Archive for the ‘ethnocentrism’ Category

Flip the Script for a Moment

Friday, March 26th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

So what if we flip the script on this gender issue and show how it plays out with race? Imagine that black and brown people sit on the back of buses and use separate drinking fountains and so on…and we just don’t discuss it. “I’m not comfortable discussing that because it’s just the way it is. THERE ARE JUST SOME THINGS THAT WE SHOULD NOT DISCUSS.” Of course, this is exactly what people said for decades…upon decades…

Imagine how you’d feel if you saw it differently and thought that we really should discuss that race issue. And then anyone who brought it up was considered to be butting his or her head into places where it didn’t belong…or worse yet, complaining about something that isn’t going to change. “Why do you have to discuss that. It’s not polite. Everything is fine.”

This is one way that this “28 day cycle issue” fits with the race issue, by the way.

AND, it’s a perfect example of ethnocentrism — of our inability to step outside of our own shoes and see the world in a different way, through someone else’s experience. Remember, ETHNOCENTRISM = THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT IS. So when that’s your argument, you are in questionable territory.

Why do I say this? Because if it wasn’t that way, then the class would’ve been bored stiff when I brought up the issue. However, most of you weren’t bored at all but, rather, opinionated and emotionally charged.

And it seems to me that when we’re truly resistant to thinking about something, that is the very moment that we ought to really consider it. Maybe the Tea Party people are right and we really do need some sort of a major upheaval in the United States. And maybe abortion is murder. And then, maybe life does not begin at conception.

Remember that I “woke up” when I was twenty years old after enough people pointed out contradictions about things that I faced every day but did not see — because I was a fish in the water that was my own culture. Crazy how that is. And once I woke up I could not stop asking questions…and I still cannot stop. That’s why I teach. I’m just trying to answer those damn questions.

In Her Own Words

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Coincidentally, Laurie was in a play tonight where SHE talked about bleeding. By the way, that’s her word, not mine.

Fired for a Scarf

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Posted by Sam Richards

This is rather troubling story and all the worse because this young woman was hired with the agreement that she would be wearing her head scarf while at work. While we haven’t heard from the company spokespeople, aside from the letter from which they quoted in the story, it doesn’t seem as though this fired employee was not doing her job. Hmm…

The XXX Bible? Who Would’ve Thought?

Monday, February 15th, 2010


posted by Sam Richards

Okay, so this is going to stretch some of you into places I am reasonably certain you’ve not yet ventured.

Imagine for a moment, that the religious texts with which you’re familiar were actually written by humans and inspired by Allah/God/G-d. Now consider what “inspired” actually means or what it could possibly refer to. When someone inspires me, for example, they don’t sit behind me and whisper editorial comments into my ear as I’m typing along. Rather, they provoke my imagination and my mind to consider things that I’ve yet to bring to bear on some particular issue. This means that in the end, when I hit save on a document or send on an email, regardless of how instrumental another person’s ideas or thoughts were to my own, the words in the document are mine and probably reflect more of what is happening in MY LIFE than the life of my muse.

Makes sense, right? So now apply this to any religious stories that you believe were inspired by Allah/God/G-d. (If you are a strict, [read: "literal"] interpreter of religious text, you can just jump ahead to the linked article.) One can only conclude that both the sacrosanct stories that give form to our religions AND the ways in which those stories have been interpreted have at least as much to do with mundane matters of daily living as they do with some great mysterious relationship between the writer and his or her otherworldly muse.

So this article points to some things that I’ve thought about (seriously!) but never had the time nor the inclination to research. It’s rather interesting and should provoke some challenging brain activity.

Read the article: “Adam’s Family Jewels”

Animals vs. Humans vs. Welfare Cheats

Monday, February 8th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Lt Gov Don't Help The Poor

Here’s an interesting event — an elected official referring to welfare recipients as animals. That would be “animals” and not, you know, “the human animal.” This is one of those rather unfortunate things that people sometimes think but can never, ever say in public. In fact, frankly speaking, I’d guess that lots of people have referred to poor people who may or may not be on welfare as “animals.” “They’re just like animals!” or “They act like animals.” or “Put ‘em all in a cage like the animals that they are.” The difference is that people on welfare are, in fact, human beings who happen to be represented by politicians. Oh yes, and do I need to say that most poor people on welfare are children? What decisions did THEY make to merit calling them “animals”?

And do I also need to say that everyone collects welfare subsidies of some sort, and that the vast majority of subsidies go to the very wealthy? I do, of course, because like most people, you probably don’t think of welfare subsidies that are given away to anybody but the poor.

Let me help you here. Think Obama’s “welfare queens” who live lavish lifestyles as they come begging to the distributors of public tax dollars. Actually, I just mispoke here because they don’t come begging; they send their puppets from “K Street” (that would be lobbyists, for those not familiar with inside the beltway jargon). Why don’t you take a moment and think about how many negative thoughts you’ve had about poor welfare recipients as compared to those you’ve formulated about rich ones…if you’ve ever actually had any of the latter.

