Racism is Exhausting

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I’m a very diverse person. I come from both a Jewish and Christian background and I’m very interested in the Muslim religion and culture. I have been in many different churches of a variety of denominations, Messianic and reform synagogues, and mosques, including the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the third holiest site for Muslims, falling behind Mecca and the Dome of the Rock. I was taught from a young age to always respect people of other religions, cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds, simply because they are fellow human beings and deserve such.

This is why I’m always so taken aback whenever I run across racism, because the color of one’s skin is always the last thing on my mind.

I recently ran across an article that talked about white privilege in America. It claimed, among other things, that white people are born with a backpack of privileges that they have not worked for and do not deserve, but they receive it nevertheless, simply because they are white. This backpack of tools helps them achieve goals that minorities cannot even dream of reaching, the article went on.

I remember reading the article and blinking. Having just received my Bachelor’s Degree with a 3.9 GPA (and a healthy amount of student loans!) I would have loved to have been able to reach into this bag and pull out a treasure so that maybe I wouldn’t have had to work my tuchus off during the past four years. I’d love to possess it now as I attempt to find a good job so that I can pay for grad school in the fall, after taking out (yet another) student loan.

Now, let me be explicitly clear when I say that I understand that, having been able to go to college, receive my degree, study abroad, and go to grad school, I am in a minority. There are people who can only dream of attending college for a semester, let alone for the past four years as I have been able to do. I do not take that for granted for a second.

Having never been a racial minority, I also can’t address the issues they face. Racism is a real and ugly thing; I won’t even attempt to deny that. I can’t (and won’t attempt to) address what minority groups face, but I can say with certainty that I have not accomplished what I have simply because of the color of my skin. To say so about me (or any other white person) is racist, pure and simple.

At my school’s Partnership Dinner in April, I was blessed to have been invited and have the chance to listen to Ben Carson, a man I greatly admire and respect. His autobiography Gifted Hands details how he overcame his troubled youth in inner-city Detroit, growing up to become an incredible neurosurgeon credited as being the first surgeon to successfully separate twins joined at the head.

When asked about what it takes to become successful, his answer was one of the most encouraging answers that I filed away to remember when I become discouraged.

“A person can be born with the world handed to them on a silver platter. They can have every  privilege imaginable, but all of that is pointless if they don’t set goals and work tirelessly to achieve them. Similarly, people who are born with nothing, as I was, can achieve whatever they put their mind to if they work hard enough.”

His answer takes gender out of the equation.

It makes one’s religion a moot point.

It makes ethnicity irrelevant.

One of my professors had probably the best view on this touchy subject. She said, “There are a variety of ethnicities that can and should be appreciated for their beauty, but there is only one race: the human race. Sometimes, we forget that.”

We’re all from the human race. Let’s remember that and extend each other the love, grace, and respect that we all deserve, rather than tearing each other down.

A Rant on Religion and Reindeer

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(Heck yeah, alliteration.)

Oh, religion. It’s such a funny thing.

I don’t like it very much.

Because here’s the thing: religion doesn’t save you. Religion doesn’t make you a good person. I’ve met Muslims who displayed the love of Jesus better than some Christians. I’ve been snubbed and disdained by Jewish people because of my belief in Jesus as the Messiah, only to be welcomed with love and acceptance by atheists.

I took a Diversity in American Literature class during the last semester of my undergrad. We talked all semester long about the danger and pointlessness of ethnocentrism: the belief that one’s culture is better than anyone else’s. As a culture, we frown at racism, sexism, and classism, but we don’t hesitate to damn each other to hell if our religious beliefs differ.

Do I have certain aspects of my belief system that I follow? Absolutely. I didn’t create this post to talk about those points. (Believe me, it’d take more than a post. I’m kind of complicated.) It’s also not to talk about salvation issues. This post is (going to attempt) to point out how stupid it is to mock other people because of their belief system.

