Steve Biko: I Write What I Like

One of the visionaries I look up to when discussing racial injustice in segregated societies like the United States is Steve Biko. I discovered him my final semester of my senior year at Vanderbilt, which was the point in my life where I was saying: if I’m arguing that white racists, liberals and in-betweens cannot save Black and Brown people, who can? And what’s the role of white people in social justice?

Biko answered this question for me in the most poetic way.

Biko is a South African Black man, born from Xhosa people and tradition. He was born during apartheid, which, similar to segregation in the United States, made sure that white people in South Africa owned the economy and the political means and the formation of the law. Black people, their ancestors originators of the land, were pushed out of cities into townships (what we would call “ghettoes” in the United States), and they were forced to accept extreme poverty and depravation of the self.

In other words, Black people lived in slums, had subpar education, and were made to suffer. They were not citizens of South Africa, for they had to carry something like a passport to enter cities in order to work; this book was called a passbook–every Black person in South Africa had to have one, while whites had full citizenship. The law hurt them; the law created an order to oppress Blacks and to uplift whites.

Now, if you ever hear white South African racist leaders explaining why they did this like Hendrick Verwoerd, they’ll say that Black people are different, that they have different destinies; therefore, Black people must live outside the city, have their own institutions. He modeled apartheid as empowerment; he modeled it as what Black people wanted: their own independence. Remember his rhetoric was common after World War II: people of color want their freedom, so white people will give it to them.

What Verwoerd and others didn’t clarify was that “freedom” for Black people meant a new form of subordination: segregation.

This happens anywhere white people claim they want to “free” a people. Whenever that word comes out of their mouths, it actually means segregation.

And segregation means that white people don’t mind people of color–they don’t mind if people of color are janitors in their city buildings, or cooks in their French restaurants, or maids in their penthouses. But they do mind when people of color want to move into their neighborhoods, buy the same cars, eat beside them in the same restaurant. This becomes a problem (and today, this is the problem white people are trying to find a new way to reshape).

In other words, the world, since white people have come onto the main stage, has seen three stages:

  1. Colonialism: in which white people conquer every means of production and extraction and wealth of a nation by saying “they’ll improve the country technologically”
  2. Segregation/Apartheid: in which white people separate themselves from people of color only through means of economic and political separation, but not through dependency (since white people are still dependent on labor of color to fuel their cities and lives) by saying “we’re providing them with their independence” (i.e. Reconstruction in the United States)
  3. Assimilationist: in which white people notice that people of color are becoming a majority or are too vocal a group to control directly through economic and political power, and, therefore, begin to say that people of color can join the ranks of government and administration and workforce in full only if they are willing to become white–all non-conformity is punished thereby. This is the era we are in now–people of color think they are free, as they always did in each of these large, broad eras, but it’s an illusion.

 

Anyway, although Biko was in the apartheid era, he spoke volumes to our present era.

It’s important to note before I recount his theory that Biko was a medical student, and his pamphlets, I Write What I Like, sparked a Black student revolt against the government. The revolt led to the government arresting him, seeing that his words had a power, and during his interrogation, the police managed to give him a concussion. His brain hemorrhaged; the white police decided that the fastest way to get Biko care was to drive 200 miles to Johannesburg (which was not the nearest hospital, but their argument was that they wanted the best care for their prisoner).

He died at the age of 31 in police custody.


Steve Biko argued that the effects of apartheid went beyond economic and political and legal suppression of Black peoples (that is, Black, Indian, and Colored peoples in South Africa who constituted the majority of people in South Africa, yet had the least amount of rights in South Africa). He argued that the true effects of apartheid were psychological. Thus, he began the Black Consciousness movement.

The Black Consciousness movement wanted to expose the damage colonialism and apartheid had done in making Black people (in South Africa, Black people means people of color–I will use this terminology) feel as though their hair, their tradition, their languages, their religions, their laughing, their structure, their culture were all wrong. Biko believed that the first way to colonize people is to make them believe they are inferior in all aspects, and the way to make them subjugated is to drill that myth to be a fact. And what this awful inferiority does psychologically to Black people is dehumanization.

