Friday, November 6, 2009

fear backlash

Some white Americans fear that as population changes gradually turn them into a minority, members of other races will do bad things to them. Some also fear a numerical decline and even erasure of the "white race."

"Make more babies!" some of them shout at their fellow white people. "Fear the demographic winter!" others shout in a more apocalyptic mode, worried about a supposed global threat to Western (i.e., "white") Civilization, because of declining "white" birth rates.

As for me, that's not the kind of backlash I fear, in part because I don't think the "white race" ever really existed -- racial "whiteness" is just a fictional and elastic notion that's been applied to disparate groups of people who happen to appear similar to each other. I also see no evidence supporting common white fears that racial minorities who have suffered from the ongoing reign of white supremacy are going to start collectively hurting and killing white people in order to hasten its demise, and to wreak revenge.

The word "backlash" comes to mind for me instead when I hear about incidents like yesterday's shootings at Fort Hood. Before Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan went on a rampage, he allegedly yelled "Allahu Akbar!" That, and his name, and his attire, and thus his supposedly being "un-American," will surely stoke the racist flames of white-minded reactionaries. So while I grieve for those whom Hasan injured and killed, what I fear is that because of the "profile" that Hasan matches, people who somehow look "Arab" and/or "Muslim" to other Americans are going to get hurt, and maybe killed.

If you're an Arab American and/or a Muslim in America, I'm guessing that you're feeling more tense today. And if you're not an Arab American and/or a Muslim, and if you care about a racist, xenophobic backlash against such people, maybe you can prepare yourself for the possibility that you'll actually see it happen.

The backlash can come in many forms, and it can arise in many situations, even the most mundane. One of those situations happens often enough that it might even have a name now -- "Shopping While Arab." For me, watching staged incidents, as in the following video, can help. Thanks to the makers of this television program, I can better decide beforehand, more clearly and firmly, that I won't be an idle bystander. I won't cower and fade into silent complicity.

In this experiment, 13 people stood up against overt anti-Muslim hatred; 6 stood up in support of such actions; and 22 said and did nothing.

Watch for the two heroic young women near the end of this clip. How nice it is -- how hope-inspiring -- that they're young.


  1. A related Common PoC tendency is "fear white people more when one PoC acts in a reprehensible manner."

    The shooting was devastating in and of itself. But when I heard the name and nationality of the shooter, my heart sank, and my eyes filled with tears. One more reason for white people to justify their hatred and suspicion of anybody not like them.

  2. This makes me so angry. He was a SOLDIER, an AMERICAN who did the shooting. This has NOTHING to do with Islam or religion.

    White people's hypocrisy for mass shootings sicken me. No one ever discusses "white male rage" when white men go on shooting sprees or when they kill their families.

    Yet when a Muslim does it, everyone screams TERRORIST.

    I'm fucking sick of it all!

  3. "...yesterday's shootings at Fort Hood. Before Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan went on a rampage, he allegedly yelled "Allahu Akbar!" That, and his name, and his attire, and thus his supposedly being "un-American,"..."

    Funny enough, I heard that on the radio on the way home from work. And the first thing I did was turn to my mother and said, "The white supremecists are going to have a field day with this one."

    Normally, the few times I have replied here, I tried to, shall we say, make the situation not seem so bleak (like in the Ebert post, I voiced complaint as well as said something in his defense).

    But in this case, this brings to mind something I am all too irritated by: media watchdog groups. Often, they voice support for family values, think of the children, etc. But underneath it all, it was always plainly obvious that the underlying value was that of White, Christian America vs. POC and other religions.

  4. I agree, DIMA. It's infuriating that there actually is what amounts to a "profile" of sorts for mass shooters -- the overwhelming majority are white men. And yet, as you wrote, "No one ever discusses 'white male rage' when white men go on shooting sprees or when they kill their families." And so, something that's identifiably "white" gets an invisibility pass again.

    Thank you for your thoughts, Kevin (Ket). Actually, many of those who cry out in fear of what amounts to a white "demographic winter" do so instead under the guise of "Christian values." And so, something that's identifiably "white" passes for something else, yet again.


    Almost every single fucking headline today was about how the dude was Muslim. I'm writing letters - both to the disgusting media organizations that dwell on his religion (to give them a piece of my mind) as well as those who didn't (to thank them).

