Often, in an immigrant family, it’s a very big departure for a child to say: I want to be an artist, not a doctor, not a lawyer, or an engineer. The father, here, tells his daughter what so many immigrant parents tell their children: Art is not the safest route in life. We didn’t sacrifice all this for you to take up a precarious profession.

He tries to comfort her, at the same time, by insisting that being an immigrant makes her an artist already. And this is a fascinating notion: that re-creating yourself this way, re-creating your entire life is a form of reinvention on par with the greatest works of literature. This brings art into the realm of what ordinary people do to in order to survive. It takes away the notion that art is too lofty for the masses, and puts it in the day-to-day. I’ve never seen anyone connect being an artist and an immigrant so explicitly, and for me it was a revelation.


Edwidge Danticat, All Immigrants are Artists (via yellingandcats)

(Source: beyondvictoriana, via mama-panther-deactivated2013102)

In all the talk of love and compassion and tolerance, remember that sometimes the oppressed and the colonized have a right to their anger. If your discourse does not acknowledge that, if your discourse doesn’t teach the oppressor to restrain, then your discourse is useless for me. 

Tags: own ism discourse

Why Am I Not Allowed My Rage?

I had a discussion at my college’s MSA today. 

It was about current events. #MuslimRage. The video of “The innocence of Muslims”. You know. What’s been on the news. And there were some people who said: “we should pick and choose our battles” and not get upset about everything. 

Which I can agree with, yes, people should definitely choose their battles, but it kind of becomes hard when things are pushed towards you, but anyway. Also, apparently even Clinton had something to say about it. And one of the people commented as to how “it’s such a shame that a non-Muslim had to remind us this.”

There was another concurrent theme of the whole, “we should educate people, because there are peaceful Muslims etc etc”.

And I agree with the sentiments, I do. I think it was abhoring that the American ambassador was killed in Libya. I was horrified with the rioting that happened in places like Pakistan. That’s not Islam. That’s not what the Prophet taught us. I saw campaigns erupt on Facebook condemning and shaming fellow Muslims into please, please, please not do what the Prophet wouldn’t do. One of the most famous incidents from the life of Prophet quoted: how he’d walk past peacefully when a woman threw rubbish on him, and the one day she didn’t, he asked after her health. I think that’s a powerful narrative, and is something that most Muslims know about, and can relate to.  I also love the campaign of trolling that started on twitter (see #Muslimrage), and it even migrated to tumblr here. Humor is a powerful tool. Violence isn’t always the answer.

One of the things that I keep hearing over, and over, increasingly from both non-Muslim and Muslim commentators is that the Muslims who protest incidents like these (the film of “Innocence of Muslims”, the Danish Cartoons etc.), are too “sensitive”. They need to learn tolerance etc. etc. One of the best counter argument was provided here by blogger Mehreen Kasana:

Also, remember: These protests arranged by Muslims aren’t only about the Islamophobic film (created by an extremist Coptic Christian to pit Jews and Muslims against each other again) but most of the rage comes from the resentment and frustration the Middle East and Central and South Asia have for US foreign policy (which happens to be extremely dishonest, exploitative and violent). Anyone thinking all Muslims are “touchy” is over-simplifying the issue. This film only triggered it once again. I spoke to one of the students in Pakistan who has been protesting other Islamophobic productions and he had a very simple thing to say: “It’s not just the film. It’s everything. Their politics, abuse and mockery for us. We don’t talk about the clash of civilizations; they do. They created the battle of West against East. It’s not just the film. You’re naive to think so.” He had a point.

 A lot of commentators, in their zealousness to portray Muslims as a peaceful people overall, forget this point. In today’s world, Muslim are othered. Mocked. They are attacked, not only in the name of free speech, but also attacked and exploited in political, and economical terms. I am not denying that Muslim identities are very interwoven with their national ones in many countries, so it seems that they erupt over “religious issues”, but frankly, I am getting tired of this discourse being set only in terms of religion. 