Hence, we even hear people of color in the United States say that their own culture is stupid, or that their hair must look like white people’s hair and natural ain’t beautiful, or that their language is backward, or that their religion needs advancement. This is all part of white people’s subjugation of our mind.

The Black Consciousness movement fought against this. Biko gave riveting speeches exalting Black people. He showed how white individualism was actually destructive to a culture, and that Black interdependency and family structure were of the essence, important, logical. He did this because the revolution–the peeling off apartheid–couldn’t even start without Black people regaining the confidence that was stolen from them.

While Biko was ready giving speeches before congregations about Black beauty and essence, he also had another front to battle: white liberals.

The context to this is that when Biko entered college–an inter-racial college–he noticed that a lot of the liberation movements were led by white liberals. These white liberals commanded Black people on what to do: print flyers, demonstrate, etc. They were leaders, modeling the same thing white racists had done by directing Black people in what to do, and their movement for obvious reasons was going nowhere. They didn’t want Black folk to fight the government fiercely; they wanted Black people to be thankful for their help; they wanted to seem enlightened as rebels against their parents.

Biko wasn’t amused. He started his own liberation group on campus that was only open to Black people. Guess who was infuriated? White liberals–they denounced his work as meaningful. They called him the racist and segregationist for not allowing them to participate.

In response, Biko wrote a newsletter, stating that white liberals especially had a role in ending apartheid, but that role wasn’t commanding and leading and helping Black people. Their role–their white role–was in saving themselves.

You see, Biko also argued that if Black people needed to heal themselves from their inferiority complex, that white people needed to save themselves from their superiority complex. Biko believed that white people’s superiority led to the breaking of their family structure, led to their inability to accept others or participate with other people in a humanly fashion or even have empathy for the Other.

Thus, Biko urged white liberals to fix themselves–that before they dare fix Black people, assuming the same role as the white racist as Savior to Black folk, they fix their own communities. He wanted white liberals to speak to their parents and say, “Hey, Dad, what you said is racist for A, B, C.” He wanted them to befriend Black people and listen to their concerns and then go back into their own community to fix its own depravity.

And while white liberals are busy fixing themselves and their own, Black people are remolding themselves to be equal. It’s during this moment of healing-segregation that the groups can be made equal, and then move forward into a more inclusive society.

Biko further proved his point by stating that even when white liberals open soup kitchens in townships/ghettoes, their charities don’t help. The reason is that white charities don’t address racism–they address a symptom.

Imagine if I have cancer because of the power plant next to my house, and my neighbor else who has cancer approaches me (but ovarian, let’s say) and says that the treatment is that I get chemo, is this truly the treatment, though? Is the treatment to the power plant next to my house truly chemotherapy?

This is the same as giving Black children scholarships, or giving money to the poor, or opening up soup kitchens: they’re a band-aid. It’s not evil, but it’s not good and pure.

If the neighbor with the ovarian cancer only realizes that the problem is with her parents owning the factory which kills me, my family and our neighbors, even if it’s disadvantageous to her and her family, this can truly save me, since my offspring afterward would be safer.

But white people prefer giving us chemotherapy: letting us hold office and get elected, opening up charities, and visiting our motherlands to learn more. But rarely ever will they fight to shut down the factory that actually is killing us and our children, and this is because this is the harder and truer and more honest fight that they don’t want to look in the face–because when they do, they’ll realize that it isn’t just their parents who manage the factory who has the burden of sin, but also the children who profited from our assassinations.


Steve Biko’s essays, the ones he wrote before his assassination, can be bought on Amazon, if you’re interested in reading more from his own words about how actual liberation can occur–when we see ourselves, without makeup, without presumption, to see our sins.

His philosophy of change is one that I hold close when explaining what real social justice is.

And in actuality, Steve Biko’s ideas aren’t far from the Bible which calls us to clear the plank in our own eyes before we go to the speck in our brother’s eye. This is an important tenet to social justice work, if white people want to join the fight: examine yourselves, fix yourselves, save yourselves. And we’ll heal the wounds you made.

