Sunday, December 02, 2007

What I don't understand is...

The Christianist whining over the Golden Compass has made at least one atheist cry out to God. L'Ailee figured that she needed to buy the "His Dark Materials" trilogy so we could read it, and then we'd donate it to a children's library, because neither of us much care for fantasy. ("Practical Magic" is about as fantastic as I get; L'Ailee has absolutely no patience for anything that's too unreal. We both prefer non-fiction much of the time, and get transported by things like archaeological studies and projections of what the earth's animals will evolve into once we humans go extinct.) So the books are not for us, but we wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Several times now, L'Ailee has called out, "Oh, *GOD*!," with a roll of her eyes up to heaven. Which is probably not what the Catholic League, Focus on the Family, etc. intended. :-)

I kind of wanted to address things I've run across in the past couple months that I really and truly don't get, and don't even think I want to get when it comes right down to it. Like, why people who believe in an all-powerful God get all bent out of shape over a movie or a teddy bear named after the prophet. It's as if their Gods are all-powerful, but terribly, terribly insecure. More than ever, I'm thinking of what L'Ailee says, about how kind and secure religious people always seem to worship kind and secure Gods while mean and insecure people worship mean and insecure Gods.

I don't understand why not liking something for yourself means that you should think others shouldn't have it. A friend of mine asked me how I can support pornography when I don't watch or read it and Tila Tequila's "bisexual" dating show when I hate that entire "let's have everyone live in a house away from the outside world and fight for this one person" format. What I support is the *right*, I told her. She still didn't get it. I have very strong opinions about things. But the thing is, I don't want to live by someone else's opinions unless there's a real good reason, and I likewise don't want others to have to live by mine unless there's a real good reason. I'm just not that egotistical, and "I don't like it" isn't good enough for me. I also can't claim "the Gods don't like it" unless I'm sure of it, which I am not. So that's usually it for me--I don't, I couldn't, I wouldn't. Why doesn't "I wouldn't" end there? Why does this leap of logic have to be made to " you shouldn't" by so many people?

I don't understand why so many people think that identifying a difference will lead automatically to treating another person badly because of a difference. Granted, historically, it has done just that. But it doesn't have to, and in fact I think true healing comes from being able to stop at simply saying, "You're different" without having to make that leap to "...and that's bad, and you are subhuman because of it." Bint Alshamsa has a Special White Woman Award for that, well, special breed of white women whose commitment to fighting prejudice morphs into a new and more unpleasant sort of prejudice. I am unlucky enough to work with two Special White Women.

A month ago, one reported a couple interns' behavior as "offensive." These girls are so cute, and they're best friends because, as you'll see, they have so much in common. They have the same first name and same last initial. They go to the same school with the same major. But one is black and one is white. So they go by "Black Jane" and "White Jane." (I am obviously altering the name.) They have encouraged this usage at our office as well as the rest of their lives, and since it seems that nobody's getting treated any better or worse for it, BossLady allowed it. Well, this Special White Woman was in high dudgeon because she had worked so hard to fight prejudice, including lots of work on behalf of fighting apartheid in South Africa. (From a New England college campus.) She has even dated black men. To identify these girls by their different skin colors goes against everything she's ever believed and worked for. Anyway, since when does an "Af-ri-can A-mer-i-can" (as Black Jane sarcastically pronounces it) girl get a name like *that*?

The other Special White Woman now thinks it's wrong that, when my white self was talking fashion with a black female co-worker, I noted that different skin colors look better in different clothing colors. On Friday, my friend was trying to convince me that I could too wear orange. "No, dear, *you* can wear orange," I replied. "You see I'm kind of a light olive color. I've got yellow undertones to my skin. I look jaundiced in red or orange or yellow." She told me how her mother told her she couldn't wear bright colors because she was so dark. "That's so stupid!" I couldn't help exclaiming. "You look awesome in bright colors. It's like, all these pretty tones come out in your skin, like really nice wood or something." My friend smiled. The Special White Woman pulled me aside because "we need to talk" and told me how "extremely inappropriate" it was to talk about someone else's skin color like that.

My mom likes to tell a story about when I was little, about three years old. My hair was still very straight and very light blond, and it was getting long. We were at the grocery store, and we encountered another mother and little three-year-old girl, this one black. As many little black girls did in the 1970s, she wore lots of braids capped with lots of barrettes. I wanted to touch all those braids and barrettes, and she wanted to touch my hair. So our mothers found us touching each other's hair. They apologized, then expressed hope that we wouldn't grow out of that simple curiosity.

I didn't, at least not for the most part. (I couldn't go without getting some of that awful American racist crap stuck to me--I *still* get surprised seeing a black person who takes an interest in country music, for instance, even though I have been interested in hip-hop for a very long time.) This actually helped others at my last job. I asked a black co-worker there how she got a burn on her forehead. She explained that the solution she used to straighten her hair contained lye, and it burned her. She soon got braids. Another black female employee got little dreadlocks. Well, my white male boss thought that looked unprofessional, and wanted to ban those hairstyles. That was when I told him to "go ask _____ why she has that scar on her forehead." I asked how he'd feel if someone told him that his own natural hair texture was unprofessional and he had to risk burning himself to keep his job. He got my point. The dress code stayed as it was. I never told anyone at that job what had almost happened, but I'm proud that I wasn't a Special White Woman who couldn't discuss difference then.

