Friday, April 11, 2014

Sudden Death

Life can be so full of sorrow. I finally met a person of color in this area. We're both personal care attendants and met at a function for our clients. I was extremely excited, because this was the first person of color I'd met and had a conversation with since I moved out here in October. Then I found out he was also a person with disabilities, which made meeting him even more awesome.

We hung out a few times and it was nice to finally be around folks who I could relate to. He was originally from New Orleans and we had lots of laughs about things we remember about the city. He was raised a Roman Catholic and was looking for spiritual truths among the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. It was nice to be able to talk with him about the role of people of color within the Orthodox Church. I'd shown him my icons and talked to him about the important saints from Africa and he even posted them on his facebook page to show others.

Just an hour ago, I found out that he died on Tuesday night. I'm in shock. He was just 35 years old and he'd been doing so well on dialysis for two years and his doctors were talking about cutting it back to once a week because of how well he was doing. Then, on Tuesday he died of heart failure in his sleep. He worked 2 jobs and was the primary caretaker for his grandmother. His son is only 10 yrs. old. This is such a shock. I was JUST hanging out with him and laughing and talking and now he's dead.

Memory Eternal.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Skepchick, Your Ableism Disgusts Me

I'm really, really furious about this Skepchick debacle. See, this kind of b.s. is exactly why I made a decision to stop showing support for white women. I raised as much of a ruckus as I could muster when the Rebecca Watson elevator issue started. I did what I could to talk about why it wasn't just someone overreacting to treatment that should have been viewed as flattering. I used my voice as best as I could to state how no one is entitled to make opportunistic advances on women nor are they entitled to tell us how we should feel about the treatment we receive.

However, what does Watson do now that OTHER marginalized people are talking about the highly problematic behavior on her site? Absolutely nothing. No, that's not quite right. It's actually worse than nothing, because they added more of the same ableism that was a problem in the first place. These white non-disabled women ditch the one person who could have helped them fixed the problem and then went out and found a wack ass assimilationist token PWD who is willing to lick their boots because they're being thrown a few scraps.

It ain't no accident that the folks doing this are white women. It ain't no accident that there are no angry PWD contributors allowed. It's like the token white woman on the MRA blogs who is only allowed to post because she can act as a foil when they are called woman-haters. It doesn't fool the majority of women just like Skepchick's blatant tokenism doesn't fool the majority of PWD. Skepchick is no different from the MRAs and religious zealots who double down when people rationally point out how they are engaging in oppressive and marginalizing behavior.

Gingerly Approaching Androgyny

I just posted a picture with a message that really resonated with me. I didn't want to take away from what it was about by turning it into something all about me, so I decided to write this separately.

My body is so different from what Western society says a woman is "supposed" to look like. It always has been. The oncology surgeries only intensified this. If I am only a woman because of my parts, what does it mean when those parts are removed or made completely unrecognizable from their original form?

I feel like I'm finally at a point in my life where I might be able to start safely exploring what it means to be a woman with an androgynous body. I don't know where this is going, but hopefully it will result with me being more comfortable with the form I have and able to see it as just as beautiful as those who look more like what many people in this society expect from a woman.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

How Can We Attract People of Color to Orthodox Christianity

Today, someone suggested to me that the way to remove the eurocentrism of Orthodoxy in America is to convert more people of color and then the focus would change. I disagree. Removing the eurocentrism first would make it easier to interest more people of color to Orthodoxy. Right now, it is very unfriendly to many of us because of the eurocentrism that is present in so many Orthodox circles, groups, congregations. For instance, my child moved to a nearby city to go to college. It's our old hometown, but we hadn't lived there since before we joined the Orthodox Church. Fortunately, I knew where the nearest church was and it's a big congregation, so I was excited that my child might be able to go from being one of two young adults in our old congregation to a place where there were probably lots of others in that age range.

I contacted the church three times. I spoke to the secretary twice. I gave them my child's phone number and mine. I gave them our priest's name and told them which congregation we were from. I was told they'd call us both back and help find someone who might be willing to carpool to services with my child. They never called back even once. It was baffling to me.

I finally spoke to my priest about it, to see if he knew someone over there who could help my child get to meet some other Orthodox young people in the congregation. He had to tell me that we should probably contact the church that's farther out. Unfortunately, it's in the metropolitan area outside of the range of the public transportation. He said that the congregation we'd been trying to contact--It's a Greek Orthodox church--is notoriously insular and with a name like my child's, it was probably pretty unlikely that they'd call us back. My child's first name is Arabic with an Italian last name, so it's obvious that we're not Greek. My priest let me know that almost all of the non-Greek Orthodox in the city actually go to the Antiochian church, which is really mixed and friendly to converts of all races and backgrounds.

