Saturday, July 3, 2010

fight islamophobia, even though they're outnumbered

Lots of email this week! The conversations at swpd about some readers' stories and queries have clearly helped to discern the intricate workings of de facto white supremacy. Another reader, M, seeks your thoughts about the following incident.


I read your blog almost every day and it is a small source of comfort for me. I have never emailed you with a conundrum, and I see that people often write you with conundrums, but I thought I might give this a go and see what the people on your blog think about how the situation was handled.

I am an African woman in an interracial relationship. My boyfriend is white. My boyfriend is part of a world wide organization that comes together to work on speeches and to critique each other in small groups. These meetings are often 95% white where we live (I've seen one Latina and one Asian man at the meetings).

My boyfriend has been trying to get me to join the group with him to work on our communication skills. I went with him to a few meetings to sort of feel out the group and see if it was the best fit for us. They were all very nice, but I just felt like something was amiss with the group. There were a few very subtle things that made me uncomfortable. My boyfriend did not pick up these things when I did. Nevertheless, I thought the group was good for him and I wanted him to keep attending to improve his communication skills.

Last night, he went to a meeting alone to perform his speech. Following his speech was a white veteran of the club, a very talented, very libertarian, very respected speaker. His speech that day was supposed to motivate the audience to question the ideas that ware taught to them (and replace them with the ideas that Fox News teaches apparently? lol). He started off talking about his life experiences as a pilot, and how it gave him a view of the world from up high. That is where he says gets his perspective on life from apparently...

The speech got a lot darker when he started talking about world views, and started focusing on Islam as a world view. He explained that Islam was a world view that leads to violence and extremism. He went on to talk about 9/11 and how Islam led the attackers into committing the attacks. The logic he used was that the word Islam means "submission", and that while it "supposedly" means submission to god, it "actually" means submission to the world view of violence and hate.

The man won "Best Speech" that night at the meeting.

My boyfriend was pretty stunned by what the man had said, but he was even more disturbed that his words earned him a "Best Speech" award. It felt like the entire club was condoning his views. He came home and told me about it, and as I finished scraping my jaw off the carpet, he decided he wanted to address the speech through an email to the entire group and force them to examine what was said.

I was kind of hesitant to let him do that, because I have been in situations where someone says something ugly, I try to call it out, and a shit storm ensues. I have grown thicker skin, and have learned to deal with it, but he's kind of new to all that. Despite my uneasiness, he wrote and sent the email.

The email explained, in quite a reasonable way, that by allowing this sort of rhetoric into the group, they would be saying to a lot of people of color that they are unwelcome in their group.

He then said to them, "If we had a guest tonight who was of the Muslim faith, we could be assured that he would not be returning. He would have felt isolated and alone, and like we didn't accept him because of his religion. Is that the kind of group we are? Is that how we should treat people?"

He sent it, and then came the responses...this one is from the speaker. This is just a little piece:

"We live in a difficult world. That's normal, and if you believe that everyone should always avoid telling the truth so as not to hurt someone else's feelings, or cast aspersions on their worldview, then you believe in a fantasy world where everybody's worldview should be forcibly made to be the same and we all "just get along" because someone told us that we must."

There was also more flag-waving about freedom of speech and censorship. No one came to my boyfriend's defense in any way, shape or form. He was on his own.

I don't want to be long winded, but I just wanted to ask:

Should I have stopped him from sending the email out? Was he wrong in wanting to make the group think about what was said in that speech? Is he infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech?

He feels what he did was right, but I wanted to know what everyone thought about it.

Thank you so much for listening.

36 comments:

  1. A private individual critiquing someone's speech is not infringing on their right to speak. In fact, among many who advocate freedom of speech (in the original sense of freedom from governmental infringement), it is often said that the remedy for poor/bad/dangerous speech is more speech, i.e., critiquing the original speech. So your husband, by sending that email, is vigorously participating in the tradition of freedom of speech. (Maybe he could do a speech about the importance of response and criticism in the tradition of freedom of speech!)

