**this piece has been a long time in the making because I have not heard a lecture on it, nor have I really discussed to this extent with many people; therefore, I ask the reader for patience, a chance to talk about points she may disagree with and perhaps an understanding of how under-developed my thoughts are on this topic.**
I once was in conversation with an older white male liberal about the Coptic Orthodox Church. (You can already tell this doesn’t end well–but it actually did because I kept my mouth shut…you’ll find a pattern in most of my rants btw.)
Anyway, he was surprised that Coptic Churches don’t allow non-Oriental Orthodox people to have communion. He decided to add, “In the Methodist Church, we have an open table, which means anyone, by their own free will, can come up and receive the peace of the Lord in fellowship.”
This was very interesting to me on the basis that this white man, older (and by older I mean he was alive during the Civil Rights Movement, so that somehow justifies his love of Black people which I will not get into, but you understand…)–that this white man, older and wiser, didn’t understand that the Methodist Church developed the tradition of an open-table communion in order to gain converts. It was very interesting to me that white people don’t see the connection between inclusivity and colonialism.
But it’s actually a logical connection between inclusion, Western Christianity, and colonialism, for in order to make themselves righteous like God’s prophets, they needed to be welcoming and inclusive in policy. Through this religious inclusion–making Black slaves Christians, missionizing in the Middle East (lol), etc.–white people maintained a dominance through their own righteousness as introducers and includers.
But for white liberal culture today, inclusion is the new it word:
“We want to include everyone in our initiative.”
“Diversity and Inclusion is our new office’s name at Vanderbilt.”
“Why don’t you include everyone?”
It’s almost as though included means welcomed. But it doesn’t–because in order to be included, there are certain standards. For instance, when the French colonized the Levant (which is Syria and Lebanon today), to be included on economic deals, you had to be Catholic Christian. Middle Eastern Orthodox Christians were not welcomed until they included themselves into the French Catholic tradition. (Hence, those of Catholic heritage in the Levant are richer than the Orthodox Christians in the Levant, typically, because they were included–welcomed–into the League of whites.)
Inclusion is not a warm welcoming; it’s a means of subordination and superiority; it’s a means of separation and partitioning Brown and Black communities.
To be accepted by white people, a person of color cannot be a person of color, cannot live as a person of color. Instead, a person of color, to be included, must be white, separating herself from her community. Hence, we see Obama take the White House in the United States and still continue a policy of droning Middle Eastern and/or Muslim-populated countries, watch Black people die while their murders are captured on film (but isn’t considered evidence enough), unrelentingly deporting and tearing families apart, and a persisting choice to keep economic disparity.
People of color being included in white spaces, whether it’s their churches, governments or clubs, means that they can and must translate into whiteness. That’s not inclusion. That’s not welcoming. That’s be-like-us-and-we’ll-be-docile. That’s still superiority–and still, as though people of color are stupid, in the same language white people used to quill our ancestors. That’s still dominance.
People of color cannot implement themselves in the United States; they’re not allowed to. They can only be included, which I define as: losing yourself, your people, your language, your culture, your history, your food, your desires, your needs, your humanity in order to be welcomed by white people and society. In other words, this is what inclusion means in the United States: whiteness.
Inclusion, in terms of white liberal politics, is actually exclusion. There’s an exclusion of our languages, cultures, sensibilities, religions, systems, ideologies, colors.
So what’s exclusion?
Exclusion gets a connotation that leads many white liberals in the United States to think of segregation and, before that, slavery. They see exclusion as violent; hence, they don’t like it when Copts say, “Only those of our tradition can partake of Jesus’ Body and Blood.”
To them, exclusion is the policy of white racists, and while looking at racism at a child-like level (i.e. what the KKK promotes, Jim Crow, etc.), they can’t see that in actuality exclusionary policies cannot occur–cannot be white agenda–before inclusion. Thus, we have Trump after Obama was president because white racists couldn’t stand having to include a Black man; thus, the KKK is born when slavery is abolished. It’s no coincidence that “inclusion” by white liberals means people of color are excluded by white racists, and the irony is that both options are bad for people of color–assimilation and lynching both kill us at equal amounts, but in different ways.
But exclusion, for me, has a positive rendition–a shining light. And I’ll explain what I mean through analyzing the Coptic Church’s sacrament of Communion.
For the Church, to partake in communion, the partaker needs to within the Body of Christ–that is, a baptized member. This does not mean someone who is saved, by the way, since there will be those who are baptized and yet their lack of will and desire to repent and to confess will lead them to a different track, according to the Coptic Church.
Thus, essentially, the message is that “to eat with us at this holy moment is to live, breathe, survive with us.” It’s a message of community and bond. Thus, exclusion by the Church actually is a fortification method of a community; it’s a means of protection, of bond, of relating on a spiritual level, for those who partake in Communion are the same who nurse the elders who are sick, visit the prisoners, teach in Sunday School, clean the bathrooms, cook the meal for after Sunday Liturgy. To take part in Christ’s Body and Blood is a privilege, not a right (which white people in general have difficulty understanding that they’re not entitled).
There’s even a segment of the Coptic Liturgy in which the deacon requests that the people greet each other in reconciliation; a requirement of Communion is that all be reconciled, with no grudges.
So, in actuality, exclusion means a form of inclusion in many contexts of color. For instance, while Copts exclude non-Oriental Orthodox from Communion, they’re including each other in a much deeper and more important, fundamental way.
Therefore, why do societies that do want to include people turn out to exclude instead?
First, as mentioned, we’ll notice that societies of color that exclude often wish to focus on including the fringes of their own, binding themselves, healing themselves from within.
Secondly, and related to that point, we’ll notice that societies of color that exclude are often scarred. They’re communities that have been demolished, yet survived. They’re communities that have been raped of every history, of every essence, they had found glory in before. They’re communities that have been so made to crumble that even they close themselves off, it’s a symbol of healing what is broken.
Thus, we ask: so white people don’t need healing?
No, white people need healing; they need healing from their superiority complex, from their blandized, made-universal culture. But their healing comes not from being made broken, but rather from puffing themselves up.
To sum up, exclusion in many societies of color like the Black Panther organization or the Coptic Church or Bedouin tribal formations in the Arabian peninsula should be viewed not in a negative way, nor should they be called “backward” because what is backward is savage violence–the kind of savage violence that has been committed upon these people, whether Black, Egyptian Christian, or Bedouin, etc. But their exclusivity is not: it’s their way of healing.
Whereas the white liberal notion of inclusivity on college campuses, in workplaces, in schools seems honky-dory, there’s a sinister line to it–because their inclusivity is actually that which is most isolating for people of color.
And, trust me, I know. The number of years I spent learning and fortifying my English, so I wouldn’t have to be my parents. The number of years I spent eating chicken nuggets instead of what my good Mama actually cooked for me at home–falafel, koshary, grilled fish, kofta, etc. The number of dances I went to instead of enriching my community, the number of hairstyles I chose to hide my identity, the number of times I hid my parents are too unbearable to count today.
I know what it means to succeed in the United States. And I know that it means, to be welcomed, to be included, to have your name uttered where you step, to have admiration crawl up everyone’s spine when you enter the room, means you’re less of your people than you really think.