I can't even begin to explain just how mixed my emotions were about this. My child is an artist and the Greek church has a beautiful building of historic record in America. Our old church is a storefront in a strip mall and even on the "big holidays" we never have more than 150 people. We were really excited about the idea of worship for the first time in a church that looks like the beautiful ones we've longed to see all around the world. I remember that this same congregation had a yearly festival they put on and I went to it a few times when I was a young adult. It wasn't very friendly and I got very odd looks every time. However, when my  child moved, I'd gotten it into my head that those incidents had only happened because we weren't Orthodox and were obviously outsiders when we visited. I'd allowed myself to believe that now that we are Orthodox, of course they'd be welcoming and it would be wonderful and spiritually nourishing and just perfect, because my child could catch the bus there on the nice days and maybe find someone to ride with on the days when the weather was inclement. Well, I was wrong. Apparently, they're just not very welcoming people, regardless of whether they are (in theory) our sisters and brothers in the faith.

At the same time, I'm grateful that there is the Antiochian church in the city just beyond the one where my child's living. Before I even knew what Orthodoxy was, I'd visited there. My mentor in college who encouraged me to learn Arabic had suggested that I stop by the church to see if they might be able to help me get my hands on a copy of the Bible in Arabic. I was surprised that this church even existed in our area. I did try to drop by once or twice, but no one was there. It's nice to know that my child may be able to brush up on the language skills acquired from years of hearing me speak Arabic. And it's good to know that another option, besides the Greek church, exists. However, it's going to be impossible for my child to get there unless someone is willing to provide a ride back and forth and that may make it improbable to be as active as we were in our old congregation.

If the predominantly white Orthodox churches in West are this problematic, even toward people of color who ARE already converted, then it's going to remain highly unlikely to attract people of color who already have to deal with a boatload of poisonous eurocentrism in their everyday lives. The church is supposed to be where we want to run to when we're faced with the troubles of the world. It certainly shouldn't be a place that replicates those same troubles.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Some Folks Just Don't Know How to Stop Themselves

So, a couple of days ago, I wrote about this Brooke Eikmeier person who was peddling a new television series that recycled the old "Not Without My Daughter" stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs. Today, I found out that she's decided to double down on her claims even though numerous people have pointed out the problematic elements in her story. The TMI Hijabi wrote this:
Remember when Brooke Eikmeier wanted to give Muslims and Arabs a “positive presence” on TV?
Remember how most Muslims and people even remotely familiar with Arabic were all, “uhhh, Radha isn’t even a Muslim name?”
Well, Eikmeier clarified with a new cover photo on her Facebook page, explaining that Radha is indeed an Arabic name and it is spelled غادة in Arabic.
I wish I were kidding.
Sources:
Buzzfeed’s analysis of the copy of the script for Alice in Arabia (where they state the script itself refers to the aunt as Radha).
Brooke Eikmeier’s Facebook post with her “proof” that Radha is how you spell غادة in Arabic, and it is indeed a Muslim name (according to her vast expertise on Muslims and Arabs, well, everywhere). [Unknown how long this link will last.]
Okay, I've had several years of Arabic language training. I can read it with ease and I can even understand a lot of dialects of it. However, I would NEVER take it upon myself to tell ACTUAL Arabs that I know more about their culture than they do. It truly takes a white woman to feel like that's something a-okay to do. And seriously? "Ghrein"? Uh, no, boo. I've read through more than my share of both crappy and helpful Arabic language learning texts and every level between the two. Not even ONCE did I ever see "ghrein". The letter is "ghein". Not even close. Look, you don't even have to speak Arabic to verify this. Just google it and see what you get:

Ghein

Ghrein

Also, please notice how Eikmeier is trying to subtly change the subject. "Radha" is the name of the Muslim Saudi character she created. As the internetz tried to explain to her, "Radha" isn't a Muslim name. There's a very simple reason for this. Do you think Pat Robertson would name his child "Krishna"? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that people generally don't give their kids the name of gods/goddesses from religions they explicitly reject.
"Radha" is a goddess in several branches of Hinduism. Do you think I'm making this up? Again, it's not difficult to find this stuff out, people. Just google it.

