Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Racism is on my mind:
Illegal migrants in Europe; Confederate flag; White supremacist massacres; ISIS massacres; The friend who thinks my Hijab as a muslim woman is repulsive. My being repulsed by the oppression I assume the Hassidic girls in my neighborhood suffer. The proto-fascist new-rich "French" neighbors who have moved into the 'recently hip' areas and feel entitled to stop us "foreigners" when we drive to our home to inquire: "do you live in this neighborhood? because the alley belongs to the residents."
With globalization, with communication, we have been forced to stare into the inners of other tribes.
Often, our values clash, but we are not able or patient enough to understand, to articulate why. We oppress the visceral reaction to this cultural clash, pretend that we are blind to race and to cultural differences, and act indifferently when they do not hit us personally.
While this may be not true for people who are born to and are raised in truly multicultural societies, it is likely for those of us who come to contact with the "other" as grownups.
In some ways, most of us are closeted racists: those of us who are white and hold the current power in this world and know how to speak in politically correct terms; those of us who are brown and yellow and boast about fully regaining the power by the next two or three generations; those of us who are black and red, and see ourselves as the generous hosts-turned-victims of the the white greed also feel a need to rebel against this exploitative order of things, as the world stands today. All of us are racists, in as far as our primate ancestors are.
But the White world is particularly confused about it.
First, it doesn't seem to really comprehend the deep rooted grudges that the rest of the world holds against it. Second, it is in denial about its racism. And Third, it is so assured of its own superiority that it is unable to admit it doesn't have a clue what it should and shouldn't do about it.
This delusion is partly because the post-war generation has been cushioned in comfortable consumerism and "democracy", which it has been proudly importing by the help from financial beneficiaries of the capitalist order, in order to create a global village where even in the farthest of a polynesian volcanic Islands in Hawaii, one can feel as in Barcelona. With this simulated "inclusion", the White has begun absolving itself of the savagery it exhibited during the first and second world wars, not to mention the other carnages it left in Africa and Asia, upon which its current industrial revolution and wealth have flourished.
The delusion is also because the children of the WWII parents are somewhat self-satisfied with their legacy of global performance to bring peace and prosperity to all! For example, the post-war 'right' still congratulates itself on behalf of Reagan, for collapsing the Wall. The post-war 'left' also congratulates itself on behalf of the civil-right movement in America and de-colonization of the European colonies.
The irony is that one generation later, self-righteousness of those who absolved their racist White cultures by trying to open the doors of their countries to "immigrants and refugees" from their ex-colonies is manifesting in the behavior of those who think they have already paid their dues to those they had robbed in the past centuries. "Get over it", they say, for they got over the Nazi atrocities, for example.
The newer generations, who have been raised in the post-modern culture of 'all goes' and 'forgive and forget all' and 'relax and be happy' because after the God, "the author is dead" too, no longer feel responsible for the sins of their fathers. They are those who are pushing to close those doors to others, and practice highly discriminatory and exclusionary cultures. The Israeli children of the victims of Holocaust kill, segregate and steal other's land with impunity. The European racism has been handed justification, thanks to the Fatwas on Salman Rushdi's life, the killing of the Dutch filmmakers, and the massacre of the French cartoonists--which ironically have been literary manifestations of the White's visceral hatred for the culture of the other who has been fueling its economies. This self-righteousness begets the hatred of those who did suffer, and are again suffering this new versions of supremacist manifestations--despite the fact of growing up within this self-congratulating and yet othering cultures. Paris riots & ISIS recruitments are cases in point.
The post-war White in America is somewhat different. After all America is a melting pot with open arms for anyone who wishes its dreams.
