Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Creoles and Colorism in my Community

I feel like the discomfort that privileged people feel in conversations like this is something to be embraced. If talking to those who are marginalized (by us and by the community around us) isn't uncomfortable and messy and challenges what we believe about the world and about ourselves, then we are definitely doing it wrong. Solidarity isn't supposed to be easy or life-affirming. Solidarity is sacrifice.

For me, when dark-skinned/non-mixed race Black people talk about colorism, my first inclination is to want to believe that I'm one of them and not someone in the group they are talking about. I tell myself "After all, I'm not as light as SOME Black people that I know" and "Both of my parents have some Black heritage, so I'm not as mixed as MANY Black people". That is sooooo much easier than thinking of myself as someone who could be contributing to the marginalization of some Black people.

I want to believe that the ways that I embrace my Blackness are enough to make me no longer a part of the problems associated with colorism and racial privilege. It sounds silly to say it to other people, but in my mind I think, "I wear my hair in an afro and I personally believe that dark-skinned Black folks are gorgeous and make it a point to say so to others and I taught my kid to embrace hir Blackness. Isn't that enough to make me on the right side of this issue?" It seems legit to me. But, yeah, no.

I'm part of an extended family. We have definitely benefited from access to more educational opportunities back when most Black people in the West had none or very few. My immediate family was definitely poor compared to some folks in our Creole community. However, we weren't so poor that I wasn't able to spend my childhood raised in nice houses, in safe suburban neighborhoods, with decent area schools. There were many times in my life that I remember my mom getting certain jobs or us being able to get into even better schools and programs specifically because we could lean on our privileged mixed-race community, even though those were places where non-mixed race Black people were rarely to be found.

It's taken me years to own up to the fact that our inclusion was at the expense of darker-skinned people, because schools, employers, and programs could use us our presence to inoculate them from accusations of racial discrimination. We were "respectable negroes". It was easier for white people to relate to little light skinned kids with a father in academia and a stay at home mom. The way we spoke didn't confuse white folks nor was it associated with the Black community. We could be their Black friends or coworkers without them having to deal with those dark-skinned/non-mixed race Black folks who weren't as assimilated and/or whose unapologetic Blackness reminded them that the social hierarchy is changing to one where their whiteness won't keep them safe.

So, yeah. I'm a part of the problem of anti-Blackness and colorism. I figure it's never a bad time to start owning up to my privilege and it's probably even a good time to do it when my dark-skinned/non-mixed loved ones are saying that they're suffering as a result of these attitudes and behaviors.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

My Dating Patterns

Ebony magazine's website has an uplifting and engaging article on it called "Black Girls Only". What the author says in the last paragraph about desire comes as a sort of revelation to me.
"...I'm well aware that desire is different from love. Desire is definitely constructed around social influences and signifiers of what is beautiful and worthy of love. From body type to complexion we are inundated with messages about who should be wanted and who shouldn't. My choice to love black women only is revolutionary. It's a reflection of my radical politics.  It's my straight no chaser lust, love and worship of black femininity. Black girls are magic. From high yellow to blue black. And I love them all.
I've tried to understand my own dating patterns. I ask myself why, despite how much I love POC and try to emphasize my pride in my African heritage, have most of my partners been white or or really passe blanc. I know that it's not a coincidence. It's a pattern. I see beautiful Black people all of the time and there are many of them that I'd definitely be willing to date. But for some reason, the only people that I wind up getting serious with are those with euronormative features.

Perhaps this is pattern stems from my background in a culture where European features are preferred as a result of the advantages society confers upon those who have them. While I decided a while back ago that I would no longer date white guys, I haven't made up my mind to only date Black people. I can definitely respect those who do choose to love Black women, especially those who are also People of Color. Being white means that you have more leeway with regards to dating. Being with a Black woman won't really result in much of a loss in stature. However, A Black person with a white spouse definitely does reap some of the benefits of their partner's white privilege. A Person of Color who marries a Black woman, especially a darker skinned, kinky haired Black woman, will never benefit from that in a white-dominated society.

However, I can't deny that my dating pattern may also be influenced by who I'm around the most. Out here, I don't come in regular contact with a single Black person other than my two coworkers. I simply don't have the opportunity to meet people outside of work. So, it would be difficult for me to decide to only date Black people, because that would mean remaining single until I move or get another car. I don't think I need to make the same decision as the author, but I think that it does help me to formulate better questions to mull over during introspection.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Lord Make Haste to Help Me!

