An Important Article Concerning Social Justice and the Orthodox Church

For those who want to research or start to know about the Orthodox Church’s presence during the Civil Rights Movement, here are two good articles:

This is an article from a Greek-run site about the Archbishop Iakovos marching with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

This second one concerns racism as a heresy, in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Coptic Church, of a later wave of immigration to the United States, has yet to stand such heights, but I want to point to these two articles because of a conversation I have had recently with a convert to the Eastern Orthodox Church who accused the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches of being “racialized.”

People of color cannot racialize a space or context, as they are the ones who live in racialized spaces and contexts that white people create and propagate. But rather, we must realize, as the Reverend MLK argued and, I’m sure, Archbishop Ivakovos as well, when people of color dare to form spaces and contexts just for them, it’s not for the purpose to dominate or out of prejudice, but rather out of a need-even a desperate need-to heal, or at least to find healing in one another.

Safe spaces, then, are not equal to white corporate board rooms. Safe spaces have a different functionality, a different purpose, a different legacy.

Likewise, Greek, Russian, or even Coptic Churches are not like white Protestant churches which forced Black peoples to convert to Christianity (in order to legitimize their dominance as master), but rather these Churches–these safe spaces–are spaces of healing from the racism and hatred of white people we face in this country.

Just a reminder.

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The Transference of Wokeness from Skin to Skin

I think it’s known by now, in my circles, that I’m not interested in events, but rather people’s reaction to events, which, to me, is more telling.

In May, an International Politics and Theatre graduate married a white monarch in Europe. This event wasn’t a big deal to me. It’s known that monarchs must marry and show off their marriages in order to legitimize and buttress their reign, so for me, it was another medieval, undemocratic, patriarchal thing Europe does. (Sorry to all the #royalwedding fans! but tbh, fam tbh) Nor did it impress me that a European married someone from North America (again, think legitimacy and alliances). Nor did it impress me that Harry married a bi-racial woman, even though others were stunned for a number of reasons:

  1. Some people still live in an era in which white people marrying remotely Brown/Black people is seen as a triumph (somehow, someway, we should be grateful to be accepted by whiteness).
  2. Some people still don’t know that white men have been fetishizing, raping, having sex and/or marrying Black women. It ain’t new, fam. (We know now that the average Black person–that is, descendent from slaves, dragged to the United States before the Civil War–is over 25% white genetically.)

So nothing is new in this marriage, but, in actuality, it’s very antiquated, and instead of people commenting on the cruel and inhumane displacement of homeless peoples during this wedding (you know, to make Windsor pretty and ready for the #royalwedding because who wants to see the reality of a “first-world” country when there’s a partay going on), or even the military’s involvement in the ceremony as a show of the British’s monarchy’s continued archaic glorification of its “might” (and that’s not to mention Harry’s involvement with the invasion and terrorism in Iraq).

Instead, people chose to discuss, interestingly, how #woke the “royal” family was becoming–thanks to Meagan Markle.

Okay, a million issues here.

  1. Really? A white imperial monarchy can be #woke? What is your definition of #woke?
  2. You are aware, also, that the funds for this wedding came from British taxpayers, white and Black and Brown. Also the homeless were displaced? Also the military salutes and Harry in a military suit? Also the guest list (I’m sure there was a least one war criminal)?
  3. This isn’t even to discuss Markle’s complicity with all of this, which I will get to, but for me, Markle isn’t even close to being #woke, which has NOTHING to do with your skin color or experience, but rather being #woke is a mindset. You aren’t born #woke, and actually, in many social justice circles, we even speak of Black and Brown people who have colonized minds like Ben Carson, like Barack Obama, like Rubio or Cruz, who have been destructive men of color. #woke, instead, is a state of being, is a state of learning and analyzing, is an act of always decolonizing the world around you. Markle, then, is far from this definition. She has done nothing for people of color–which, by the way, I don’t expect her to, nor should any person of color feel obligated to help the oppressed. But let me just say that if you choose to participate or condone oppression, like Markle does, then sit in that and don’t twist it to be a communal victory that a bi-racial woman married a white man. It ain’t no victory for the rest of us, in actuality, and instead it’s a set-back…

 

But MOST IMPORTANTLY, there is nothing #woke about marrying or being involved with or befriending a person of color. And in calling this a #woke wedding that is changing the British imperial white monarchy is making the event a set-back for people of color. Let me explain.

First, let me express again that no person of color is born being #woke. So where did this idea of inherent #wokeness based on skin come from?

This is an idea that white liberals propagate in order to push their agenda: if they have a Black Marvel CEO, then they’re diverse and good to go (even if it’s anti-Semitic and still heavily white cast-wise); if they have a Black president, racism is over (despite Obama being the president to deport the most Latinx in eight years of any US president, and that’s not even to mention the drones in the Middle East, or the #blacklivesmatter movement); if they have a Black friend or grew up in a Black neighborhood, then they understand the Black experience.

That’s not how experience works; that’s not how diversity works; that’s not how democracy works. It’s not a quota. It’s not a checklist. It’s not based on skin color.

But white liberals profit from us believing that #wokeness is transferred via skin color–that one Black friend, that one Black president, that one Latino principal, that one Black CEO, that one Black female poet. Somehow, white liberals can then argue and scheme that “things are changing” when life hasn’t changed for the mortality rates of Black babies born in the South or in the Bronx, for the Arab grocery store owners in the ghetto, for the Latinx immigration status. Change isn’t through an individual! It never is. Change is through a communal, local uprising and upheaval. But the ideology of the individual that white liberals and upper class people of color spread secures their spots on Wall Street and Congress, while leaving communities to figure out how not to drown, alone.

Thus, the ideology of the individual rising is merely an ideology and not a reality.

Secondly, if we know this, then we can then say that, white liberals use this excuse from actual change and actual interaction. White liberals aren’t interested in a Nigerian family in the Bronx who are struggling to pay rent, despite the father having a medical rent; white liberals don’t care about the Egyptian they’re about to deport, while the rest of his family stays here; they don’t care about the Guatemalan man whose skeleton is somewhere between the Mexican and US border. What they care about is a Black doctor who has made it (i.e. Ben Carson) or the bi-racial actress who has made it (i.e. Meagan Markle) because neither of these characters are “too Black”–they ain’t no Malcolm X or Angela Davis; instead, Carson and Markle comfort whiteness by speaking English, voting and graduating college and going to fancy restaurants with a white chef and the menu items aren’t difficult to pronounce.

Thus, not only is focused on an individual, but the ideology of transferring #wokeness through skin (from someone dark to someone light) is also based on a particular kind of individual who doesn’t make white liberals uncomfortable. Thus, we don’t see a Jamaican baker from London marrying Harry, or a Latina single mother run on the Republican ballot (or any ballot for that matter). We don’t find people who fail to be white succeeding in European-dominate (or -colonized) spaces.

Again, this single white-passing (in mindset, not in skin color) person hurts his/her community by providing whites with the means to define success as possible *if only you submerge yourSelf in whiteness.* This continues to legitimize whiteness as human-ness and Black/Brown-ness as something sub-human.

Thirdly, then, when the transference occurs–white people becoming #woke for having a Black friend or marrying a Latina–white people then believe that they have inherently changed, progressed, but in actuality are still participating in racist ideology which oppresses people of color.

This, then, teaches people of color that we should not allow ourselves to be used as tokens against our own communities. We should refuse to be sanctified by white people’s holy water and mist; we should fight against being accepted because perhaps our hair is straighter than our sisters or our jobs are higher-paying than our sisters or our skin is lighter than our brothers or our English leans to whiteness than our brothers. Who we are should not be used as a weapon, and even though it’s not our fault that it is and that it is tokenized by white liberals and conservatives, we should learn to see the signs and resist.

The signs are as a simple as being individualized and glorified–especially if this individualized glorification comes without merit, like Markle’s case, but often, it can arise from circumstances where we have worked hard in our companies, in our classes, or in our projects and feel as though we deserve some recognition. But if this recognition, despite being well-deserved, is coming from a white audience, you’re going down a wrong path–a path that only glorifies yourself at the sake of your community and other communities.