"Radha"
Now, Eikmeier's characters are supposedly these devout Muslim Saudi folks. They're such strict Muslims that they supposedly force all of the women to walk around completely covered up in a burqa. Never mind the fact that the burqa is from an entirely different part of the world and makes about as much sense as a Chinese person going about their day wearing a Navajo headdress. In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, women generally walk around outside in an abaya. But to get back to the point, Eikmeier's characters are supposedly religious fanatics (compared to us 'Merikans, of course), but she'd have us believe that one of the was named after a Hindu goddess.
Even if we ignored all of the dangerous racist, colonialist, Islamophobic American propaganda in her story, Eikmeier is still a hack. She isn't even able to pull together a story that would be believable to anyone but the most ignorant, gun-toting, flag-waving American who has never bothered to question anything they heard on Fox News. But maybe that's the audience she was going for. There's certainly a lot of money to be made in providing white people with the lies they need to justify killing thousands upon thousands of Muslims around the world.

Well, sadly, her little story has been cancelled. ABC decided that this series was more trouble than it was worth and wouldn't be the money-generator they were looking for. So, Eikmeier is going to have to find another way to profit off of the killing of brown people. It's no surprise that she's unhappy and indignant about this. After all, she was allowed to do it as a hack of a linguist for the US military. Maybe she shouldn't have quit her day job doing that, because her 15 minutes of fame have come to a close.

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Alice in Arabia" is "Not Without My Daughter" Part Deux

So, apparently ABC has decided to produce a series about an American girl kidnapped by Saudi relatives and held against her will. Rega Jha does a good job of explaining some of the problems with the plot's racist stereotyping of Arab Muslims. The pilot for the show was created by Brooke Eikmeier who is an ex American soldier who worked throughout the "Middle East" for the NSA. However, she would have critics believe that even though she is a lily white non-Muslim woman from the USA, she created this series to give "Arabs and Muslims a voice on American TV". It should be rather clear why so many people of color don't buy that nonsense. Those who support the show have tried to claim that these racist depictions are justified because of the injustices that are supposedly endemic to the Arab world and Muslims, in general. That's the part that really disturbs me. I mean let's compare the things that propagandists have to say about Muslims and about Saudi Arabia with the actions of those throughout the world who call themselves Christians and the conditions in the predominantly Christian nation of the USA.

 The USA features indentured servitude (on par with slavery) with its forced labor programs for those convicted of crimes. Oh, and it just so happens that those convicted of crimes happen to be a race that has been dominated by white Christian Westerners for hundreds of years. We also feature corporal punishment all the way and including capital punishment a.k.a. state-sponsored killing of its own citizens. This is also a fate that minorities must fear more than white people who live the same kind of life. It also prohibits the religious freedoms of Indigenous Americans who just so happen to be another minority with hundreds of years of continuous persecution at the hands of white Christians. Homosexuality is still illegal in many states and heaven forbid a trans* person dares to try to simply live their life! The USA still refuses to grant them the same protections that cisgender people can readily access. Freedom of speech in the USA is a joke and a half. Have folks forgotten the "free speech zones" that are set up in order to justify the arrest of citizens who dare to openly confront their own Presidents and Vice-Presidents?

It is absolutely a mockery for someone, who voluntarily agreed to kill Muslims who have never done a single thing to her, to try to judge the atrocities supposedly existing in cultures she's never been a part of. I speak Arabic and I've taken time to learn about the cultures of the Arab world. However, could I ever claim to know more about it than the people who were born and raised in it? Could a Muslim ever know more about what it's like to BE a Christian than actual Christians know?

Christian nations with the highest living standards in the world often claim that their policies of home-side genocide and the wanton killing of innocent people abroad are derived straight from the Bible. Time and time again, USA politicians assert this and insist that future laws also conform to policies that they believe are derived straight from the Bible (e.g. the denial of reproductive justice and freedoms to women, the marginalization of gender non-conforming/third gender/genderqueer people, the discrimination against those non-hetero couples wishing to access the same benefits available to hetero couples, the banning of sexual practices that are viewed as "unscriptural" and unnatural, the disenfranchisement of people of color).