For the oppressor cannot be the savior, and the savior cannot be the oppressor.

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What Happens When White People Control the Discourse of Racism

Vanderbilt University recently started an initiative to certify “student leaders” in Diversity and Inclusion. They marketed their new initiative as an open table of learning new leadership styles of dealing with diverse groups.

Now, we know that there must be a God, for even though I read their God-awful, white-liberal marketing, I still applied to be a part of the cohort; hence, we see the idiocy of human in the form of me. (Also, I was a senior at this point. Which makes this even sadder. Soak that in.)

SO I applied, got an interview and was accepted.

On our first day, I walked into the conference room and automatically noticed–as all people of color are trained by nature of being in the United States are–that out of the twenty chosen, only four were people of color. There was a significant amount of white women–like over 50%.

You know that feeling when you want to slowly step out of the room, when there’s a conflict or it’s the wrong class (yeah, freshman Lydia, just step out slowly from the lecture hall, even though they all see you now)? That’s the semi-anxious, semi-disgusted feeling I got, but, beyond God’s second sign to me, I walked in and sat down by my name.

My final semester at Vanderbilt, doing that Diversity and Inclusion cohort thing every Tuesday, was one of the worst experiences I had–but one of the more enlightening ones. I learned, first and foremost, and wrote in concrete in my heart that white people–racist or liberal or in-between–cannot help with the struggle if their mindset is to defeat racism by “helping” brown people.

Now, this notion is one that I trumpet everyone when people ask about solutions to racism (and my first response is for white people to FIX THEMSELVES before they come up in our neighborhoods). But I wanted to look at how white people actually discoursed about racism.

First, it should be noted that everything in this class–which happened every Tuesday night of my final semester–was basic social justice. Like being aware of multiple identities and struggles people hold. How to resolve conflict.

OH, and here’s a joke: on our second Tuesday meeting, we were asked to take five minutes of quiet time, alone, to think of all of identities. My list was:

Coptic

Female

Young: 21 (at the time)

Pursuing higher education at a private university

Immigrant’s child

White-passing

Bi-lingual

Grew up in the South

Couldn’t hold a conversation with any of my grandparents

A bearded woman

Sunday School teacher

 

That was my list of things that plague me and the things that I’m proud of and the things that make me feel both (at any point). In the end, we were supposed to choose one identity that prevailed above all, and I chose: Coptic (as in my religion specifically, more than my ethnic/racial claims).

Here’s the funny part: one the first years said that her most salient identity was….*drum roll* BEING THE YOUNGEST CHILD IN HER FAMILY. (“Like because everyone has already been through college, and ha–it’s just me!”)

(This is why I can’t hang with 97% of white people. This is why.)

Just so you get an idea of the hell I went through every Tuesday before my graduation.

More importantly, though, all of the people in that space identified themselves as liberals and/or moderates; they could identify racist people in their life, but never were they or their immediate friends. These white people smoked weed, were into discussing the oppression of Black people, how “broken” the immigration system is, how messed up Trump is, BUT none of them–none of them–could bridge the problem as themselves.

And here’s what I mean:

The way white people–racist, liberal, or in-between–discuss racism is what is killing progress in this country, is what is killing Black and Brown lives in this country, is what is keeping families apart. Why is that?

White racists see racism as two things:

  1. Either a thing of the past (i.e. slavery is bad–but the ancient Egyptians had slaves, and the Western African tribes helped white people make Black people slaves);
  2. OR it’s a thing white people experience now (i.e. why is it so bad for us, frat boiz, to listen to Beyonce, but not allow Black people to our parties?)

White racists have no concept–or have difficulty in constructing–of Another’s pain. They can’t understand generational trauma, nor can they understand generational entitlement, nor can they see their white culture as inferior to most cultures of the world. They buy boats that have Brown maids to help tidy up after their parties; they wear pastel-colored shorts made with the delicate hands of a woman somewhere in Vietnam perhaps, unable to see her children grow because the money isn’t enough even though the hours are long and the buyer richer than all her ancestors combined; these white boiz say things like “boi” and “whassup” and “I finna,” without the marked realization that these are stolen expressions from the people–the Black people–he kills, daily.

