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.