Blog Index
The journal that this archive was targeting has been deleted. Please update your configuration.

Entries in race (7)



I was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Both of my parents were immigrants.

I was born a U.S. citizen.

Apparently, the President of the United States thinks that is ridiculous.

I think about all the American citizens including my parents, sibling and my first cousins and I do a tally of our occupations: three doctors, three lawyers, three corporate executives, two teachers. We all work so hard. We all work in fields that are respected. 

Consciously or unconsciously, the children of immigrants are always doing this tally.  We're making sure that we earn our keep, you know? The thing I have realized in the past two years is that "earning your keep" in America is not only a lie, it's a white supremacist propaganda tool.

The truth is that the work/contribution narrative has served white Americans very well in comandeering people like me as agents of abuse against the immigrants who aren't doctors, lawyers or whatever.  Many Asian origin immigrants and their kids will go into these patterns of thinking that center on the model minority narrative, and we forget the broader ethical directive of: when people are in trouble, hungry or need a place to stay decent people open their doors.

No matter how hard we work, how smart we are, whether we save your life, teach your children, eat the same food as you, sing the same songs... there will always be people who will look at us and say, "You don't belong here." This is not because we don't work hard enough. This is not because we are criminals. It is not because we are lazy.

It is because they are racist xenophobes who want to "Make America White Again." They use resources as a straw man argument to cover their nativist agenda that is based on racial supremacy. In fact, this attempt to cover their racism and xenophobia is so efficacious that many of the 54% of the Republicans who support the revocation of birthright citizenship don't even know they are racist. They think we're shutting the door on the rapists and criminals.

What they don't see is criminality of ethics that are being used to shut the doors on people who are often desperate for safety, food or other resources which we have in abundance. 

I am no longer under the illusion that any of that 54% gives a shit about what I have to say. I want to talk to you. The person who knows what I am saying is true. Who is upset like I am about this conversation.

You need to make a very important decision right now.

You need to admit that our president is a fascist. You need to understand that the people who support him are wilfully supporting a personality that has been historically proven to be a catalyst for national pain and genocide. 

Our nation is not a facist state only because he is currently being reigned in by the precarious threads of the legislative body's and executive body's commitments to upholding the U. S. Constitution.

Now, I know this is going to have some of you thinking, "This is exactly why we should vote!"

Ummmmno, wtf liberal America, you should vote because it's your civic duty.

Votes in opposition to th Fascist in Chief's agenda will certainly strengthen the above mentioned threads that keep us from sinking into the pit of full fledged fascism, but it will not erase the deep seated racism, white supremacy and xenophobia which resides in every neighbordhood across this country. 

If you are among the population that this adminsitration identifies as protected (read: white), then your VOICE matters as much as your vote. You have to say something. YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING OR YOU ARE LETTING THIS HAPPEN. If you are saying something?

People will not forget that you were quiet.

Future generations will not forget. 

I will not forget. 



On #Trayvon. And Us.

In a nest made of a pretty little river, a dozen or so golf courses and several lakes that are best kept secrets, the place of my becoming exists. For twelve years, I lived two minutes outside of Sanford, Florida. For the twenty three years before that, I lived about thirty minutes away. 

Sanford has a quaint, little downtown where there’s a lovely library carpeted with that weird brown material that was so popular in the 80s. When Nuha started preschool, I would take Yusuf to this library for children’s programs. Sometimes, we would visit a park nearby and I would push him on a swing until it was time for a snack. Sanford is a sweet, unassuming town. It doesn’t really stand out in any real way — save the fact that it is so unremarkably unremarkable. 

It’s cute. It’s simple. It’s just… Sanford.

I got a ticket about four years ago for speeding. I elected to take the driving course so I wouldn’t have to get the points on my license. I had to go to the courthouse to pay the ticket and show my driving course certificate.  The security guards are friendly and will make jokes with you if you appear game, as I often do. The staff there is professional and courteous. The courthouse has the usual mix of the mundane and exciting that a courthouse can offer. It wasn’t really busy. It’s a nice courthouse. You probably have one like it in your town. It, like the community it serves, is generally unremarkable.

But today, Sanford is not unremarkable. 

It is spotlighted. For some, it has become the staging ground for battle. It’s become emblematic of everything that  is right or wrong about our society. It has become the place where people point and say, “See, this is what we mean when we say that the world is this way or that way…” In a short time, something I knew as unremarkable has become quite remarkable in what I think is a very unfortunate way.

I spent a lot of time on Facebook tonight. I noticed comments about riots. About dead children. About self defense and self loathing. About prayers for peace for this side or that. The new, remarkable Sanford had made what is normally my unremarkable Facebook wall a very remarkable place, too.

“Nice job, Florida.”

“Well, don’t go to Florida if you’re wearing a hoodie!”