I think the world would be a much better place if "You're different" and "I wouldn't" could just end there. If people didn't feel this need to "do something about" that which they do not like or understand. Perhaps that is simply where my own ego goes to gallop. I have been accused, usually by people who blatantly say that the world would be a better place if everyone believed and had sex as they did, of "thinking the perfect world is just a place where everyone leaves everyone alone." To which I reply, "Yeah, so?" It's not like being all up in each other's business has done so much good for everybody. Just ask Gillian Gibbons.

Link time, if you're still here:

IO SATURNALIA!!! If you think everything old should be made new again, you'll love this introduction to the Roman Saturnalia celebration. Nova Roma is a group trying to bring back and modernize old Roman religion; their descriptions of modern Saturnalia celebrations are colorful, entertaining, and endearing. I particularly love the story with the toddler girl!

For other NASCAR fans, the real awards celebrating all the fun we had this year! Oh, and Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson might have personalities! Why am I thinking of that "two wiiiiiiiild and crazy guys!" bit from old-school Saturday Night Live that my mother loves?

By the way, Tony Stewart is cute as hell and funny, too, but he has some gaps in his education. He ordered a cheeseburger at Carnegie Deli. It is not kosher to combine meat and dairy in one meal, and those things get taken seriously at Carnegie Deli!

Organic food can be wonderful for entertaining. Organic wines? Not so much. I personally have spat a couple out.

Nine Inch Noels. Nine Inch Nails lyrics set to the tunes of all-too-familiar Christmas carols. L'Ailee *hated* the combination of "Closer" and "Jingle Bells," but she just isn't mature enough to understand how funny it really is. Don't be a pantywaist--go for "regular."

And speaking of hilarious songs, Rodney Carrington, the guy who gets Trace Adkins' "help" in the "I've Got My Game On" video, has written some songs of his own. My very favorites are The Revenge Song and Today's the Day My Wife Met My Girlfriend.

Finally, a moment of silence. Jane Rule, author of the lesbian classic Desert of the Heart, died last week.


BostonPobble said...

Ah, Special White I love them. Thanks for the link!

alan said...

Sorry I'm a couple of days behind here...I got an e-mail when you updated, but the "whirl" has had ahold of me between 6 day weeks and the one day we had to Christmas shop together so far!

"...L'Ailee says, about how kind and secure religious people always seem to worship kind and secure Gods while mean and insecure people worship mean and insecure Gods."


I knew I loved that girl!

"I don't want to live by someone else's opinions unless there's a real good reason, and I likewise don't want others to have to live by mine unless there's a real good reason."

You already knew I love very much!

I read "Practical Magic" and a few months later was very shocked to be sitting in the theater waiting for a movie when a trailer came on for it! I whispered to Dottie "I read that book, it was great!" and she looked at me so funny...

I'm going to have to come back for the links...I wish I remembered what a normal workday was like!


cats said...

i'm looking forward to seeing the golden compass. and of course since the religious right is so up in arms about it lots of others will want to see it too.

and i love that people are different. why in the world we can't talk about it drives me crazy!

Dw3t-Hthr said...

In a state of utter tangentiality, I note that I have traumatised and delighted several people with Nine Inch Noels.

Dr. Deb said...

I think I have to listen to those songs! Sounds like fun.

Jaded said...

I don't get any of it either. You know that I've gotten threats from the "Christians" because I am pro-choice and pro-gay marriage and still dare to call myself a Christian. It doesn't matter how many times I explain that no, I don't believe abortion is right because I believe life begins at conception - BUT - not everyone believes that, so it's not up to me to dictate their beliefs to them. I think it's wrong, so I won't do it, it's as simple as that. Oh, and nor will I judge them for making a decision which differs from mine because it's NOT MY LIFE and NOT MY CHOICE TO MAKE! Why don't people get that?

And I will never, ever understand why any group of people feels they have the right to tell someone else who they can or can't love. I absolutely do not get that, at all. Even worse, I don't understand how they feel empowered and justified enough to persecute those who don't believe the same way. How is that right, by any stretch of the imagination, or by any religious standard? How they can rationalize that sort of behavior is completely beyond my realm of comprehension.

Yuki said...

What is that line again? Oh, I remember... people want what validates their own sense of self.

Having people different from themselves does not validate who they are, hence the attempts of changing people to suit themselves....

So it is of course annoying when people want to define themselves on me, when they themselves do not validate who I am.

Probably a very good attitude and mentality to learn from you. Just let things be. Just be yourself and let others be themselves.

bint alshamsa said...

"That was when I told him to "go ask _____ why she has that scar on her forehead." I asked how he'd feel if someone told him that his own natural hair texture was unprofessional and he had to risk burning himself to keep his job. He got my point."

Thank you for this. Professional life would be a lot easier for many of us people of color who keep our natural hair texture, if more white people were willing to take action in the way that you did.