    As far as whether or not he should have sent it: yes. It's important that someone protest these things as they go by, and it's a lot safer for white people to do it than for people of color to do it. If he's in a position where he can do it, he should.

    By the way, I've been a member of that same organization (or so I assume), and yes, the politics that would sometimes come out during speeches were one of the things that could be hard to take. The unspoken code in our chapter was that you shouldn't criticize the content of anyone's speech, since everyone was speaking sincerely (sincerity is one of the first principles they teach you), and since it's supposed to be an encouraging, positive, welcoming environment. However, I think your husband could easily use those principles that are taught within the organization about sincerity and being welcoming to make a persuasive speech of his own about whether or not people's speeches themselves are contributing to or undermining positive, welcoming climate that the club is supposedly shooting for. (Again assuming he's in the club I think he's in, have him check the last speech project for the introductory book; it should be a "persuasive" speech, with tips on how to do it.)

    I can also see an argument for him doing a positive speech about Islam or the Muslim community. The viewpoint from the air is NOT an accurate, all-encompassing point of view, and he should be able to point that out quite effectively.

    I don't know how much he needs the group (are they associated with his employer?), and how much he's ultimately risking by bucking their approval, but frankly, I think he should keep chipping away at this, for as long as he's got the energy, inspiration, and safety to do so.

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  2. Should I have stopped him from sending the email out? Was he wrong in wanting to make the group think about what was said in that speech? Is he infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech?

    No to all. I think he did the right thing.

    The only way he'd be infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech is if he went up and pulled him away from the podium during the speech. Your boyfriend has freedom of speech to disagree, too.

    Maybe people will think about what was said (or maybe they're just close-minded and they won't).

    Hope he (and you, if you want to join) find a group that is more inclusive.

    Also, what is this: ????

    if you believe that everyone should always avoid telling the truth so as not to hurt someone else's feelings, or cast aspersions on their worldview

    So what this speaker said about Islam was "the truth" and your boyfriend isn't supposed to disagree with his (untrue, biased) worldview. Sure sounds hypocritical to me.

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  3. He did the right thing! If I were you I'd be more worried if he didn't do anything! *now seriously clapping for your boyfriend*

    I can not believe the response he got! So no one supported him? No one? By giving him the award its like they were silently agreeing with what he said. Sure he's free to say what he wants but people are also free to call his ass out when he says bullshit! People that bomb planes and kill people are extremists and every true Muslim knows committing suicide lands you in hell anyway. Add killing innocent people to that and you're just asking for trouble. Sounds to me like this guy thinks all Muslims are like that.

    I'm still clapping for your boyfriend btw. In my head at least :)

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  4. See I knew this would happen. once I stopped lurking and started posting I wouldn't be able to shut up. But this post touches a nerve with me. I too wince everytime my white boyfriend goes out of his way to confront racism in a public fashion, and even tho I love him for it, I worry that he's not always sure what he's getting himself into.


    Two things. One, I think he did the right thing. Anti-racism can't be limited to confronting people only when one is reassured of making an immediate impact. It needed to be said, and he said it. Good for him.

    Two, perhaps I'm reading into something about your relationship, so if I presume too much forgive me. But what is all this "Stop Him" "Let Him" talk? Does that reflect the usual dynamic of your relationship? Is this limited to his activism or is it generally the case the buck stops with you? Is there a racial component to this dynamic at all?

    I guess I'm not understanding your specific objection to what he did in this circumstance. Could it have had negative consequences for either of you, other than his point being dismissed by the group?

    You also mentioned there were subtle things that bothered you about his communication skills group? Did you discuss what those things were with him?

    Sorry to pry.

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  5. Sanguinity has addressed the freedom of speech issue above better than I could have. I think your boyfriend was right to call out the Islamophobia, not only in that speech, but in any group that wholeheartedly endorses it. Kudos to him for putting his communication skills to good use!