And now the white liberal objects: “Okay-whoa! White frat boiz aren’t all white people. Statistically, a lot of white women vote liberal, so don’t group us with them. And also no matter how much you hate frat boiz, Lydia, don’t exaggerate. Calm down.”

I’ve never had a white racist tell me to calm down, by the way–only white liberals.

What’s key here is two arguments that white liberals usually make to Black and Brown people:

  1. Don’t group us together (lol–look at my earlier post entitled “Calling White People ‘White People’); white women are different, or poor white people are different.
  2. White people are not that bad.

To the first claim, I want an example in which white women have stood by Black and Brown people in this country. I want. One. Example.

When white women saw white men rape Black slaves in the colonies, she didn’t holler for freedom and solidarity with her sister–she made the Black female slave’s life hell. She supported her man. And mind you, slavery would not have been possible without the iron rod of white women who wanted to be higher than someone, anyone, and who developed their own cultures and norms–like beauty standards–to keep women of color down. Don’t forgot that: white women support their white men. They bore these white racist men.

When white women got the right to vote, they left Black and Brown people disenfranchised, stopped the fight once they were hooked.

Planned Parenthood sterilized Black and Hispanic people. Scientists, to perfect the C-section, allowed the murder of hundreds of Brown female bodies–just for testing. (Science is just as evil as politics and religious extremists).

When the 2016 election came, white women overwhelmingly voted with Trump, not Hilary. People of color stood by Hilary, even though these white liberal commentators were shouting, “Where’s the Black vote?” Yeah, the Black vote was there for Hilary, but my question is: “Where is the White Liberal vote?”

Don’t tell me that white liberals–female or not–don’t side with racists when it comes down to it. This is why when people point out that identity is multiple and needs to be recognized as so, I think it’s a valid point, but why are white people never pluralist in their way of thinking and acting in the world? (A CNN article shows how white liberals, when a white racist brother benefits them, will side with him over Black and Brown interests and needs. Very interesting–almost like nothing changes.)

To her second claim, yes, white people as a whole need to understand the evil system they have created–much worse than any other system in the world–and that they sustain it. They sustain it when their friends only speak English, when they don’t understand accents and don’t want to, when they eat at “ethnic” restaurants owned by white people in a city like New York, when they gentrify neighborhoods of color (in particular “broke” white college students), when they don’t realize that we’re slowly dying when the nearest hospital is in the white area, when they don’t realize that cops are our worst nightmares and that they don’t protect us (instead, they hurt us), when they don’t understand that we ain’t capitalists, when they don’t understand that our school system is just as segregated as it was in the 1970s, when they don’t realize that we’re dying, suffocating really, and they’re the ones holding down the pillow.

But what leads white people not “to see” the system they’ve created?

And herein lies the problem with white liberals in particular: they see the problem of racism as a system. White liberals quote the Atlantic, can give you figures on how many Black men are shot by police, tell you Chicago is the most segregated neighborhood, will tell you that it’s the government and corporations and capitalism’s problem. (Note: whenever you hear a white liberal say, “Capitalism is evil,” run. Just run. They blind. And they toxic.)

Capitalism is not the problem; white people just don’t want to look themselves in the mirror and say, “I did this.”

And the system is not the problem–at least not the root of the problem. The system’s corruption is a mere manifestation of the deeper problem: white society–all of them, racists, liberals and all the in-between.

White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–don’t see a problem in living in an all-white neighborhood. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–see nothing wrong with their racist parents, but they see that Trump is disgusting ironically. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–will go to Harvard and Princeton, comfortable being in a class without people of color. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–will only learn languages if it benefits them, not if it brings them closer with other humans of the world. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–still study regions of the world as these regions are only discoverable through them, in English, French, or German, but not in any other language or people. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–won’t admit that the FBI wanted the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. dead or that the CIA assassinated in cold blood Mohammad Mossadaq before his own people, just for nationalizing Iran’s oil. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–hate what “America” hates: Russia/Iran/North Korea, but they don’t see that the only ones to drop a nuclear weapon was themselves, the United States.