Instead, and not to sound overly religious (but as y’all know, for me, all things return to religion anyway), be humble and center your eyes on your community. What are their needs, not your needs.

There’s another example that we can briefly see before I conclude about a more positive example than Markle, and that’s Mohammad Salah, the Egyptian football player. I read this awful New York Times article about Mo Salah’s presence on the Liverpool team being a sign against Islamophobia and racism in the UK–which is bogus and doesn’t surprise me that a white person wrote it (i.e. Rory Smith). First of all, as discussed, one cannot say that the UK is getting less racist because of an individual–especially an individual that they are using for entertainment. That’s like saying that LeBron James is changing racism against Black people. That’s absolutely ridiculous. That’s not how racism works, white people. Again, racism isn’t an individual phenomenon, but rather a prejudice and a power over (a) group(s). Secondly, how can one even argue this when Brexit occurred two years ago because of extreme xenophobia (and particularly Islamophobia) in the UK? Not only that but the very manifestation of white nationalism and white ideology has been rampant, always, but particularly also now with protests by white nationalists in London. The article, then, is a disgrace for arguing against racism without understanding how racism works, and also for how it completely overlooks continued racist appearances in London and throughout the UK whether through policy like Brexit or white nationalist protests or social (and less known to white people)/personal racism against Muslims.

So as white people focus on Mohammad as a token for their own imagined “progress,” while white-European nations still wallow in third-world mentalities, Brown people in Egypt cheer Mohammad Salah for his generosity and goodness, as he offers more opportunities for children in his community to be children by building and funding recreational facilities and training. He marks a difference from Markle who uses her tokenism to promote white ideology that diversity is through the numbers/quotas and not by changing mindsets (which will inherently bring on a numerically diverse group); instead, Salah’s intentions are centered on the oppressed and helping in a way he can (donating generously back to his community that uplifted him instead of to white organizations that fund him). Salah is a example to follow, although he isn’t perfect, as true help would come from people away from the limelight like Mother Maggie in Egypt (and the countless others who are unnamed and continue to help others around the world without fame).

Markle, on the other hand, whether one wants to categorize her as a white woman or a Black woman or a bi-racial woman–or let her identify herself (as would be my opinion), isn’t a paradigm for any person interested in practicing social justice. And, in my opinion, her name shouldn’t even be mentioned in our circles, as there is nothing there to analyze–it ain’t that deep.

This is not to say that every person of color must choose his/her community, must choose to serve our communities. Just because you’re Black doesn’t mean you have the obligation to help Black people. I know that, and I believe that. That’s fine. If you, as a person of color, choose to work outside or against your communities, ain’t no one need you. That’s fine. BUT when–and I say “when”–you become a piece for white eyes, don’t call it #wokeness and don’t call it your own merit because it wasn’t your merit that got you there–to the royal palace or to the White House–but rather your closeness to whiteness whether in skin, in speech, in skill, in culture, in likeness, in fashion, in ideologies. Don’t call it #wokeness, and don’t look at our communities to save you, after you’ve lost yourself.

Because no matter the color of your skin, as James Baldwin argued, you can still be white; “whiteness,” Baldwin said so famously, “is a mindset.” Likewise, being #woke is a mindset too that isn’t transferred or inherited, but rather curated and humbly always learning and acting in ways that inconvenience yourSelf for the sake of the communities of the oppressed.

The Difference between Presentation and Representation

Black Panther isn’t just a good “superhero” movie; it truly has elevated the bar for a discussion in Hollywood about representation–not just of Black peoples, but also of women, of “villains” in storytelling, of nation-state paradigms, of what progress looks like, of what a cinematic is and should be, of what art is and should be on an individual and communal level.

There’s much I could write about Black Panther, especially since something pops up and shines every time I watch it, but what draws my attention every time is just how brilliantly Ryan Coogler, as he does in all his films, marks a difference between presentation and representation. (I strongly recommend his other films; the ones I have seen and loved are Fruitvale Station and Creed; his interviews are also so engaging and intriguing.)

In media, whether it’s Hollywood or radio or CNN or newspapers, representation of people of color is defined as presence–that is, as long as we hire dark-skinned people, we’re representing Black people(s) well. Hollywood believes if they have Denzel Washington and Kerry Washington, then they’ve represented Black people(s) because Black people are present. Of course, Latinx, Middle Eastern and Asian peoples have this sam discourse happening–that representation is evaluated based on their presence and not their voices–but their “representations” are not ones that the United States emphasizes as often.

Anyway, there’s a problem in believing that representation is presentation. This is a white liberal solution, of course, and it has two major issues:

  1. It continues and upholds the conservative narrative that people of color are tokens: Don Lemon on CNN, Kayne on the Kardashians, a Black executive in Marvel. White liberals are not challenging conservative ideology at its heart; they divert and squirm, and cause the second problem….
  2. And the second problem is that, in saying that they’ll include Black peoples in film and media and entertainment, white liberals meticulously choose the narratives. Don Lemon can’t completely disparage the United States–the country that has loved him and his ancestors–and instead he must be a patriot, fight for what’s “American” and define with the white liberals what’s “un-American” (read: white conservatives); Kayne must support white culture and participate in it while never having a reciprocity of exchange; the Black executive at Marvel fills the quota for voices of millionaires all strung together, stroked to sing the same tune.

Presentation, then, is not representation because presentation is tokenism; it’s not challenging white culture or history. Thus, we see, since the beginning of film, Black peoples were prominently cast…as rapists, murderers, villains. They were presented as white men and women wanted them to be presented. Today, we have not grown as much: we still have Black peoples strutting as silhouettes of an administration, culture, and sphere they have accepted as the standard (that is, whiteness).

Representation, though, is what we truly strive for and what we truly lack today. Representation is the reflection of the individual within a body of true contexts that crush the standards white men and women have made for humanity. Instead of white English, a Latina mother speakers Spanish to her children and broken English to the Black cashier in Wal-Mart (with no subtitles); the Indian father eats the sticky rice with his hands; the Egyptian child sleeps in a galabiyya during the hot nights in Louisiana; the Latino mechanic is afraid his son is forgetting Spanish and won’t be able to speak to his grandmother when they travel to Venezuela in two months; the Nigerian taxi driver who can’t pay his bills because most his earnings go back home; the Syrian refugee who is praying fagr (dawn prayers) and then makes peanut butter-jelly sandwiches for the children to take for lunch.

These are a few representations, and what representations show us is that identity is fluid, constructing.

Black Panther, then, represents humanity very well–perhaps one of the best films to do.

The villain in Black Panther is arguably also the hero of the story, and he’s given a hero’s death, challenging the concept that the slaves captured in West African and shipped miles to be ripped of themselves were weak. Killmonger’s point is never disparaged–it’s countered, but never disparaged. His concerns, his narrative, are legitimate, even to a people who do not know what enslavement can be; there’s empathy and a lesson there for humanity. His end comes, though, because he hurt the innocent, not the guilty–yet in the end, T’Challa weeps for him, wanting even to save him and let him live. And in such a powerful gesture, Killmonger chooses death, and as many African spiritualities will say: death is not the end, but a beginning.

T’Challa is, of course, the hero too, and he is represented not as this demi-god, which, again, was brilliant. Already, in the first scene with him rescuing Nakia, Okoye the general tells him not to freeze, and we see him freeze upon seeing Nakia. Not only does this bring questions of defining masculinity, but T’Challa as powerful as he is, he remains human: he needs a counsel to help him; he is nothing without the women who defend him and the people who support his rule. T’Challa actually does few things without any help, and this isn’t meant to be taken, again, that he is weak, but instead it is to be interpreted that our strength as a people is in each other–not the individual. Again, these notions of human flaws in all and community are African/Asian emphases, which counter capitalist, Western Enlightenment, colonial thinking.

Moreover, Africa–a continent–which can easily be reduced is instead celebrated with Ethiopian script written, lip plates as the River Tribe’s symbol (while he also wears a suit–which was ingenious of Coogler and the costume designer, Ruth Carter), the language is Xhosa, the sticks perturbing out of the buildings harken back to Timbuktu and the need for the architects to use the earth to build their civilization but also to hold the earth together in mounds, etc.