    One little frustration with the video: Why not have her wear proper hijab? Her arms weren't covered. Just like people picked on the last video and how they had the Black woman's hair "natural" for "dressed-down," I think the show once again didn't do their research.

  6. Tad Nakamura, a young Japanese American filmmaker, came to my school this week, and among other things he talked about how it's now okay and "politically correct" to say that the internment of Japanese Americans was wrong, but when you want to compare it to the discrimination against Muslim Americans today, suddenly that's not a fundable film. It makes me wonder when we'll ever learn. And what I can do to help.

  7. Meant to add YAY! to the two girls at the end of the video. It's worth noting that the white girl reacted the way she did (self-admittedly) because she had a Muslim friend. Not negative or positive, just worth noting.

  8. Yeah, the minute I heard the shooter's name, I was like... crap. I really hope the many white assholes in this country refrain from hurting anyone because of this.

    In fact I even have a suspicion that he wasn't the shooter - that he was just, somehow, the guy that got blamed for it. Because it just seems too perfectly engineered for divisiveness, doesn't it? People will say that Muslims/Arabs shouldn't be allowed in this country, much less in the armed forces - nevermind that probably hundreds, at least, have died in defense of this country.

    Every aspect of that event is heartbreaking.

    I do have an issue with the first part of your post.

    "racial "whiteness" is just a fictional and elastic notion that's been applied to disparate groups of people who happen to appear similar to each other."

    So is blackness. So is citizenship in a country. So is gender. Just because it's fictional and elastic doesn't mean people don't hurt each other because of it, and if you think white people are immune, I think that reveals just how privileged we are as white people.

    That said, I too see little evidence of any kind of widespread backlash among minorities. Whites are definitely the ones to watch when it comes to backlash.

  9. Yep, I also cringed when I heard his name last night. I know that in itself may be racist, but whenever I hear a Middle Eastern sounding name linked with a violent act, I know it's about to get really ugly for a lot of innocent people.

    We all know that some people are going to use this as an excuse to stir up hatred and fear toward Muslim people and, frankly, anyone who looks even vaguely Middle Eastern.

    We all need to find that righteous place inside so that we can stand up to the nonsense that is coming in the next few weeks and months.

    This is a terrible tragedy in so many ways.

  10. These groups that encourage people to have all these children are creepy to me. While I have nothing at all against large families, that's their decision, some of it smacks of racism, I have to admit. I'm just a white person and don't claim to be totally free of prejudice against others (who can really claim to be free of prejudice -- it seems to be a human disease), but God thinks prejudice is wrong. We should fight it with everything we've got when it rears its ugly head in us.

    Oh, by the way, I don't know if you are a Bibler, but did you know that, really, there is NO SUCH THING AS RACE? Really. There is no such thing as race from a Biblical perspective:

    "And hath (God, that is) made of ONE BLOOD (that's right, ONE BLOOD) all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.
    Acts 17:26,27.

    We humans have a common ancestor, Adam, and are of ONE BLOOD. We just think we are better than one another; WE'RE NOT!

    Also, in Revelation 7:9, speaking about the great multitude in heaven, it says, "After this, I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and palms in their hands."

    Nothing there about RACE, either. Nations, kindreds, people and tongues, yes, but not race, because THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE.

    We need to get over this.

    I know this has nothing to do with the shooting.

  11. Yo, that video was so amazing.

    Wow. Made me want to start fighting for people.

  12. Liviing in a de facto white supremacy means that it is assumed that PoC are acting out in racial ways (black people are loud and violent, Muslims are terrorists), while white people (Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber) are acting out in individual ways.

    bluey512, I think Macon's larger point is that "race" is a fictional and elastic notion, but in the case of white people, it's often used to justify and even enforce "us against them" policies and attitudes.

  13. Sadly, like many black people, my first reaction was to be thankful the dude was not black.

    Then I felt bad for all Muslims and anybody who fits the stereotype of a Muslim.

    Then I wondered why white shooting never reflect on all white people. Why their whiteness is never part of the story?

    I knew the answer, but I just reflected on that.