    Sadly, your boyfriend seems to have gotten the answer to his question "Is that the kind of group we are? Is that how we should treat people?"
    It's just not the answer he hoped it would be.

    It sounds like he will have to make some hard decisions about whether or not to stay part of that group or not. If he chooses to stay, maybe he can work toward change from the inside?

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  6. Should I have stopped him from sending the email out?

    I don't think so. I totally understand your desire to prevent him having to be involved in a flamewar, but at the same time it's good that you were able to offer support for him when he did endure all the moronic responses.

    Was he wrong in wanting to make the group think about what was said in that speech?

    Definitely not. It's never wrong to ask someone to think about what they're saying. "Think about what you said" doesn't mean "ZOMG YOU CAN'T SAY THAT!!!111". The only people who interpret it that way (like the group in question) are people who don't truly hold their own beliefs, but rather hold the beliefs they think others want them to have.

    Is he infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech?

    Hell no. It's frustrating how many people (like most of the e-mail replies your BF got, apparently) don't realize that "freedom of speech" is not the same as "freedom of audience". People can say whatever they want; nobody has to listen to them, and certainly nobody has to agree with them. People whining about "censorship" when someone disagrees with their views is an insult to all the people in the world who actually freaking DIED because they said something that was unpopular or anti-government.

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  7. @M

    Me again, I just want to clarify becuz my comment may have come off a bit accusing or judgmental. My concern is that you feel you must "stop him" from doing things that will lead to disappointmentwhen it comes to racism, and only "let him" do things where he can feel he is being successful in his antiracism.

    In short it seemed like you were trying to protect him from the full impact of racism. I think that would be doing him a disservice, particularly because he is a White antiracist. I think its far too easy for WP to feel like they are making a difference when they limit their actions only to gestures that have immediate results, like telling bigots off in grocery stores, or even calling whole public speaking groups on their xenophobic ish. It's important to be able to actually SEE the limits of what those kinds of activism can do. If only because it helps them be more realistic about how big a problem Racism really is.

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  8. As a friend of mine puts it, "Freedom of speech means the government won't prevent you from saying most things. It doesn't mean that other people can't, or shouldn't, call you out on it when you're being a goddamn idiot."

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  9. Censorship: I do not think that word means what they think it means.

    Freedom of speech: "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech."

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  10. I think your boyfriend was in the right.

    I find it funny when your boyfriend called the speaker out on his nonsense, the speaker turned it into an issue of free speech.

    Seriously?? Someone calling you out on your obvious BS is means they're infringing on your right to freedom of speech?

    *rolls eyes*

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  11. Should I have stopped him from sending the email out?

    It depends on what your priorities are. As you predicted, your BF is going to take shit for his stance. He's going to see some of the same ugliness that you have seen in the past (though probably less, because he is white) and he's going to have to learn, as you have, to deal with it and develop a thicker skin. It sucks seeing people we care about standing alone against a crowd, and your BF is putting himself in that position. On the other hand, it sucks seeing people we care about calmly ignoring the wrong that goes on in the world because they're afraid to get involved. I think you and your boyfriend both did the right thing.

    Was he wrong in wanting to make the group think about what was said in that speech?

    No, he absolutely was not. People need to question this kind of thing, especially when that worldview is so widespread. Demonizing other groups is not harmless, ever.

    Is he infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech?

    Freedom of speech has two different meanings. There's the real right that americans have guarateen in their constitution, which is the right to not have the Federal Government imprison or harass them for their speech. then there is the fantasy one that many americans think they have, which is the right to say any damn thing they please without anyone disagreeing or critisising. In short, your BF cannot possibly infringe on any american's freedom of speech, because he is not the US government!

    (Unless, you know, he is the US government, in which case please disregard this message)

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  12. Whenever I come here to post a comment, I see that my points have already been made!

    "RenKiss said...

    I think your boyfriend was in the right.

    I find it funny when your boyfriend called the speaker out on his nonsense, the speaker turned it into an issue of free speech.