Most importantly, the representation of women in this film is remarkable!! As Lupita Nyong’o says in an interview, paraphrasing, “There’s an expression: ‘Behind every great man is a great woman.’ But in Wakanda, the expression is: ‘Beside every great man is a great woman.'” Women represent scientists with pop culture references, a spy who resurrects the king and saves the kingdom, a general who fights ruthlessly for justice, a mother who mourns and distrusts and honors, a priestess who leads in a vacuum. Women doesn’t counter each other: they disagree (such as Okoye refusing to help Nakia search for T’Challa); they differ. But they, in all this, support something greater than themselves–they serve humanity–and hence, even in disagreement, they find convergence in the end.

Black Panther succeeds because it doesn’t flatten conflict, but rather it engages these issues to the core; it succeeds because it represents humanity in such a powerful way that goes beyond the bounds of identity; it succeeds because it draws before a Western audience a world that is different–that has a different culture, legacy, discourse–and yet for a Western audience it resonates.

I mention this because I heard a white man state that he gives Black Panther a 9/10 simply because “the film isn’t for him.” So he missed the whole point. No, white man, it’s particularly for you. This film is highlighting what true representation–by its real definition–looks like. Black peoples are not just present; they are alive, they are human. They fight, they love, they save each other, they long, they laugh, they hope, they despair, they search for Truth, they learn, they don’t learn, they rejoice–and within that they there is an I who should stand inside and outside the boxes of identity. This film, then, teaches us that humanity–unlike with what white history and culture and education have indoctrinated us–is more than an identity; humanity is a living, is a life. So, moreover, Black Panther isn’t necessarily a Black movie, even though it has its place and resonance in Black history, it’s a human movie that pushes the implications for humanhood beyond white standards, beyond the presentation of a Black body (puppeteered by whiteness). 

Let’s Redefine Violence: A Case Study of Palestine

For those in my life, you know that I’m in the process of studying for my master’s in Middle Eastern Studies, and because my interest is in marginalized identities in the Middle East, particularly Copts in Egypt, Christian and Muslims in Palestine, and Assyrians in Syria and Iraq–that my master’s thesis will re-examine the Israeli dehumanizing narrative of Palestinians with a purpose to redefine “violence.”

This is a topic that I’ve been thinking about for a long time, especially since I live in the United States, and that history in this country–“African Americans are lazy” and “Latinos are illegal”–proves to be extremely violent in how it portrays the most vulnerable, and certainly how it portrays the most powerful as benevolent, endearing, charming, docile.

Anyway, a similar, sad phenomena is happening in Palestine, and we’ve seen this rehashed in the media recently because Donald has announced that he’s moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.

What’s the big deal?

First, one must understand what Donald is doing and his current elopement with Israeli politics. The US Embassy must be stationed in the capitol of the country, so the US Embassy of Egypt is in Cairo; the US Embassy of Kenya is in Nairobi; the US Embassy of Greece is in Athens, etc. For Israel–that Jewish colonial state in Palestine–the US Embassy used to be in Tel Aviv. Since the right has been in power in Israel, Netanyahu (the prime minister) has urged that the US take the first step in violating (yet another) UN regulation; Netanyahu asked Obama, who rejected the proposal although he didn’t do much else to not support Israel, and now Netanyahu, seeing the fool we have as a president, has gotten the bankrupt daddy’s boy to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, a city that is under international jurisdiction (that is, it’s not under any country, any jurisdiction, other than that of the United Nations because, using the logic of the UN, if all of you brown people want it, none of you get it). So this moving of the US Embassy is the first international step in recognizing Israel’s dominance in the area and its legitimacy in colonizing the West Bank (which I will explain later).

Now, a little about Jerusalem for those with less religious proficiency.

Jerusalem was conquered by the Jews, slaves, after leaving Egypt; they conquered the city from the Canaanites because this land was the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the forefathers of the Hebrews (“from Hebron”) before they were enslaved in Egypt. So, upon their return home, after centuries of slavery, they arrive to capture Jerusalem. Fast forward: we see the Israelites/Hebrews/Jews, after conquering the land and settling, asking God for a king, so that they can be like the other nations. God is saddened that His people do not prefer Him as a ruler (1 Samuel), but He grants them their desire and chooses Saul. Saul turns evil, and long story short (it’s honestly a good read), David becomes king of Israel, and because David loves God, he vows to build a temple to house God. Now, David competes a grave sin, and God forgives him, but gives him a punishment and also says to David that he cannot build the temple, that his hands have too much blood on them. Fast forward: David’s son from Bathsheba, Solomon, takes on the task of building the Temple for God, builds it all in gold from Africa, etc. This is the first Temple. It is destroyed by the Babylonians who invade Judea/Israel, and then the Jews come back from Babylon to Judea and they rebuild the Temple a second time (read Nehemiah in the Bible), and this is the Second Temple. Fast forward: Jesus arrives on earth in the flesh and preaches at the Second Temple. Forty years after Jesus is given the death penalty, in 70 CE, Romans are fed up with the Jews and they destroy the Second Temple, and all that remains in Jewish memory is the Temple Mount–that foundation piece of the Temple that used to stand. Today, it is a site of mourning and prayer (instead of animal sacrifice and repentance as it as in its high day).

That’s the importance of Jerusalem to the Jews. For the Christians, Jerusalem is key to Jesus’ ministry, and in particular, Jesus’ death penalty on the cross. The week before Jesus was arrested, “tried,” sentenced by the law to die, crucified, Jesus spent that last week in Jerusalem. So, naturally, it’s important to Christians also. Jerusalem, as Christ says right before entering it a second time, “how long I have longed to gather your children together,” (Matthew 23:37) is also a site of deep mourning.

For Muslims, the Temple Mount–not just Jerusalem–is a site of importance. Muhammad is said to have traveled to heaven, and to have seen the heavenly bodies, from Jerusalem, in his night dream. Because of this, there are two mosques built on top of the Temple Mount: Dome of the Rock (which is more of a monument than a mosque, since you can’t pray inside), and Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was the site of protests this past summer.

Hence, Jerusalem is important to all three religions.

Now, that’s just background. Let’s actually answer the question now: what’s the big deal? Why is moving the US Embassy and recognizing the Israeli capitol as Jerusalem so controversial? 

Let’s start with the British Mandate of Palestine.


After World War II, the Ottoman Empire, already ill, passed away, and Europe had already swept in like vultures to salvage the harvest. Of course, by the 1910s, colonialism was ousted as an evil thing–and slavery too–so white people had to think of another system.

They formed a League of Nations–mostly European ones, since most didn’t have nation-states anyway–and from themselves, to themselves, they legitimized colonizing sections of the Middle East under the name of “mandates.” The Mandate System is defined, by Europeans, as such: a European nation, like Britain, will take it upon itself to maintain, help, and take care of rich, diverse nations (that didn’t ask for it).

Now, it’s important to note that at this time the British and many other Europeans knew it was no longer profitable to colonize countries AND BE INVOLVED, as they had been in the Congo and in South Africa. It was too costly to be too involved–not only costly, but also morally unsound because now slaves could read and they had the Bible on their side. Therefore, the religious act had to be dumped for a new one, that also justified them not helping too much, and that was found in the Mandate System.

Anyway, the British had a mandate over Palestine and Iraq. But let’s focus on Palestine.

The British kept Jews separate from Christians and Muslims in Palestine, and I don’t just mean geographically: I mean, the British gave Jews weapons and justified the Jewish neighbors having militias while they didn’t do or allow the same for the Palestinians. The British sponsored a Jewish newspaper, Jewish universities, Jewish markets.

What does this naturally breed? (If you’ve ever babysat or even been a camp counselor, you can only imagine.) Palestinians couldn’t naturally compete: they worked for Jews, they tried to enroll in Jewish universities, they couldn’t form a government because there wasn’t a structure for it, etc. And making the Palestinians submissive to Jewish economics and politics was already a kind of violence, but as mentioned, the violence became worse when Jews, with big guns thanks to the British, began to ethnically purge Palestine (Deir Yassin is an important example of a village ethnically purged).