White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–fears without truly knowing fear, for they have never listened to the fear of a child in the United States when the cops pass by and his mother is undocumented and his father isn’t here. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–fears without truly knowing fear, for they have never felt like their language was ugly, never were they repulsed by their own skin. White society–racists, liberals, and in-betweens–fears without truly knowing fear, for they don’t know what a bomb, dropping on your people, as they stumble to live.

White society is a menace which created a system of oppression–that is, the United States government. And capitalism fueled that government. But both the US government and Western capitalism are by-products of a society that profits from its hate refurnished as successfulness.

This is why white discourse on racism is broken, endless, un-critical, and non-supportive–because it’s about themselves ironically. But instead of critically engaging their history and present-continuation of hate and disrespect, for if they did they would find all of themselves the source of oppression, they merely engage racism from a perspective that they are the victims of it too, that they have suffered too, that they are children still, that they can’t make change alone, that they are powerless against the system that is their parents and grandparents, that they have not inherited that hate re-spun for a new day.

But in this is a contradiction, for while they are without hate and without power, they must chair the Diversity Committee; they must say be our representatives in Congress; they must open up their coffee shops in our communities.

Racism–their racism–is built on a contraction of who they are and what they’ve done and what they’re doing.

And, hence, this country, like the definition of a third-world country, will remain in standstill as a oppression is reimagined and pushed into the lives of people of color in a white (racist, liberal, and in-between) world. People starve, a government kills, children grow up fatherless, families can’t see each other for years, scientists are paid to kill people, education is sub-standard, workers aren’t allowed to defend their rights, an elected president sexually assaults women, and churches have shoot-outs. Welcome to the United States, the land white people stole from Americans to teach the world what suffering is.

InshAllah, Or As We Say It: ان شاء الله

Arabic is a spiritual language–any Semitic language is. Hebrew, Ge’ez, Syriac, and Arabic all have the quality of something formed out of people who worship.

When compared to Germanic languages–which are languages made to work and to tell–Semitic languages have such a caressing poetic essence.

Arabic, in particular, has a cadence, a walk of its own that was before factories, colonialism and savagery. It’s a language of poetry, enunciation, forbearance of a stronger message.

Hence, in Arabic–which, mind you, is a derivative of Syriac, the language Christ spoke while on earth, in Palestine–there are many a nuanced divine words in regular speech.

It’s always been a thing of intrigue for me to think of what language promotes in the individual, in the culture. For instance, English is a short, draft language–very utilitarian. Hence, English “culture” is based on being brief, capitalizing on time, and efficiency, whereas in Arabic, a poet’s language, is based on elongating time and finding in a meaning in the void. Hence, when one is in Cairo, the cafes never close, the words never finish–there’s always meaning somewhere, even in idleness. Thus, Cairo and London, although both cities, have different feels–because they have different languages, different peoples, different cultures.

(I should take the time perhaps to say that I am no linguist, so, although disagreements are always welcomed with reason, especially now is needed.)

Arabic, to me, promotes a beautiful religion.

There’s a particular phrase that one will hear from Arabic-speakers often: InshAllah. It’s one word when transcribed into English, because of how commonly fast it is, but it’s actually three separate words in Arabic.

And although it’s often translated as “God willing,” the phrase (note: it’s not a sentence; it attaches itself to sentences)–the phrase itself implies a sense of drifting: “that God wills.” InshAllah, then, holds itself as a dream, a hope, a kind of quick prayer.

What’s more, this quick prayer that hears even the smallest of our conversations, even the smallest of our desires, is said so often:

“Are you about to finish school?” -“InshAllah.”

“When are you getting that new car, after your new promotion?” -“InshAllah, soon.”