Hey, Americans of Facebook? Violence, racism, discrimination, bias… these are not the province of the newly remarkable Sanford, Florida. This is our national problem. We own it… as a nation — no exceptions. Everyday, people in this country are deemed threatening because of their appearance, their name, or their culture. They are dirty because they are poor. They are violent because they are black. They are angry because they are Muslim. They are racist because they are white. They are deviant because they are gay. 

These ideas and words are crimes against you and me. They are not so apparent as a grown man operating within the context of some irrational application of an ill conceived law provoking a child to violence and then killing that child as reprisal. But they are crimes, nonetheless, of which we are all victims and perpetrators.

They are the crimes that divide us. They are not as quick to kill as a bullet to the chest, but they do kill. They kill slowly and their death toll is in the thousands. And they cannot be prosecuted in a court of law.

And here’s the real clincher: the perpetrators of these crimes are almost always acquitted because the jury is too sympathetic or apathetic to convict. 

You acquit. I acquit. We acquit each other when we look the other way when a remark is made about “those people” and why they are “that way.” We acquit each other when we accept the idea that “race is not an issue.”

I want to tell you all, for your own good, stop saying that. If you think race isn’t an issue, then race is most definitely an issue for you. When you pretend something does not exist, you give it power. That’s why Harry said “Voldemort” instead of “He Who Must Not Be Named.” Be Harry. You cannot destroy that which you think does not exist. You cannot heal a sickness if you refuse to believe that you are sick. You deny a sickness, though, and it only grows.

A trial in Sanford? That is, at least, some accountability. It’s a few moments when someone says, “Well, let’s try to figure out what went wrong here.” So maybe they don’t figure it out and some bogus verdict sends us all in a tizzy …just long enough so we get distracted from the many acquittals we dole out on a daily basis.

We then focus on the big remarkable event which is just really the outcome of all the acquittals we dole out in the unremarkable moments in our lives.

Someone pleaded today, “What can I do?”

I’ll tell you. 

Hold yourself accountable for the tiny ways in which you might be making this problem bigger. You’re not a racist, of course. I’m not either. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t unconsciously harbor sentiments which are so deeply ingrained with racist ideology that it is no longer visible to us. I think, too, and this is going to be controversial… we have to let go of relativism when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. Be unrelenting. Be ever vigilant. But, of course, be kind.

Look at what you believe — observe yourself, your words and your ideas in the context of humankind’s very necessary journey to a peaceful existence. Our continued existence is fully determined by our ability to take a stand in the service of our preservation.

One remarkable acquittal is enough. 

Let’s not acquit ourselves, too.


"The Month": Race, Difference & Diversity

Have you heard of The Week?

It summarizes op-eds on "hot" current event topics for the past week.  Like Cliff's Notes.  Cliffs' Notes.  Whatever.

Let's do a The Month post for my blog.


It's going to be good!!



Early in the month, I posted "How to Talk so People (or Racists) will Listen".

JM Randolph of accidental stepmom pinpointed how this situation can be awkward:

It's difficult to speak up when confronted with intolerant beliefs.  For me, it's exasperating if it's my own family or people I'm close to. Sometimes, I don't even bother because I know the person enough to know my words won't make a difference.  I wonder, though, is speaking up about these issues about changing someone's mind or is it about making a statement about who we are and what we're willing to tolerate?

In "The Help... in Mississippi or in Pakistan", we discussed K. Stockett's best selling controversial novel, The Help

Kailyn elaborated on the objections eloquently and passionately:
What pissed me off about the book was the widespread popularity of it. For me it was the feeling of, “What? The experiences of my family are only valid if they are told by a white woman?” The more and more I thought about it, it just all felt like more of the Great White Savior being played out.

When I read literature about India, Pakistan or even Muslims written by individuals outside of those cultures, I can feel like that.  Sometimes, those perspectives seem to emanate from academic ivory tower conjectures. That's not to say that only African Americans can write about African Americans, etc, but people write best when they offer their truth as they have lived it.

Still, while I agree with some of Kailyn's assessment, but Windyfairy offers the zero sum of my opinion:
Part of racism was that ethnic people were stripped of their voices. [...]Maybe what we should take from this story is that there were people willing to work together for the same goal, despite their differences. Maybe what should be important isn’t who told the story, but that it was told.

It's entirely possible that my not being African American is a factor in my tendency to agree with that.

It was also my birthday on the 9th. In addition to a MACBOOK AAAAIRRRR(!!!), I got an extraordinary "present" on my Facebook wall from Dave2 at Blogography.

I celebrated Dr. M.L.King, Jr.'s birthday here in Memphis this year, too. It was significant and beautiful experience for me.  One comment in particular on that post from RW, however, brought home a stark reminder of the realities of our times.
There’s no question but that for a lot of white Americans this is viewed as a “black” holiday that they have to just put up with not getting their mail on.