    Seriously?? Someone calling you out on your obvious BS is means they're infringing on your right to freedom of speech?"

    --Exactly!

    "Robin said...

    As a friend of mine puts it, "Freedom of speech means the government won't prevent you from saying most things. It doesn't mean that other people can't, or shouldn't, call you out on it when you're being a goddamn idiot.""

    --Yes!

    On a side note, I'm glad you're addressing Islamophobia on this blog. It seems to be the last acceptable racism we have. What I mean is, people who claim to be anti-racist liberals still display racist attitudes toward Muslims. It's much like antisemitism was in the 19th and early 20th centuries: people who you might find respectable in other ways may have still held antisemitic beliefs.

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  13. M. said…
    Should I have stopped him from sending the email out? Was he wrong in wanting to make the group think about what was said in that speech? Is he infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech?

    Sometimes the only way to test the temperature of the water is to stick your foot in it. So no, I don’t think you should’ve stopped him, he’s a grown-assed man and never too old to learn a trick or two. Nor should he be surprised at the rhetoric, because superficially all whites appear nice to each other. That’s the reason your boyfriend was taken aback; because he suffers from the same delusion other whites suffer from. To this extent, we’re basically good- decent people and ‘our world-view’ is the only view that matters. It’s not something that’s said out loud, but it’s understood.

    The real dynamic didn’t reveal itself until after he sent that mailing that's all. Your boyfriend was just slapped with a bleak reality we people of color know all too well; that basically, all that glitters is not gold…

    The Secret Revealed: A Cultural Resource for All White People: “We white people have a wonderful cultural resource at our disposal: our words and our actions don’t have to match up. In fact, it’s better if they don’t. Appearance and image is one thing; our actual behavior is another…”

    Why would you spare him from the very reality we Poc try to make whites aware of every day? I think it was best he learn it from his own people first-hand; to experience it for himself. That's where the real value is..

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  14. @ nomadologist,

    Islamophobia and racism are definitely linked, especially in America, but they are not the same thing. "Muslim" is a religious, not racial descriptor--the majority of Muslims in the world are not Arabs (Semites), although U.S. media portrayal tends toward that view.

    Muslims who are South/east Asian, Persian, Black, white, etc. (I'm missing some, I apologize in advance) *also* experience this prejudice, even if they don't "look Muslim" to the Western gaze. There is a mosque right by my div school that has a mostly South Asian and Black congregation, and there are sometimes protestors out front. :o( And non-Muslim people of Arab descent also experience at least some effects of Islamophobia, as they are often assumed to be Muslim (there's racism for ya).

    The two oppressions are closely connected, and it's a great topic for SWPD because of that interconnection and the ways it manifests--but they are by no means the same, and Islamophobia is by no means limited to anti-Semitism.

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  15. Of course it circles back to desired outcome, and strategy comes from there. If it's we want to let the organization to know our disatisfaction, direct e-mail expressing your feelings makes sense.

    Other options might be to prepare a "counter point" speech for your boyfriend's next presentation, or perhaps suggest that if speeches are going to in fact be editorials reflecting the opinion of the speaker, that perhaps the format should be changed into debates, where two perspectives are given.

    Another thought with a written/e-mail response is to outline the falacies and underlying assumptions of the original speech by providing the accurate facts--"like" or "not like" is opinion, but solid facts can be indisputable.

    I don't always agree with Reza Azlan, but heard him speak at a conference, and his power is in his immedate access to facts and historical perepctive on the Middle East (and has written book on Islam).

    So--what's next? Organization has come back and basically said "the truth hurts," so now decision is do you/boyfriend stay involved with an organization that clearly expresses a value system different than yours?

    By the way--it's always easier to think of what to say after the fact. At least sending the e-mail immediately said this is not right--the opposite may have been to remain silent, and silence is the same as complicity--so don't second guess what's already been done, but perhaps look at what else can be done.