It’s the kind of phrase, attached or unattached, that bears so much meaning to Arabic-speakers: my cousin once joked that whenever he hears his mother say, “InshAllah,” he knows then that it’s a no.

Three words in Arabic made into one word in English is brought to denote several emotions: the caustic InshAllah when your friend says she won’t speak to that boy again, the sorrowful InshAllah when your immigration application is still in loop with USCIS, the happy InshAllahs at engagement parties as every guest comes to greet you and say, “Congrats–may God protect you,” the InshAllah you add on the phone when you have nothing to say to him.

If I ever taught a Middle Eastern cultures class, this is the phrase I would begin with, ask that anyone traveling to the Middle East–whether it’s war-mangled Syria or to Islamic/Shite Iran or to the most-populated country, Egypt–know this phrase/word/sentence, understand this phrase/word/sentence, because this phrase/word/sentence brings us back to the beauty of the Middle East.

It’s not just the cradle of life, or the mother of humanity. The Middle East isn’t just history–like Jericho or Jesus–although this is a big part of it.

The Middle East is a peoples.*

*not a typo

And we understand that by InshAllah–because no matter the back-breaking worries, the wilderness of tribulations, the blood scattered on a plain, or the words dropped as molten rock, there will always be an uncle in Cairo or Baghdad or Jerusalem or Aleppo smoking, watching the world pass as a dream, his beads in his right hand, muttering a prayer that God can will.

 

What is Exclusion?

**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.

Calling White People “White People”

I was talking to a friend, at lunch, about the Qatar-Saudi Arabia situation and the complex (?) hypocrisy of American-Middle Eastern alliances (which brings about the destruction of many of these regional states).

Anyway, I mentioned that Sisi was playing big-man politics which I define as a government supplicating to another government by being a bully to a third government. Thus, we see Egypt sucking up to the United States by bullying and banning Qatar (and hence, Sisi diverts attention from his selling the two islands to Saudi Arabia, an American ally, and also follows in Saudi Arabia’s footsteps). Big-man politics has a lot of ironies to it–as does American foreign policy in general.

I then said, “I hate when people of color call each other ‘terrorists,’ as Sisi said about Qatar’s Al Jazeera, when we should only use that term when discussing white politics in Middle Eastern countries.”

The white girl at the table gave a subtle glare at me and then rolled her eyes.

I didn’t say anything to her, since, before, she has already mentioned my “attacking” her politics and ideas.

But let me say: this isn’t the first time I’ve received a glare for being direct and truthful.

I think, believe and know that using the term “white people” for white politics, culture, food, language, life, and world brings about a truer sense of what we experience as people of color.

Let me explain. But first, it’s important to know that white people have often, and continue to, to group people of color–whether it was using the N word to group slaves from different tribes, languages, cultures in Western Africa, or saying “Latino” for everyone who speaks Spanish in the Americas, or saying “Arab” for every brown person. Grouping people is not new, and it’s initial creator is white people themselves–because when grouping humans into singular categories, there’s a purposeful dehumanization of the Other. It’s a colonial mindset that persists. It’s a death–an assassination–of diversity, of peoples. It makes people of color, in their beauty and glory, without a legacy other than their contribution to white society.

Therefore, when we use the term “white people,” we are not the first to do this. And actually, this is not in retaliation. I’m not a vengeful person. This is not me giving white people a dose of their own medicine. Many people of color say that’s why they use the term “white people”–because white people used it first, and they need to know how it feels. But this is not why I do it. Our God is a god of vengeance–She’ll take care of oppressors.

It’s not revenge, but rather a confrontation of white values. One of the fundamental issues–and yes, issues–of white culture is a sense of superiority. White people–from racists to liberals–have the strong belief that their way is better, or their reformation of a person of color’s idea. For instance, being religious (which most people of color are) is seen as backward to being scientific and rational and secular. Or being at home with your family is seen as not as fun as going out to see a movie or spending money on weekends.

But when white people hear themselves being grouped, it’s an important registration of their own awareness of their humanity. White people are hyper-humans in the West; they’re holy, their actions are sanctified and blessed by themselves. But when they hear themselves as a group of idiots who don’t spice their food, pray, or priorities their families, they become humans–not sub-humans like they made people of color.