Of course, this white woman who was paid to be a willing killing machine for the USA isn't going to write about that. Instead, she's going to try to justify the stereotype that these things are just something that Muslims do and that nice sweet girls in the USA don't have to endure such "persecution" and "gender apartheid". I'm not even Muslim--I'm an Eastern Orthodox Christian--and I can see the hypocrisy and racism involved in this project. It is nothing more than propaganda for white Protestants to justify their slaughter of non-Christians around the world. If Muslims killed as many Americans as the citizens of the USA kill, then this white woman might have something to complain about. If Muslims in other countries killed as many Americans as Americans kill in these other countries, then this white woman killing machine might have something to complain and write about. As it stands, this is just a diversion from the atrocities SHE HELPED PERPETRATE across the world.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Non-Conforming Cisgender Girls or Something Else Entirely

Today, someone asked me how can one tell whether their child is simply a cisgender girl who doesn't want to conform to gender expectations or if that child who is assumed to be a girl (because of their genitalia) is actually not a girl. This is what I had to say about that:

First of all, no child's sex is the same as their gender. Gender and sex are entirely separate things. Secondly, there's no such thing as a "cis-gendered girl". It's the equivalent of saying someone is a Mexicaned girl or a Blacked girl or a Indianed girl. The term is "cis-gender/cisgender". To answer your question, you know the difference between a cisgender girl rejecting gender expectations and a child who is not a girl (even though some people may assume that they/he/ze is one) by actually talking to your child.

Being Creoles from the American South, there's a real bourgeoisie streak that dictates that women and girls should wear their hair long (and preferably straight). The girls certainly don't engage in sports that might result in scratches or scars on their skin. And make-up is de rigeur no matter where you're going. And, in my family and the religion that most of us practiced back then, women and girls ALWAYS wore skirts or dresses to church.

Despite that, I come from a family where there are many women with careers in the sciences. We tend to be very good at math, too. My aunt and my cousin (who is a girl) happen to be the best football players in our family. I've seen both of them tackle and plow through men like a knife through butter. We strongly believe in finding out and nurturing each child's gift or particular talent. So, regardless of their genitalia, we expose our kids to lots of activities from very young. I'm disabled, so I couldn't do it with hir, but my child went camping and hiking with friends. Ze was a member of a mixed gender scouting troop. Ze got sewing lessons from one grandmother and agricultural experience with one of hir grandfathers. Another of her grandmothers introduced hir to the magic of cosmetics (which my child promptly used as face paint and made hirself look like different animals). Ze got art lessons from hir bio-dad and math enrichment from her step-dad. Ze spent a lot of time with hir friend's mom who is an entomologist.

In other words, we never taught or allowed hir to believe that certain genders aren't allowed to pursue certain paths. By the time ze was 5 years old, we no longer even practiced a religion that had clothing expectations for certain genders. As an aside, I personally believe that children should be taught ethics, not religion, so it wasn't a problem for us dealing with what some faith tradition expected "girls or boys" to do and be.

In an environment where children are free to pursue their interests and not shamed into rejecting something they love, they can feel fairly comfortable making their identities clear. My child didn't have to worry that not being a girl would ruin some grand scheme that I had planned for hir future. Ze still loves marine biology, is good in math, majors in Fine Arts, wears make-up, shops in the boy's section of the department stores (ze says that's where ze finds the best shirts), has a hairstyle that is considered masculine in this culture, dates people of all genders, and still sits on my lap every chance ze gets! Ze is completely comfortable with the body ze has. Some trans* or gender variant people do experience dysphoria, but others are just fine with their bodies. They don't need certain parts in order to be the gender they claim. My child knows ze's bigender in the same way that you know you're cisgender.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Well, it's Not Like the World Actually NEEDS Disabled Kids, Right?

Quelle surprise! Belgium is about to vote about whether physicians should be allowed to kill children who have what are called "terminal illness".

When the push throughout the Western world to legalize and normalize euthanasia gained popularity, disability rights advocates predicted that this is what would follow. The argument was that adults should be able to decide to have their doctors kill them. After all, we shouldn't make decisions for adults, right? Yeah, no. This uncritical attitude was helped along by Western ableism that judges the lives of people with disabilities as less valuable than the those of non-disabled people.

Now, as we expected, the argument is being made that we should also let doctors kill disabled children who ask for it. After all, they say, why shouldn't children be given the same rights as adults? They're "terminally ill", so they're going to die anyway; we'd just be speeding up the process to save them from unwanted pain. Right? I have no doubt that this measure will be legalized in Belgium. The question now is, what group will follow this one? If you think it's going to stop with physicians being allowed to kill disabled kids, then you're just willfully (and probably blissfully) ignorant and choking on your body privilege. Ableism kills. Of course, it kills us FIRST, but you will follow and eventually, you and those like you will be just as dead. When that time comes, should society consider that a mercy killing too?