Sans Cilice

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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

Dear Mr. President– Yes, You Can!

Ms. Hamedah Hasan’s official plea website.

Filed under: activism, Current Events, Politics, , , , , , , , , ,

“What are you doing for others?” Response #1

To continue on MLK: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

1. I call out other people’s racist (and sexist and homophobic, etc.) bull-shit, regardless of whether they are my close colleagues, loose acquaintances, good friends or family members. This is a small action that makes a subtle but real difference. Many people believe in speaking out against things that they don’t support, in the abstract, but few bother to speak up about things they find unjust on a smaller more personal scale. Obviously this action does not immediately or directly make anyone’s life better. It’s not a terribly flashy form of activism, but, especially in the work place it makes a real difference by promoting greater awareness of racism (and homophobia, sexism and religious/ethnic intolerance) in it’s more discrete forms. The benefit of greater awareness in the work place is not that it makes the newly aware individual a better or less-culpable person– in fact, in instances like these, I’m really not all that concerned with redeeming that person’s well-being or moral standing.

Awareness is important because it decreases the likelihood that the person in question will  make the work place uncomfortable for people of color (or gays, or women, or Muslims, etc.) by uttering witless or overtly racist remarks. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: activism, Personal, Society, , , , , ,

M.L.K as Atheists’ Kryptonite

From my perspective as an atheist, I have been dumb-struck and awed by Martin Luther King Jr more than by any other religious leader. I will argue against religious faith when it is clearly used for evil (interesting comments in Coates blog about how Pat Robertson’s various bigotries all stem from his religious bigotry). I will argue against religious faith when it is employed with benign intentions, but has pernicious effects (take your pick from European colonial motivations, Catholicism’s condemnation of sexuality, contemporary evangelical Christian attempts to ‘straighten’ gays, the list goes on…). I even tend to take issue with–though I do not necessarily argue against–perfectly benign  individuals (some close family members) who seem to be religious primarily for self-satisfying reasons because I think that’s disingenuous and that greater satisfaction could be reached in other ways. Point is, when considering religion and deist beliefs, ESPECIALLY when they are employed unabashedly (as King did) as a means to an end (a very worthy end in this case) I approach skeptically 98% of the time.

The life and invaluable accomplishments of Dr. King leave me in awe and at a complete loss for criticism. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: activism, Personal, Philosophy & Theory, , , , , ,

MLK: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

Huffington Post’s headline for Martin Luther King Day, 2010, is the MLK quote above. It is a headline which links to a listicle about the myriad ways you can (and should!) contribute to the relief efforts in Haiti. I am embarrased to say that, due to my current lack of funds, and an old cell phone that is so broken that it would be a waste of time to donate, I have done no more for the people of Haiti than to encourage Ben to donate more. He did. And that’s great. But it felt easy. I do not feel as though I have actually DONE anything for the people of Haiti, and I think I will feel this way once I do have funds to donate. In this case though, our own satisfaction with our actions is really not relevant and should not be used as the metric by which the value of effort is determined. It is the money that matters.

However, I think it’s time that I address this most persistent and urgent question in terms of my life as whole. After all, my stance in life as an anti-racist and explicitly in this blog is that actually helping the people whose subjugation we decry is FAR superior to merely cultivating a guilt-ridden awareness of the many ways in which we, merely for being white, have benefited from undue privilege. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: for a white anti-racist to focus primarily on white-privilege issues is to disengage from the ongoing problem of racism.

So, here goes! This will be a series of posts, for brevity’s sake. (Sorry I’m long winded sometimes!)

I must say, I fear that the forthcoming posts will seem horribly self-congratulatory and will be of only minimal encouragement to others. I think this process is necessary though, seeing as I only have a few vagueries in mind of what I actually do that could conceivably make a difference. I would love to be challenged. I know I could do more; every person could do more. But, I don’t think that every person needs to be an overt activist for society to be changed. I don’t think that ‘walking the walk’ is only defined by large, easily identifiable, singular actions. It is my hope that the actions I take and the choices I make outside of the blogosphere are up to snuff with the beliefs I express here.

Filed under: activism, Personal, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Any responses to Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” from vegans/vegetarians of color?

I’ve been pescovegetarian for the past four years and after reading Eating Animals, I’ve decided to give up fish and become actually vegetarian. Though the book was a bit overwraught at points, it made me care (in my heart not my head) about animal welfare and species preservation more acutely than I ever had before. My previous eating choices were only ethically motivated insofar as I think it is ethically necessary to take charge of ones health and to make sacrifices for the environment. My decision to forgo meat was only occasionally motivated by emotional responses to animal oppression.

The other day I read an interview of Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan, in which she was asked how the legacies of colonialism manifest themselves in mainstream dialogues and attitudes about what we eat. In her response she mentioned that the most prominent dialogues about veganism, vegetarianism and mindful consumption come from an almost exclusively white perspective that assumes unfettered access to whatever foods one decides are best. Read the rest of this entry »

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