  14. Seriously! Some, no, MOST of the most notorious serial killers in America have been white. Yet when a PoC does something, the whole group gets blamed. After 9/11 anyone who even looked middle eastern was "fair game" for racist freaks. I remember, after the Viginia Tech shooting, my dad being like "Why did he just have to be Asian?" :(

    And this is a bit off topic, but I am a major serial killer geek, and no one seems to ever comment on one of the biggest reasons the most heinous of serial killers in the US are white: white privelege. If a white guy is prone to rage or is very creepy, he gets written off as just a type A or eccentric. Police spend so much time breathing down the neck collective of PoCs (because clearly everyone darker than beige is a criminal), locking them up at ridiculously disproportionate rates, that they turn a blind eye to the Dahmers and BTKs.

    Yet no one would dare blame whiteness for this, no.

  15. "bluey512, I think Macon's larger point is that "race" is a fictional and elastic notion, but in the case of white people, it's often used to justify and even enforce "us against them" policies and attitudes."

    Yes, that's exactly what the notion of race is used for. How is this counter to what I said?

  16. Bigman, this situation somewhat recalls the Virginia Tech shootings, as well as others.

    I was not as, shall we say, aware of racism when the Virginia Tech shootings were being publicized. If I were, it would've bothered me more that the media simply could not help but keep going back to Seung-Hui Cho's "Koreanness" or immigrant status. Once that had passed, it could not help but focus on his mental health issues. The media may not outright blame these things. But it sure looks to put them under scrutiny anyway. So much in fact that I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable with my own resemblance to Seung-Hui Cho, as if it were my face they kept showing on TV.

    Yet when the perpetrator is a white man (...or more than one). Where is the attention? It's immediately on anything else that could've done this: easy access to guns, video game violence, music with explicit lyrics...

  17. Remember this simple statement:

    Whites are individuals. POC are not.

    They act on an individual basis. We confer and then act accordingly.

  18. >> "Whites are individuals. POC are not.

    They act on an individual basis. We confer and then act accordingly."

    Adding one more (I know I'm not accounting for people of all races here, but that's because I don't know the blame game metanarrative for them):

    When a white person does something wrong, it is because of the influence of Big Bad Culture. (Subset: if the person is white, male, and relatively young, it is Evil Video Games).

    When someone even vaguely Middle Eastern (of any religion) or who may at sone time have considered her/himself a Muslim does something wrong, it is because of Big Bad Islam.

    When an Asian-American person does something wrong, it is because Asian Culture Is Repressive.

    But when a black person does something wrong...blame the parents.

  19. That video was very moving. Thanks so much for posting it!

  20. I heard about the shooting before any names or ethnicities were mentioned and I made the silent prayer of all Muslims and Arabs make when the press mentions any random act of violence,

    "Please don't let'im be Arab.
    Please don't let'im be Arab.
    Please don't let'im be Arab."

    Then the prayer I made when I heard his name (CLEARLY not a convert just from the name alone. Nidal is too modern & non-religious for most converts). Then I began my second prayer,

    "Please let him just have snapped.
    Please let him just have snapped.
    Please let him just have snapped."

    I should say, for all this praying, I'm actually non-religious. I was raised in an extremely religious Muslim family with fundamentalist views- which is part of why anti-Muslim hysteria is so ridiculous to me. I know just how mild-mannered and human even the extremists are. There are no practical differences between Muslim extremists and other religious extremists, I can tell you that from personal experience.

    It is always POSSIBLE that the man was religiously motivated. It's also POSSIBLE he didn't do it, and was actually trying to gun down the shooter when he was shot. That doesn't mean anyone should jump to any conclusions. I'm not bracing for the backlash that he's Arab, I'm bracing for the backlash if this turns out to be religiously motivated. That's when it will truly be open season on Muslim women.

    Yes, I said women. Muslim and Arab men like myself are frequently dismissed as potentially Hispanic unless we're dressed otherwise. Devout Muslim men are only required to dress to cover their knees and keep a beard (of some form). Devout Muslim women like my mother, on the other hand, have to cover their hair in some way. You may as well paint a target on them for the bigots.

    I was at my university when I saw a woman dressed from head to toe in a niqab (whom I guessed was a convert by her manner, but I could be wrong). When she left I overheard the administrators she had been talking to discussing her. This was the advisement office and it's full of POCs. To the credit of the two black advisers I was eavesdropping on (shamelessly) they were strongly lamenting the fact that someone in another office (a student) told her to "go back where she came from." The woman in the niqab apparently gave her a strident response, but I was called in for my appointment and couldn't listen to the rest of the conversation.

