Your Racism is Showing

A lot has happened since I wrote my last blog post.  I’ve been busy with a few projects, so I haven’t been able to blog about some of the important issues in the world right now (France’s niqab ban, the death of Osama bin Laden, the anti-Muslim attacks immediately following Osama’s death, the ongoing uprisings in the Middle East, etc.).  With regard to Osama’s death, a few of my Muslim friends informed me about experiences they had in their schools and workplaces.  They were asked by white non-Muslim peers, “Were you upset about Osama’s death?” or “Are you mourning his death since you are a Muslim?”  The question is absurd and assumes that Muslims felt “sad” that bin Laden was killed.  There was another appalling report I read about a Texas algebra teacher insulting a Muslim student by telling her, “I bet you’re grieving.”  The student, a young Muslim woman, asked, “What are you talking about?”  The teacher replied, “I heard your uncle died,” referring to Osama bin Laden.  The student was brought to tears because of the teacher’s obnoxious remarks and obvious prejudice.  A Muslim friend texted me and said it feels like 9/11 all over again, referring to how Muslims felt on edge (and still do) about receiving offensive, ignorant and often racist remarks from non-Muslims (and I have to say that it is utterly absurd and insulting that President Obama would say we were all “one American family regardless of race and religion” in the days following 9/11.  Muslims, Sikhs, Arab-Americans, and those perceived to be Muslim didn’t enjoy any sort of “color-blind unity” after 9/11 and the reports of hate crimes, vandalism, and discriminatory acts committed against them testify that).

I’ve had some stressful and sometimes painful conversations about race and Islamophobia with people over the past few weeks.  Some of these people I know personally and some I don’t know at all.  What I’ve noticed for a very long time now is that conversations about race makes people very uncomfortable.  Because in the United States, to talk about racism is to be seen as “confrontational” or even “racist.”  The attitude about racism in the mainstream is that racism is a “thing of the past” and “doesn’t exist anymore.”  As a result of this socialization, there are several ways people derail conversations about race.  I was challenging white supremacy in one conversation, for example, but all I kept hearing in counter-arguments was that I was “generalizing about white people” or being “anti-white.”  In another conversation, a white feminist kept accusing me of “reverse racism” because I was critiquing the way white feminist movements have historically been oppressive, racist, and exploitative, specifically to women of color.  This same white feminist said I was bringing up “color” for “no reason,” as if racism, sexism, classism, ableism and other forms of oppression aren’t interlinked.  Finally, there was another discussion where a white Christian man, who claims to promote peace and coexistence between Muslims, Christians, Jews, and all peoples, was advocating for imperialism in Muslim-majority countries.  He claimed there was a “just cause for war, civilian casualties or not.”  When I called his comments insensitive and disgusting, especially because he was speaking for a country that isn’t his own and dismissed civilian casualties as if it wasn’t a big deal, he got extremely defensive and accused me of having a “personal vendetta against the West.”

I see all of these reactions as dismissing a disturbing reality about racial hierarchy, white “privilege” and power, interlocking oppression, power relations between the West and Muslim-majority countries.  Rather than challenging white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy, the society in which we live, the focus of every conversation shifted towards personal attacks against me.  The goal in each case, whether deliberate or not, was to silence anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-colonial, and anti-imperialist politics.

One of the main problems about mainstream discourse about racism is that we’re taught that racism only exists in extreme forms. That is, it is only racism when someone uses the “n” word, when KKK members throw on white sheets over their heads and go out to lynch a black person, when racists proclaim they support slavery, when neo-Nazis praise Hitler and the holocaust, etc. Of course all of these things are racism, but racism still exists today in both overt and covert forms. The disturbing growth of Islamophobia in the west is evident of how racism and bigotry is still very much alive.  Racism against Muslims (and even though Muslims are not a race, they have become racialized by white supremacy), African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, and other racialized peoples is seen as acceptable due to the way racism hides behind terms like “political connectedness” and “race card.”