I’ve never understood hating or mocking someone because of what they believe. I can disagree with someone (strongly!) and still be able to have an open, respectful conversation. I’m always blindsided when I overhear rants about stupid Christians and their barbaric belief in human sacrificing. I don’t understand telling atheists or Muslims or Catholics that they’re going to go to hell for their beliefs. It doesn’t solve anything. It just further alienates one human being from another.

I recently read a book in which two characters were talking about the discord between Palestinians and Israelis. “Why so much hate between relatives?” one questions.

“It’s because we haven’t learned much from the prophets and hardly anything about the rules of life,” the other responds.

“Then what’s to be done?”

“Give God back His freedom. He’s been hostage to our bigotries too long.”

Here’s the deal:

I’ll respect someone’s views as an atheist.

I won’t respect the fact that he/she shames, berates, and mocks people who do believe in God.

I’ll respect someone’s views as a Christian.

I won’t respect the fact that he/she self-righteously condemns other non-Christians, going against everything Jesus stood for.

I’ll respect someone’s views as an _______ (fill in the blank with any religion)

I won’t respect the fact that he/she supports extremist ideas or beliefs that injure themselves and other people, or views certain individuals as lower than others.

I’ll respect reindeers.

I won’t respect the fact that they bully and exclude another reindeer simply because of his red, shiny nose.

It’s as simple as that.

Funny in Farsi: A Book Review

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I have always had a heart for for people who are marginalized, mistreated, and abused. My own writing frequently reflects this. I also love reading about different cultures and religions. These are a few of of the (many) reasons I appreciate Firoozeh Dumas and her book Funny in Farsi.

 

Funny in Farsi

Funny in Farsi

 

Firoozeh Dumas’s memoir Funny in Farsi is enjoyable to read for multiple reasons. She is able to convey her frustrations and the unfair treatment she received as a new immigrant to the United States while using humor, without seeming bitter or hostile. She is very balanced in her storytelling, particularly when she is careful to include and show empathy for other cultures that are frequently marginalized, particularly the Mexican community, which she lived near growing up. Dumas also has a very open minded attitude, which shines through when she is telling stories of her slightly eccentric, but very loving and supportive family.

Dumas expresses the racial profiling and stereotyping, as well as just pure ignorance, that she had to face in America growing up when she tells her stories, particularly in the essays “Bernice” and “The F Word.”  In “Bernice,” she talks about people not knowing what country she was even from, as well as how her French husband is admired while she faces hostility when Americans were taken hostage at the American Embassy in Tehran. She is able to express her thoughts on the subject gracefully and tactfully, without racially profiling the Americans, but still able to clearly convey her position. She uses humor in “The F Word” in the way she writes the barrage of questions that she would frequently receive about her name. Her choice of writing the questions in a run-on sentence was a very effective way of showing how she would be ambushed. She is brutally honest and transparent, however, in expressing the vulnerability she felt when going by both an American name and her Iranian name. She is very skilled at expressing honesty through comedy.

Perhaps one of Dumas’s most touching essay is “I-raynians Need Not Apply.” Although her characteristically dry humor is still present, it has more of a sad tone that some of her other essays. In it, she expresses the struggle her family endures when they first move to America a few weeks before the American hostage situation in Tehran. Her father loses his job and struggles to find one again until the hostages are released. She uses her normal comic wit when relaying her father’s disgust towards her view of politics, but the most striking feature of this essay is the way it ends. All of Dumas’s other compositions end with an amusing quip or humorous quote from her family; “I-raynians Need Not Apply,” ends on a serious note as Dumas quotes her father’s view on how tragic it is for people to hate.

In “The Wedding,” Dumas portrays her family realistically; they are very involved, slightly controlling, and want to run her entire wedding. An interesting thing to note, however, is that even though she describes her family with a mixture of love and exasperation, her relatives are by far the more preferable choice when compared to those of her husband. Her mother-in-law refuses to accept both Dumas and her family, simply because they are Iranian. The traditional Muslim ceremony she had with her family members seems more meaningful and heartwarming than the ceremony she has with his family in a church. Dumas is very careful, however, not to bash her husband’s side of the family, even though they did not approve of her marrying their son and made no secret of that fact.