Because may God help the Palestinian who gets angry at their situation, and at Israel (their colonizer), and at America (their colonizer’s ally). May God help the Pakistani who gets angry and protests against the drone attacks that’s happening (which is not even really acknowledged by American politicians or popular media, btw). It is all nice and great to say that when Muslims protest and it turns violent, that is the image that goes out to the world, so we should abstain from it. But who decides what image goes out to the world? Popular media does, first world countries with their monopolies do. I have heard the argument: “well, when, for example, Christians are offended, they don’t go all crazy”. Firstly, they are not.  Secondly, when, for example, the Westboro Baptist priest started burning Quran, he was not the face of #ChristianRage. He is not portrayed as the face of Christianity, he is not portrayed as the face of America. Neither was the Norwegian Christian who killed kids. Politicians and media changed their tone the moment they were made aware of his ethnicity, and religion. Priests who sodomized young boys are not the face of Christianity. So then here’s my question, why is there this image of “Muslim radicals”, the mainstream image of Islam? In media which is supposedly “open minded”, and “liberal”, and for the “educated masses” (aka, supposedly not Fox News Watchers).

Because rhetoric shapes politics. Because while Americans are killed by non-state terrorist groups, Muslims are killed by the States. And I am a little tired, that not only are these facts not acknowledge, Muslims are expected to tolerate these facts. Not only am I tired of having to defend over and over, people and places and incidents that are only connected to me because of a common belief, but I am also tired of seeing, over and over, that there is no legitimate discourse when #MuslimRage is talked about. So few popular media talks about drone attacks. So few talk about all the ways in which First World countries still exploit Third World Muslim countries, where these protests are happening. 

It stinks of colonialism. 

It stinks of colonialism, because not only are First World countries allowed to tell Muslims as a whole, what to get offended at and not get offended at (that is such a supremacist mentality), First World countries are still deciding what image of Muslims gets out on popular media. Yay for Orientalism, Hollywood, and print media, which btw, is not obsolete. It stinks of colonialism because they get away with it. Because both Muslims and  non-Muslims often paint it as a black and white picture of “idiot, angry Muslims” vs “educated, secular, peaceful Muslims”.

And I am tired of this. I am tired, and defensive, and aggressive about this. That Muslims, as a whole or as a fraction, are not allowed our hurts and our anger. I am tired, that we are exploited, that we are killed, but we should still have “peaceful protests”. Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone violence. But I wish we were treated humanely, we were treated like our First World (white) counterparts. I with that a few people wouldn’t become “the face of Islam”, I wish we were allowed diversity, I wish this didn’t become a linear debate. 

"Orientalism was a European enterprise from the very beginning. The scholars were European; the audience was European; and the Indians figured as inert objects of knowledge. The Orientalist spoke for the Indian and represented the object in texts. Because the Indian was separated from the Orientalist knower, the Indian as object- as well as its representation- was construed to be outside and opposite of self; thus,both the self and the other, the rational and materialist British and the emotional and spiritual Indian, appeared as autonomous, ontological, and essential entities. Of course, the two essential entities, the spiritual India and the materialistic West, made sense only in the context of each other and the traces of each in the other, which suggested that heterogeneity and difference lay beneath the binary opposition, although the process of rendering India into an object external both to its representation and to the knower concealed this difference. It also made the colonial relationship- the enabling condition of British Orientalism- appear as if it was irrelevant to the production of knowledge. As a result, although colonial dominance produced the East-West construct, it looked as if this binary opposition not only pre-dated the colonial relationship but also accounted for it. In other words, Orientalist textual and institutional practices created the spiritual and sensuous Indian as an opposite of the materialistic and rational British,and offered them as justifications for the British conquest."

Gyan PrakashWriting Post-Orientalist Histories of the Third World: Perspectives from Indian Historiography (via sitaronse)

(via pbnpineapples)


Apart from the characterization of the political condition of India preceding the British conquest as a state of anarchy, lawlessness and arbitrary despotism, a central element in the ideological justification of British colonial rule was the criticism of the “degenerate and barbaric” social customs of the Indian people, sanctioned, or so it was believed, by their religious tradition. Alongside the project of instituting orderly, lawful and rational procedures of governance, therefore, colonialism also saw itself as performing a “civilizing mission.” In identifying this tradition as “degenerate and barbaric,” colonialist critics invariably repeated a long list of atrocities perpetrated on Indian women, not so much by men or certain classes of men, but by an entire body of scriptural canons and ritual practices which, they said, by rationalizing such atrocities within a complete framework of religious doctrine, made them appear to perpetrators and sufferers alike as the necessary marks of right conduct. By assuming a position of sympathy with the unfree and oppressed womanhood of India, the colonial mind was able to transform this figure of the Indian woman into a sign of the inherently oppressive and unfree nature of the entire cultural tradition of a country.

Of course, within the discourse thus constituted, there was much debate and controversy about the specific ways in which to carry out this project. The options ranged from proselytization by Christian missionaries to legislative and administrative action by the colonial state to a gradual spread of enlightened Western knowledge. Underlying each option was the colonial belief that in the end Indians themselves must come to believe in the unworthiness of their traditional customs and embrace the new forms of a civilized and rational social order.