Another major problem is how fragmented people on the Left are.  Those of us who identify ourselves as human rights activists, feminists, anti-racists, anti-capitalists, anti-war advocates, and so on, are caught in petty ego battles that stop us from moving forward.  Celebrity activism and creating hierarchies within our movements is driven shamelessly by narcissism and undermines everything we claim to be standing up for.  I’ve heard so many discouraging stories in the past few weeks about movements that oppressed, excluded, marginalized, or even discriminated against other groups of people.  A friend and I were speaking about the racist history of feminism in the United States and how feminist movements were largely dominated by white women from privileged class backgrounds, many of whom, as mentioned earlier, marginalized, oppressed, and exploited women of color.  Women of color still face racism within white-dominated feminist movements and spaces. A recent example of this is with Toronto’s “SlutWalk,” which was formed after a Toronto police officer told a group of students that women “should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”  Although “SlutWalk” intends on fighting against dangerous sexist stereotypes and victim-blaming politics, a recent critique titled “SlutWalk: A Stroll Through White Supremacy” exposes the way white women within the movement are marginalizing and silencing the voices of women of color.  I’ve seen Facebook comments where people have attacked this piece and accused the author for “splitting hairs.”  And of course, there are folks accusing her of being racist and “anti-white” (because whenever a person of color fights racism, they are being “anti-white,” right?  It’s appalling how the author is attacked for challenging white supremacy, as if racism isn’t a serious issue at all!  “Reverse racism” arguments are used to deny privileges and dismiss serious concerns and experiences – it is essentially another way of telling someone to “shut up!”  One particular person on Facebook argued that the author is hating on other women more than the oppressors.  Obviously what this critic fails to recognize is how dismissing racism within feminist movements actually serves the oppressors and that oppression exists within groups, too.  If we don’t confront racism, sexism, classism, ableism in our own groups, how are we going to confront it at large?

When I read and hear such defensiveness from privileged white people, it makes me realize how difficult the struggle is.  Being a heterosexual male of color, I don’t want to appropriate the pain that women of color endure – it’s not something I can imagine – but I do acknowledge my own experiences in how I’ve been discriminated against not just by white men, but also by white women, including white women feminists.  Some friends of mine have referred to me as a “male feminist,” but after a lot experiences, a lot of reading, and a lot of listening, particularly to women of color (all of which I am still doing), it encouraged me to challenge the simplistic and generalized language we use about gender and feminism.  If there are women of color who are not comfortable with self-identifying as “feminist,” then how can I? (I’m not saying we shouldn’t use the term, I am specifically questioning the way male privilege allows men to use the term without thinking about the experiences of women of color).  Other male feminists have written about their journey to feminism and how they believe it is the solution to patriarchy and misogyny.  The problem I have with this presentation of feminism is that it’s very simplistic and doesn’t critique the racism and power dynamics that need to be confronted within mainstream feminist movements and discourse.  When we say “men and women,” which men and women are we talking about?  White men and women?  Black men and women?  Brown men and women?  Homosexual men and women?  Disabled men and women?  And if homosexual or disabled men and women, are they white or of color?  Using general language about feminism and gender only ignores the other significant factors like race, class, sexual orientation, religion, etc. that determine our experiences.  Muslim feminists, for example, have been on receiving ends of hostile attacks from arrogant white non-Muslim feminists.  I’ve lost count of how many e-mails and comments I’ve received from white non-Muslim women telling me that “Islamic feminism is an oxymoron.” Like non-Muslim women of color, Muslim women, especially those of color, have also been silenced due to Islamophobia and racism.  Even worse, there are white non-Muslim feminist groups like the “Feminist Majority Foundation” that support Orientalist wars in Afghanistan rather than supporting the women’s rights groups that exist on the ground (I’ve written about this before on my blog).