Inclusive, and culturally open to all, unless socialism, America is still the proud exporter of war and democracy, and still unapologetic. Thanks to "death to USA" chants from the Islamic Revolution hostage-takers, Vietnam and Korea are long forgotten. The Japanese, the victims of America's most atrocious assault in the history of humanity, are the happy tourist of the Pearl harbour. Majority of the leftish White feels righteous about reading the Huffington post while huffing about Bush and Blair. It protests against wars, but from an armchair and over beer, because war is what in effect finances the enlightened lifestyle to which America (of any colour) feels entitled--now and through investment/pension schemes. Comfortably Geek, ex-hippies of America have turned hip-greens on the pastures of the Silicon Valley. Their dirty jobs are done by the Yellow slaves. Their industrial dumps are handled by the Black ones who also supply the raw materials--while Bill Gates and Bill Clinton "educate" their pupils into the capitalist doctrine. Their post-modern causes are less racism, and more gay rights and environment. (As soon as the Supreme court recognized equal rights for the Gay, America draped itself in the rainbow colors of the facebook and forgot about the Charleston massacre.)
Yet, despite the fact that being a black boy increases your chances of getting killed in America, America does have a Black president, who keeps the debate about race open and live. However, not all colours have a similar representation on the world-protest stage, and this is why I suggest the White world is confused about what to do about racism.
Take the White students who "occupy" this and that, for example. They are either "fringe", hobo-looking, gruffy, tattooed, ringed, bearded, hipster, and often virtual; or well suited up and in the service of this or that right-wing lobby. There are also the more radical and violent ones, whom the White America insists on keeping armed, to defend them from the possible revolt of the black or the Red--such as the confederate Charleston killer. If very well disciplined, or very poor, they will join a "respectable" army to save the mankind, with the world being their simulacrum where they are rewarded by their rate of perishing the bad-guys, just as in video games. But the coloured kids do not dare to protest. When American police shoots black kids and leaves them dead in cold blood, the black parents urge the protesters to peace and calm.
When the white supremacist massacres in the black church, the black community asks for forgiveness. The colour kid who wants to protest joins ISIS. This is the crux of the problem. This is why the world holds a grudge against the white, who by all accounts have been the most destructive, greedy and bloodthirsty humans on earth, and yet least apologetic ones.
Even the "Good White", the most open-minded and benevolent of them all is not fully color-blind and feels 'white-privileged' by the merits of having had access (excess: better food, better nutrition, better education, better brain, bigger brain and more IQ!), and by its sense of charitableness towards the world. For this, it assumes its duty to dictate a solution to this world. Today, the "Good White" is confused and the "Bad White" is in a state of terror. And, because the White is profoundly self-satisfied, self-congratulatory, and self-righteous, it is incapable of comprehending the hatred that his deaf arrogance shall beget.
This confusion about their goodness (by the Good White), and this badassness triggered by terror (felt by the Bad White, the openly racist gun toting one), shall make the White terribly vulnerable. It is nature after all. Under- and over-activated immune systems are dangerous to living organisms.
As it stands, we are in a vicious circle; and the media, ubiquitous and omnipresent is only speeding up the speed at which we spiral down the whirl of self-destruction. Imagine, if the White disambiguated itself from the illusion of superiority, and began to develop a deeper understanding and true respect for the ways of the rest of the world, things would have had better prospects of improvement.
The White do owe a profound apology to the world for having been such intrusive, exploitative, destructive force in the past 500 years. Human nature is not devoid of inherent violence to dominate, but the technological speed with which the white man has destroyed the world, even for its own race, is what makes them particularly atrocious.
If I were White, I would just shut up for a bit, and sit in a corner and begin to educate myself silently and genuinely about the "lesser" cultures that I have worked so hard to annihilate (instead of insisting that I have a superior solution due to my superior culture). I would also have a deep reflection about my 'superiority' and make calculations about what I have laid to waste in the name of development and progress. Only then, may the rest of the world begin to forgive, and forget.
A few months ago, I saw a youTube video of a group of Talibans smashing television sets, while filming the event on a cell phone and broadcasting it. We need to listen carefully: our media, their message.
Sharing these thoughts on my personal facebook begot a number of defensive reactions from friends who thought I was attacking their "whiteness". While defending their skin colour, they also proposed a few solutions to solve the problems of the world, which were independent of the topic of "racism" to which I wanted to pay focused attention. I have since offered the following clarifications, which I like to document here for posterity:
What I wrote is so much less about the colour of skin, than about a particular culture that a skin embodies. The generalization is not about the colour of skin, but the colour of a culture.