In all of her essays comprising the book as a whole, Dumas is very open and honest but avoids being bitter. This a mark of a talented writer, and perhaps her greatest strength.

Yet Another Blog Post on the New Noah Movie

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I know, Noah. I make that same face whenever I see a new post about how this film is either an atrocity or a masterpiece, depending on who’s talking about it.

This, however, is an objection to the objections of objections to the Noah movie.

….it hurt my brain a little bit to write that, I’m not gonna lie. Basically, I’m causing trouble again, but when is that unusual?

I’m going to admit right now that I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I plan on it. This is not because I have moral objections to the movie or because I believe it’s unbiblical and people are supporting blasphemy if they watch it, as some vehement reviewers have been claiming. (By the way: it’s horrible comments like those that make the world hate any religion, but especially Christianity. But that’s another blog post.)

No, I’m simply not seeing it because I’m a movie hermit. I don’t watch movies very often and rarely rave over them. (See my previous post about being selective in what I like picky.) My objection to this whole shebang goes deeper than criticizing how well done the actual film is. Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t fairly judge that.

This isn’t even a “Oh, all art is beautiful, people; let’s just bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone can eat it and be happy and it’s okay if you don’t even go here” post.

This post is due to a chain reaction. The new Noah movie came out. Christians everywhere rioted, claiming it was unbiblical and offensive. Other people, including some Christians, responded to these objections and their comments were less than pleasing, resulting in my objection to the objections of objections. (Dang, that is starting to be really fun to write.)

My objections are a result of the blog posts, comments, and Facebook statuses that I’ve seen, such as:

“Why are we even concerned with a movie about a story from the Old Testament?”

“Who cares if it’s unbiblical? It’s not like they messed up an important story like Mel Gibson did with The Passion of the Christ.” (Which I actually enjoyed. But that’s another blog post.)

“Why are we, as Christians, worried about whether or not a Jewish story, in the Jewish Old Testament, written by Jews, is accurate?”

…..we’re gonna have some issues.

I raise an eyebrow and frown and even get a little irritated because not only does that smack of anti-semitism, but it is also a faulty and irrational argument. Last time I read my Bible, Jesus was a Jew and most of His stories were written by other Jews. It’s easy to forget that, though. We don’t like to think of Jesus as Jewish, nor do we like to acknowledge the fact that Christianity is largely based off of Judaism. We like to disregard the Old Testament except for the Psalms and maybe that cool verse in Jeremiah about God having a plan for us. When connections are made between Christianity and Judaism, however, we squirm and mutter something about being under grace and not the law.

It’s wrong. It does injustice to the many people and writers of both the New and Old Testament, most of whom were Jewish. Do I even need to mention Paul? To quote Adam Sandler: “also a Jew!”

Let me be clear: This is not a post about the negative aspects of Christianity, a religion in which I identify. I’m also not asking all Christians to adopt aspects of Judaism into their lives; that’s not my place and would actually be super obnoxious of me.

Basically, I’m calling for the elimination of apathy.

Do you object to the new Noah movie because you find the fact that Noah wants to murder his newborn granddaughter a slap in the face to all that God stands for? I’ll support you.

Do you love it because you think any instance of the Bible being told to the masses is a positive thing? Cool. Let’s talk about that.

Do you hate it because it’s only slightly based off of the account in Genesis and has some pretty glaring inaccuracies? I’ll see where you’re coming from.

Are you turning up your nose because you’re still bitter and disgusted over Russell Crowe’s singing in Les Misérables? I’ll…okay, I actually liked him as Javier so you’re basically on your own there. 

But please, don’t have a passive attitude simply because it’s a “Jewish” story and therefore not applicable for us and our Christian lives. It’s a weak argument that discredits the entire Bible.

Besides, we can never truly bash a Russell Crowe character as long as this guy exists.

 

Creepy Marius