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  16. (part 2 of my comment:)

    If I were a more confident person, I'm sure I could have stood up against all those people and shamed them for their reaction, but, being shocked and intimidated, I instead went home and wrote the HOA President a VERY professional letter telling him how I felt about his remarks, assuring him that I knew he "didn't mean" to be offensive, but....

    A week went by, and I heard nothing from him. I figured he was on vacation, until I noticed he'd replied to a thread on our neighborhood email list about picking up dog poop. So I emailed him again, asking him if he'd gotten my letter, and again I got no reply. I then contacted the one person I felt like I could talk to on the board of directors--a man who is a POC, has Muslim friends, and wasn't present at the meeting--and explained the situation. He was very apologetic, and shortly after I got an apology email from a lady on the board (who also hadn't been there that day). I never received an apology from the HOA President himself, so I can only assume that he didn't feel one was warranted. And I have not been to an HOA meeting since.

    Anyway, to answer your question, I believe your boyfriend did the right thing. Even though the response was defensive, and totally unreasonable (as others pointed out... the speaker has the right to spread hate speech, but your boyfriend doesn't have the "right" to complain? Hmmm....), what your boyfriend did planted a seed in everyone's head. I'm sure it never occurred to the speaker that anyone in the room could possibly disagree with his hate speech. But now he knows better. And everyone does. Believe me, they may not change in a fundamental way, but they will at least reflect on how to properly behave in public.

    I heard later on that the man I contacted on the board of directors got one of his Muslim friends to find him a liaison to our HOA so that as neighbors there could be a clearer stream of communication. I think my letter did help, even if it's just a little.

    I think people too often think that everyone thinks like them and as a result never take the time to reflect on their own thoughts an actions. Even if it made one person think for a second, your boyfriend's letter was worth ruffling a few self-important feathers.

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  17. (part 1 of my comment:)

    I am a member of this speech organization (if it's the same one I'm thinking of), and it bills itself as a non-discriminating organization. There is a chapter in my mosque (that accepts people of all faiths) and one at my work, which is very racially and nationally diverse. Although I have heard some people in my work club talk about their Christian faith rather vehemently (I live in the south, after all), I have not heard anyone lash out at another race or religion. But... as I said, my club is rather diverse and it's filled with people who work for a large corporation, and presumably know how to behave like professionals, or.. as some may put it, they just have basic "home training."

    However, I can see how a not-very-diverse group of folks who are not necessarily professionals can start a club that ends up engendering behavior like this.

    I encountered a similar scenario at my homeowner's association. I am a white Muslim who does not wear Islamically traditional clothing. My neighborhood is adjacent to a mosque, and that mosque had been doing construction for some time to add on a community center so we wouldn't all have to sit outside in the rain when we had banquet nights.

    I had noticed for some time that people would come to the HOA meetings and complain about the construction, but you could always tell by the way they said it, that there was more to it than that. They were pissed to be living next door to a mosque (which isn't surprising, considering this reaction not too far from here). Well, one day, someone asked the HOA president what they were building, and he replied that the mosque was building high-density housing for their... students. And of course, he said it with a smirk and when the audience responded to him with knowing looks, he followed up with something to the effect of wondering exactly *what* they were studying over there. To which the audience (all white) began making rude, hostile comments among themselves, and it just became this really awful, hostile, uncomfortable scene. (cont'd)

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  18. Willow: What I meant was that Islamophobia is as acceptable today as Antisemitism was before the mid-20th century.

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  19. @ A Girl
    One guy basically told him "if you apologize to the speaker and the group for what you sent us we will forget about it and never speak of it again". My boyfriend and i almost threw up from how...sad and pathetic that statement was. My boyfriend had a conversation with one member who said he was willing to hear "the other side". The guy then asked us what the difference between Muslim and Islam was, what religious book Muslims use, whether or not there were white Muslims...I told my boyfriend that this was him to the group "we need to pick apples so that we can eat." This is the rest of the group: "what is an apple? How do I know it's an apple? This guy says it's a cow. There are two sides to everything!!" lol *sigh*

    @Culture Guru
    you said,
    "Other options might be to prepare a "counter point" speech for your boyfriend's next presentation, or perhaps suggest that if speeches are going to in fact be editorials reflecting the opinion of the speaker, that perhaps the format should be changed into debates, where two perspectives are given."