In my "rash generalizations about the 'white' philosophy and views", I started my piece by saying that we are all racists, not in the least because it "encapsulates our way of life; our luxuries, our rituals, our communities, our prejudices, and all the rest of the things we use to identify ourselves and to make sense of our worlds.", and therefore we suppress a visceral discomfort when we come to contact with the 'other'. I then said that the 'white are particularly confused about their racist reality because although "Westerners in particular probably tend to harbour a sense of superiority", "that is well masked by rationalizations to the contrary", and yet it "unveils itself when put to the test by exposure to "the other", in the form of immigration or tourism."
The "shut up and listen more" is a recommendation for the white culture, which has dominated the world by the merit of being loud and coming through megaphones of industrialized military, and materialist hegemony.
The loud white has drowned every voice in this globe through the cacophony of intra-cultural debating of the flavors of a) its own philosophies and b)misappropriation of the philosophies of others. You see, in your response to me, you have felt compelled to come strong to assert your views about let's "condemn violence in all its forms, and continue both to speak and to listen. And to learn that if we continue to preach generalizations about race, we'll simply continue to live out those generalizations, and to form our actions on their basis, instead of banish those concepts from our global mindset and move on to matters of more pressing urgency: controlling our population growth, respecting our environments, normalizing our relationships, eradicating our arms stockpiles, and so on." ... it is to this kind of self-righteous statement that I say "shut up" [not literally] and LISTEN to what I am trying to say, instead of prescribing MEDICINE/CURE from a particular mindset. To this statement, I would say, let's, before offering our solutions WHILE justifying ourselves on the "natural" right to domination and territorialize, just REFLECT on the responsibility we, all the benefactors of the WHITE SUPREMACY, bear. My piece is not about RACISM, it is about the confusion of the "white".
This was not sufficient, as another friend joined the discussion to further attack me for ad hominem, for discarding the content of the previous comment because it was coming from a "self righteous whity". Luckily for me, another "whitey" came to my rescue to underline how that very comment was a proof of how this particular "enlightened European" mind does not LISTEN, proving my point! But I had to offer extra contextualization:
I think we have to contextualize "self-righteous". It is not addressed at X [and I am sure he didn't think that], it is brought up to point to a particular "mode of communication" which I critique as "white" [aka, any of us, including myself, who are indoctrinated by the European _REASON_]. (This is what I think Y hinted at as well, about your reaction to my reaction--before discussion of my post)
My post is about the "confusion" of the "white" about its self-righteousness; and I do explain what that looks like: "OFFERING SOLUTIONS ACCORDING TO ONE'S OWN WORLD VIEW". The Self-Righteous is referencing what I said in the main post: "The irony is that one generation later, self-righteousness of those who absolved their racist White cultures by trying to open the doors of their countries to "immigrants and refugees" from their ex-colonies is manifesting in the behavior of those who think they have already paid their dues to those they had robbed in the past centuries. "Get over it", they say, for they got over the Nazi atrocities, for example." ...
This post is my conclusion that "WE" cannot offer solutions, we cannot appease, we cannot bring 'reason' to a situation that is tragic and a situation that has become so tragic BECAUSE of our "reasonable" philosophies in the past 2-3 centuries. I say "we" because I am the student of a "white" way of researching, exploring, exploiting and navigating the world myself.
Racism is a topic that I am trying to grapple with as an immigrant, who is about to become unwanted (because of my assumes religion); as a settler on a land occupied and tensions unresolved (like on HWY 15 walls of the big red factory painted with "STOLEN INDIAN LAND"); as an Iranian whose entire history is marked by resistance to colonization (with some success, although at times at hefty price of war and repression). I am trying to understand racism as a 'scientist' of human development, emotions, pain, stress, 'epigenetics'. And I am trying to grapple with "racism", as a human who breaks down when sighting a confederate flag blowing on the beaches of a modern democracy-exporter.