So while some guy sipping a shot of JD and pounding down Miller Lites at the corner bar might call food stamp collectors “animals,” elected officials ought to keep their thoughts to themselves…or they might show their hand and reveal whose side they’re actually on.

“Sanford’s lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer, likens government assistance to feeding stray animals”

By Michael Sheridan
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER  — Tuesday, January 26th 2010

A South Carolina politician is making very a public apology – and this time it’s not Governor Mark Sanford.  After likening welfare recepients to stray animals, Andre Bauer, the embattled Republican’s lieutenant governor, is hastily back-pedalling from remarks his rivals have called “immoral.”

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals,” he said during a Town Hall meeting on Thursday.

“You know why? Because they breed! You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply.  They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that.”

Bauer hopes to ascend to the state’s highest seat in November’s election, where he would succeed the sex-scandal scarred Mark Sanford, who’s affair with an Argentine mistress made him the butt of late-night talk.

The 40-year-old was quickly targeted by Democratic rivals for the remarks.  “I am disgusted by these comments,” said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen. “His comments were immoral and out of line.”  South Carolina schools Superintendent Jim Rex labeled them “reprehensible.”

No stranger to firing off intemperate remarks, Bauer has offered something of an apology.  “Do I wish I’d used a different metaphor? Of course,” he said. “I didn’t intend to offend anyone.”

Despite his choice of words, Bauer noted he feels welfare recipients should be required to submit to drug tests and attend parent-teacher conferences if they have kids in school.

Avatar and the White Man’s Burden

Monday, February 1st, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Admittedly I have not seen the film. The last time I visited a movie theater was in 2005. Before that it was sometime in the early 1990s. I just don’t get out much. And while Avatar does seem like the kind of film that ought to be experienced on the big screen, it’s highly unlikely that that is where I’ll see it given my track record.

Nonetheless, reading this op-ed by David Brooks makes me a bit curious about the movie. Not sure why, really, as it sounds a lot like just another film from a long list of other films that I was neither drawn to, nor do I feel somehow deprived as a result of not seeing. But Brooks makes some serious accusations about a film that is being widely and universally viewed that it does make me curious about this persistent theme that just won’t go away — about how it is up to white people to save people from disastrous fates that might befall them.

I supposed one could readily argue that Brooks is reading far too much into the film. But these conscious and subconscious themes that drive popular cultures have a way of landing in us and shape our minds and hearts and just because you didn’t draw his conclusions from the film does not mean that he’s not dead on. In fact, if you’ve grown up in this culture and you haven’t not critically restructured your thinking about gender and race and culture and imperialism, then it’s highly unlikely that you would come to his conclusions. It doesn’t make him “correct” or you “wrong”–but I’d give his ideas time to gestate.

Here’s what Brooks had to say: The Messiah Complex


Clubbing the “Bejesus” Out of Rationality

Sunday, January 17th, 2010

posted by Sam Richards

Believe me when I say that I don’t need another reason for wishing that Pat Robertson’s “savior” would just go ahead and call him home. And so why am I talking about this man who is posing as preacher who is posing as an asylum escapee? (Or is it the other way around?)

Here’s what he said about Haiti:

(CNN) — Pat Robertson, the evangelical Christian and host of the “700 Club,” says a “pact to the devil” brought on the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

Robertson blamed the tragedy on something that “happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it.” The Haitians “were under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon III and whatever,” Robertson said on his broadcast Wednesday. “And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the French.’ True story. And so, the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ “

As lame as it may seem, my excuse for bring this up is that I want to make a point about the dangers of living in world of good and evil, black and white while remaining completely surrounded by others who see things just as we do. Seriously. I’ll admit that when I first read Robertson’s words I wanted to go for the jugular. Thumbs to windpipe. But then so many others have done taken up the cause that I decided that I just needed to make a sociological point.

Here’s Olbermann. Ouch. I don’t have to keep up in the ratings and so I don’t need to be so vicious. But truthfully, I can’t say that I’m offended by Olbermann’s attack on a “man of the cloth.” But those are not my thoughts.

Thinking that the “country of Haiti” made a pact with the Devil two centuries ago is probably a pretty good indication that Robertson is mentally ill. Did they actually sign something with ink and a quill? Was there some sort of referendum in which the entire Haitian population participated or was it just a single Haitian leader? I mean really, was the devil hanging out in the Carribean a couple of hundred years ago searching for an unwitting victim in the form of an entire country?

If you encountered someone on the street who told you that the devil is making a pact with, let’s say, Detroit to bring back the auto industry, you wouldn’t give them the time of day. You’d assume that they had gone off their meds and you’d probably be correct. But here’s a guy with a viewing audience in the millions who is saying a similar thing and nobody seems to be changing the channels. Moreover, Robertson himself is not saying that he was wrong in making such statements. This is largely because he doesn’t have people around him to challenge his thinking. The most dangerous position a person can be in, by the way, is that of embracing a black and white ideology of good and bad, right and wrong and not having people around us who think differently than we do and who can reflect alternative ideas back to us.

