The other day, the shoutbox of my favorite streaming music station, Sanctuary Radio, held a discussion on whether to play music by certain Goth/Industrial bands who have some strike against them: singer who rapes women, Nazi sympathizers, terrible anti-woman lyrics, etc. etc. etc. Nobody wants to support bad people, but–should we or should we not play their music?
I come at this from the perspective of a childhood in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian subculture. From my earliest days, I heard about backmasking and that rock music was of the Devil (or “jungle music”). I thought the devilishness was in the secular bands backmasking Satanic messages and singing about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll, so I turned to Christian rock. My parents didn’t restrict us too much with music, but my denomination’s teen magazine posted letters from youth pastors who said ALL rock music is of the Devil. That even included the saccharine, poppy tunes of Amy Grant.
It was also sinful just to go into a movie theater, no matter what movie was playing. I never went to prom because I didn’t want to go to Hell for dancing.
Then I started hearing from The 700 Club how the Devil was in everything: Dungeons and Dragons, Star Wars (because of the Force), Halloween, stories about witches, etc. etc. I eventually got away from that, but then Harry Potter came along and Evangelicals went crazy.
Then there were the books your parents didn’t want you to read in high school English because of sexual or other verboten themes. And you’d read the lists of books which were banned the most often from schools/libraries by conservatives who thought Oh my gosh the kids can’t read that!
And of course, there have always been groups more extreme than mine, saying girls can’t wear pants or cut their hair, you can’t wear shorts, some even taking things so far that you can’t even have music at all, or use electricity.
Nowadays it’s coming from the other direction: liberals saying you can’t watch that, you can’t read that, you can’t listen to that, because now it’s violating other sensibilities: subject matter contains rape, the main character is played by a rapist, it’s cultural appropriation, the movie or its director is racist/sexist/ableist/etc. etc. etc.
I learn a bit about the lives of the classic authors and artists and discover that Picasso was a narcissist who treated his women like crap while also making them addicted to him; that Dostoevsky was a terrible human being; that Charles frickin’ Dickens abandoned his loving wife for a skinny young thing because she got fat after bearing him 10 kids.
I hear countless stories of rock music greats committing sexual assault or statutory rape.
I feel guilty repeating some beloved old line from a Cosby routine, or watching a Woody Allen movie.
Warring shippers for the show Timeless argue that the other side is promoting misogyny: “How can you put Wyatt and Lucy together when he was jealous all season?” “How dare you put Flynn and Lucy together in this age of metoo?”
I already knew there were guys behaving badly in movies like Sixteen Candles or The Breakfast Club, but it had been so long since I saw those movies that I forgot the stuff that Molly Ringwald pointed out. And yeah, now I can see the problems, the echoes of rape culture, the idea that boys do whatever they want while girls have to stop them–But do we ditch the movies now?
I could see the problem with Mister Mom when I saw it about ten or so years ago: Not just assuming that men can’t parent, but the shades of 50s sitcoms when Mom goes to work, and the house is in chaos until she comes back home. But do we never watch it again?
Or The Little Rascals–Yeah, it can get racist at times, but it was the 1930s and here were kids of various races playing together like equals. We grew up with Spanky and Porky and Buckwheat etc.; is it wrong for our kids to enjoy it?
Do we reject Kermit falling for Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show incarnations because she’s a domestic abuser?
And now I hear that Rudolph and some Christmas song I never heard of, are in the crosshairs. I can’t speak on a song I don’t know, but the whole point of Rudolph is that a bullied reindeer gets honored. Are we not supposed to depict bullying onscreen now? Do we stop showing anything bad that ever happens to people and pretend everything’s always great?
It just gets to the point–Where does it end? Am I to toss out all music, all books, all art, all movies, all TV shows? Because is there anything out there not touched by, or depicting, some horrible person who did some horrible thing?
It starts to remind me way too much of growing up Fundamentalist and being told to separate myself from worldly things.
They exist throughout society’s pop-culture canon, from movies to TV to music and beyond: pieces of work that have withstood time’s passage but that contain actions, words and depictions about race, gender and sexual orientation that we now find questionable at best.
…What, exactly, do we do with this stuff today? Do we simply discard it? Give it a free pass as the product of a less-enlightened age? Or is there some way to both acknowledge its value yet still view it with a more critical eye?
…The solutions suggest a general direction: Don’t simply ban or eliminate or delete. Talk about stuff — whether formally, when it’s presented to the public, or informally at home. And involving more voices in the production of today’s popular culture — and the selection, curation and characterization of yesterday’s — can make sense of this more than dismissing the issue as overreaction or scrubbing the leavings of less-enlightened eras.