    That suggestion was brought up a lot. He was greatly disturbed by the idea that he had to PROVE that not all Muslims are terrorist extremists who want to kill people and take away their freedoms. That really left an ugly taste in his mouth. The fact that not being hateful and treating people as they are, as human, that point has to be treated like "another side of the issue" as if both points are equal.


    @Purvis
    I'm glad your email led to some kind of change in the group. What you said here: "what your boyfriend did planted a seed in everyone's head. I'm sure it never occurred to the speaker that anyone in the room could possibly disagree with his hate speech. But now he knows better. And everyone does."
    That is exactly what i told him. These people probably have never been challenged for holding these kind of views. This is probably the first time someone (as white as they are, breaking that sense of safety from criticism) has called them out on this. Either way a seed has been sown.

    Thank you all again for your responses. Maybe I can get him to come on and answer some of these questions and clarify a few things. I feel like his mouth piece lol

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  20. Hi all.

    I sent the email to Macon and we wanted to thank you all for your responses. I definitely feel silly for asking if he was infringing on the speaker's rights. i want to scratch that question out. Freedom of speech is not there for just that speaker. He has a right to speak and my boyfriend has a right to call him out on his BS. I shouldn't have asked that in the email.

    @sanguinity

    He is his own employer. He joined it for fun, to meet people and to work on his communication skills.

    @ Jane Laplain

    lol you picked up something important. I am in a very protective mode since this happened. I won't lie. The "let him, stop him" talk was me debating with myself about whether or not I let him walk into the lion's den alone. I feel like I should have prepared him for the shit storm that ensued and the fact that he would be standing alone. Like M. Gibson said, "That’s the reason your boyfriend was taken aback; because he suffers from the same delusion other whites suffer from. To this extent, we’re basically good- decent people and ‘our world-view’ is the only view that matters. It’s not something that’s said out loud, but it’s understood.". I think he was definitely guilty of a little of that and this was definitely a bit of a reality check for him. I need to realize that he is a grown ass man and he will be ok. I don't need to protect him. This is not me "letting him" do anything. He saw the ugliness of what the speaker said, and he called him out on it. I think I would have been more bothered if he had brushed it aside and made excuses for it.

    As for talking about the subtleties I picked up (a comment about the vuvuzela, comments about Obama, and a speech from a veteran who was a cop, who was talking about a Hispanic male victim he confused as the perpetrator. it's a weird, disturbing story...), we have talked about them. I give him a heads up when something doesn't feel right and we talk about it. But ultimately he has to experience it for himself to understand it.

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  21. Should I have stopped him from sending the email out?

    ~ No. An Email is probably the Least aggressive way of getting a point across.

    Was he wrong in wanting to make the group think about what was said in that speech?

    ~ No way. I would assume, that is the point of going to a group , giving a speech and working on communication skills.



    Is he infringing on the speaker's freedom of speech?

    ~ Nope. He never stopped the man from speaking, your partner just responded to the speech giving his own opinion.



    "There was also more flag-waving about freedom of speech and censorship. No one came to my boyfriend's defense in any way, shape or form. He was on his own."

    So, So, So common. Wish I could give you better answers. Unfortunately, your partner will only waste more energy defending himself. He is right to call out Islamophobia, asking ppl recognize the variety of those who practice Islam and prejudice against them.

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  22. I feel you both did the right thing. You stood up for what you believed in and if his friends can't accept him after this then they are not true friends.

    I hope that he finds another more tolerant club where he can practice his talents.

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  23. @ nomadologist,

    Oh, gah, I totally misread your last sentence. Completely my fault, and I'm sorry. But I stand by what I said about conflating Islamophobia and racism directed against people of Arab descent. They overlap, but they're not the same thing. (The same is true for anti-Semitism/Jewishness as a racial prejudice and as a religious prejudice).