There were bombings; there were harassments and guns pulled by Israeli forces, and meanwhile, the British benefited in two senses:

  1. Jews were leaving Europe for Palestine, which is what anti-Semites wanted. Notice that Zionism–that is, Israeli/Jewish nationalism–is anti-Semitism because it agrees with anti-Semites that Jews don’t belong in Europe. This philosophy has created great division in Jews since its inception. Anyway, the British only sponsored the Jews in Palestine because they wanted Jews to leave Europe. Just like Hitler and many Germans.
  2. The British, while they created the violence and in-fighting, took the wealth up, drew up all the resources of the country.

That is until it became unprofitable, but now the British had created an image that allowed, in 1948, to keep that violence going–because brown lives don’t matter.


In early of 1948, another British colony declared freedom, but still under British influence, the subcontinent split into three distinct countries, “nation-states”: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. (NOTICE that the two “Islamic” countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh, are on opposite sides of each other. Whenever you study “post”-colonial societies, like India, South Africa, the United States, Palestine, etc., notice how white people always separate the minorities into distinct regions. Notice.)

There was extreme bloodshed as Muslims were made to migrate to distant lands, foreign lands (the subcontinent is large). Many were forced to pick up their stuff, Hindu and Muslim, and to leave: Muslims were stoned, Hindu houses burned.

Because when we make difference a difference instead of a similarity we should accept (that is, the notion that everyone–everyone–is different), we start to kill each other.

And the British, after recommending this to the League of Nations/United Nations, in May of 1948 of that same year recommended the same of Palestine: partition the region into two areas: Jewish vs. Christian/Muslim Palestinians.

The UN drew up a sketch of the partition and sent it to the Jewish and Palestinian delegates.

The Jews rejected the partition on the basis that they deserved more land to sustain them; meanwhile, the Palestinians, Christians and Muslims, peacefully rejected on the basis that it was wrong to even divide the land (for those who are Biblical scholars, this should remind you of the story of King Solomon’s court in which two mothers appear with one child and are arguing over whose child it is; King Solomon’s solution is to cut the child in half and give each woman half, and of course, the fake mother agrees because this would mean the other woman has lost her son and is, thus, even, but the real mother cries out and begs that King Solomon not kill the child, and King Solomon deems this mother the true one).

For those who call Palestinians terrorists, you have obviously not studied the situation because terrorism is not fighting for freedom, but rather terrorism is making monsters of men.

Palestinians have been of the most peaceful peoples to protest injustice, and they’ve lost much in less than 100 years, so the offensive, senseless, ignorant statements of “Palestinian terrorism” is really, honestly sickening.

The UN, upon both parties’ rejection, goes back to the drawing board, but the Jews know that the British said that they’re leaving May 15, 1948, and like any colonizer, the Jews state that they are afraid of being alone, take up their weapons and start a war with the Palestinians, kill them, pillage their land, drive them into two distinct sections of Palestine: the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians, no weapons, no violence, have lost their homes, their schools, their land, and more importantly, they are farmers, and now, tossed into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, both arid lands, the land is so barren–it only soaks up their tears.

With no home, no land to farm, the Palestinians are forced to work for Israeli businesses, forced to give thanks to Israelis for giving them these businesses, while Israelis import their food from elsewhere, and Palestinians, farmers by trade, work in factories to this day.


This is a photo of the UN Partition Plan of 1948 that both the Jews and Palestinians rejected:

 

Now, these four maps show you clearly what is happening. In 1947, the minority, the Jews, don’t have much of a presence. They’re slim and living with the Palestinians who accompany them.

In 1948, Israeli forces with Western weapons attack Palestinians and take more land.

In 1967, Israel, again under the disguise of being afraid that Egypt will attack, begins bombing Egypt and the West Bank and Gaza. They take even more territory, capturing, this time, East Jerusalem. That is why, in the 1967 map, the West Bank and Gaza and the Golan Heights are shaded: it’s still considered under Palestinian political control, but the Israeli military colonizes these areas–these areas which, before, they had so generously given to Palestinians.

And, finally, in 2005, a Wall goes up and Israeli forces still have military control over Palestinian lands. And now, in 2017, Palestinians have also lost Jerusalem.

What’s important to note:

  1. How “afraid” Israel is, yet we do not hear of Palestinian fear–which is actual, justified fear
  2. How Israel defies the United Nations, capturing Jerusalem, even though it’s under international jurisdiction, militarizing the West Bank and Gaza, etc. The UN is a prop for Western governments to justify themselves legally; it has no power, no honesty in human rights, no accountability of white people. It’s merely a tool for white countries.

 

Tell me, who’s the bad guy in all of this?

There is no such thing as parallel narratives, no such thing as “he said-she said.” There is only Truth, and those who lie about the Truth because it does not benefit them. Israel is lying, and that is the Truth.


In 1967, Israel took over half of Jerusalem, leaving the other half for Palestinians supposedly, and in the act of capturing Jerusalem, disobeyed international law concerning Jerusalem.

Since then, they’ll ethnically purged Jerusalem, building colonizing settlements there and kicking out residents. They’ve made it that few Palestinians live in Jerusalem, even though before 1967, the Palestinians did not kick out or commit violence against Jews in the West Bank, in Jerusalem. It’s only when Israel comes in that Palestinian lives are made to leave.

The regime in Palestine has done this in order to legitimize its takeover. Gaza and the West Bank are now under two different and separate governments (Hamas and Fatah respectively), and Israel benefits not only from the geographical separateness of the Palestinian cause, but also from the political separateness.

And slowly, slowly, Israel eats at Palestinians. Gaza has no medicine; hospitals and schools are bombed regularly; settlements are continually being built next to Palestinian ghettos; Palestinians are made to pass the checkpoint at the Wall when entering their country in order to work in Israel–they have to have papers in order to move and work after being displaced, much like Americans in the United States (that is, “Native” Americans), much like Black people in South Africa.

What happens in Israel is not new; it’s a crime against humanity that repeats under a new justification and logic.


This past summer, there were protests at Al-Aqsa Mosque in which Palestinians were hosed and shot at by IDF (Israeli Defense Forces, which had started out as the Irgun, a terrorist organization under the British Mandate era). Christians and Muslims in Palestine saw this coming; they knew the Israeli colonizers were coming for Jerusalem.

They knew they were going to lose again, not just the land but also the symbol of great suffering comforted by God because that is what Jerusalem, in the end, means for Muslims and Christians: there is a heaven to which we return, to which we resurrect. When Donald took that dream away from Palestinians, allowing now the full ethnic purging of Jerusalem and eventually the West Bank (as Palestinians are pushed further out and out of their own land), he participated in this violence as his predecessors had because, for the United States, peace and freedom are only ideas of the lips, not actual and true ideals to instate, of course–because that would mean there would be no United States, no Israel.


What can I do?

Stay woke.

Like on facebook the following pages: The Institute of Palestine Studies; Mondoweiss; Humanity for Palestine. There is a huge and encompassing Israeli lobby in the United States (surprise, surprise), so it’s very rare on campus/at work/etc. to actually find people who know anything and are pro-Palestine, so I would stick to these sites.

For those who are readers, please check out Ilan Pappe’s work.

BOYCOTT, DISINVEST, AND SANCTION Israel 

Don’t buy Israeli products (yes, they’re made by Palestinians in factories, but supporting a regime that is making most of the profit is not good for the Palestinians long-term); don’t eat at any Middle Eastern-themed restaurant owned, operated, cooked up by an Israeli; don’t VISIT Israel, especially to carry Christ’s cross in Jerusalem–that’s disgustingly ironic.

Instead, buy Palestinian goods at Palestinian stores; actively search them out. Say “Palestine” as much as possible when referring to that area, and refer to Israel, instead, as the Jewish state in Palestine. Don’t say “Israeli” anything–there is no such thing as Israeli food or culture!! The Jewish state in Palestine itself is made up of different kinds of Jews, so standardizing one food or culture is actually erasing other cultures (which is why Black Jews in Israel are protesting).