What’s even more painful for me is when I feel discrimination from people of color and/or fellow Muslims.  In a couple of recent cases, I have felt this.   Some Muslims are too busy playing “biddah” and “shirk” police rather than supporting their fellow Muslims who protest against Islamophobic speakers that preach hate on college campuses (in one particular case, a leader of a Muslim student group felt it was “better” if Muslims “ignored” an Islamophobic speaker than to actually speak out and protest against the talk.  While I don’t believe Muslims are obligated to behave like spokespersons for Islam, I think it’s important for the Muslim leaders in our communities to support the Muslims who actually put themselves in harm’s way to fight Islamophobia, racism, sexism, etc.)  Then there are Muslims who perpetuate Orientalist stereotypes and the demonization of Muslims of color when challenging sexism and misogyny within Muslim communities.  It is important for us Muslims to dismantle patriarchy and strive towards ending sexist oppression, but in some unfortunate cases, generalizing about Muslims and some of the cultures that comprise our community and then passing it off as “fighting sexism” only serves Islamophobia and western superiority complexes (I’m not in the mood to name names in this post, but there are published Muslims out there who speak out against sexism while supporting racial profiling and Peter King “hearings” that reinforce distrust and suspicion of the Muslim-American community – of course, this receives a stamp of “approval” from white non-Muslim Islamophobes who think the only acceptable Muslims are the ones who “assimilate” and serve the interests of the ruling class).  Unfortunately, there are “establishment Muslims,” as Huma Dar describes in her enormously comprehensive and brilliant piece, “Of Niqabs, Monsters, and Decolonial Feminisms,” that support racist, oppressive policies against Muslims (e.g. French Law banning the niqab/face veil) while claiming to support “reform” and “gender equality” in their communities.  I will continue to write about misogyny, male privilege, male supremacy, and sexist socialization in Muslim communities, mostly based in the US, while remaining conscious of racist assumptions made by certain white men and women alike who think as if white people aren’t also complicit in patriarchy and sexist oppression and exploitation.  I’ve written several posts on this blog that challenges misogynistic Muslim men, but what bothered me later was how some people felt it was “ok” to make racist generalizations about Muslim men of color.  Like in any community, issues like the objectification of women, domestic violence, and male domination needs to be discussed openly, but I also felt  it was a failure on my part for not having an anti-racist analysis in those posts.  The point isn’t that we should make a choice between talking about racism or sexism.  It’s not one or the other.  Racism and sexism are interconnected.  Failure in recognizing this shows when we see anti-racism plagued with sexism or feminism plagued with racism.

While I was stressing on these points with someone and talking about how US wars and propaganda use the struggles of Muslim women as sympathy tools to (1) Orientalize all Muslim women as veiled and oppressed, (2) demonize all Muslim men, (2) uphold ethnocentric, western supremacist ideologies, and (3) invade, bomb, and occupy Muslim lands (and killing, bombing, raping Muslim women in the process), my “tone” was called into account.  In other words, since my tone was fiercely critical of US imperialism, I was told I should be more “witty” and use “sarcasm” to win the “hearts and minds” of the person I was debating.  This is the “tone argument,” which another blogger beautifully identifies as a “logical fallacy” where “you object to someone else’s argument based on its tone: it is too angry, too hateful, not calm enough, not nice enough, etc.”  Furthermore, the “tone argument” isn’t concerned about whether or not the truth was spoken.  It is used to “derail and silence” and “dismiss you as an unreasonable person.”

Ok, I wrote more than I anticipated on writing.  The real reason why I wrote this post was to introduce this important and amazing piece that was published on “People of Color Organize!”  It’s titled, Fourteen Ways Your Racism is Showing.  It is written from the perspective of a black woman and addressed to white feminists, but I think it can be applied to other racialized and stigmatized peoples.  Having said that, it is important to keep in mind that this isn’t to perpetuate the “shared oppression” narrative – certainly, all of us experience oppression differently due to our race, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, etc.  Anyway, I’ve pasted the entire post below. I hope everyone finds it as important and helpful as I did.

Your racism is showing when we are invisible to you; an afterthought solicited to integrate your white organizations.

Your racism is showing when in frustrated anger, you don’t understand why we won’t do your racism work for you. Do it yourself. Educate yourself. Don’t ask another Black woman to explain it all to you. Read a book

Your racism is showing when you pay too much attention to us. We resent your staring scrutiny that reveals how much we are oddities to you.

Your racism is showing in your cowardly fear of us; when you send someone else to talk to us on your behalf, perhaps another sister; when conflict resolution with us means you call the police. When you ignore what the police do to Black people and call them anyway, your racism is showing.

