Posted on March 20th, 2012 | Filed under Challenges, Community, Congregation, Featured, Leadership, Learning, News, Philosophy, Popular Culture, Social Issues, Theology, Topic of the Week, Uncategorized
Tagged with America, Belief, bigotry, community, ethics, Facebook, Faith, God, hate crime, Hope, identity, Igorance, morality, Peace, politics, Questions, racism, tolerance, Violence
Ever been followed in TJ Maxx because you are not white? I have. Ever been told, “You aren’t Mexican, you are too light. You must be Spanish?” I have. Ever have your former in-laws complain about all the “stupid Mexicans” they encounter? I have. Ever have someone tell you, “Well, you are light-skinned, not like those dark-skinned Mexicans coming over the border – for all I care, they can all die out there?” I have.
The racism I have faced took me a while to understand. I first faced what I call passive aggressive racism from my former in-laws. I say it took me a while to understand because I grew up in an affluent, predominately white town. Although it was in California, and at any given time, I could drive a few miles away and see my Mexican brothers and sisters picking fruit and vegetables, I couldn’t really relate to them on that level. Frankly, until I met my former husband’s parents, I had never felt any racism toward me as a Latina and person.
I won’t belabor the former in-law saga, but, when they talked about all those “Mexicans” in California and Colorado, as if I wasn’t even in the room, I often wondered if they did so because they thought that somehow, because I am light-skinned, that their criticism didn't bother me. Did they categorize me as "better" because I wasn't one of "those migrant workers?" Now that I am removed from this scenario I see the situation in a new light—their racism and bigotry was directed at me and their feelings about me, but their hatred was really directed at all those other “dirty Mexicans.” How unfortunate for them that they thought this way and more, that myself and my former husband never said a word to them. We were too compliant--because they often said these things in front of our daughter.
I picked this topic because of the recent photo floating around on Facebook and other social networking sites that is of a bumper sticker that is frighteningly racist. It states, “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012.” At first site of this post, all I could muster was “Really?” But, then, I got mad. We have already gone through the “Obama is a Muslim” rhetoric and my response to that was and still is, “And…what if he was/is...does that matter?” And, we have heard racist remarks delivered by many people about the President as well as the First Lady, yet, this bumper sticker, I feel, hits a new low. I wonder once we get into the thick of the Presidential race, what else will surface.
This bumper sticker, I feel, is passive aggressive racism as well. Sometimes I think I live in a bubble. Security must not be following me in TJ Maxx because of my skin color, are they? People don’t really still use the “N” word any more, do they? People don’t really think like what this bumper sticker says, can they? Then, my perfect, idealistic world is shattered, the bubble pops, and I realize that yes, there are racist people in the world. In fact, there's a lot of them.
I am here to just ponder - why? Why is racism still a sentiment here in the United States? Why is it OK to feel superior just because you are white? I am perplexed by this. I am in a quandary over this. I am outraged at this.
What is even more intolerable is that there are still acts of blatant racist aggression in our country. After the violence of the Civil Rights movement, things did improve in the USA. However, we are far from a racist free country. There are hate crimes carried out against people of color and different religions every day in America. As difficult as it is to believe, there are still crimes reminiscent of lynchings as well.
You might recall James Byrd, Jr,. back in Texas in 1998, where three white men beat up Mr. Byrd and then dragged him, still alive, behind their truck until his arm and head were severed. There is an even more recent incident from less than a year ago, in June of 2011, where James Craig Anderson was purposefully beat up, run over, and killed by several white teenagers in Mississippi. This crime is especially horrific in nature because the teenagers admit that they were searching for the first black person they came across to, "... mess with." After they finished, one of Mr. Anderson's teenage killers laughingly bragged, "I ran that n-gger over." The video is extremely graphic, so be forewarned before clicking through, but it illustrates the heinous nature of the crime, and the unadulterated, pure, racist hate.
When I encounter a bumper sticker such as the one mentioned above, or I hear about someone like James Craig Anderson, it provokes many questions for me - Is racism taught? Is racism ignorance? Is racism nurtured, or are we born racist? Is racism a choice?
We hear about hate groups such as Prussian Blue, made up of Lynx and Lamb Gaede: two, white, racist, very young, sisters, who sing about their racist beliefs. Racism literally runs in their family, with a Grandfather who wears a Swastika for a belt buckle, they play video games such as Ethnic Cleansing, and another game called, Dance Around the Swastika. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hate and racist groups are alive and well in America.
In all of this, I have come to a conclusion: Racism is not going away. So, then, what do we non-racist people do about it? I could say, what should we, educated, less ignorant people, do about racism? Yet, the reality is that many of the people involved in these racist actions are educated. Who am I to say that it is people's ignorance that causes them to be racist? Does ignorance always lead to racism and hatred? Not necessarily.
I think racism is fear. I think racism is the inability to recognize those that are "different," as human. We may all have different skin colors, but inside, we are the same. We all have the same body parts and we all have souls. We all have dreams. We all feel the same emotions - sad, happy, love, anger, and excitement. We are all human beings first and foremost. The color of our skin is secondary, yet, that is what we first see when we come upon someone.
Is this visual encounter so predominant in us as humans, that some of us cannot see past color and into that particular human being, who is so much more than the color of their skin?
I could write a book on this topic, all because of a bumper sticker that provoked my anger and I had to write this piece. I conclude with these thoughts... There is no excuse, reason, or rhyme to carry racist tendencies toward anyone. I am tired of people who think they are superior over others because of their skin color. I am even more endlessly tired of people trying to use scripture to support their racist rhetoric. I think I can say with utmost certainty that God does not hate "fags," blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Muslims, lesbians, nor does God hate whites. Who are we as humans to say that God hates anyone? Please, racist haters, do not use God as an impetus for hate, for it is you that hates, not God.
Photo courtesy of wikimedia.org and can be found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bezhnoznik_u_stanka_US_1930.jpeg
I am a Theologian with a focus on Christian-Muslim Understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism. I write, teach and lecture on Islam, Christian-Muslim relations worldwide (past and present), Jesus in the Qur'an, Al Qaeda, Islamophobia, and theological responses to terrorism. I have a Master of Sacred Theology in Religion and Conflict Transformation from Boston University School of Theology, '11; a Master of Theological Research in Christian-Muslim Understanding from Andover Newton Theological School, '07; and a BA in Peace and Justice Studies with a concentration in Islam from Wellesley College, '05. I've published with the Women's United Nations Report Network, Onislam, The American Muslim, and The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Along with Palestine/Israel, Turkey, and Spain, my experiential/research work includes traveling to and living in India three times looking at Christian-Muslim-Hindu relations, as well as Muslim women's lives in the slums of Mumbai. I also had the privilege to serve on three panels at the Parliament of World Religions in Melbourne, Australia in 2009. From what I can tell, I am the only Theologian that is a woman, a Latina, and a Catholic/United Methodist, doing this type of work in the United States. In my spare time, I spend time with my daughter when she is home from college, practice yoga, read, love the theatre, and run with scissors whenever possible. I am also Associate Director of Communications with State of Formation.