for the Lebanese community in particular ie. the Cronulla riots specifically targeted Lebanese youth (male and female). I just meant that because of the bubble that we live in, at Primary school level, they seem fairly protected (half the kids in my daughters class have Muslim names, and most of these Muslim kids are Lebanese).

    I frequently wonder about how things will be for them once they hit high school. Whilst they will certainly experience some level of racism simply based on their having Muslim names, or if my daughter/s(?!!) wear hijab, it is overt racism that I’m referring to. It may be that they are able to navigate themselves around more subtle forms of racism, simply because they are not actually being raised in the Lebanese community, and are therefore not subject to some of the disadvantage that is prevalent in the Lebanese community as a result of the prejudice that the Lebanese community have encountered over the last thirty years since coming here.

    But in turn, this puts my kids “between worlds” always experiencing distrust and never fully belonging to either community, a difficult place to be. But perhaps I am reading too much into things and maybe things will turn out much more simply for them, Allahu alam.

    I do notice that at my daughter’s school although the kids seem blissfully unaware of race at this stage, the parents group together according to ethnicity and religion. I find it strange, because I can’t really talk comfortably for long with the Lebanese Muslim mums, firstly because they usually converse amongst one another in Arabic, but also because they are younger, and we really don’t have a lot in common. But when talking with white Aussies with similiar social backgrounds (aside from one or two) I’m struck by the feeling that they don’t see me as being anything like them.

    It’s funny because we do tend to do a quick overview of a person based on appearance, even if we think that we don’t fall for such superficial assessments! So I am looking at the women, and I’m automatically more comfortable with the more alternative looking mums (who usually happen to be white because we all know that white people are pretentious and just love organics!) because that is what I am used to, and there’s not so many such mums in my area as it’s very suburban. But they look at me as though I’m another species. All fairly uninteresting, it’s just that it gives me some idea of how our kids will start to understand the ethnicity of those around them as they get older, and reinforces my feeling that my kids are really going to feel “in-between”.

    The thing is, if I look at the way people naturally gravitate towards others that they think are ‘like them’, whilst this is based on stereotypes and assumptions, it’s also fairly natural and not necessarily problematic in itself, as it’s based on an initial assessment of ‘common ground’, which may of course be wrong, but often it’s fairly correct. But there’s much more at play here than race. Culture, class and religion/spirituality are all equally important and it all blurs together in a way that makes it hard to determine what the markers of division actually are, as they are continually shifting.

    No, my comment about educated people wasn’t a dig! But I do mean it broadly, not just in relation to this issue. Bringing it back to the point of this post, about white people and arrogance, we need to think about who are the white people that actually have power. Wealthy white people/men who have had access to education are frequently those in positions of power who get to speak on behalf of everyone else. Personally I think that our education system is designed to create such arrogance. A great part of going to university is learning how to talk with authority. Although I disagreed with some of Umar Lee’s post (of course since I’m a Sufi loving child of middle-class, hippie parents!), I really think he is correct about our academic institutions just being a form of indoctrination. Part of this indoctrination is thinking that you can’t learn from someone who doesn’t speak the same academic language. Educated people are hard to teach about things that take them by surprise, because they have learned to think that they have everything within their consideration ie. you can’t teach me something that I don’t already know myself kind of attitude.

    I agree that there are different ways of understanding what it means to be educated. I’m using the word in a really simplistic way meaning those who have had access to tertiary education, this includes rote-learning and also recognizes that it is a specific kind of learning, dialectical and structuralist. Aisha Bewley (who incidentally is one of the Norwich Muslims so criticized by Indigo Jo not so long ago!) discusses this briefly in her book, ‘Islam the Empowerment of Women’ and what she says is important and valid. To cut it short, since I’m rambling, I think that western/white/colonial arrogance is very tied up in this kind of structuralist thinking, that’s why I’m kind of skeptical about anti-racism rhetoric or methods that are still very much wrapped within the larger education system/academia. Not sure what the alternative is though. Structuralist thinking is so heavily ingrained in our entire way of approaching the world.

  15. Asiya: Nothing I said was intended towards you either directly or indirectly except for my point that the US is not by any means ahead of other Western countries in anti-racism, which supported what you had earlier said.
    It is just a sheer coincidence that a couple of my comments followed yours.

  16. LF, well then I apologize again for accusing you of patronizing me. Really it was your comment on an earlier post about white wines that came just after I had left most of the comments on the post, that got me cranky. i tried to address it with you by making fun of myself (although that may have come across as sarcasm, hard to know) but you didn’t respond, so from that point I did take your comments as being directly intended towards me. Before then, I would have taken seriously what you were saying even if critical, if you actually addressed it directly with me.

    I’m very open to people disagreeing with my tone on those earlier comments because I was fairly angry, and I end up communicating in pretty much the way that I am suggesting that we shouldn’t.

    Anyway, sorry for misunderstanding.

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