I have a prayer request. On Wednesday, I have to find a way to get all the way to Baton Rouge (which is an hour and a half away from here) even though my roommate is working and can't take me unless I can convince the doctor's office that's contracted with Social Security to let me be seen earlier in the day. Please pray that something works out. I don't want to borrow my roommate's car. I really don't like using anyone else's things. She has said that if it comes down to it, she'll let me, but I don't want to do that. I kind of have a policy of not using something that belongs to someone else unless I can afford to replace it, if something happens to it while I'm using it. Still, Social Security says they will close my case if I don't make it to this appointment.

I'm a bit fed up and frustrated and close to tears over this whole review process. They're sending me to have a physical with a doctor who's never even seen me and has no experience with my disabilities. I have a really rare cancer and there are no doctors in the Mississippi/Louisiana/Arkansas region who've even seen a case of it or treated someone with it. It just seems like this SS case manager is trying to kick me out of the program. She said that I have to do this because the records she's received for me are insufficient. My oncologist, my pain management doctor, my rheumatologist (I also have systemic lupus), my psychiatrist and my GP have all sent SS their records for me. I see at least one of my doctors every month, because it takes a lot to keep me alive. So, it's not like the records aren't up to date.

Furthermore, it's not like a regular physical is going to be able to show them much about my disability. It's not like I'm an amputee or someone with an obvious disability like Trisomy-21. My cancer is inside my chest! At best, this guy can listen to my breathing, poke my torso, and ask me a few questions. Nothing he can tell SS will be more informative than what my medical records show. I mean, if this is supposed to root out fraud, it's a waste of time. It's rather difficult to fake cancer so well that the doctors actually imagine that they removed part of tumor out of my chest.

I feel like SS still tries to make things so hard for people who have already proved that they are disabled. I don't just "sit around collecting a check" like some people think most disabled people do. I actually hold down a job and work as much as I can. I'd love to be independent and capable of working enough to support myself and physically able to care for myself all of the time.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Gaze Upon the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss / Why I ain't Impressed by Young White Liberals

Another white liberal/progressive removed themselves from my Facebook friends list today. Apparently, I'm too upsetting to her gang of racist friends and the more assimilation minded POC buddies. At first this bothered me. This was someone I'd been giving the benefit of the doubt for over a year. She always seemed just one step away from strictly claiming to care about POC and PWD to understanding that it was time to act on those supposed feelings of regard for us. It never happened. In the end, whiteness is just too comfortable and comforting for most people to willingly reject it.

I should have seen it coming. She had no problem posting articles about Indigenous folks and occasionally claiming to have some Indigenous ancestry. However, whenever her white friends started spouting anti Indigenous crap she was quieter than the grave. In that world, it's fun to be able to start all sorts of conversations about marginalized people and then disappear, knowing that your friends will spout all of the hateful pro-extermination of cripples arguments and crude racist stereotypes that would make even the staunchest Southern republican feel obligated to back away from them. It gives them plausible deniability. She can continue to posit herself as "one of the good ones" by providing a forum for her less "refined" bigoted buddies to come out and do the dirty work. Then she can stroll in and say a few "Now, y'all know that's not very nice!" comments and then proceed to scold any marginalized person who gave as good as they got.

I hated seeing the way other POC and PWD were treated by her gang o' bigots. She would NEVER speak up when this was going on. So, I did. I simply can't sit back and watch privileged people take advantage of the fact that many POC are so trained to be civilized and long-suffering that they'll actually try and convince these bigots to TREAT them like human beings even though we KNOW--or at least we should know--that they'll never really believe that we ARE human.

Welp, I guess somebody has to be the bad guy. I know many POC who interact with white people online have a lot invested in these relationships. Doing what I do is about the fastest way to find yourself rejected by them. Fortunately, I don't mind. I'd rather be known in those circles as someone who is too "crazy" or "out of control" to deal with than to be someone who sits back and watches our people being killed off by the families and friends of the nice white liberal moderates. In the end, this chick didn't even have the guts to just say she didn't want me defending my people. She had to throw some unnamed POC under the bus by claiming that she was defriending me for their sake, because even they agreed that I was just too over the top. Now, how can I do anything other than laugh and shake my head? There's a verse in the Holy Bible that says there's "nothing new under the sun". Well, if you don't believe anything else about the book, believe that. They may not know it, but everything they do is stuff that POC have witnessed and dealt with a thousand times before.