Partha Chatterjee, Colonialism, Nationalism, and Colonialized Women: The Contest in India

This is a great essay about the inadvertent construction of a new patriarchy through nationalism as a response to colonialists and their manipulative characterization of the colonized Indians.

You can click through to read it.

(via sitaronse)

(via themindislimitless)

Hari Kondabolu on “Will Your Marriage Be Arranged?”

Cultural Appropriation


Best defined as the ‘adoption’ a.k.a. theft of specific parts (icons, traditions, rituals, behaviour) of a culture by a dominant culture where the significance of the parts of the original culture are not acknowledged, eventually leading to the ruin of what’s appropriated. The items become meaningless and lose their original spiritual, cultural, and historical significances and simply becomes stereotypes of pop culture.

In racial dynamics where white supremacy was started with colonialism and currently upheld and maintained, appropriation is usually done by white people of the cultures of people of colour. Cultural appropriation is in fact a by-product of imperialism, colonialism, and the oppression of people of colour wherein PoC (people of colour) are shunned for celebrating their culture. This is not a post-racial society, and there is a very definite imbalance in the cultural, economic and territorial relationship between people who are white (dominant culture(s), the oppressors in a world that upholds whiteness) and people of colour (minority culture, the oppressed). The imbalance between the two is maintained by extracting everything of value from the oppressed (people of colour) for profit and in this case, culture is very much of value.

And cultural appropriation is very much profitable. Objects and traditions of a culture of marginalized people are seen as trendy, exotic, edgy and desirable, which means profit. The media industry profits off taking parts of marginalized cultures and portraying them in ways that degrades them from their original value. In the meantime, the people those traditions originate from are oppressed and treated inferior for the celebration of their own culture.

And because of the history of colonialism behind white people and the continued oppression of people that exist today, white people have no ‘ethnicity’ because celebrating whiteness is racist. People of colour are the only ones with ‘ethnicity’ and white people, ‘without an ethnicity’ try to take on aspects of other cultures to appear worldly.

One of the worst things white people do is treat everything like it is theirs to have. But they do, and it is maintained by white supremacy, which means even a lot of people of colour are willing to allow whiteness to consume all of their culture in an effort to be accepted. It has not, does not, and will not work.

So culture is then treated not as a part of existence of people of colour but as a ‘thing’ in this capitalist society where individual people with differences are not treated as such but as identical workers, parts of a machine. So culture is not seen as maintained by the people, but as maintaining the people. This is best seen as when people of colour are informed and treated like there is a ‘right way’ to be of their culture/race and thus moulded into stereotypes that are very often mostly inaccurate and originate only from pop culture.

But things from a certain culture? Have their meaning BECAUSE of the people of that culture. It is given meaning by the people, and not the other way around, those objects have meaning when particular people of that culture wear it/do it, partly because of the history of the people and that part of a culture, and the people fiercely holding on to their culture despite the years of oppression.

When a white person wears something from a marginalized culture, they ignore the years of oppression PoC endured, and still endure, because of their culture. It becomes a mockery, makes it seem like all that hardship suffered doesn’t matter. When PoC wear or do something, they do it in defiance of white supremacy and the ideals of whiteness. When PoC celebrate their culture, they suffer, but it is done in defiance. White people do not have to suffer, because they are not oppressed for that culture, instead, white people appropriating culture strip the original culture of its meaning and the years of oppression that culture has borne. And most white people do not wear/ do something of another culture of another culture with its historical, cultural and/or spiritual significance in mind. Which is why it’s not okay for white people to wear/do things of PoC culture, even if particular people do know the significance. (See the post through the link)

There ought to be a differentiation between cultural appropriation and cultural syncretism , the latter of which is defined by “the process of reconciling or melding of differing views or beliefs or uses. This can happen intentionally, or by a natural, unconscious process. More or less discrete cultures that come into contact with one another, either through geographical proximity, migration, conquest, trade and exploration, or in other ways, will start to syncretize aspects of each culture. This is inevitable, and neither undesirable nor preventable. Cultural items tend to get taken on in a new culture if they are useful, convenient, resolve a problem, or appeal to a value that already exists in the host culture”. (From the article through the link- read more there to better understand syncretism.) Cultural syncretism, however, IS how cultural appropriation (degrading of a culture, loss of significance) happens eventually.

