Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aaminah Speaks Out About Why All Indigenous People are Arizonans Now

My dearest friend online is a sister named Aaminah. She is an indigenous woman of color with disabilities. Both of us are descended from Native American nations in the same area, so I consider her my cousin. She wrote something today that I just can't read without responding to. It's called "if you think i’m identifying a little too much with the mexicans…". It's only a paragraph long, so you should read it.

When I read her post, the first thing I said to myself was, "Yes! Exactly!". I felt like I could have written this myself. It describes my feelings better than I can do myself.

Aaminah is right! These are OUR people. I am not Latino, but I am indigenous. This means all indigenous people of the Americas are my family. Mexicans are just one branch of that family. The thing is, as indigenous people, we know that their struggle is inextricably linked to ours. The people that don't want Mexicans here don't want us here either. If we allow them to kick out all of the Mexicans in this country, pretty soon we'll be begging our indigenous primos to the south to allow us to come and live there with them.

Make no mistake about it, we are next on the list. Our presence is a challenge to the narrative that the White people in this country have tried to propagate about this land. Our existence proves that this was not an empty continent, just waiting for the white man to come and conquer. It was a fully populated land, from top to bottom. We developed this land. We settled it. Then Europeans came and shit all over our lands. They spread their unsustainable, capitalist, wasteful way of life across the North American continent and into Central America.

Well, shitting on something doesn't make it yours. This is our land. I don't care how many White Arizonans approve of the new law created to drive out all undocumented people--and don't even get me started about problematic that term is, too.

No matter what you approve or disapprove of, this land belongs to me and my people. Personally, I hope that the people of Arizona get so sick of people like me that they all make their way back to their family's country of origin. You can come in my backyard and make yourself comfortable and even claim that it's yours, but it won't change the fact that my family and I lived here first and we're not going to give you this country just because you want it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Legal Deportation of Citizens & Why Your Status Doesn't Matter

The city of Baltimore auctioned off and sold this woman's house--a house with no mortgage that was owned free and clear by the woman living in it--because of an unpaid water bill. She fell behind when she had to quit her job to take care of her father who had Alzheimer's Disease. Now, she and her family are homeless and the house sits empty. After all, who's going to want to buy a house where practically every other house in the neighborhood is boarded up?

Where is the justice system that is supposed to protect the people of this country? Do you really think that the quality of life will improve for citizens, if we can manage to deport all of undocumented workers? How do you account for this woman's situation, then? Do you actually believe that the forces that be will be satisfied with criminalizing everyone who isn't a citizen? Immigrants are just today's scapegoats. When the politicians can't milk that issue any further, what or who do you think they'll criminalize next?

My partner and I own a house. Thanks be to God that we have no mortgage! It's easy to be in a situation like ours and think that at least you'll always have a roof over your head. However, this is proof that no one, no one is really safe. If they want to, the government can make anything you do into a criminal act. And if you don't do anything? Well, they can make even your existence in this country into a criminal act.

Think about it. What do you think has happened to this woman? She has been effectively "deported" from the place where she has lived for decades. A place that was paid for with her family's blood, sweat, and tears. Yet the government now says that she's not entitled to live there. She can't even be inside the home that her family made for itself. How is this any different from what's being done in places like Arizona (and all around the country, actually)?

The indigenous people of America developed this land, made it livable for humans. They carved out homes for themselves. They did all of this without the assistance of the United States government. Then, some Europeans came in and decided that God wanted them to take it from the indigenous people. We never agreed to leave our home. This land is our home. Our ancestors have roamed and resided on these lands for thousands of years. How can any one's claim to it be stronger than that? Still, using brute force and with the aid of the United States government, we were and are being removed from it.

It's not because this land can't support both us and them. The indigenous people of this land were more than willing to share this land with the Europeans. However, that wasn't enough for them. In their greed, they attempted to take over everything. Now they can't even manage all of the land they've stolen. It's just like the corporations that are buying up tax lien properties. They don't even have anything they can do with them yet. They are just hoping that they can kick out the people who live there without too much resistance.

No matter what corporations tell you, they know that land is the most valuable commodity on earth. Nothing compares to it, not diamonds, not oil, not even an individual human's life. These people are shrewd. They know that if they can maintain possession of the land, they can control almost everything that goes on within it. They don't really care about whether someone is "legal" or "illegal". These labels mean nothing to corporate America.