That the media put a voice to mentally ill people clearly says something about how the rest of us want to see ourselves as superior others or, in this case, be entertained by our own self-righteous indignation. Be clear that few Christians would agree with Robertson and, in fact, I can’t say that I know of any. But when he refuses to take his meds and makes his outlandish comments, then the rest of can feel better about ourselves and so we keep tuning in. “Well, now that guy really is a nut.” Sure, there are a million or so of us who listen to the guy on a regular basis, but even most of these people likely write off these sorts of nutty ideas as a slip of the tongue.

This all goes to say that Olbermann gives Robertson way too much credibility by responding as though the guy is living with a full deck. Let’s just move on.

As a final caveat, the crazy thing is that when I read Robertson’s comments for the first time I actually thought to myself, “Hey, I don’t remember reading this.” Seriously. I got suckered into the man’s insanity for a brief moment. LOL.

In case anyone is interested, here is Jon Stewart discussing these knuckleheads (and Rachel Maddow).

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How Many Killings Equal One Public Outrage?

Saturday, November 7th, 2009
Diana Nicholson, the mother of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, is comforted during a news conference  in Tarboro, N.C.

Diana Nicholson, the mother of Taraha Shenice Nicholson, is comforted during a news conference in Tarboro, N.C.

posted by Sam Richards

Part of this story is about social class…maybe most of it is. I don’t know and nobody does. Race and class are so intertwined that they’re impossible to disentangle. My raised eyebrow to the fool who says it’s all clear to him or her.

All I know is that when I read this story I cannot even possibly imagine that these events would be silenced if the victims were middle class, and certainly not middle class and white. I really don’t expect the media outlets to cover every negative and sad event from across the land, but I have to wonder how much a life is worth and why some lives are worth more than others.

Read the story and chew on the question that is embedded into that last statement. It’s going to take you a few minutes, but it should keep you thinking. HERE IS THE LINK TO THE STORY.

UPDATE: Perhaps you’ve been following the case of the man in Cleveland who tortured and killed 10-11 women whose bodies were buried or hidden in his house in a poor section of the city. The man is black, as were most (perhaps all) of the women. This case juxtaposes well with the one in North Carolina in that the relatives of the missing Cleveland women all report that the police entirely disregarded their attempts to report someone as a “missing person.” In one case the aunt of a missing woman was (purportedly) told to just sit tight because her niece would return “when all of the drugs were gone.” It seems as though the message is the same: the rape, assault, and disappearance (i.e., murder) of poor and marginalized women is not really a public concern.

Beat Those “Twisted Women”

Friday, October 9th, 2009


posted by Sam Richards

So I heard on the radio this morning that Egypt’s most powerful (Muslim) cleric, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, has spoken out against the niqab, the full, face-covering/headscarf (not to be confused with the burka–a full body covering). He has proclaimed that these should be banned from the various schools of the Al-Azhar University. He has asserted that niqab “has nothing at all to do with Islam.”

This is from the Press Trust of India:

Cairo, Oct 9 (PTI) Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar University has barred students from wearing face-veils or Niqab in female-only classrooms and dormitories.
The Al-Azhar supreme council, in a statement yesterday, said that it has decided to ban students and teachers from wearing the Niqab inside female-only classrooms that are taught by women.
The ban extends to women dormitories and to schools affiliated with the university.
It said that the aim of the ban is to spread the spirit of confidence, unison, comfort and sound understanding between the teachers and their students.
The decision was announced by Sheik of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, who was recently criticised for forcing a girl to take off her face-veil inside an institute affiliated with the university.
The Muslim brotherhood, the largest opposition bloc, has asked for his removal, describing his action as part of a larger plan to de-Islamise Egypt.

This struck me because it sounds rather progressive and, dare I say, “feminist.” It does not sound at all like some proclamations I’ve heard recently by other Egyptian (Muslim) clerics. Listen to this one:

Now that’s what I’m talking about. Real machismo. I’ve always thought that God/G-d/Allah wanted straight men to have a way to unequivocally express how manly they were in their own homes so as to show that he is on our side — he is a “he,” afterall, isn’t he?

So here’s the deal. This should show all of us that Islam, like all other religions, is ripe for interpretation. I mean, c’mon, god–the g is lower case now in deference to the atheists among you–either wants women to be beaten or to not cover up.bikini Not sure if a bikini is acceptable, but these are two very different interpretations of the will of the creator and I’m struck by how anybody at all can speak for god. Reminds me of some words I read years ago: “You can be pretty certain that you’ve created god in your own image when your god hates all of the same people and things that you do.”

I guess I’d like to leave you with the following: Just like your secular and religious leaders have different interpretations for their people’s actions, so too do the leaders of other lands and cultures. Keep that in mind the next time you hear something that sounds really crazy that has been proclaimed by one of a billion or so followers of some belief system. Perhaps it’s just that one person’s sense of reality! Maybe not every so-called follower agrees with that person — like when Ahmadinejad in Iran expresses his desire to Nuke Israel, or when the Pope decides that using condoms will not help prevent the spread of HIV.