Including my family, there were six individuals who were not African American at the event I attended. I can unequivocally say that for me "black" or "African American" are rarely the first words that come to mind when I think of Dr. King.  Do people really still see him as an African American hero and not just a plain old American hero?

Megan finished out the month by graciously offering a guest post in the style of her blog  One Thousand Words (Or More).  I was honored to celebrate her talent and beauty with you.

Finally, I want to extend thanks to Nyt, and like bloggers.  As someone who can often fall on the other side of political and social issues than me (and most of the readers here), Nyt often takes the time to express opinions here. Disagreeing is more than just "okay", it is needed. We can never be less for acknowledging "the other side" and taking the time to consider opinions oppositional to our own.  Being open minded means, well... being open.

Most posts this month were inspired by race, difference and diversity.  As always, I'm impressed with the respectful nature of the dialogue here and want to thank everyone for respectfully participating in conversations that could have gone horribly awry.

Also I've started a Native Born Facebook page, where I'll be posting articles, videos and fascinating things relating to my blog.  And Star Trek.  Vampires, too.

Photo Credit

Perspectives: Color by @MsMegan

One Thousand Words (Or More) is a collection of  subtle, yet breathtaking photographs published on the web by my dear and trusted friend Megan. Brief snippets of wisdom accompany each of her posts and the style of the blog reinforces that I'm blessed to have her in my feed reader. Products inspired by the blog can also be found online at the One Thousand Words (Or More) shop and you can find her on Twitter at @MsMegan


It's the color that makes life interesting.


The Dr. King & I: Intentions and Realities. # HappyMLKDay

MLK Day History: You cannot know where you are going unless you know where you have been.

I woke with the intention of making today meaningful.

When we first decided to move to Memphis, the first thought that came to me was "That's where they shot Dr. King." Yes, I called him Dr. King because in my family, you always put Dr. in front of someone's name if they're a doctor. And, yes, I thought the words exactly like that ... "they shot him." Like an army of people fired shots at the Lorraine. Aside from proving that I'm careless when I'm thinking to myself, this is illustrative of how many view race, if not life itself.

The National Civil Rights Museum rests quietly beneath a vintage green sign with red letters proclaiming the words "Lorraine Motel" on it.   It happens to be two trolley stops away from our apartment. To give you an idea of how much I wanted today to mean something, Tariq commuted 45 minutes to join us for our very own Family Civil Rights Remembrance Lunch today.

Because this is Memphis.

This is where Dr. King died, you know.

In the morning, I explained slavery to my daughter.

She was horrified, as she should be.

Then I explained segregation.

That seemed to confuse her, as it should.

I repeated the "content of his character" line like you do when you're trying to be inspirational about race. I explained non-violent resistance. I'm not sure what stuck, but it felt significant at the time.

We stepped off the trolley towards the museum, and there were so many people. I realized going into the actual museum was a bust.  I've been there once already, so that wasn't too big of a deal. There was music playing, food cooking, laughter... people, there were funnel cakes!

National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Memphians come out to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday

Funnel cakes!

At the place where "they" shot Dr. King!

This was not a place for martyrs.

This was a party. The smell of funnel cakes summarily decimated my romantic notions surrounding today and drove home an obvious reality.

Today is the birthday celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Of course, there are funnel cakes.

I know the readership of this blog enough to know that most of the people reading right now are not exactly like me.  I write for people who want to learn about difference or diversity, so it follows that most people reading here are not "like me".  The funny thing about being "brown like me" is that you're not "black" or "white".

Bask in the brilliance of that little gem.

When you're "brown" (I'm totally doing air quotes), you don't carry a lot of American baggage.  Hold your envy, my friends, I have baggage of a different type. Slavery, separate water fountains, back of the bus and such, though?  Not so much. I own this history, but I do not live it the way someone who is "black" or "white" would.  (Again, with the air quotes).

From my position, I see shame, guilt, anger, finger pointing and even justification when it comes to these topics. Some decry this nation's racial past as shameful , others justify it as natural, many are somewhere in between. Some rant about how nothing has changed and others talk of how there's nothing left to do. Some people get angry if race is brought up at all while still others seem to make everything about race.

What I seldom see is what I saw today: celebrating.

I was not here when you were here, but I know we have come a long way. Today, my brown kid sat in a sub shop just around the corner from the Lorraine with black kids and white kids and all the kids ate the same food and nobody told them they couldn't sit wherever they wanted, and God love 'em every one, they all drank from the same soda fountain. As we walked home, we passed the site of the first schoolhouse for "colored" children and I had no idea how to even begin defining "colored" to my daughter.

That is something.

We can remember and we can be vigilant and we can be happy.  These things aren't mutually exclusive.

I woke with the intent to make today mean something by going to the place where Dr. King died.  I intended to honor his memory and legacy.  I realize now that it's not how or why he died that should be the focus, but what he did while he was alive that is most significant.

We live his dream.

Today, I woke with the intent of making this day meaningful.

So, it was.