Labeling some people "illegal" makes it possible for those who are really in charge to take possession of a certain percentage of the land in this country. The fewer people with claims to it that are on the land, the less likely it is that they will have their claims challenged. And when that tactic has been milked for all it's worth, they aren't going to just sit back and enjoy their ill-gotten gains. The same greed that motivated them to dispossess undocumented workers also motivates them to go after the money-poor/property-rich citizens in this country. This is what's happening in Baltimore and all around the nation.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Keep it Classist, Paul SCHMIDTBERGER

Last week, The New York Times published an article, written by a man named Paul Schmidtberger, called "Brittney, Brittny, Brittneigh". In case you haven't figured it out yet, the article is all about how appalled Mr. Schmidtberger is at the names parents are giving their children these days. In it, he states:
Misspelling a child’s name won’t make Junior special, creative or unique. Y’s and I’s are not interchangeable, and apostrophes are not some sort of newfangled confetti to be sprinkled liberally throughout groups of letters. Parents shouldn’t impose cryptic, incoherent or foolish spellings on their own children, nor on society as a whole. And they shouldn’t condemn their children to a lifetime of bleakly repeating that, no, the name in question is spelled “Shaiyahne,” not “Cheyenne.” (And while I’m at it, don’t name your child Cheyenne, either.)
My daughter has an Arabic name. People actually have an easier time pronouncing and spelling her name than they do with mine--a name that is solidly Anglo and spelled about as traditionally as it gets. My name is constantly being misspelled and mispronounced.

This article really has nothing to do with caring about the experiences of people with unusual names. If that had been his true concern, he'd favor names that are both short and spelled phonetically. My daughter's name conforms to that standard and it's a name that's been around for thousands of years. It's just not a part of European culture, but evidently that's not good enough for Schmidtberger. Heaven forbid someone give their child a name that's associated with a non-white culture! Provided one conforms to his spelling restrictions, he's willing to deal with a French name like "Brittany", but a Native American name like "Cheyenne" is absolutely beyond the pale.

Shmidtberger's rant is really a thinly-veiled complaint about white people having to deal with the traditions and cultures of others. It's a means of defining who and what is should be accepted as truly civilized. If the reader has any doubts about whether this is about white supremacy, just read his final paragraph.
The liberty to name one’s child is not always absolute, certainly not outside the United States. In France, for example, the district attorney has a short window of time after a child is born to block names contrary to the interest of the child, including those that are pejorative or rude or would cause ridicule. I’m not suggesting we commission a similar corps of name police in the United States. But I am saying that a little humility and some common sense would go a long way.
Schmidtberger actually has the audacity to claim that parents who, for whatever reason, don't want to give their child a name that they will have to share with hundreds of thousands of other Americans should humble themselves before him and adopt his views about what constitutes a proper name. Oh, and I guess it's just coincidence that the names he prefers are those that conform to the naming traditions of a particular (socio-economic) segment of White, Western cultures. Riiight! I mean, common sense dictates that this is the only legitimate naming practice, right? I guess it would be pointless to inform Schmidtberger that even white people didn't give a dern about standardizing names until quite recently.

While reading it, I thought back to a book that I read many years ago called "How the Irish Became White" that chronicles how one group of people sought to escape oppression by turning into the same kind of oppressors that they had faced in their homeland. Paul Schmidtberger seems to be imitating that process by sneering at those who give their children names that are unique or unusual to him. Perhaps, he hopes that no one will notice that multi-syllabic, far-from-straightforward "Schmidtberger" following his first name in the article's by-line. Nope, nothing unusual there, right Schmidtberger?

I remember when I got one of my first real jobs. It was with the United States Navy. The soldier over the department where I was working (a white male in his forties) mispronounced my name the first time he tried to say it. I pronounced it for him the right way, and in an attempt to be accommodating (one of those traits that bourgeoisie black society champions as a necessity for those people of color who wish to be successful in the world), I told him that I was used to people saying it wrong, so as long as he said something close to it, I'd know he was talking to me.

I learned a big lesson that day. When I told him that, he sternly told me that I should never accept people saying my name incorrectly. He said that it's disrespectful to mispronounce someone's name and that I should always insist that people say it and spell it correctly.

That lesson has stayed with me. Over the years, I've found that those who want to pronounce names correctly keep at it until they get it right*. Those who insist on calling you something other than your name are letting you know that they don't think your identity is worth respecting. They've decided that they can't be arsed to get it right and that's that.

What Schmidtberger is doing here is blaming other people for the fact that he might have to put forth some effort when addressing them. How dare parents force him to have to think about the person that he's talking to as an individual? How dare parents not take into consideration HIS comfort when giving their children names? How dare we insist on exercising our right to be self-defining?

*There are exceptions that should be noted. I have encountered people who, despite their best efforts, don't pronounce my name the way I say it or spell it. Most of the time, these have been people whose first language does not feature words that use the same sounds that are found in my name. It's nearly impossible to confuse these people with those like Schmidtberger, though. Those in the former group will almost always make a concerted effort to get people's names right, whereas the Schmidtberger-types will only (at best) make a half-hearted effort before expecting others to just accept whatever they decide to call you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tea Party LULZ

Ahh, teabaggers! You just gotta love these folks. I came across this video today on Youtube that features an interview that made me just shake my head and feel shame that this tripe was coming out of the mouth of a woman of color.

This woman is talking about "We need to pull the plug somewhere". Isn't that ironic! The movement she's supporting claims that government shouldn't be allowed to decide whether someone lives or dies (i.e. "death panels"), but then you have other teabaggers like this one saying just the opposite. These people have no idea what the hell they are talking about. They are just bitter people who are completely uninformed about politics and reality. They are mindless tools in every sense of the word.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Oh, the Oppression!!