Let Molly Ringwald have the last word: “Erasing history is a dangerous road when it comes to art — change is essential, but so, too, is remembering the past, in all of its transgression and barbarism, so that we may properly gauge how far we have come, and also how far we still need to go.”
“Why is a symbol of my faith being used alongside Nazi and White Nationalist symbols, and what is American Orthodoxy going to do about it?”
This question was asked by Arthur Hatton after taking a picture of a rock painted with neo-Nazi–and Orthodox–symbols. It’s published in this post–WHITE SUPREMACY IN THE AMERICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH: AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ASSEMBLY OF CANONICAL ORTHODOX BISHOPS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA–by Orthodoxy in Dialogue.
Neo-Nazi and Confederate sentiments have been making their way through the Orthodox Church, a small but disturbing minority, going directly against everything Christ ever stood for. OID wants the leadership of Orthodoxy in America to clearly condemn white supremacy and racism before this poison does any more damage. And anyone can still sign the open letter by e-mailing OID.
And of course, the neo-Nazis have responded with a post by Matt Parrott of the Traditional Worker Party. (The name draws from the original German name of the Nazi Party.) In a hate-filled post, he makes himself and other white supremacists in Orthodoxy into some kind of martyrs for the cause, puritans fighting the heretics of “Ameridoxy.” You can read it on the OID website here, along with OID’s response. That’s better than linking you to the original post, which is on a Nazi website. 😛
For example, Parrott writes,
The Toronto School of Theology’s vibrant and very ecumenical community is calling on Orthodox clergy to go on a hysterical witch hunt for absolutely any and all clergy who may have the slightest anti-globalist or pro-Southern sympathies. Co-signatures are reaching into the hundreds as layman and clergy alike scramble to get their name on the list of people less likely to find themselves strapped down to the lynch mob’s cucking stool.
May the first man who attempts to deny communion on account of race be excommunicated.
Hold up. Wait a second. That stupid list [ names signed to the OID letter ] actually is a handy list of folks who are guilty of precisely that. Start with excommunicating and defrocking them. … The road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring priests and bishops, and I will stomp on each one of them on my way to hell and back to win this war for the universality of Christianity in the West.
Apparently, this TWP group would find my feminism and desire to see equality for LGBTQ in Orthodoxy to be much, much worse than their racism.
Their words made me want even more to sign OID’s letter.
The TWP even has the crazy idea that Confederate symbols weren’t seen as “super racist” at all until a couple of years ago. Er…..I’ve seen Confederate symbols as “super racist” as far back as the 1970s/80s, when I was a child. And so have countless others. In fact, I’m amazed that it took so long for Southern states to wake up to how many people see the Confederacy as “super racist.”
I see this stuff popping up here and there, and start wondering if my ex-friend Richard, the guy who led me into Orthodoxy, has anything to do with any of it. He’s only half-white, so hopefully the other half and his mixed-race child keep him from joining the racists. But I can’t be sure, because I remember how he became militant Tea-Party in the last year or two of our friendship, back when nobody had heard of the Tea Party yet. I remember how he hated Obama, and how his militancy strained our friendship until it finally broke in 2010. I wonder if he’s a Trumper now.
I hope he has nothing to do with these “Orthodox” neo-Nazis, but who knows.
And of course, it’s because of Trump that these neo-Nazis are so bold these days. They think they have a chance to take over American sentiment now.
In reviewing this post as part of site maintenance, I realized it is still relevant–unfortunately–and needs to be posted again. I originally wrote it on February 22, 2015, as a Facebook post:
Recently, the local newspaper reported on racial and religious/ethnic tension in the community.
And the response in the comments online, was to deny it. To dig in the heels and refuse to see what’s going on.
For example, a black man moved here a short time ago, and was disturbed to see pickaninny statuettes. He even had to remove pickaninnies from the wallpaper when he moved into his home! He has also experienced racism in other ways. (See here, here and here.)
I came to this city 20 years ago, having grown up in a larger city with many black friends; I knew those statues were racist. I was shocked to see them around town, brazenly displayed as if the owners didn’t care what message they were sending.
Now, finally, the newspaper laid it bare. I was glad that somebody finally addressed this problem. (I did not know the owners of the statues, so I couldn’t do it myself.) To my relief, the owner of one statue simply did not know it was racist.
Which amazed me, because how can you be so clueless? I’ve known for decades that such images are racist. But at least it was not malicious.