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  24. This is indeed a very interesting post. Everyone has pretty much eloquently put what I've been thinking. I do not think that your boyfriend was in the wrong. Sometimes as a black person, I feel that I cannot say these things because I'm often told "I'm being too sensitive" or "race-baiting".

    Maybe this is a little OT, but I'm noticing lately, or maybe I'm looking too much into it, but why does it seem that some white Americans (I'm saying Americans, because I am an American and can only speak from experience)---seem totally afraid of the government? I keep hearing "having our freedoms" taken away" etc. I always have mixed feelings about this because it seems to me that it was okay for the government to do whatever to POC--and still going on under the radar (mistreatment of American Indians, Japanese in internment camps during WWII ,profiling...and so on) So whenever this conversation comes up, I always keep silent. I think my anger keeps my quiet because I feel I'll probably be dismissed. Maybe I'm wrong, but is it because what used to "just affect POC" (i.e. inequalities in treatement of diseases, wealth gaps, education) is starting to affect white people, why is there such an "urgent" need now to do something?! There also seems to be a fear of "everything becoming social" I don't hear my friends that are POC bringing this up--or is it simply that they just don't care? Sorry, to go off topic but this is something that has been on my mind lately.

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  25. Obaa Yaa's BoyfriendJuly 3, 2010 at 8:50 PM

    You guys are all awesome. I've been feeling physically ill over this and it makes it so much easier that there are people who can see this for what it is. I really appreciate the support.

    After some back and forth with several members of the group, I've decided to leave this toastmasters chapter and find a less hateful one. I don't mind putting up with crazy political ideals, but I can't be in a group that condones bigotry. I appreciate the ideas about speaking to them and teaching them, but I just don't feel right about teaching bigots why they shouldn't be bigots. I'd rather find a group of people who get it, and work on expanding. It's a lot more effective to light 20 fires from a single strong flame, than to start a fire from scratch with a single wet piece of wood.

    This really was a learning experience for me. For a long time, I've known of the dichotomy of believing in something and acting according to your beliefs, but this is the first time I've had to make this heavy of a decision.

    I want to admit that I chuckled a little when my girlfriend talked about 'letting me' send the email, as though she could have stopped me :-D. I understand now why she would have been motivated to do so, but if I hadn't said anything, I don't think I would have liked myself very much.

    You guys have spelled out the freedom of speech thing better than I could have attempted. The arguments I've seen have been really bizarre. The person who made the speech actually told me to grow up, to stop acting juvenile (I'm 27, he's probably 50), and to quit being so sensitive. He says that if Muslims can't defend themselves under the same intellectual scrutiny that he would subject Christians and anyone else to, then "I suggest they might consider America an inhospitable place to be". This sort of rhetoric goes on for a while, and leads to me realize that there's really nothing I can say to make this situation better.

    Thanks again everyone for your support. I plan to be coming around here more often.

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  26. First of all , it's the fact that Islamophobia will last forever.Being a Muslim myself, I have tried to tell people outside of my country that those who do something radical are not Muslims even if they name themselves as Muslims. This is a hard job to do for me, because it's about people's mindsets. sometimes I cry for having no energy to tell them who we are. The speaker may not get a lot of contacts with Muslim people, thus he thinks Islam is like a poison.
    Secondly, whatever your bf thinks, it's his right. It is his deepest voice that speaks. If none listens to him, then the speech group has lost something. I mean the essence of having such group is to be open; Unity in Diversity. If not,what else is it for?
    Thirdly, I am sure your bf is wise enough to do what he thinks he has the right to do to let his inner voice be heard.
    I salute your bf for being open


    Your boyfriend did the right thing. It's about what your bf thinks is right.

