Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 31 seconds

Spectrum of Racism/Xenophobia

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes, 31 seconds

I’ve been reading and listening to a variety of things recently and having conversations. I want to reflect on it all because it’s all about some kind of racism or xenophobia or discrimination or prejudice. I may not call each thing what it is… But it’s all some kind of offense or violence towards “others”. Or a way of dealing with it (well or poorly).

So the first thing I wanted to talk about is when people who are immigrants speak badly about other immigrants of the same background.  This is different from other kinds of racism/Xenophobia and such because the perpetrator cannot claim lack of knowledge of the “other” and inability to empathize because they don’t know any of “them” firsthand (all of which are common reasons why people can be affected by hyperbolic media claims about people different from themselves).

And so I have seen multiple reasons why people do that (some explicit and some implicit) :

  1. I worked hard to immigrate legally, why should I support others to immigrate illegally?
  2. I worked hard to immigrate legally and be a good citizen; it makes me angry that others immigrate then don’t behave as good citizens, giving all of “us” a bad name
  3. As a way to integrate or assimilate as more “American” or “Canadian” than to their home/parent culture, because they’ve really become more culturally North American and they genuinely have forgotten what  it’s like for a newbie

So there’s that. Then there’s this wonderful podcast I learned about thru Teaching in Higher Ed podcast (thanks Bonni Stachowiak) and this episode called “A Muslim and a Mexican Walk into a Bar…”

And here is the thing. This is a podcast ON RACE. It’s like…hosted by people who seem to be of immigrant descent (couple of Iranian-Americans in 2 episodes i have listened to) and POCs.

And that title and the way it’s dealt with in the episode (a great episode otherwise)? It grates on my nerves like nails on chalkboard. Because at no point in the episode does anyone directly address the strangeness of putting a Muslim in a bar and getting them drunk. Unless i am missing some really subtle culturally specific hints in there. Or it is meant to be an implicit joke to do this. I know. Lots of Muslims drink. Probably lots of Muslim-Americans drink. But still. You know? Could they not walk into some other place and do some other thing? And if you tell me “but that’s just the way that kind of joke works…” I would then tell you, well you didn’t really have to use THAT particular joke. Now, did you, you culturally aware minority advocating for more cultural awareness?

[GRRR I just wrote a LOT more text that somehow got lost as my post uploaded from my phone onto wordpress. I will try to re-cap quickly before my next meeting!!!]

So that Code Switch podcast episode? The rest of it was really good. It’s worth a listen. And it talks also about why some Latinos voted for Trump.

I read a couple of things this morning linked from Audrey Watter’s newsletter. The first is by Tressie showing how US media have an implicit approach of not using the word racism often, and how they use other words instead that don’t really address it head on:

I’m actually a fan of Jay Smooth’s approach to this one. Where he talks about letting people know that particular behavior is racist, but that it doesn’t mean they themselves are racist. And this is a good approach because you can still use the term “racist” in a constructive way that the person can work on their behavior to modify it. Unless they’re like, KKK. And the approach of Jay Smooth will help in the moment but won’t tackle deep-seated racism.

So speaking of KKK is Kelly  J Baker’s blogpost (she studied KKK ethnographies) on how some (white) ethnographers were shocked by how KKK people were nice, decent. Of course they were nice and decent to white people, why wouldn’t they be?

Although, honestly, I think there is value in seeing the humanity of violent people and criminals as a way to try to reach them… not exonerate them… which brings me to the next podcast.

This one’s the episode of “Flip the Switch” on Invisibilia (also H/T Bonni Stachowiak):

There are 3 stories and the first two are most powerful. The second one, though, is the one I want to talk about. It’s a story of how 2 Danish Policemen dealt with a strange exodus of young Muslims (immigrants) from their hometown to Syria. They basically fought radicalism with love. What I really like about the episode is that you get to hear the policemen, but also the voice and story of a young Somali who almost went to Syria and an Imam at his mosque and a mentor of young Muslims (who was part of the policemen’s approach). The podcast was really important in two ways imho:

  1. It reveals how radicalization happens. I get really annoyed when someone (usually an Egyptian member of my family) sees homegrown terrorists in Europe and say “they’re biting the hand that feeds; how ungrateful” and I almost always respond “but sometimes that hand then slaps, and humiliates, and that has an impact on them and makes them angry”. There. I said it.
  2. It reveals how, even though the approach of trying to understand was initially approached with skepticism, it reveals how really trying to understand and help (rather than catch and punish) has potential to really make a difference with integrating these young people who were on their way to doom. It’s taking a parent’s view of worry for their kids and wanting them back safe, rather than fear of their violence and wanting to control it. There is a point where the imam asks them to consider whether the young men are going to Syria to work at a refugee camp rather than kill people. They don’t really believe him deep down, but they go with it, and that mindset helps them approach these young people as ones who may have good intentions deep down, be really trying to do good. Maybe. And then they match them with an older Muslim immigrant mentor who has faced discrimination like them and helps them learn how to handle it. It helps

(there was more in this post but I now really gotta go to a meeting, so I will stop here)

2 thoughts on “Spectrum of Racism/Xenophobia

  1. So much here that’s important and I’m too far behind with projects today. One of which is to respond to comments our Mayor, who is Muslim, made in the local paper on what Trump has been saying. The gist of his comments were that Trumps constant tirade on virtually everyone, with a special emphasis on Muslims, were simply an attention-getting device to capture news minutes. And then he went on to point out his passport mentions nothing about his Muslim heritage and anyway, things are safe here in Northern Alberta 500 miles from the US border.
    I’m not sure how to reply to this foolishness. Should I point out his cleverness at being able to “pass” for a white Christian indicates to me that he, himself has no values? Or is that insensitive of me (being white and blond) when I don’t share his precarious position? Or should I mention that Leslie and I moved from the US 1975 making us first-generation Canadians while his people moved to this town over 100 years ago and therefore, his as an “outsider” is pretty much blown?
    As a Unitarian I was brought up to be tolerant and appreciative of other’s values but I feel no obligation to tolerate the weakness of our mayor or the dismissive and disrespectful person of Donald Trump. Understanding how hate works, it’s my obligation to stand up to it. Which is not to abandon reason or to imagine myself a perfect person, but to take responsibility for my beliefs.
    A Quote:
    “It is hardly possible to overrate the value, in the present low state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. . . . Such communication has always been, and is peculiarly in the present age, one of the primary sources of progress.” – John Stuart Mill

    Goldin, Ian; Cameron, Geoffrey; Balarajan, Meera. Exceptional People: How Migration Shaped Our World and Will Define Our Future (Kindle Locations 29-31). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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