While some people in the newspaper’s online comments were glad to see this addressed, several made comments like, These people offended by statues must have huge chips on their shoulders and need counseling.
Even one of my old college friends said this when I posted a link on Facebook.
I was floored.
Not everyone here is like this, of course. I know people around town who are not like that at all. And there were plenty of comments from people who recognize racism rather than denying it exists.
But I was surprised at what so many people wrote. Openly. On the Net. With their names attached. And no shame, just derision for the article and the man described in it.
Then we had a couple of articles this week about a local group which brought Muslims and Christians together for dialogue, study and fellowship. It was led by Sisters from our St. Agnes convent, who are very much involved in social justice, and wonderful people. (Here and here.)
The response in the comments: to spout off against how evil Islam is and, to the one person who defended the need for dialogue, the “left liberals” who are “anti-Christian.”
Floored once again.
Good heavens. Still? In 2015?
I could’ve sworn I took a time machine back to 1960!
The comments, both about racism and about Muslims, were highly offensive and disgusting.
(Though this does explain how we keep electing politicians who are getting more and more extreme and wacky, with their crazy conspiracy theories. Even our long-time and revered Republican Congressman, Petri, has been treated lately like he’s too “liberal”! Once upon a time, I was a Republican, but cannot be in good conscience anymore.)
Because of my old college friend’s comment on the statues, and her Tea Party rants lately against anything I post that’s even remotely political, I have been considering dropping her from my Facebook. Which would be sad.
But this, and her anti-children comments as well lately, make me understand better how she and my BFF Mike ended up parting ways back in 2010.
(This was the same time that I had to drop my supposed “BFF,” Richard, only to find that Mike and other college friends are my TRUE “BFF’s.”)
But this problem is NOT isolated to our little community. It is all over the country.
Meanwhile, I hear about Muslims in Jerusalem celebrating Christmas, Muslims and Christians protecting each other from violence, and Muslims forming a line around a synagogue in Norway.
I recall the sweet, quiet Muslim lady who used to drop off and pick up her son at the same church where my son went to 4K.
I recall TLC’s reality show on American Muslims, which demonstrated how “normal” they really are–and how prejudice affects them. But it got dropped before the end of the first year, while junk like “Honey Boo-Boo” stays on.
I recall that many practices of Muslims are shared by more traditional Orthodox Christians, such as headcoverings, onion domes, and prostrations.
And I note that my own religious leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch, signed a Joint Declaration with the Pope last November, which included this paragraph:
The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship.
Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war.
Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples.
We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war.
In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.
Over the years, it has disturbed me to find so many Orthodox believers disparaging this Patriarch because of his work toward environmental and ecumenical causes.
I see a true leader striving to further the ends of the Gospel through peace, love, tolerance, understanding, and protecting the world God made for us.
The Patriarch was one reason why I became Orthodox instead of remaining in the liberal Presbyterian Church. I saw in him that you did not have to be a liberal Christian to live out the tenets of the faith (described in the above paragraph). Liberalism has many good traits but often goes too far the other way; now I had an alternative.
I, a lifelong Evangelical, fled and became Presbyterian in the first place because of what I saw taking over the conservative churches: intolerance, treating the Republican Party like God’s Own Party, fighting against Harry Potter instead of poverty, treating environmentalism like a lie from the pit of Hell. Not everyone was like this, of course, but I saw even good people infected by it to some extent. I myself was once infected by it.
But the Patriarch knows all too well what it is like to be persecuted, truly persecuted, not just from ridicule, but from a government which suppresses your religion. He, more than anyone, is qualified to speak of the necessity for tolerance, even for the religion of your oppressor.
And note that both he and the Pope agreed to this Declaration, both spiritual leaders of millions of Christians in the oldest Churches on the planet. These churches are as “conservative” as you can get.
But so many–at least in America–speak against the Patriarch, sounding like the far-right political fanatics who try to further the interests of corporations and Big Oil, deny the truth of climate change, sabotage the progress made in protecting our world, and promote bigotry, war and hate.
They defame our Patriarch by saying he does not further the Gospel, that he is too “politically correct.”
On the contrary, the Patriarch is fighting for Christ, carrying out Christ’s commands, a true prophet for our times.
Those who deny this, will be left behind in the dust bin of history.
The same as those who fought to keep the slaves in chains. And those who fought to keep blacks under a reign of terror in the South, and suppressed and oppressed in the North. The ones who are to blame for many ills still suffered by generations of blacks, long after the Civil War and the end of Jim Crow.