Daisy (from Daisy's Dead Air) and I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to Muslim/Christian dialogue. It should come as no surprise that the subject of hijaab came up. If you have ever engaged in a group like this, you're probably shaking your head right now, because this is one of those subjects that you know you'll see discussed over and over again. It's practically a classic. The arguments are so predictable that it can become tiresome because you find yourself explaining the same things over and over again.

I have a teen-aged daughter and it is EXTREMELY difficult to find clothes that don't show all of her body in ways that make her quite uncomfortable. I have shopped with my female Muslim friends and they say the same thing. And even when we do find clothes in the stores, they are often so expensive that the average person can barely afford them. In fact, both they and I often have to shop over the internet just to find suitable clothes.

My daughter is very skinny and a lot more curvy than most girls her age. Most of the time, when we go places, people think she is a college student or grown adult. She doesn't wear any make-up nor does she flirt, but she still gets male attention all of the time. Because of this, she tries to dress in a way that will show people that she's still a child, but this is almost impossible now. All of the clothes that fit her proportions are very revealing, because manufacturers assume that any woman with her shape will want to show it off. Well, she doesn't!

She is a book-worm whose favorite place is the library and the bookstore. She likes to play outside in our backyard with her best friend, so she needs clothes that allow her to run around and be active without having to worry about whether her undergarments are going to show.

We live in a sub-tropic zone, so it gets very, very hot here. This makes it extremely uncomfortable for girls to wear all of the layers of clothes that it would take to cover up everything. It's become so frustrating for her, that she's now learning to sew so that she can make her clothes cover her the way she wants and be made from material that isn't too hot to wear in our climate zone.

Every time I turn on the television, I see nothing but women wearing very tight or very short clothes or barely any clothes at all! I support their right to wear whatever they want, but I'm not so naive that I don't understand how they are pressured to wear these kinds of clothes if they want to have a successful career in many fields. Women are expected to look "sexy" no matter what we are doing. Even if we are working outside, we're supposed to look cute doing it.

Sure, we have the freedom to not show our body, but we are often punished in very subtle ways if we refuse to put our body on display for all to see. Some jobs won't even hire you if you won't show your body. Look at the recent cases where Muslim women in the west have lost their jobs because they wore hijaab! And do we even need to get into the cases where Muslim women in the west have been murdered because they wore hijaab?

What some people saying about it being (mostly self-professed Christian) women in the west that fought for the right to dress in the way that many do is correct. However, it is also true about (mostly self-professed Muslims) women in the east . In many countries with mostly Muslim populations, it is the women who have led the fight to wear hijaab if they want to. For example, in Iran, when the Shah tried to outlaw it, women took to the streets to protest it.

"Freedom" is a very subjective concept. It is defined in many different ways and no one's definition is THE definition. Some may think of "freedom" as a woman's right to wear a bikini if she wants. Others may think of "freedom" in terms of a woman's right to be known for her personality and not her body. Just as it is up to women in the west to make their freedom into a negative or a positive thing, women in the east are also free to do the same. I have seen very savvy women in Muslim majority countries use hijaab to gain more representation in politics, business, and academia. These are the same things that women in the west are fighting for without any more success than women in the east are achieving.

Now, can we please find something original to discuss??

Sunday, May 02, 2010

To Both My Muslim and Christian Sisters and Brothers

The dictionary defines dialogue as, "an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, esp. a political or religious issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement." Lately, I have seen several conversations between Christians and Muslims that were supposed to be dialogues, but actually looked a lot more like debates. They've consisted of nothing more than "Your prophet is a liar" or "Your religion is full of stupid people" or "My God/religion/holy book is better than your God/religion/holy book" or some variation of those insults.

Having read both the Holy Bible and the Holy Qu'ran, I find nothing that makes any of these kinds of debates necessary. In all my years, I have never, not even once, seen someone change their mind about their religion because someone told them they are stupid/naïve/deceived. If anything, those who have converted to or from Christianity or Islam have done so because they were shown LOVE.

If you can't show love for those who believe differently, you'll NEVER manage to convert them, so even if your secret goal is to convince the whole world to change to your religion, it probably won't happen unless you speak to them kindly no matter what they currently believe.

"Verily, Allah is mild and is fond of mildness, and He gives to the mild what He does not give to the harsh" (hadith)

"An answer when mild is turning away rage" (Holy Bible)

"Do you know what is better than charity and fasting and prayer? It is keeping peace and good relations between people, as quarrels and bad feelings destroy mankind" (hadith)

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Holy Bible)

There is a verse from the Holy Bible that I think might be a good one to think about, especially when we are tempted to start saying very ugly things about the religion of someone else:

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

Instead of focusing on the myriad things that we may think are wrong with the religion of someone else, wouldn't it be more godly to focus on those things that we believe their religion does right?