Your racism is showing when you eagerly embrace the lone Black woman in your collective, while fearing, resenting, suspecting and attacking a vocal, assertive group of Black women. One Black woman you can handle, but organized Black women are a real problem. You just can’t handle us having any real power.

Your racism is showing when you comment on our gorgeous “ethnic clothing or ask us why we wear dreads when we are perfect strangers to you. Would you do the same to a white stranger wearing Ralph Lauren and a page boy? These are also ethnic styles.

Your racism is showing when you demand to know our ethnicity, if we don’t look like your idea of a Black person. We are not accountable to you for how our bodies look. And we don’t have to be “nice” to you and tolerate your prying.

Your racism is showing when you insist upon defining our reality. You do not live inside our skin, so do not tell us how we should perceive this world. We exist and so does our reality.

Your racism is showing when our anger makes you panic. Even when we are not angry at you or your racism, but some simple, ordinary thing. When our expressed anger translates to you as a threat of violence, this is your unacknowledged fear of retribution or exposure and it is revealing your guilt.

Your racism is showing when YOU, by your interference, will not allow us to have our own space. We realize you never expected to be denied access to anything and any place, but sometimes you should stay away from Black women’s spaces. You do not have to be there just in case something exotic is going on or just in case we are plotting against you. In these instances, you are not just uninvited guests, you are infiltrators. This is a hostile act.

Your racism is showing when you cry, “Reverse discrimination!” There is no such thing. Only privileged people who have never lived with discrimination, think there can be a “reverse.” This means thatyou think it shouldn’t happen to you, only to the other people it normally happens to — like US.

Your racism is showing when you exclaim that we are paranoid and expecting racism around every corner. Racism inhabits this society at a core level. Ifwe weren’t constantly on our guard, we, as a people, would be dead by now.

Your racism is showing when you daim you have none. This economy and culture would not have existed without slave labour to build it. The invasion and exploitation of the Americas depended upon the conviction that people of colour were less than human. Otherwise, we could not have been so cruelly used. You grew up in a racist society. How could you not be racist? You cannot simply decide that racism is “bad” and therefore you are no longer racist. This is not unlearning racism. Black people could not afford to be this naive.

Your racism is showing when you think that all racists are violent, ignorant, card-carrying Nazis. You are fooling yourself, but not us, if you think that racism refers to the unconnected, isolated, “just-plain-meann actions and attitudes of bad people. Most racists are nice folks, especially in this country. Racism is systemic and cannot be separated out from this culture.

We do not want to witness or dry your tears. Yes, racism hurts. It hurts you, but please do not entertain the notion that it hurts much as us. Racism kills us, not you. Your tears will not garner our sympathy. We are no longer your property, therefore we will no longer take care of you. We don’t want to see your foolishness, so take your racism work to your own place and do it there.


Carol Camper, “To White Feminists” Canadian Woman Studies, 1994

25 thoughts on “Your Racism is Showing

  1. So anything I do or don’t do, anything I say or don’t say, makes me a racist. Why do I feel like President Obama, getting attacked from all sides…

    1. I think you misunderstood. Which isn’t surprising when there are discussions of racism. But this is exactly the kind of thing Mast Qalander is talking about. People immediately get defensive and feel like they’re being attacked.
      Here’s a bit a of advice: Don’t make it all about you. Re-read the post and reflect a bit on it.

  2. Fantastic post I agree with everything you said. It’s very hard to talk about racism these days, because many people as you pointed out, feel in order to be racist you have to be a member of the clan or be a neo-Nazi.

    That’s why I’ve pretty much given up on the feminist movement here. White feminists don’t want to work on their own issues.

    And that teacher asking that Muslim woman if she was sad because Osama bin Laden died! Man, people got a lot nerves!

    1. Thanks, RenKiss!

      I’m sorry to hear about the experiences you’ve been having with white feminists. Unfortunately, I know other women of color who have expressed similar frustrations.