I do not agree with the Patriarch on everything. My church still opposes gay marriage, for example. But to most things I read of and from him, I cheer inwardly.
Such as his book, Encountering the Mystery.
Which I highly recommend. It is prophetic and beautiful, all about how we are to live out the words of Christ in today’s world, promoting peace, love and environmental harmony.
These words are hard and forceful because bigotry and hatred are evil and the sources of most evils in this world.
It just frustrates me to NO END that the guy who wrote this letter spoke the TRUTH about what so many minorities are dealing with, yet so many refuse to see it.
I spoke up in favor of what he said, I say that I know people this has happened to, I express the problem with intolerance is very real, yet there’s a guy who’s just so frickin’ BULLHEADED he refuses to accept it.
Just dismisses me as a “left liberal.” Just says I should “get over it.” Well, I’m not the one who has suffered, so I’m not the one to “get over” anything.
It was suffered by a little girl, only about 6 years old or so. Richard’s daughter (the one he choked), who is mixed-race, was told by classmates that their parents would not let them play with her because she’s black. This was in 2008.
It was suffered by minorities around the year 2000 when a local white supremacist group was putting posters up all over town and writing letters to the editor. I ripped one of their posters off a telephone pole.
I’m not the one suffering it, but others. And so I speak up because somebody in the majority has to.
It is suffered by blacks who–even in these modern times–see offensive pickaninny images around the city, including statues and wallpaper, yet get accused of needing therapy for saying this is racist.
I also see people responding to this letter calling the writer “smug” and “arrogant” because of one little thing he included which is inconsequential to the point he’s making. Meanwhile, they ignore–or deny–the actual points. It is an ad hominem argument used to dismiss the whole letter.
I hope the guy who wrote this letter sees the comments and knows that no, we’re NOT all intolerant in this town. That there IS hope. That change can happen. The trouble is there is such a vocal group of people who are intolerant and are blind to their own behavior. Hopefully a small group, but they are loud.
CHANGE CANNOT HAPPEN THROUGH DENIAL.
Everyone has the right to live wherever they wish without experiencing hate, prejudice, bigotry. It is not about special treatment by any means. It is simple, normal, basic human decency which everyone should be able to expect.
The guy arguing with me, and others, also recently rejected the idea that Muslims are being prejudiced against. Not because of it not happening, but because HE THINKS IT’S OKAY TO BE PREJUDICED AGAINST MUSLIMS.
AND IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY. Not on my own behalf, but that of others.
IT MAKES ME ANGRY TO SEE ANYBODY BEING BULLIED AND ABUSED. That includes groups of people: black, yellow, red, brown, white, gay, any religion, whatever.
We need to LISTEN to the stories of people who claim they’re being hurt by prejudice and bigotry. Don’t just dismiss it because you don’t see it yourself.
NOBODY IS CALLING YOU A BIGOT/RACIST/SEXIST/etc. WHEN THEY DISCUSS THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES WITH BIGOTRY. Unless you were in that story, of course. It is a raising of awareness of what happens, to open the eyes of everyone to what is going on, so we all can help stop it.
Many times we don’t notice our own racism until it is pointed out. Over the years people have pointed out things to me which I had no idea were racist; afterwards, I was shocked and ashamed.
This is a human failing common to everyone, so everyone needs to root it out, even when they don’t realize it’s there.
IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for such stories to be shared. Otherwise, it is just swept under the rug, and the victims of prejudice are silenced. Just the same as when victims of other forms of abuse and rape are silenced. It is necessary so we recognize problems in ourselves, and can recognize cases of prejudice that happen in front of us, so we can speak up. Otherwise, the problem simply continues unabated.
I do the exact same thing on my blog all the time. I write about what it is like to have a brain which does not “see” things the same as other people. I write my own experiences with bullying and abuse so others can learn from them and open their eyes.
It does NOT mean that the reader is himself/herself an abuser (except when my bullies/abusers are the ones reading it). In fact, I would be amazed if anybody ever took it that way. Yet somehow, pointing out cases of abuse and bullying has turned some people defensive.
We need to carry out the teachings of Christ, which were to love even the stranger, even the hated Samaritans. Christ’s teachings tell us to love even those who are different from us.
Yet the guy arguing with me, claims to be a “Christian” while violating what that means. And accusing people of not being Christian for saying we need to be loving towards others instead of hateful.
I’m bowing out of arguing with this bigoted creep.