Don’t erase; uplift. I am not free until we all are.

In the words of the poet, Kahlil Gibran: “And how shall you rise beyond your days and night sunless you break the chains which you at the dawn of your understanding have fastened around your noon hour? In truth that which you call freedom is the strongest of these chains, though its links glitter in the sun and dazzle your eyes.”

 

People of Color Who Write

Honestly, I found this post-it note that I had written out for someone who had asked me which authors of color I recommended (fiction-side), and I thought to write them on here to see those authors I’ll add in the future–because I’m a stickler for memory. (And because of my recent visit to a “liberal” bookstore that priced the authors of color at extreme prices, so as to place them at an unreachable level for students like myself and so the authors of color don’t make much anyway from the low sales.)

Anyway:

  • Khalil Gibran: The Prophet 
  • Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things
  • Khaled Hosseini (anything–he has the quintessential Middle Eastern folk-teller turned author feels, although he’s a doctor, I think, by trade)
  • Nella Larson: Passing
  • Andrea Levy: The Long Song and Small Island 
  • Toni Morrison: Beloved and Bluest Eyes
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: The Namesake
  • Marjane Satarapi: Persepolis
  • Tayeb Salih: Wedding of Zein (or his more famous work which I haven’t read: Migration to the North)
  • Naguib Mahfouz’s short stories
  • Zora Neale Hurston: Their Eyes Were Watching God
  • Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo 

 

Authors I’m hoping to read their fiction:

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Jorge Luis Borges
  • Sayed Kashua
  • Rupi Kaur
  • James Baldwin
  • Junot Diaz
  • Zadie Smith
  • Octavia Bulter
  • Jesmyn Ward
  • Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Alex Haley’s Roots
  • Chiuna Achebe
  • Nicola Yoon
  • Celeste Ng

 

Of course, there are always many more to discover and support–much sharing is appreciated.

“The State Protects Us from Tribalism”

Studying the Middle East, or, for that matter, any non-European entity or peoples, one will often hear in lecture, in a crowded room of dark-circles-under-their-eyes youth that the creation of a State provided humanity with diversity, progress and growth.

For instance, in discussing Arabia before the birth of Islam there, we’ll hear something on the lines of: “Arabian society was based on the notion of tribalism. Your family protected you from other families, and most of the time this family was imagined in lineage, etc. Blah blah blah.”

And because the field of Middle Eastern Studies is so occupied by white and male people, it’s a difficult notion to grasp that tribalism isn’t backward, nor is it a death to (genetic) diversity, nor does it kill population/urban growth. It’s difficult to explain to white people because, living in the United States or Europe, means that they are naturally blind to that state–the tribe formation of a state they have made.

I’ll argue that, in actuality, nation-states are inherently racist and state-formations are tribalistic in the truest sense of the definition, while “tribalism” of Africa and Asia is a more progressive, diverse and strengthening human development.

In sticking with our points, white people will note that the state does three things (which I will elaborate):

  1. States/governments provide the means for progress, such as organizing patents so no one steals ideas from each other, providing funds to the art and such, providing welfare to the needy on behalf of everyone.
  2. States/governments offer humans the opportunity of diversity through the citizenship process. (Lol.)
  3. States/governments allow cities/urban areas to flourish, which in turn, strengthen human growth and family, which means more ideas, more innovation, more togetherness (instead of constant in-fighting).

On the other hand, many white academics claim that tribalism does the opposite: that it stifles progress through lack of funds and gathering of resources, that it crushes diversity as one marries from within the family, and that it impedes the ability for humans to flourish together in an urban environment.

Okay. Now that we have the white academic argument laid out, let’s look at the rebuttal: the state, as created by European philosophers and intellects and politicians and monarchs, and sustained by their people, poor and rich, woman and man, upholds the very negative definition white people have given tribalism.

  1. Concerning progress, we know that the European state doesn’t stimulate the minds and doesn’t protect the bodies of all its citizens. Formed on the basis to give white landowners rights against the ruler, European “democracy,” in actuality, is made to upload and sustain the rich of its given society whether in Germany or in the United States. Hence, when they want to stimulate minds of its scientists and artists, those grants are given to white people at a profound rate, since the science and art of its slaves and laborers aren’t worth the taxes these Brown and Black give to the State. It’s not worth returning it to them, to stimulate their minds. Moreover, the European state only sustains the white poor; as analyzed in this Huffington Post article, most of the people who receive welfare in the United States are actually white people (white women to be specific). Thus, the European state, and the one Europeans formulated in America, only promotes its white citizens, rich or poor, woman or man. Progress is only for its white citizens. Hence, we have stories of Black women succeeding in STEM fields and still not being honored; hence, we have laborers who keep European states afloat and yet they are hated for “taking the money of the state,” ironically. Progress is only for its white people. Progress of the body is for white people. Progress of the mind, even if innovated by people of color, is stolen. Progress is only for its white citizens. So that, much like their definition of tribes, white society savagely crushes its slaves and laborers in order to feed itself–and itself alone. Much like a barbaric tribe they describe, no?
  2. While European states and the United States offer paths to citizenship for those who are non-white (which, in the United States, is a bit ironic for white people to handle anyhow), this path requires that the person of color shed off herself and become white. They must learn German to be German, and English to be “American” (although the only true Americans are those on reservation camps). And they must know the over-glorified history of white people in order to be accepted, while white citizens are not expected to know this history, merely because they are white and their citizenship is derived from their race (not their knowledge of a language or history). Moreover, I would be remiss not to mention that paths to citizenship in European states are costly, a heavy burden, to ensure those who want to be white take the classes and submerge themselves in it, so that those non-white citizens–those citizens of color of any European nation-state–are not themselves, they throw off their culture that is good and noble, and they put on the new industrious culture and language of whiteness. I’m not going to go into how evil and how backward this is for society–how many languages we’ve lost, or even things such as ways for natural-hair girls to wrap their hair at night (this all had to be rediscovered among the woke). This is a silencing of diversity–it’s an illusion. We have so many Brown and Black bodies, but all of them, through the ideals of citizenship (which is a racist concept anyway), are manufactured to be white as stone. And once people of color become white, they are then told, “See! Now you can become like us–CEOs, managers, and innovators!” while they–white men and women–still hold the reins tight against us, people of color. Those who agree to the contract “to become white” are given recommendations to higher levels of power and authority, because white people won’t fear them, and those who refuse like our grandmothers or our fathers are meant to sweep the streets as punishment. Don’t be deceived: the European definition of the barbarity of the tribe in punishing Others and in protecting exclusively its own is the very definition of the white mega-tribe. Hence, we have cops killing Black lives more than any other, pulling over new immigrants to this country and finding the inhumanity within themselves to ship people against their will. Hence, our prisons are filled with Black people who refuse to obey, not criminals. Hence, British detention centers for refugee families are open and running and shipping human bodies as though God had nothing to be with them. Hence, Germany ships back refugees to Greece, pushing tensions to create a damaged economy, in order to hold its own self up. Hence, those who fail citizenship tests are meant to pay again, travel further and further away to get it. Europe and the United States are the definition of a white mega-tribe.
  3. And, lastly, concerning the European definition that tribes in Africa and Asia are unable to build cities and flourish in an urban environment. The first cities were in the Middle East, and today, Cairo has a larger population than New York City, so let’s not joke around. The Middle East in particular is the very definition of city from Cairo to Tripoli to Beirut and Damascus to Aleppo and Jerusalem and Amman and Sana’ and Baghdad and Haifa and Alexandria to Mosul and Tehran. Don’t play: Middle Easterners taught white people how to even begin to build a city. And these cities were built by tribes that came together and shared their resources–and I don’t mean in the European sense that one white family helped another white family to make France; actually, we know that Egypt was one of the more diverse sections of the world, welcoming all: Hebrews, Persians, desis, Assyrians, Nubians, Babylonians, etc. Egyptians were capable of working with other cultures and tongues to construct a society of diversity, pulling Asia and Africa together. These diverse societies, while they conquered each other over and over, rarely brought their supremacy to the forefront; instead, they melded and molded, so that we see Daniel becoming a minister in Babylonia and Joseph second in command in Egypt and Abraham being welcomed into Pharaoh’s court and Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, giving advice to Moses about setting up a judicial system and Moses marrying an Ethiopian woman (as his second wife) and Rahab the woman of Jericho being saved by the Israelites and Ruth the Moabite being welcome by the Israelites as well and Esther being accepted as a Jew in Babylonia and her uncle Mordecai as a minister as well. And in Muhammad’s biography, centuries after, we know he spoke to Christians–Ethiopians and Assyrians and Copts. We know he married a Copt, and that Ethiopian Christians were seen as wise and prophetic and Assyrian Christians were his teachers. Meanwhile, the Jews of Yathrib welcomed Muhammad. This used to be the way of the world: welcoming and mingling and accepting. But by the rise of the nation-state and nationalism, we have lost that. The world has lost that.