If I didn't have radical POCWD who taught me our history, I might be shocked to find out that it isn't the KKK or the Aryan Nation that we need to be fighting. Those folks are so tiny in number as to be basically insignificant. Really, it's these "Well, I believe in what you say, but you can't go around saying it like that" folks who are the bigger danger. Some folks might be surprised to know that I actually have quite a few Republicans, right-wingers, conservatives, et cetera on my friends list. I can't even think of the last time one of them was even rude to me in a conversation. Regardless of what we disagree about, not even one of them would sit there quietly while their friends talk about supporting a child-killer. Not even one of them would be so uncouth as to openly degrade the culture of my people. It simply doesn't happen.

When I say, I'm going to get myself a gun and protect my people from anyone who tries to come for them, they don't scold me or try to feed me some garbage about how awful I am for saying that, if it comes down to me or them--my child or them, my lover or them, my cousins or them--I'm going to do my best to make sure it's my people who live to see another day. They understand why marginalized people want liberation, even if they aren't too eager to see us get it. They understand that this system is FUBAR and no gentle tweaks like the phony "marriage equality" nonsense and "Obamacare" will be enough to produce equality. They understand that none of these campaigns are really about fairness or saving the lives of people like me and my loved ones. They know that none of these attempts to isolate "big meanie" POC like me are really about protecting vulnerable individuals in my community. At least they have the candor to admit that they'd just rather not be bothered with marginalized people who make them feel bad about their decisions. I wish to God that I could find as many nice white liberals who were that honest.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Switch to Online Courses Presents Challenges for Students with Disabilities

Slate has an article about how universities are switching from using original content generated by professors to online courses produced by the major textbook companies. It's a very disturbing trend.

My child is taking one of these Pearson math courses in college right now. Ze also took an online math course in high school. The high school version was great for a student like hir who could zip through all of the assignments at hir own pace by utilizing resources like Youtube for learning concepts that weren't explained well by the course material. Ze says the math course ze's in now is going well. Still, I worry about students with other kinds of disabilities.

Students who need screen readers or video captions are going to face barriers because of the way that many of the sites are set up. I seriously doubt that the companies are going to produce alternate versions of each course's material in order to accommodate students with disabilities. So, what are these students supposed to do when these online courses are used for the majority of freshmen and sophomore level classes? This is obviously the direction that things are headed. As usual, people with disabilities are the first to be sacrificed when Western educational models mutate.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Goats and Disabilities

I spent the morning mucking out the enclosures for 17 goats. It was really, really physically taxing. After the first pen, I regreted taking this job. When you're sweeping and shoveling goat poop, your clothes get covered in a fine dust consisting of dirt, hay, and dried poop. It was impossible to keep cool. I quickly ran out of water in my thermos and I was too far from the house to go back for more.

Still, I kept at it. The second and third pens were easier and I think it was because I developed a strategy for cleaning them. The fourth and last pen was THE WORST. I couldn't even get to the wood on the floor without having to break up slabs of compacted crap. Regardless of those challenges, I got it done.

I'm proud of myself, I think. Well, what I'm most proud of is that I was able to get my body to accomplish all of that. My body often does things that I wish it didn't and then, at other times, it just won't or can't do what I want or need it to accomplish. It feels great to be able to go beyond what's safe and pain-free. I did what I went there to do and I did it well. After it was over, all of the hard work that it took to get to that point sort of faded away. I got to enjoy a cold drink, come home and take a shower, and now I'm going to schleep!

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

My Little Worker Bee

Tonight, my kiddo had an interview for a bar-tending position at a Japanese tavern in the historic Vieux Carré (French Quarter) in New Orleans. Hir aunt sings and plays the piano there every week and she put in a bon mot with the owner. My child just called and told me that ze begins training on Tuesday. I'm so proud of this kid.

Being a college student living in a world famous city might result in a young person partying way too much and getting distracted with all kinds of questionable activities. This is especially true for a young person with ADHD. But my darling chose to stay busy by getting a job. Now ze has TWO jobs. That plus going to school full-time might be too much for some, but a kid like mine has to stay really busy in order to keep out of trouble.