      No one likes to be associated with racists like the KKK, but the fact of the matter is that racist socialization exists all around us. Of course it has an impact on us. As does sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, etc. As a friend of mine told me, we have to confront this these every day – not just on the outside, but also within ourselves. When people think of racism only in its extreme forms, it’s problematic because it makes think racism doesn’t exist anymore.

  3. I read your post. The flaws I see with the slut walks article was that Bogado seemed to want to start an open dialogue about how to bring people of color into the scenario, but you can’t do so by first attacking a race or group of people. You can’t do it. It’s childish, and pathetic.

    1. Thanks for your comment. I can’t speak for the author, but I never got the sense that she was attacking an entire race or group of people. Criticizing white supremacy and white privilege is NOT an attack on individual white people. It’s about challenging the powerful hierarchies that are in place in white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy. All of us need to be conscious of interlocking oppression, whether it’s in our anti-racist or anti-sexist struggles.

      There is a tendency for people to see criticism of white supremacy and privilege as being “anti-white,” but what that does is shift the focus away from actual power dynamics that oppress and hurt marginalized communities.

      Also, it’s not simply about bringing people of color “into the scenario.” It’s not simply about “being inclusive.” It’s about understanding how white-dominated groups marginalize, silence, discriminate against, exploit, tokenize, and/or use women of color. The post by Bloganda gives plenty of detailed examples of how women of color, along with poor and transgender women, have been marginalized and oppressed. She also stresses on how the presence of law enforcement is deeply problematic due to the way women of color have been victimized by systematic violence. She also closes with saying that regardless of what the intentions were, they do not erase the effects. It’s intent versus effect – it’s harmful effects should never be covered up or ignored just because the intentions were different.

  4. This is pathetic.

    First of all, talking about racism is easy – all you have to do is open your mouth. If you don’t express your opinions, right or wrong, you have no right to condemn others for not defending their positions. In fact, every person is responsible for their own opinions and actions, not those of the others.

    As to racism, sexism, supremecism, islamophobism and/or any other ‘ism’ that may exist or not, I personally do not believe Muslims have any right to criticize others until they stop their hate and violence, sexism, racism, religionism, discrimination and persecution of others. The simple fact is that everywhere Islam dominates one finds human rights abuses that are far worse than those in the West.

    Muslims are a bunch of hypocrites. Muslims complain of “obnoxious remarks and obvious prejudice” when they themselves kill and legally discriminate. If Muslims want to see “obnoxious” then I suggest they read what the Quran says about non-Muslims. If Muslims want to end “supremacist” ideology then they should denounce Allah – you know, the one that tells Muslims they are “the best of peoples”. Actually, if Allah really things her believers are better than others she needs to examine her values – or maybe bombing people in schools, market places, buses, offices is just a form of worship, or an attempt to make Allah happy as per Quran 9:111.

    Then there is the issue of Mohammed. Would some Muslim – preferably one that has actually read the hadith and can understand words – tell us infidels why we should trust a people (Muslims) that say ‘praise be upon him’ after the name of this man and consider him a great moral example (as per the quran also) when the hadith are basically a narrative of his continual attacks upon non-Muslims. I mean, to most normal people, wars, killing, plunder, torture, slavery, lies and rape are wrong, but when your prophet does these things it is just fine and dandy with Muslims. Perhaps this explains current events: why Muslims are so violent, why they can’t be honest about their religion and prophet and why they must always blame others.

    Go to go pull weeds….

    PS: That line saying “I will continue to write about misogyny, male privilege, male supremacy, and sexist socialization in Muslim communities, MOSTLY based in the US” was really funny! Good thing there is almost no misogyny, male privilege, male supremacy, and sexist socialization in Muslim communities outside the US.

    1. Jay kactuz,

      I’m publishing your comment because I want to show people how disgusting and ugly Islamophobia is.

      I don’t understand why you continue to comment. You hate Muslims with a passion. Yes, we get it. So why are you commenting here? Why are you talking to a Muslim? You’ve obviously made up your mind about Islam and Muslims, so there clearly isn’t any room for dialogue. You hate me because of who I am, so you’re not interested in talking to me at all.