 

It’s clear that when Europeans define a tribe so negatively, they seem to be unaware that they are truly describing their own police-state, racist/nationalistic, white mega-tribal countries. I’ve never understood why Europeans are so jealous of what Brown and Black have created, even when bound with slavery or colonialism. But it’s clear that they are, and that these white insecurities have become the death of many innocent. And not just the physical kind of death. But also the the death of cultures and tongues and livelihoods–all lost in the scramble for Europe to find an identity, any identity, while we used to flourish.

What It Means To Be a Minority

Many of you have heard the infamous story: I’m in my Israeli Cinema class (a mistake) with mostly white-passing Jews. I forget if we’re speaking about Arabs in Palestine under the Israeli state, or if we’re speaking about Druzes in Palestine under the Israeli state, but anyway, the professor says, “Have any of you ever felt like a minority?”

Of course, these white-passing Jews don’t say anything, and then suddenly, out of the silence, because he has to say something, Jason says, “Well, in middle school, I was in band. And I played the clarinet. And I was the only boy.”

People thought that that was funny.

Well, let me clarify why it’s not funny.

Being in a minority, anywhere in the world, doesn’t have to do with numbers. Such a literal interpretation erases white privilege that carries worldwide, so that even if the white man is the only white man in a business room in China, he still carries his privilege as his command of English is the imposed new order and as his citizenship and cultural background has suppressed (and continues to suppress) Chinese people. Even though he’s a “minority” in the country.

Thus, if we define minority as a numerical definition of being, then we’re ill-conceived of the world’s reality.

Rather, we should define minority as a conceptual state of oppression. Minorities, worldwide, whether Copts or Blacks or Rohingya Muslims, experience a state of constantly having to climb, to ascend; their state–from their birth to their living–will remain as such. Even if they become doctors and lawyers and researchers, excelling in their fields, these achievers are still minorities in that even at an all-white party in the States they’re seen as the brilliant exception for their people, seen as a notable star crafted as the best and the only. (And the best is the defined by how white you are, not how good, how loving, how nourishing you are towards other humans; best-ness in the United States is defined by how much one assimilates into white culture and language).

Thus, to be a minority is never to stop climbing; we’re always reaching, never to really achieve our truer selves–those truer selves that may like burgers and fries, but also enjoys Tasbeha on Friday nights or speaking Spanish at home with your grandmother.

This constant state of climbing (or your alternate is failing to provide for your family, or losing yourself, or struggling beyond bearability) creates a psychological deprivation. Those who ascend must lose something (and now I use the example of the Copt in the United States): time with family, the knowledge of Arabic and communication within the household, serving the Coptic community in some way (instead, to put it on the resume, they’ll serve outside, depriving their community of the youth’s organization and strength), their loss of power from their own history, the sense of goodness from their own background.

This psychological murder of loving one’s family, culture, background, and language–however full or not–happens to all people of color in the United States because, instead, another must substitute: love of white structure, culture, background, and language.

It’s so tragic that when you take this minority in a foreign land–for instance, a Guatemalan young man on DACA–and place him in the country of his ancestors, he won’t recognize it. And if you return the youth back to the United States, his soul is still restless, being cast out of white society, success and wealth.

This doesn’t happen to just immigrant minority peoples; it also happens to the indigenous who are displaced from the heritage of the land, such as (native) Americans who don’t live in the land as their ancestors did and, thus, had to quickly find the means to adapt to the harsh reality that the knowledge of their ancestors couldn’t help them reap the harvest here, now. Or Copts whose history is somehow displaced in Egypt. Or the Rohingya Muslims who are being killed, displaced, made to leave Myanmar.

Whether physical or not, minorities are pressed on all sides–made to feel not at home. Copts in Egypt, at one point, were forced to adopt Arabic in order to have functioning jobs, wealth, success in an Arab-Muslim world. (native) Americans and the Rohingya Muslims lost all, were made to lose all, in a world of purging.

Again, being a minority isn’t about a number against another number. It’s a history, it’s a modernity, it’s a legacy of teaching oneself and one’s tribe–however big or small–to hate oneself.

Thus, what it means to be a minority is to suffer that psychological breaking and disassociation with oneself and one’s tribe. Instead, as Jason described, a spotlight on one’s singularity and uniqueness in a room, minority-state, rather, is the feeling of isolation in the a blinded room, with no light to feel the warmth of better days.

Dictators Come in the Name of Unity

As a Middle Eastern Studies major (and graduate), I’ve studied dictators closely: Gadaffi, Hussein, Mubarak, Assad, etc. Each are a little different, granted, since dictators have to flexible in order to win their various populations, but they have a strong underlining tone that is similar: unity.

All of these dictators came at times to unify their various countries (through tragedies that came before them or the tragedies they made themselves). Gadaffi came after the revolution and forwarded the notion of pan-Islamism “to unite” Libya. Hussein started a war with Iran in the 1980s when he saw he needed a platform, an enemy, and that war ended up having the most deaths after World War II, and although no one won the Iran-Iraq War, Hussein won in projecting a false unity amongst his people against Iran, Shi’ism, and Persian culture; he strengthened Iraq’s Arab identity, killing Kurds and pushing Christians out. Likewise, Mubarak came after the assassination of Anwar a-Sadat, whose funeral was attended by Jimmy Carter and other US officials, and so as not to rock the boat with his friend (i.e. the United States), he further pushed the Egyptian market to a capitalist state, mentioning that she, Egypt, was going to be progressive, a leader, and in unity with one another. At the same time, though, Mubarak didn’t attend Coptic Christmas celebrations, nor did he address massacres in the 1990s while he was making a progressive and united Egypt. Similarly, Assad proclaimed that he, being British-educated, would revolutionize the country, Syria, to be progressive and united in its diversity; he isolated the majority of Sunnis and favored instead Christians and Shites.

There are, therefore, characteristics to a dictator:

  1. They come in times of turmoil. Or they create the turmoil to make them exist.
  2. They come in the name of unity and progress (while actively alienating others when they come into rule).
  3. They have friends–powerful friends.
  4. They have One Enemy who seems to be the cause of their problems. (And actually, like in the case of Saddam Hussein, the friend and One Enemy can be the same: the United States.)
  5. They believe that what they’re doing is correct and good and right. Thus, when there’s a revolution against them, they’re upset, disgruntled and confused.

Now, these Middle Eastern dictators were, notably, funded and supported–all of them–by the United States at one point or another. And I mean, their power was recognized as legitimate; they were given arms deals; they were heavily funded through US taxpayers’ money, etc.

Dictators are always supported because they, as you can see by their description, are themselves very weak personas. They can’t complicate a country’s problem to see multiple angles of wrongdoing (instead they create a One Enemy); they have friends who can also be their enemies in the long run; and they cannot evaluate themselves as sinners, only as saviors. And most importantly, in order to keep ruling their subjects, they must create distress, they must create fear and disunity and disloyalty, they must make their subjects understand that there is only one savior and that is he.