Which brings me to the topic of today, which is part criticism, part education, and part encouragement for my fellow social justice advocates and progressives. In speaking with people over the past two weeks about ways to get involved and stand up for vulnerable people– especially Muslims and people of color– I’ve been seeing a common theme. It’s certainly not new, and it’s something I’ve struggled with until relatively recently. People with privilege– white, straight, male, Christian, etc– frequently want to do what’s right, but they feel like they’re “walking on eggshells.” They want to be an ally, but they don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. Many of us feel anxiety or nervousness about racial issues in particular.
I would like to gently and lovingly and directly say that this feeling of “walking on eggshells” is based in a lie, and one we believe because our privilege has made us incredibly arrogant. I don’t say this to be mean or harsh, but because I believe it’s the truth, and one I had to learn for myself sometimes painfully.
Some notes in the comments do make sense, however: A couple of commenters–one who grew up fundamentalist, where any wrong thing makes you hellbound, and one who is autistic and often made to feel like her mistakes are “pathetic screwups”–note that arrogance isn’t always the reason we feel we are “walking on eggshells.”
This is my own situation, both as NVLD (socially like autism) and having grown up fundamentalist. I’ve already been accused of horrible things because of my social ineptitude. Also, being fundamentalist taught me that even cussing over a banged toe could send me to Hell if I didn’t ask for forgiveness right then. So if somebody tells me I’m doing something wrong, it can immediately be heard as “You’re going to Hell” or “You’re a wicked, evil person.”
For white people, their identities rest on the idea of racism as about good or bad people, about moral or immoral singular acts, and if we’re good, moral people we can’t be racist – we don’t engage in those acts. This is one of the most effective adaptations of racism over time—that we can think of racism as only something that individuals either are or are not “doing.”
In large part, white fragility—the defensiveness, the fear of conflict—is rooted in this good/bad binary. If you call someone out, they think to themselves, “What you just said was that I am a bad person, and that is intolerable to me.” It’s a deep challenge to the core of our identity as good, moral people.
I see this very thing going on in my family, and it’s very distressing. I have been open to rebuke about racism since my teens, however, and this has allowed me to avoid much of the “white fragility.” But it also means I can get terribly uncomfortable around a certain family member who is very fragile–but denies his/her own fragility.
I try to avoid discussing race issues with this person as much as possible. I try to avoid watching TV shows/movies featuring black characters, around this person. (When this person walks through the room while I watch, he/she will make indignant little remarks that make me have to back up the recording because I could not hear the TV.)
I have seen this person get so defensive about race on Facebook, that I removed him/her from my newsfeed and notifications. I even avoid posting anything on Facebook about race anymore, lest this person get mad in the comments, and embarrass me.
After this person argued with one of my friends about race and discovered I did not want to break off relations with my friend, this person became indignant and guilted me over it. This person also became irate at his/her favorite cousin (who is mixed-race) after arguing with her over race issues.
This is definitely white fragility, which is not at all helpful, as written by Adler-Bell, above:
When I’m doing a workshop, I’ll often ask the people of color in the room, somewhat facetiously, “How often have you given white people feedback about our inevitable and often unconscious racist patterns and had that go well for you?” And they laugh.
Because it just doesn’t go well. And so one time I asked, “What would your daily life be like if you could just simply give us feedback, have us receive it graciously, reflect on it and work to change the behavior? What would your life be like?”
And this one man of color looked at me and said, “It would be revolutionary.”
Let me use my white privilege to tell other whites: Dealing with someone else’s white fragility is intensely frustrating. I can’t express myself anymore. I can’t be myself. I’m afraid of hurting this person’s feelings if I speak up, and getting chewed out, because I’ve already tried, and that’s what happened. I am very embarrassed to see this person behave this way on Facebook, so much so that I took this person out of my newsfeed.
This person doesn’t seem to have any regard for how he/she is affecting other people with this constant defensiveness. And yes, others can see exactly what’s going on, that white fragility leads to hostile, bullying behavior–yet the person doing it thinks they’re the one who’s being bullied!
White fragility leads to fractured and lost friendships. It leads to constant stress.
I can tell you that my own friendships are still intact, including ones with minorities, that I have very few arguments online, and that I can hear about racial concerns without feeling attacked and abused. It is a much better place to be in, than to be on the defensive all the time.
Seriously, you’ll be much happier if you stop defending your whiteness, stop telling other people what their experiences really were (that’s gaslighting), and instead just listen to their concerns. If you’re willing to be open to what minorities are trying to tell us, and reflect on things you may unconsciously do that are racist, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It means you can grow and help make life better for everyone.