    Macon, you really need to write another Stuff... on this Larry King segment. PLEASE.

  21. but God thinks prejudice is wrong
    No, he doesn't. He's quite in favor of of it, in fact, as long as He (or more accurately, his minions) get to be on the delivering end.

    There are no practical differences between Muslim extremists and other religious extremists, I can tell you that from personal experience.
    I've seen far too much of fundamentalist Christianity for that to be comforting...

  22. "I've seen far too much of fundamentalist Christianity for that to be comforting..."

    I didn't intend it to be comforting, I'm just tired of the "dangerous Islam" trope. Personally, I take an anthropologist's view of religion and millenarianism though, so it doesn't scare me. I don't believe that to understand is to excuse, but to understand is to stop being afraid, because understanding requires that you resign yourself to reality, however unpleasant.

  23. As a Muslim woman who wears the headscarf, I have concerned about enduring backlash as a result of the shootings. I have already faced three vicious stare downs which my husband had to interrupt. (Thank God he's 6'4" and 240 lbs, sure to scare away the cowards who pick on women). I can only imagine what will happen when I am by myself.

  24. "This makes me so angry. He was a SOLDIER, an AMERICAN who did the shooting. This has NOTHING to do with Islam or religion."

    Nothing to do with relgion? Are you high?

  25. By the way, 20/20 has already said this was the largest terrorist attack since 9/11... even though this is much closer to the Viginia Tech shooting.

  26. I cried watching this; tears of anger and tears of joy, for those that spoke out.

    It makes me second guess myself-- would I be willing to stand up for a stranger? What if I felt like I would be attacked if I said something?

    It's upsetting on so many levels.

  27. The video proved only one point -- that people are relatively free to express any thoughts they have.

    As long as there is no violence, there is no real problem.

    Of course the counter-man, if he were truly an employee and the episode were real, would have brought some legal trouble on the bakery.

    But he and the customers are all free to feel whatever they claimed to feel.

    Of course it's worth considering that the video team went to a provincial location in Texas to create its scene.

    Similar attitudes can be found all over the US, but one FACT is clear -- there have been NO HATE-CRIME MURDERS of MUSLIMS in the US. Not even in the months after 9/11.

    On the other hand, around the world muslim terrorist murders of other muslims and non-muslims occur on a near daily basis.

    Furthermore, as you will learn if you follow the details emerging about Major Hasan, he was a member of a radical mosque in Maryland. It is closely tied to the Wahabbism, the extremist version of Islam. To think there is no connection between Hasan's grotesque crime and his religion is hopelessly naive.

  28. There is a great difference between Virginia Tech and this shooting. In the case of V-Tech the shooter didn't had any political objectives, making it just a random slaughter and not an act of terrorism. The Fort Hood shooter clearly intended to make the attack a political act. He had been giving his furniture away before the shooting and was under scrutiny for making jihad supporting posts online.It's not like he just decided to shoot the base up because they served him over fried waffles at breakfast.This has everything to do with Islam.

  29. @balom So the fact that he was being racially harassed has nothing to do with it?

    brilliant sherlock.

  30. no slappz,


    And you could look up more yourself if you would actually bother to educate yourself on the subject.

  31. @balom

    The Virginia Tech shooter didn't "just snap". He had a considerable period of premeditation.

  32. @balom

    Premeditation and "snapping" are not mutually exclusive. V-Tech and Columbine were BOTH premeditated. Giving furniture because you know you're going to die isn't political. People who commit suicide often perform acts of altruism before the act. Are they ideologically motivated? Come on.


    To assume that Muslims don't "lose it" at least occasionally is also hopelessly naive. I guarantee you even if this shooting was politically motivated eventually another shooting will roll around perpetrated by a Muslim which wasn't politically motivated. Remember what all the reports are saying about Ft. Hood "It's home for the soldiers." You do not walk into your University/high school/ place of work and begin shooting if you're politically motivated. In fact, the odds are against that. Acts of terror and ideological violence are perpetrated against others. People you don't routinely associate with, and it seems Hasan sought specific people out.

    Meanwhile the media routinely labels mosques as being extreme that turn out to be rather mild places. When a church says non-believers are going to hell, it's just good ol' American religion. When a mosque does the same thing, it's "extreme". In either case I'm not a fan, but to draw a distinction between the two is pig-ignorant.