Moving across the ocean, we see another modern supported-dictator in the form of Trump. He didn’t win the electoral votes, nor did he even win as many as he did as strong evidence mounts to Putin’s support of him. Moreover, Trump exhibits all the characteristics of a Middle Eastern dictator:

  1. He creates turmoil. Ups the troops in Afghanistan, bombs Syria. Those are his active ways of creating turmoil, but his linguistic means of creating turmoil include referring to wars in the Middle East as a terror threat against the US (when actually, they’re terror threats against the innocent people living in the Middle East and are being bombed with the guerilla warriors); he mocks immigrants and Black people and invalidates their humanity and their oppression here and instead makes them the problem that the US must rid “themselves” of (he has yet to define “themselves”). He makes a Muslim ban. He removes DACA. He pardons terrorists. He says all of this in the name of “Make America Great Again.” Notice how in that very slogan he is directly disavowing progress and renewing conservative thinking, which is always backward-thinking. (Sidenote: I say that conservative thinking, whether in the US or in Syria or Bulgaria, is backward-thinking not because I disagree completely with Republicans in the United States, but rather because ideologically, conservatism is a myth and a dependent idea. There are no conservatives without there being liberals, mind you. You must have progress in order to have conservatives to clap back against progress. This is why progressives are independent of conservative thinktanks and can always submit bills that are new and innovative and constructive, while conservatives are always stuck. Always stuck. When we talk about a gridlocked Congress in the USA, we’re talking about a very conservative Congress, even if it’s majority Democrats. Conservatives can never go forward; they are merely a philosophy that literally faces backward and marches. This is why, in any country, I can never be a conservative. Because even if there are good things in our past, they cannot be redeemed in the same manner to be resurrected into today. It’s better to move and remodel that goodness instead of lingering somewhere in nowhere.)
  2. Trump’s platform obviously alluded to unity many times, advocating that the population of white people need to stand up and take their country again. We see this in Charlottesville. But when Trump says “Make America Great Again,” which sounds progressive, he is mentioning only white people in the USA, and not the immigrants and slaves who built these towers and businesses and roads and cities and economy. While he uses the term “America” a lot, he means to alienate severely the greatest parts of the US.
  3. Trump’s friends come from the old guard: Sessions, Bannon, Kelly. They’re either military or militant. They’re powerful either in their cunning racist personality or in their glory in the military (as glorified murderers).
  4. Notice how many of Trump’s staff have been fired? Yeah, his friends are also his enemies. But his proposed One Enemy is People of Color in all their colors: Muslims, Mexicans, “Inner-City People” in Chicago, etc. He wants a slow ethnic purging of the US: repealing DACA deports many, siding with the cops kills more Black people, pushing the Muslim Ban (even if it isn’t deemed legal, it nourishes and allows a society to hate those who do live here).
  5.  And in all of this, he can’t apologize because he hasn’t done anything wrong. During the second presidential debates, after the video of Trump admits to groping women without consent, the mediators asked him about it, and like his typical fashion, he said “it was locker room talk.” So instead of making his sin exceptional to himself, he normalizes it to all men. Hence, he can’t apologize. And he won’t for his continuing sins.

 

The United States is currently living in a dictatorship. Although I was never under the illusion that we lived in a democracy (if it’s formed in a sinful state of keeping slaves and not even allowing white women to vote, it’s not a democracy no matter how you slice it), the United States has reached a pinnacle point of its falsehood.

I had a high school teacher who would ramble about the fall of the United States and compare it to the Roman fall: external costly wars mingled with domestic upheaval and poverty and a government, rich and comfortable in their high towers, pushing both systems to keep themselves in power only to find they were hurting themselves the most. The armies made it to the gates of Rome and pillaged it, and while Rome reconstructed itself and was pillaged again, it did live on but never to its former essence of wealth and prestige.

Here comes the dictator to start that process for the United States. External costly wars to protect our “national security” but not others; domestic unrest at policies and economic disparity from white people, and Black and Brown people suffering from prison, poverty, and oppression; and a government so filled with the swamp that is Wall Street wanting both to fund wars and defund welfare and social security (literally).

Here comes the dictator. And here comes the breaking country, bending to his will, saying it’ll be another four years and that’s all, and then it breaks because it didn’t stand up to defend itself, the prisoners, the sick, the poor, the people of color.

Don’t be silent; stand up. Stand up and fight for unity–true unity.

Religion as the Stuff of Imagination

I am often told that I have a wild imagination. I even once had a friend who said she’d pay to be put in my mind for a day.

And as much as I am imaginative, I am religious. So it’s easy for some to see a correlation (even though there are plenty of religious people who don’t have imagination. Like at all).

Being religious doesn’t mean that I imagine a big Man in the sky who speak to me from time to time. Nor does it mean that I imagine angels about me and saints in the periphery, praying.

Secular, atheistic people often think and even infect others with the notion that religion is built on imagination, and for those who envy that imagination, but not wanting to take on any religion, they suggest creative games for their children. For instance, on Sunday mornings, taking your kid on a hike is the same as going to Church because it provides that same spiritual–imaginative–experience, where kids can imagine the acorns are their friends instead of the incense as clouds of heaven.

Now there are a few problems with this narrative.

One, it’s offensive to tell religious people that their religion is imaginative. I understand what you’re saying, but you’re using the wrong word.

Imagine means to form a mental image, to suppose, to assume.

But for religious people–be them Christian, Hindu, Muslim–God is not simply a mental image. God isn’t a conjuring of my mind, nor is She a conjuring of a group of people’s minds. God exists without me (and within me in Christian terms). God exists before and after me. God’s existence, as much as it has everything to do with mine, has nothing to do with me. God does not need humans; it is humans that need God, yet He has created us, given us His powers and authority.

Again, this is not a matter of a group of people’s or an individual’s mental image; this is about a physical and emotional presence. It’s not all in my mind. It’s when I see my mother smile after washing the dishes that I’m reminded of God and His giving her and keeping her to me; it’s when my brother watches tv with me that I’m reminded of God’s gifts towards me, giving me shelter, a family, and love out of no merit of my own.

Religious people, thus, live in a world where we don’t suppose or assume. We live in a world of thanksgiving and sacrifice and love. We live in a world not in our minds, but actually outside, where I am called to act on my thanksgiving with sacrifices of love.

Hence, it’s highly offensive to assume that my religion boils down to imagination. Especially when we know it’s much easier not to imagine God does not exist and that there is no judgment day and that this world is paradise. (You’d have to be really white to imagine this btw.)

 

The second issue this brings to me is what happens when we believe religion is imagination, and then we try to substitute it with something else. What I mean is, the second implication of religion being imagination is that religion is a lie. It’s made up. Well made up. Therefore, if I want to my child to be creative and imaginative, but not religious, I can and will make up lies for my child.

I’m always impressed by the number of white people who didn’t know Santa Claus was not real, that parents lied to their kids about something so fantastical yet so real.

What’s real about Santa Claus is that he offers presents to all.

What’s not real about Santa Claus is that he has elves, is white, lives in a white snowland and only operates once a year.

(Santa Claus himself is based off Saint Nicholas of Greece btw.)

What’s amazing is that white people couldn’t imagine a man–a religious man at that–would be so kind and generous and good as to offer presents, secretly and in silence, to children that they made a full lie about him. And what’s more is that there are kids in the US who have distinct memories of when they were told Santa wasn’t real. Amazing.

Anyway, my parents made imaginative kids, all three of us being writers in our own ways, but they never lied to us and called it imagination. They never made up stories surrounding reality; they said it how it was: there was a man in Greece who would put presents at the door of poor kids without them knowing his name.

What happens when we presume that religion is a lie and, therefore, justify lying to our own children? You actually create a society with less imagination and creativity because their world is so full of lies made to make them happy, instead of Truth to make them think of how to emulate saints and stimulate their world.

In other words, what happens when we lie outrageously about Tooth Fairies and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, is when we cover up great human errors that need creativity and imagination to solve them, such as growing up and having a changing body, people who actually don’t get presents on Christmas (because Santa isn’t real, kids), and that the true meaning of Easter isn’t yellow and white dresses with flowers but actually victory over death, a symbol of freedom in a freedom-less world. What happens when we lie is we cover up the Truth, and when we cover up the Truth, we’re covering up human-made disasters.