And as I am grappling with the issue of race, as I come to contact with cultures new and foreign and weird or fascinating to me, I acknowledge, as I did at the beginning of my post, that I REACT as a human to the novelty and the foreignness of the 'other'.
And I am more and more convinced that we cannot offer solution, not even condolences to the black men of America who are the likely targets of police brutality; we cannot sit at the same table and ask the First nation of Canada to "let's move on from the tragedy of your cultures burning either in the ethanol of our CIVILIZATION, or frack-tured by our imported notions of development and progress. The racism experienced by the black and the indians is incomparable to anything that anyone else may have suffered. The brutality of their history numbs my tongue. All I can do is to be silent (even when I shoudl with them, for them), and to bow my head and to LISTEN to what solution THEY offer, To what THEY say will reduce their pain.
So no, I am not asking the "whities to shut up" in order to stifle discussions. I am asking that we stop believing that we KNOW the solution because we are convinced of our own supremacy.
This weekend, I read a great book "Undercommons" (I have one chapter to go). I share excerpts, which resonates with King's, with Fanon's ... whose statements, I think resonate with what I wrote in the original post.
P.S. I totally understand your irritation with "skin colour", and this is why I was happy that Andrew called me on it, so I could clarify. This is really not about the colour of skin, it's about the colour of cultures.
This was still "not acceptable"!
So I leave a few excerpts from
Martin Luther King:
Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race. Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles of racial supremacy.
We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it." (Why We Can't Wait, 1963)
From Franz Fanon:
"When I search for Man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man, and an avalanche of murders. The human condition, plans for mankind and collaboration between men in those tasks which increase the sum total of humanity are new problems, which demand true inventions. Let us decide not to imitate Europe; let us combine our muscles and our brains in a new direction. Let us try to create the whole man, whom Europe has been incapable of bringing to triumphant birth.
Two centuries ago, a former European colony decided to catch up with Europe. It succeeded so well that the United States of America became a monster, in which the taints, the sickness and the inhumanity of Europe have grown to appalling dimensions.
Comrades, have we not other work to do than to create a third Europe? The West saw itself as a spiritual adventure. It is in the name of the spirit, in the name of the spirit of Europe, that Europe has made her encroachments, that she has justified her crimes and legitimized the slavery in which she holds four-fifths of humanity. Yes, the European spirit has strange roots. All European thought has unfolded in places which were increasingly more deserted and more encircled by precipices; and thus it was that the custom grew up in those places of very seldom meeting man." (The Wretched of the Earth, 1961)
From an introduction to a contemporary book about racism:
If you want to know what the undercommons wants, what Moten and Harney want, what black people, indigenous peoples, queers and poor people want, what we (the “we” who cohabit in the space of the undercommons) want, it is this – we cannot be satisfied with the recognition and acknowledgement generated by the very system that denies a) that anything was ever broken and b) that we deserved to be the broken part; so we refuse to ask for recognition and instead we want to take apart, dismantle, tear down the structure that, right now, limits our ability to find each other, to see beyond it and to access the places that we know lie outside its walls. We cannot say what new structures will replace the ones we live with yet, because once we have torn shit down, we will inevitably see more and see differently and feel a new sense of wanting and being and becoming. What we want after “the break” will be different from what we think we want before the break and both are necessarily different from the desire that issues from being in the break." (Introduction to Undercommons, by Jack Halberstam)
From John Metta
"White people are in a position of power in this country because of racism. The question is: Are they brave enough to use that power to speak against the system that gave it to them?
So I’m asking you to help me. Notice this. Speak up. Don’t let it slide. Don’t stand watching in silence. Help build a world where it never gets to the point where the Samaritan has to see someone bloodied and broken.
As for me, I will no longer be silent. I’m going to try to speak kindly, and softly, but that’s gonna be hard. Because it’s getting harder and harder for me to think about the protection of White people’s feelings when White people don’t seem to care at all about the loss of so many Black lives."
And finally, Elie Wiesel:
An immoral society betrays humanity because it betrays the basis for humanity, which is memory. An immoral society deals with memory as some politicians deal with politics.
Posted by Naj