I won't pretend as if ze never makes poor decisions, because I dislike when people get on social media and make it sound like their kids are perfect. My child still has a lot to learn and a long way to go before ze's ready to be completely independent. However, I'm really grateful for the way that ze has dealt with the challenges placed before us in the past couple of years.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Cost of Daring to Exist as a Queer Person of Color With Disabilities

How College Wrestling Star "Tiger Mandingo" Became An HIV Scapegoat

This is really a(nother) case of a LGBQ person of color with disabilities being criminalized for daring to try to be a part of the non-disabled world. This man was used and exploited and now that they've gotten all that they can out of him, they're sending him to prison and trying to forget that he was ever there. Where are the LGBTQIA organizations now? Why are they always nowhere to be found when the LGBQTIA is Black?

A few days ago, a friend brought up the problem of white older queers who exploit young queer people of color to indulge their racial fetishes. I think the same power imbalance exists with Johnson and the white men who chose to have sex with him. In the article, one of the men makes this quite clear when he talks about how Johnson was "only [his] third black guy" and that he wanted to have unprotected sex because Johnson was "huge".

There's no mention of how Johnson had severe learning disabilities and could barely read or write. How is it not predatory for these non-disabled white men to use him as some sort of stud even though Johnson is disabled? Why is no one asking how Johnson was infected in the first place? Who infected HIM and why aren't they being investigated? Well, we know the answer to that. It's because it doesn't matter to the world how Johnson is taken advantage of. Never mind the fact that every single person who slept with him was more than willing to expose him to whatever STDs they might have. It only matters that white non-disabled men might have to suffer consequences for exploiting him.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

How The Healthcare Mandate Saved My Nephew's Life

For those fighting the good fight, here's a real world example of why the healthcare mandate is a good thing:

Do y'all remember when I posted the gofundme link for my nephew who was diagnosed with leukemia? Thankfully, the donations that people sent made it possible for him to have his mother there with him while he went through treatment. If you haven't been through cancer, I hope you at least have the sense of compassion and empathy necessary to understand why a child would want their parent around while strange people poke and prod and inject potentially lethal chemicals into their body. The only thing worse than being a child with cancer and not having anyone there to help you through it is being a child with cancer and not being able to receive care at all. That's what I really want to talk about.

My sister works full-time. She PAYS for insurance through her job's group plan, so skip the drama about people wanting something for nothing, s'il vous plait. Her 2 kids were both created with her husband, so skip the drama about people being irresponsible with their sexuality. Despite the fact that she is a good and loving Christian woman, that marriage didn't last. That shouldn't be a surprise. Christians actually divorce more than non-Christians in the USA. Still, one would think that the father could help her through this ordeal with their son, right?

Well, that wasn't possible. You see, he has lung cancer. Like me and like their son, he was raised in a little part of the country called Allée du Cancer (Cancer Alley). Look it up, if you want to understand why I'm always talking about some new person in my life who has been diagnosed with cancer. Why, you'd almost think that the government should do something to stop companies from poisoning us! But I guess folks who are for "less government" wouldn't approve of that sort of interference with the "freedom" of companies that are allowed to operate here. My sister actually moved across the country and got another job to provide a better life for her kids, but it wasn't soon enough for her son to avoid becoming a part of the cancer statistics here.

So, there it stands. My ex-brother-in-law can't work, because he's dying, so he can't get insurance through any job. That means he can't cover his kids on any plan and my nephew must rely on his mother's insurance. Now, let me explain how this dealing with cancer and insurance companies has worked in the USA. Insurance companies were able to deny care to people, PEOPLE WHO WERE PAYING FOR IT, using multiple tactics. by claiming that a condition existed before the purchase of the policy. They were also able to deny care to people by putting a cap on the amount of money they'd spend on the care of any person on the policy.

If science education was what it should be, people would know that we all have "cancerous" cells in our body. However, it's only when those cells reach a certain mass that doctors make a diagnosis of cancer. Since doctors can only detect cancer once a mass of these cells reaches a certain size, it is never possible for a doctor to prove exactly when it first developed in a person's body. Because of that, unless you were on the insurance plan from birth, the company could always claim that you got cancer before you purchased the policy. This is the "pre-existing conditions clause". The healthcare mandate makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny care to people paying for it simply because the person may not be able to prove when they developed a condition. Without this mandate, people who were deemed to have pre-existing conditions could pay for their policies faithfully and on time and still be denied care.