This is why Religion is so important. Because it’s–yup–not a lie. It’s the Truth. And the Truth is bold and piercing and open and in the Light.

Instead of lying to children about Santa Claus, tell them about a man long ago in Greece who did what is actually humanly possible: caring for the poor. Thus, instead of on Christmas white children will run to open their gifts, they’ll be taught instead to run to offer presents to their neighbors or to the orphans first.

Instead of taking pictures in bright-colored clothing on Easter, visit those in jail, write to them, or visit the sick–those who are bound in some way.

Instead of giving children money for their teeth, take a picture of the moment to remember it, as they won’t be the same again.

Instead of lying, therefore, tell the Truth, and open that door for our children to think creatively of alternatives to combatting the world’s woes. Let them hear stories of pain and distress from others, so that they can grow to empathize. Let them know the tragedies we have that we cannot fix without God. Teach them to pray, fast, serve, and tell the Truth. Teach them Religion instead.

Why Did God Harden Pharaoh’s Heart?

In high school, I was taught by an influential (by local standards) white male liberal; he was known, at the school, for being extremely vocal and very grumpy, but I enjoyed his humor and his viewpoints, though there were obvious problematic statements he made and justified to us. It was this white man that argued politics and religion as being symbols of each other: some people have politics as gods, and some worship God. It depends on what controls you: the powerful and worldly systems or God. (You see, the Orthodox of this world had already known this.)

As much as I learned from him in a positive way, I also learned much more from the negative way. One of his problematic statements came when he argued that God is cruel. You see, he’s a “Christian” humanist who, although going to Church often, believed that humans had a greater capability of Love than God.

His example that God is cruel and unloving comes from Exodus: God hardens the heart of Pharaoh from releasing the Hebrew slaves, all the while two things are happening–Egyptians (who are innocent) are being slaughtered and are suffering, and the Hebrews are still slaves, even receiving more grueling work from Pharaoh as a consequence for their rebellion (or rather God’s rebellion against Pharaoh). This is his perspective–a white perspective.


The fundamental question–why is God so violent?–kept popping up while I was in high school and most of my friends who were white were also atheists. It was a difficult question for me to answer then minus the fact of saying “God knows why, and that’s enough for me,” but I began to realize, while in college, that the difficulty of answering this question doesn’t come because it is a difficult question, but rather because of the secular, white, atheistic society we live in.

Our white United States presents the idea of compromise. When the #blacklivesmatter movement screamed, white people said, “Well, look at what the cops suffer everyday.” Before that, when MLK marched for more political and economic rights in the South, he was met with, “But you Blacks were better off now than in the slave era.” And before that, when slaves rebelled and were killed, they were met with, “It’s better to be a slave and have food and shelter and life than to rebel.”

The whole United States system is based on compromise: not giving even white women the right to vote, always threatening slaves that their “rights” were better than death, killing actual Americans who had fed and brought white people up, calling all mankind equal except for

Thus, it would be difficult with a country full of violence continually–but also a country continually attempting to erase this violence as it “becomes progressive” and “compromises”–to understand God…because what God does in Exodus would be a horrifying prospect to white people in the United States. It would hold them to be accountable not just for their actions, but also for their inactions.


The story in Exodus, written by Moses, is one of the greatest social justice stories. It’s one of my favorites because it is not one of compromise because this is not the nature of our God. The Truth isn’t built on compromise; humans formed compromise in order to function with sin (i.e. even though I know what Steve is doing is wrong, I will keep it a secret as he knows something on me and could get me fired as well). Compromise isn’t the answer to our solutions; it’s a band-aid at best and a horrific justification not to redress pain on the other.

Anyway, we see this in Exodus. (We see this in the history of the United States.)

We see in Exodus that a people has become enslaved because they have grown too powerful for Pharaoh and the Egyptians. (Two strategies were used to make sure whites became the majority in the United States–genocide of Americans and brutal enslavement of Black peoples.)

We see that the Hebrews cry to God, and God answers by taking a man who had committed murder, a man who grew up in the Egyptian household but was Hebrew–notice that there isn’t compromise, that Moses isn’t used to reconcile the oppressors with the slaves, which would seem to be the natural way, but instead Moses is there to fight for the Hebrews, who are the oppressed, against their oppressors. (This is what is lacking in our social justice movements: compromise with sin and oppressor to gain petty rights is not what brings us liberty in the end. Hence, the liberation story in the United States is not complete.)

Now, we get to the juicy part: God sends plagues upon all the Egyptians. Why? Because they are all guilty, not just Pharaoh. But what are the innocent Egyptians, who don’t have slaves, guilty of perchance? (But what are the innocent white people in the United States, who don’t know or don’t participate in the suffering of people of color, guilty of perchance?)

They are guilty of the following:

  1. Creating and participating in a system of government that has oppressed and continues to oppress, yet they don’t question it;
  2. Seeing the plight of the Hebrews and not questioning its immortality, its sinfulness;
  3. Becoming disproportionately rich off the sweat and blood of those who don’t have rights in your land;
  4. Being ignorant without an attempt to know and understand the guilt of your society.

The Egyptians are all punished then because of their inaction–their inability to realize and know that their wealth, their position, their society is poised on the back of oppression. God punishes them for this as much as He punishes Pharaoh for his direct action in enslaving the Hebrews.

God, you may also note, is very much a  reactor to humans as well. He doesn’t act first because this would break the contract of free will She offered humans, but rather God has left Herself to be a reactor, so much so that when Pharaoh is violent, God reacts with violence. She does this not only to keep the sanctity of our free will, but also as a lesson for mortals. God, in actuality, in being more violent than the Egyptians, is teaching them about Herself–that there is a greater judgment day (which the ancient Egyptians believed in) and that there is a God that is not Pharaoh that is to be feared.

It’s not that God hates the Egyptians (i.e. white people), but rather that She is speaking their language in understanding the Divine. Hence, the Exodus story is also meant as a salvation story for the ancient Egyptians and for the Hebrews, just in different ways.

But going back to the original notion that inaction will even be punished by God, the question then remains: how can an inactive, indirect oppressor have saved himself?

They can be saved with the following actions:

  1. Knowing and understanding the plight of the oppressed (it’s not a feat of humanity to notice all-white spaces, what US politicians say about people of color, grouping them, rarely acknowledging their pain, who was recently elected by mostly white people) ;
  2. Recognize that the wealth and glory you have as an indirect oppressor is not from your own merit, but rather from genocide, you received this land, and from slavery, you received this wealth, and from international wars, you have brought yourself as lord of others, and from perpetual discrimination and elevation of your own race’s language and culture, you have remained in disproportionate power.
  3. Question the morality of your nation and its systems and its history and how this is all told, and begin by holding discussions of immortality and this country and your citizenship in this country with your (white) family and friends.
  4. Align yourself with movements of color: protest, volunteer, listen to their stories. Shed your power and privilege away–don’t see your power and privilege as a means of granting the oppressed a voice, but rather only as a means holding them back when you continue to use it. Become equal to them.

 

Now, the Egyptians didn’t do any of these things, as far as we know, although other societies would.

Concerning the United States population, it should be noted that while it is good to have one white person appear in a #blacklivesmatter protest, the change needs to be done on a societal level first. Hence, white people’s greatest help comes in fixing their own superiority complex in their communities, families, and spaces. The emphasis then should not on “helping” people of color, since this is the same terminology imperialists used, but rather the emphasis should be on fixing white people.

Again, the dialogue should not be about compromise, about the little wins, but about a broader change to the system, of dismantling the system that needs amendments to cede basic human rights.


The story in Exodus reigns clear of what happens to those who, through action or in-action, do not take action, of those who have privilege but wield only for themselves, of those who see themselves victims of their own imagination. Truth and a lack of compromise in the United States, likewise, is what takes to cure the delusions it was born in because, in the end, the ones who really need to be saved are not the people of color who are woke and suffering, but rather those white people, with hardened hearts fortified by delusion and ignorance, child-like, caught blind by God’s light.