Saturday, March 11, 2006
  race traitors, going native, and cultural relativism
Ok, I'll say up front, this is a topic that can use more than one blog entry, and I'll no doubt revisit it from time to time. Which relieves me of the burden of trying to cover everything there is to say on the matter... which is a lot!

Anyway... I find a recurrent theme in my writing is that of a protagonist who "goes native" or at least who ends up doing a 180 and coming to support an opposing point of view, often at significant personal cost. No doubt this mirrors my own experiences of converting from a particularly virulent atheism to a reviled religion (more so now than when I converted, but even then largely disliked in America) the vast majority of whose adherents belong to cultures and races that are foreign to my own.

I find the emotional, cultural, social, racial, etc implications, challenges, dilemnas to conversion (whether it be religious or cultural or philosohpical conversion) fascinating, and an endless source of interesting combinations of emotional outcomes.

The experience of embracing the other is profoundly moving. And yet, it can also be profoundly discomfitting. I am proud to call myself a race traitor -- as the folks over ar Race Traitor like to say, being a traitor to whiteness is being loyal to humanity. By whiteness, I don't mean the color of skin, but rather the phenomenon of white priviledge -- of it being easier for white people to get a loan, to be respected, to rise to the ranks of CEO, etc, etc. To reject notions of Western cultural/intellectual superiority.

And yet, in that rejection of a priori superiority lies the danger of cultural relativism. The notion that all cultures are equally good, or free to be what they are. I reject that notion as well -- just because I'm white and American doesn't mean I have to be silent about misogynist laws in Pakistan, any more than I would be silent about misogynist laws in the US. I don't have to be silent about governments that hold the lives of young men cheap, whether those governments are in North America or the Middle East. Indeed, to remain silent seems to me a form of patronizing -- you are inherently inferior to us, and therefore do not need to be held to the same standards. The trick is to hold all societies to the same standards.

This has been on my mind alot with regards to honor killings. Naturally, I'm appalled at the whole concept of honor killings -- taking a woman's life because she dared marry someone you don't like, or because she flirted with someone, etc., supposedly maintaining the family's honor by erasing the one who brought shame to them. To me it seems like the murder of a sister, a daughter, a cousin, would be far more shameful, but, of course, that's not how they see it.

What's been irking me is that a lot of folks express horror (rightfully) over this crime, but act as though it only happens in the Middle East or Pakistan. What? We have tons of honor crimes here in the US, we just don't call them that. We call them "enraged husband kills wife for affair" or "ex kills wife and her new boyfriend" or "boyfriend kills girlfriend." In fact, it's not so different from an honor killing, only it's personal honor rather than familial honor at stake. And it's terribly common -- over a third of the murders of women in this country are by a husband or boyfriend, for women between the ages of 30 and 50 it jumps to 40% or higher. More than 3 women each day are killed by their husband, ex, or a boyfriend. (statistics from the US Department of Justice)

Both of these crimes must be opposed, but also they should be seen in the same light -- men killing women because they don't conform to the man's sexual dictates. (whether those dictates are dervied from cultural standards, personal sense of dignity, etc.) Americans shouldn't feel smug when opposing honor crimes overseas, cause we've got our own problems.

At the same time, converts often recieve a lot of pressure from "native" populations to withhold criticisms. It deemed unseemly, traitorous to one's community of choice, especially when that community of choice is already sufferring from a poor image (as a result of some of those very things the convert would oppose!). Again, there is this notion of superiority, and the idea that if you buy into one part, you have to buy into the whole package.

Why? Especially if the cultural practices are contrary to the religious package one bought into, but even there, why does conversion require total allegience? Why would one replace one blind affiliation with another? Isn't allegience to one's community of choice similar to allegience to one's community of birth -- both of them are a betrayal of humankind, and the basic humanity of the people you are dealing with.

So, I guess I'll be a "race" traitor on all sides, if need be -- from my "race" of birth and my "race" of choice...

See! Definately cool things worth exploring in fiction!!
Pamela, it seems to me that this issue involves a very basic sort of misogyny, that sometimes boundless anger men have against women. We see it in other situations, too, where men (are they threatened, or what?) react with virulence against any woman who appears independent. I'm thinking of the violent reactions some men have to Hillary Clinton, for example. Since the beginning of the women's movement in the U.S. (all the way back to the suffragettes) men (I should stress, SOME men) have reacted with fury to women who take a stand. I think it will be a long, long time before humanity in general can look at both sexes with equanimity.
hmm i found i was kicked out of the white club when i became a Muslim.

Of course, Edward, You're a white male. Pure traitor. :)

Women, as we all know, are property, and there is this huge power struggle over white women converts. The native Muslim populations tend to parade them in public in a sort of "nyah nyah, we got one of your women" oneupmanship move. White folks, on the other hand continue to accept them as a way of saying, "Oh, no you don't, they're still ours." Of course, there are the correllary trends on both side -- the white folks who are really, really angry at white women who convert and consider them the most confused people around, and the native Muslims who consider us suspect, tainted, temptresses who wooed away good Muslim men.

Naturally, most of this goes on at an unconcious level, but it rather amusing, while at the same time discomfitting, to find oneself at the center of a civilizational rivalrly.
It has nothing to do with your laughable reasoning at all...

Its about preserving who we are as a people!
The accomplishments we alone have brought forth.Not diluting it with the mental illnesses of semitic spider web idiologies.
Its about loving who you are and your people and the countless ancestors who stand behind you.
What people can claim the boundless possibilities of our kind...?
Who has even come close to our astounding and as yet fully realized potential.

Where we the european are the majority, democracy rationality and growth abound.....

Where we are a minority ....well look , at afrika and the 3 rd world...

If everyone is of equal capability then why do EUROPEAN blooded peoples need no aid??
give others the aid they still starve and perpetuate slum mentalitys...give my People baren wastelands they are made to bloom.

Simply put the human animal is just like any there are many variants ...the european is simply the most advanced and capable.

do the math....

We even defend the lesser evolved , better then they do it themselves, its because of a higher evolved sence of accountability.......

Its ok you can make excuses for the inferior again....
But that frame of mind is a self destructive antique!!
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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