There are some folks who weren't affected by the pre-existing clauses, because they were lucky enough to be on the same policy since birth or because their doctors were able to prove when their condition started. They were still screwed, though. Insurance companies were allowed to place a limit on how much money they would spend on a person, even if the person did meet the qualifications for coverage under the plan they were paying for. This is the "cap" that you may have heard of. Now, if the worst thing you've ever had is the flu or a broken limb, you probably won't reach that cap. However, if you have a condition like incurable cancer or renal failure or you're in need of an organ transplant, you could reach that cap in just a few years or even a few months. After that, all of the insurance that you paid for, faithfully and on time, didn't matter. You'd have to find some other way to pay for your care. If you couldn't do that, you died. It's really that simple.

Oftentimes, people who reached the cap on their insurance plan were forced to stop working at a time when they need money the most. It may be hard for some folks to believe but, sometimes, it's hard work to continue showing up for work when you need a new lung or you have a tumor restricting the blood flow to your heart and you're not able to afford the necessary treatment for it. I actually worked throughout the chemo treatments for my lupus, but the radiation for my cancer is what made my work and school life come to a halt. I guess some folks would just call that lazy and irresponsible though. However, being a pharmacy technician means working with people who are sick and having a fifteen inch open wound stretching across my back and an immune system compromised by both lupus and cancer makes for a legitimate claim that one can no longer do their job. You're free to decide otherwise, of course. Anyway, when you stop working, any insurance policy through your job is cancelled. That means the job of paying for your care has solved itself, as far as the insurance companies were concerned.

So what happened to those people? Well, if they could prove that they were completely disabled, then they MIGHT qualify for healthcare through the Social Security Disability program. Lord knows these jerks who whine about the existence of government run healthcare weren't stepping in to keep these disabled people alive. Of course, S.S. turns down most disabled people who apply for care. It decided that though I had an incurable cancer and systemic lupus, I didn't meet their standard of what it meant to be truly disabled. It took them over a year to let me know that, though.

Meanwhile, my doctor was forced to risk his job in order to treat me. He was the only orthopedic oncologist in my state and all of those bordering it. If he didn't treat me, then I'd simply die of my cancer. The hospital he worked at wouldn't allow him to treat me for free, so he had to sneak and do it. Because he determined that my cancer was actually terminal, I was able to appeal the initial S.S. opinion and have that appeal expedited. Because of this, it only took me TWO YEARS to get healthcare coverage through S.S. If that doctor hadn't treated me while I went through the process, I'd have died before even having a chance to appeal. In fact, that is what happens to many people. Even though they'd qualify, the process has been made so difficult, that they still die for lack of care. I was lucky/blessed/fortunate--call it what you will--because, by risking his career, the oncologist was able to change my cancer from terminal to simply incurable. When the alternative is death and you know that most people in your situation do die, having an incurable cancer doesn't sound half bad. However, is it really right to force a doctor to risk his entire career just to keep a patient alive? What about those who don't have doctors who could take that risk? Should they just die? I'd love to hear those who are trying to make this mandate a matter of religious belief explain to me why Jesus would rather people die than have the ability to get treatment.

Because the healthcare mandate stopped insurance companies from placing caps on care for people who were paying for comprehensive coverage and stopped them from refusing to provide care via the pre-existing conditions clauses, my nephew was able to get his treatments when he needed them. Childhood leukemia is very survivable nowadays. However, that doesn't matter if the children with the leukemia aren't able to receive these treatments because of how extremely expensive they are. My nephew was able to get care when his cancer was still curable. I wish that had been the case when I was in that position, but I'm glad that he'll now be able to live without this sword of Damocles that I'll have for the rest of my life.

Even with the mandate in place, it was a struggle for my nephew and my sister. After using all of her vacation time, she had to drive hours every day back and forth from the hospital to her job and back again. She had to have a family friend move in and care for her daughter during the process. She had to come out of pocket for all of that. The donations people gave helped so much and I appreciate it. I should add that of all of my friends who did contribute, not even one of them were folks who identify as Christians. But then, if I'd considered the Good Samaritan parable I'd have expected nothing different. I'm so grateful to all of those who choose to help others instead of sitting around being self-righteous and self-absorbed.

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.
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:



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.

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?