Therefore, the idea is not to dehumanize white people, but rather to humanize them from their god-like status in the world. It’s not about mocking their food or culture, but rather allowing white people to understand that their way of living and breathing is not the superior model, but merely a model.

I do not dehumanize anyone, nor does anyone using the term “white people” dehumanize any white person. (White people just have to stop crying about everything true.)

This is my first point, then, that grouping white people linguistically is a mechanism of humanizing humans-who-made-themselves-the-world’s-gods.

My second point in grouping white people and their actions and their ideas is that it provides a truth that often isn’t exposed.

White people–more than any other race upon the earth–have grouped themselves in such a way that they might conquer. You would imagine that there would be many differences between the English and French, no? Or you would imagine that there would be major differences between Canadians and Americans, since they can’t tell the difference between a Palestinian and an Egyptian. But there isn’t.

Why is that? Why is that, more than any other race upon the earth, white people have made themselves a mega-tribe?

There are many answers to this–lack of diversity within white culture and ethnicities, a common goal of hating Black and Brown people, a savage need to conquer–but the important point to make is that white people do group themselves, for their own needs. When we then use the term “white people,” we are only pointing out a global phenomena that white liberal Frenchmen, like Emanuel Macron, will get along with white racist Americans like Donald Trump, shaking hands, smiling, bonding. Their politics seem to be complete opposites, their languages are similar but still different–yet, they bond, yet they work together. It’s an interesting dynamic.

White people–in their own diversity–have made themselves a mega-tribe to oppress Black and Brown peoples. How else is England going to continue extracting diamonds in South Africa? How else is the United States going to continue killing oil laborers protesting in Nigeria? How else is Germany meant to push Greece to the brink of bankruptcy? How else is the European Union (EU) supposed to be keep denying Turkey entry into the EU?

White people are white people.

People of color are merely stating what they see: a mega-tribe coming out of the caves of a forest, ready to feast on human sacrifices. White people are ready to forsake their own differences in order to devastate Black and Brown lives.

That’s why white racists birth white liberals who broke down slavery only to create the prison industrial system in the United States, so that Black men to sent to the slaughter while their families, communities, and essences cannot rise.

So, yes, there is great diversity in the white community–but white people don’t want that diversity. They want to be politically, economically and socially grouped, so as always to stay on top. Therefore, when we use the term “white people,” we are pointing to the reality. Cry all they want, but this is what they do to themselves.

To sum up, using the term “white people” is not racist. It’s not dehumanizing. It’s not mean, rude, or not intelligent. Not only do they group themselves (yet find the means to blame us, people of color, for grouping them), but they also think of themselves as gods. These two false assumptions must be dispelled. White people are not gods; their cultures are not God’s glorious Truth. And white people have grouped themselves for centuries. Why is it rude when we do it? After our enslavement? After our colonization?

Use the term white people. They’ll cry and pout. But like babies who are left in their crib to throw their fit, their parents not responding, white people need to learn to grow up, manage, and develop human senses of Truth. Let them cry–let them learn.

A Social Justice Reading List (2017)

I compiled a special list of books on my amazon wishlist and books that I’ve read pertaining to social justice; this is not a full list, but it’s something to help start mine and yours.

 

BLACK-AMERICAN LIBERATION & SOCIAL JUSTICE

  • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Notes to a Native Son by James Baldwin
  • Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin
  • Collected Essays by James Baldwin
  • I Am Not Your Negro by James Baldwin (script and movie)
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley (also the author of Roots)
  • I Write What I Like by Steve Biko
  • “Blacks Can’t Be Racist” by Andile Mngzitama
  • Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon
  • The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Nobody by Marc Lamont Hill
  • The Souls of Black Folk by WEB du Bois
  • Black Power: The Politics of Liberation by Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton
  • “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “A Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Atlantic article)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