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  27. PS
    I am a Muslim, and I went to a Catholic university. I have had friends from so many religions. This is why I feel so blessed living in a country with so many religions admitted by the government, so that we can respect each other. My non-muslims friends and I often have healthy debate over religions, but it's not to judge which one is correct. To me and all good Muslims : Your religion is yours, Mine is mine
    During the debate, it never ends in a radical ending. It's healthy,and creates openness, and closeness

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  28. @purvis...
    I'm not surprised you didn't receive a response from your HOA.
    Afterall, you wrote to him: how I felt about his remarks, assuring him that I knew he "didn't mean" to be offensive, but....

    Why should he respond, you already assured him that you knew he didn't mean to be offensive, so erm, why right the letter?.

    If I were him, I would have ignored your letter as well or written back to you saying:
    Dear Purvis,
    You are a Good man, I'm glad you got the gist of my speech and could clearly see my intentions.
    Your HOA.

    It doesn't work when you re-assure a bigot that you are sure he doesn't mean to be a bigot. I sincerely do not understand why you would do such a thing.

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  29. I don't have much of anything constructive to say, but as an Arab Muslim dyke who is confronted with this bullshit all the time, thank you thank you thank you for reminding me that there are people out there who /don't/ suck. I frequent so many white liberal spaces that /think/ they're unprejudiced -- huffpo, anyone? -- but the delusions (as many fantastic comments have pointed out, above) run so very very thick. White people -- allies included -- really do have a tendency to see the best in other white people ("oh but they didn't mean it like that..."), which only a true kick in the face can upset. So, back to the original poster's question -- I think it was a very good thing that your boyfriend wrote that letter, and more importantly, that he got the response he did.

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  30. @Obaa Yaa I couldn't help giggling when I read your reply. They told your boyfriend to apologize? HE should apologize? That is just an epic fail. I'm still very shocked that none of them are on your boyfriend's side. It feels a lot worse when you know you're not talking out of your ass and everyone else is acting like you are.

    @Obaa Yaa's boyfriend Not a lot of people would've spoken up or even sent an email. And don't you just hate it when they bring up the I'm older than you so I know better argument. This whole thing is just a big mess.

    Ebony: "Sometimes as a black person, I feel that I cannot say these things because I'm often told "I'm being too sensitive" or "race-baiting"."
    Very true. I feel like this a lot. You feel like if you say something the other person will say you're playing "the race card" That's what one of the guys here said http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFO1b9I-u5Q

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  31. I agree with what pretty much everyone said, and I also find discussions like this fascinating because I am a white person and I always feel the need to be the PC police, and it's interesting to see how a POC may be a bit more weary, understandably so. It's a privilege to even be able to call someone out!

    Also, just commenting on what Obaa Yaa's Boyfriend just wrote -- and if someone came in there an made a speech about Christianity, he wouldn't be offended? Please..

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  32. @ Ebony,
    >> "why is there such an "urgent" need now to do something?!"

    Because we have a Black president.

    @ Macon,
    Why did you publish izzyman's comment?

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  33. @ Willow,

    It slipped by me; it's gone now (along with a hoard of other anti-Islamic ish that didn't slip by me).

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  34. @ soul,

    My letter was written in a way to make the problem about what he did, not what he is. This reasons for this approach have been discussed here many times, so I won't re-hash them.

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  35. What your boyfriend did was the right and moral thin, if anyone is being censored its people like you or him who are attacked for disagreeing with someone who marginalizes and demonizes other people. What he did takes caring, and bravery to tell the whole group that they are endorsing a wrong idea

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  36. You stopping him from sending the email out is protecting him from issues of racism -- which is something POC often do with white people. There are certain jokes and comment we don't make when white people are around. Usually it's to protect ourselves from having to hear a lot of crap. But then there's also the idea that white people (especially benign ones) are not ready to hear all that.
    But so what if they're not ready? You weren't ready when you were five and you first found out how the world works.

    Yeah, you knew how it was gonna go. But he's just now learning how these things go down. You can't teach him that -- he's gotta learn it for himself.

    ReplyDelete

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