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.