      What I find really sad and pathetic is how you have so much HATRED in your heart for Muslims. You’ve made disgusting generalizations about an entire group of people – approximately 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. Are you proud of yourself? You hate EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM and yet you come here, on my blog, to spew out sheer hatred, racism, and Islamophobia and then expect someone to actually respond to you? You come to this blog every once in a while and leave the same kind of Islamophobic remarks over and over again. You’re not even reading what I write because you keep pulling flying carpet fallacies while vilifying me when I’m speaking about peace and justice for all people. You’re so hung up on your filthy stereotypes that you can’t even read what I’m writing. Are you in elementary school? Do you judge people based on the color of their skin, their gender, and their religious beliefs? I mean, it must seriously piss you off that millions of Muslims live in the US, huh? Do you really think there is actually something courageous or mature about making racist generalizations about an entire group of people? There isn’t. Someone with your kind of thinking should be ASHAMED.

      Why do you keep commenting here? What do you want for us? You want to throw us all in the oven? You want us in concentration camps? You want to burn down Mosques or something? How dare you come here and demonize every Muslim on the planet, as if we’re not HUMAN BEINGS. Do you understand the meaning of that word? We’re human beings with families, with stories, with ambitions, with favorite movies, favorite songs, favorite books, favorite sports – only a heartless person would dehumanize people based on the religious group they belong to.

      You need to work on this hatred of yours because it is repulsive. I hope one day you get to know Muslims on a personal level and you actually learn something about the stereotypes you’ve expressed here. I hope it makes you realize how dangerous, hurtful, and wrong racism is.

      I have no interest in responding to your comment in detail. As pointed out earlier, there obviously isn’t any point. If you continue to hate Muslims, go join some hate group. Go join the KKK while you’re at it, but why come here? Read the comment policy.

      Your racism is showing and it is not welcome here.

  5. It took me a while to find time to relax and read all of it but I read the post in one sitting and thoroughly enjoyed it so thank you so much for saying what you said. I agree with you so much.

  6. LOVED your rebuttal to Jay, and LOVED LOVED LOVED this post!

    As a white, able, heterosexual, upper-middle-class, cisgendered female, the only real battle I have is my gender (well, that and me actually being spiritual/religious, not so normal here in Denmark), but I try really hard to combat those stereotypes and discriminatory beliefs when they creep into my head, because they do, unless you’re constantly vigilant and aware of these things, they do. And I see it all around me, here in Denmark racism and islamophobia are really big issues, and it’s like, people think if you say “not to be racist, but…” it makes whatever they say after that okay. It’s not. It’s racist. But people get sooo defensive, and they don’t listen at all. It’s like, they do not realize how privileged they are. (I wrote a blog post about that a few weeks ago, after a frustrating discussion with one of my group members: )

    1. Thank you for your comment, Becky! I’m so sorry for the late reply! I’ve been meaning to read your post ever since I read your comment. I am looking forward to reading it!

      I find the phrase, “Not to be racist, but…” to be so problematic and offensive too. It’s astonishing how these folks think a disclaimer in the beginning of their sentences erases the actual racism in their sentence!

  7. You have to laugh at the complete lack of functioning brain cells people like Jay Kactuz have. To say people are responsible for only their own actions and then blame all Muslims as a collective is just…..Stupid!

    Really enjoyed the article, it is really difficult to convince people of the racism and supremacism inherent in ‘Western/white’ feminism and even within WOC feminists who have some Western worship happening. I consider myself ‘Western’ but have been othered because of my race/religion/hijab so many times that it just adds to the general frustration of having no safe spaces out there to discuss what is bothering you!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Seffi! I’ve been noticing this difficultly in challenging white supremacy within feminist movements, but I’ve learned that this is something women of color have been struggling with for a long time. It says a lot when feminist-activists of color, like bell hooks, only get a footnote in some feminist texts used in classrooms!

  8. Hi there! I am glad to see your newer posts 🙂 It is very very very very very nice to see a Muslim cisguy talk about all these stuff while weaving in various bloggers of color and cite Andy Smith next to Mahmood Mamdani 🙂

    (ive commented before as sitara/ sitara97 / for reference)

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