COLONIALISM—AND ITS PERPETUATION

  • The Colonizer and the Colonized by Albert Memmi
  • Racism by Albert Memmi
  • The Pillar of Salt by Albert Memmi
  • Decolonization and the Decolonized by Albert Memmi
  • Jinealogy: Time, Islam, and Ecological Thought in the Medieval Ruins of Delhi by Anand Taneja
  • Dark Continents: Psychoanalysis and Colonialism by Ranjana Khanna
  • The Intimate Enemy: Loss and Recovery of Self Under Colonialism by Ashis Nandy
  • A Dying Colonialism by Frantz Fanon
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly
  • Colonial Effects by Joseph Massad
  • “The World as Exhibition” by Timothy Mitchell
  • The Karma of Brown Folk by Vijay Prashad

MODERN WOMEN OF COLOR

  • Politics of Piety by Saba Mahmood
  • Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women by Susan Burton
  • My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
  • Good Girls Marry Doctors: South Asian American Daughters on Obedience and Rebellion by Piyali Bhattacharya
  • When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of Their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity by Karen Torjesen
  • Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by Judith Butler

CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL POLITICS

  • On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
  • A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes
  • The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
  • Reporting from Ramallah: An Israeli Journalist in an Occupied Land by Amira Hass
  • Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege by Amira Hass
  • Freedom Is a Constant a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis
  • Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity by Talal Asad
  • In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction by Gabor Mate
  • The Impossible State: Islam, Politics, and Modernity’s Moral Predicament by Wael Hallaq
  • “McJihad: Islam in the US Global Order” by Timothy Mitchell
  • Latino Crossings: Mexican, Puetro Ricans, and the Politics of Race and Citizenship by Nicholas de Genova and Ana Yolanda Ramos-Zayas
  • Woeking the Boundaries: Race, Space, and “Illegality” in Mexican Chicago by Nicholas de Genova
  • Racial Transformations: Latinos and Asians Remaking the United States by Nicholas de Genova
  • Capitalism: A Ghost Story by Arundhati Roy (who also writes AMAZING novels)

(MODERN) POLITICAL THEORY

  • The Promise of Politics by Hannah Arendt
  • Responsibility and Judgement by Hannah Arendt
  • Crises of the Republic: Lying in Politics; Civil Disobedience; On Violence; Thoughts on politics and Revolution by Hannah Arendt
  • On Violence by Hannah Arendt
  • On Revolution by Hannah Arendt
  • The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt
  • Dispossession: The Performative in the Political by Judith Butler
  • Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism by Benedict Anderson
  • Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison by Michel Foucault
  • Orientalism by Edward Said
  • The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement

RELIGION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE

  • A History of God by Karen Armstrong
  • Religious Difference in a Secular Age by Saba Mahmood
  • Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East by Gerard Russell
  • Black Theology and Black Power by James Cone
  • “The Sabbath World: Glimpses of a Different Order of Time” by Judith Shulevitz

SCIENTIFIC RACISM

  • The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould
  • The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Welcome, Friends!

Yes, I said friends.

I’ve finally started a blog and I thought my first post would be as a promise to my readers and also to myself about its aims and trajectory.

I want this blog to be a resource to people, but not the end goal; I want to get people interested in a topic enough to have a base in it–like why the United States has the mindset of what it defines as a “third-world” nation–but also enough drive in each post to let people flourish in their own research. I’m a big believer that if we are simply told things–we do not learn; if we are simply inspired, but do not act, the lighting of the fire was for nothing except a few wows and whoas. I don’t want the wows–I want an ignition.

I want this blog to initiate dialogue, a discussion, a table of reformation among those who thought reform was compromise and not necessary.

I want this blog to be a symbol of what I stand for, a compilation of my intrigues, my own persona and family, my experiences, my words. I want this blog to be what that Temple was to Isaiah, listening to God.

I want to improve the way I write, so that I may improve the way I speak.

I want to learn; I want to evaporate in someone else’s world, knowing that I am the least of every one person’s sum, but the greatest of myself.

And here, on this blog, I want all these worlds and ideas to converge.