    Cloudy already demolished your vapid "no anti-Muslim hate crime" BS, so I won't bother. Look at my comment about the student at my university above. I live in Atlanta, a very liberal metropolis. That's not provincial.

  33. [no slappz, enough with the anti-Muslim screeds.]

  34. Typical Americans arguing about an issue with your culture in general and thinking more division over race and racial definitions, white versus people of color, is going to solve anything.

    No wonder people, including those like myself who have come to the U.S., don't want to assimilate into your self-abusive culture. You people make me laugh over your contributions to racial divisions while claiming your trying to mend the divisions.

  35. @Janek So Janek, which "culture" are you referring to? Mainstream White culture, which is the one broadcasted, or the cultures of the REST of the U.S. It seems to me that you have only looked at the surface picture. and btw where are you from that's so much better?

    Hey Mason, that should be your next topic: Think They Arent Racist If They're Not From The U.S.A

  36. I'm talking the American culture i've seen with my own eyes. You're all the same regardless of color...full of underlying hate for one another. Even your response to me is lined with hate

    I can honestly see i'm going to get nowhere responding though. But thanks for proving my point.

  37. and thank you for proving my point that you are totally ignorant.

  38. hey janek, don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave the country then...

    seriously, WHY ARE YOU HERE if america is so terrible?

    but...luckily for you; planes take off EVERY DAY from the u.s. and land elsewhere.

  39. The funny thing about replies like this, regardless of the subject of the post, is exactly what Janek expected people here to talk about on a blog about racism. Does she have this strange notion that many people walk around drawing lines in the sand between non-POCs and POCs? Especially when most people have more pressing things to worry about? Like holding a job? Or what to have for lunch today?

    Maybe I'm out of the loop, but I'm pretty sure people come to a blog about racism to have an honest chat about racism because there is no easy approach to it outside of an internet forum. But believe it or not, I do not sit on the train every morning thinking, "This white dude next to me has got it in for me. Hell, he probably thinks I don't even speak English and is just dying to tell me to go back to my own country." More likely, the thoughts will be along the lines of, "Damn, I have to share my seat with somebody today."

    Who is it supposed to surprise that people will come to a blog like to this to let out frustrating thoughts that they probably don't feel safe sharing elsewhere?

  40. Oh please. If a white guy had shot up the base the media would be blaming Limbaugh, Beck, and anyone who had any opposition at all to Obama'a policies.

    There would be no hand wringing, no insistence that the shooter "just snapped" or fears of some mythical backlash.

    Give me a fucking break.

  41. On the topic of the video, which was interesting, I'd like to see a repeat of the study done where the muslim woman claimed to be a tourist instead of an American - would the proportions be the same if the "outsider" wasn't "one of us". I doubt the responses would be much different, but I'd still be interested.

    Another variant that would be interesting would be if the victim in the piece broke a different white mainstream taboo - say perhaps a very old, wrinkled woman wearing a tiny bikini. Would people respond in the same proportions?

  42. "hey janek, don't let the door hit you in the ass as you leave the country then...

    seriously, WHY ARE YOU HERE if america is so terrible?

    but...luckily for you; planes take off EVERY DAY from the u.s. and land elsewhere."

    Most people who immigrate to North America, do so to escape poverty. If they are racialized, they are willing to brave potential abuse or perhaps they are just brainwashed in regards to the propaganda put out(The streets are paved with gold etc). If they believe the propaganda, they are soon disabused of these notions. Telling Janek to 'go back' is just as ignorant as anything she/he said. In fact it's worse. Telling Janek that they are ignorant because their perceptions are different than yours smacks of 'privilege' . "How dare a foreigner come here and criticize our country" type of tone. I find foreigner's impressions to be quite interesting, although I may not agree with everything they say but that's with life in general. Why don't you tell all the foreigners who criticize the States to' go back and they are 'ignorant' when they comment on things you don't like or agree with?

  43. You know, I really, really wanted to believe that Sarah Palin gets more flack than she deserves and that she is, deep down, a wholesome woman truly for the interest of the United States. But it looks like I'm just going to have to accept that was naive of me.

  44. Many sikhs were killed after 9/11 because of hatred against islam.

  45. seeker wrote:

    "Many sikhs were killed after 9/11 because of hatred against islam."

    In the US? False. After 9/11 there were NO retaliatory murders. Okay. You might dig up one. But that's it.


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