Things confused with cultural appropriation often: cultural exchange or sharing, which suggests an equality between the cultures. However, sharing can only be cone when parts of a culture are ‘offered’. Like when cultural food or art is offered by the people of that culture, or learning of a culture from materials given to you by the people of that culture. That’s based on syncretism. An example would be when a native martial arts master offers to teach others. Here there is a willingness to share, and it is a skill given freely (or sold) by a member of the original community. As in, their culture belongs to them and they can do whatever with it, but other people learning Japanese martial arts doesn’t make them Japanese, nor does it allow them to adopt other parts of Japanese culture, which is downright appropriation.

And cultural appropriation is stealing, and degrades culture. It is not okay for white people to take from a culture that does not belong to them, which is racist.

"And it is very interesting how different parts of the world have been described in similar terms at different historical moments—-always linked to the question of women’s rights. The Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (and increasingly, China) have been racialized around this question in similar ways. In the Arab world the causative factor linked to gender oppression is Islam and Arab “culture,” in Africa it is about tribalism, naturalized violence and irrationality, while in India we have discourses about gender oppression that contribute to racialization in different ways. Racialization is a process of explaining actions and practices such as sexism, sexual harassment or abuse as due to “natural” or “immutable” causes. “Culture” in this sense becomes causative for certain peoples and not others. So in Europe and in the United States sexism is explained as always an isolated incident that has nothing to do with “culture” or something immutably sexist in Christianity or in the white Euro-American male’s natural predilection towards violence. I recently saw a chart that aggregated the number of women killed in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends since September 11, 2011. The chart shows that more women have been killed in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends than Americans who were killed on September 11 in Iraq and in Afghanistan combined. And yet violence against women is not considered a public concern and is not understood as systematic. Instead, each of these deaths is explained as an isolated incident. But at some point, all of these isolated incidents come together and paint a picture of systemic violence and systemic normalization of this violence. What I am saying is not cultural relativism. It is a recognition that ifthere is a “war against women” being waged today, it is being waged internationally and in ways that are not always obviously discernible. We, as feminists, must struggle to understand the ways that patriarchy licenses gender injustice internationally and the ways it is wedded to racialized discourses in order to maintain and produce particular geopolitical and economic interests, alliances, and concerns."

Lebanon, the Sectarianization of Politics, and Genderalizing the Arab Uprisings: Interview with Maya Mikdashi


(via arielnietzsche)

(Source: jayaprada, via themindislimitless)


 *Here you have various WoC (women of colour) wearing their traditional, religious and cultural head-coverings. Please try and persuade me that all these women, from various continents are oppressed because they choose to wear traditional/religious/cultural garments. 
As a woman of colour, I preserve the right to wear my garments religiously and culturally. I will not take off my headscarf or any form of head covering because your ignorance has let you to believe that I am ‘oppressed’. I will wear my culture and religion with pride, and shouldn’t have to be afraid I will face discrimination because of your lack of knowledge of my culture or religion.
*Please reblog*


 *Here you have various WoC (women of colour) wearing their traditional, religious and cultural head-coverings. Please try and persuade me that all these women, from various continents are oppressed because they choose to wear traditional/religious/cultural garments. 

As a woman of colour, I preserve the right to wear my garments religiously and culturally. I will not take off my headscarf or any form of head covering because your ignorance has let you to believe that I am ‘oppressed’. I will wear my culture and religion with pride, and shouldn’t have to be afraid I will face discrimination because of your lack of knowledge of my culture or religion.

*Please reblog*

(via themindislimitless)


The thing with ‘transethnic’ people. There is white people being oppressive and pretending to be of another race so that they get to act like they somehow don’t have all the privileges of being white. But there’s another problem too.

There are actually people who have a legitimate claim to their culture/ heritage/ nationality and are denied it. The Burmese Muslims in Burma, denied their heritage as Burmese, driven out from their homes, called illegal despite having lived in a place for many generations. The Palestinians, denied their home. The Roma, thrown into a racial stereotypical image of ‘gypsy’ and denied their true culture even as they are persecuted for it. There’s more I can add to the list.

This is not a game. Oppression isn’t something selfish, self centered, uncaring white kids with internet access and nothing good to do have to endure. ‘Transethnic’ is a mockery of the oppression of real people with a real culture that they are denied go through. We DIE for trying to reclaim our identity. Do you hear me? People DIE because of racism. You, white person, will never suffer that, will never have to be afraid of that. You do not have a right to the culture of which you are not. The end.