Just a Friendly Reminder: All Birds Are Not Ducks

hand of fear

Dear Islamaphobe,

I know you’re scared.

I know that you are hearing about these terrorist attacks and thinking, “That could be us!” and that you’re looking at the Islamic religion and feel that it is the problem and you’re scared. Because Islam is different and that’s scary.

We are afraid of things that are different and when we are afraid we have one of two reactions. Either we run away or we attack.

In your fear, Islamaphobe, you are attacking the thing that is different. You are attacking it with your hate and xenophobia, you are trying to make it afraid of you so it doesn’t hurt you. The problem is that Muslims do not want to hurt you.

ALL Muslims are not out to kill you. Some religious extremists who practice the Islamic religion want to harm people but they are a small percentage of ALL Muslims.

But you don’t say “Religious extremist are a problem,” you say “All Muslims are the problem” as if they are one homogenous mass of faceless desert people who thirst for the blood of the West. In other words, as if they were all ducks.

When children are young, they learn about animals, their world is very simple. They may know one word and apply it to everything. If they learn duck first, every feathered creature with a beak becomes a duck. It could be a sparrow, an eagle, or a turkey but the only word they have for it is duck.

As they get older and their world expands, they stop referring to every bird as a duck. They realize that though they share some of the same features, they are all distinct animals.

Islamaphobe you haven’t moved past the duck stage. You’re stuck on it.

You think that all Muslims are terrorists because you have no concept of how large and varied the Islamic world really is. You think that they are all terrorists. You think they are all from the Middle East. You are ignorant in your condemnation of the reality that there are Islamic people of all nationalities.

You think they are all hardcore Quran-thumpers but just like with every other religion, there are Muslims who only go to Mosques on holidays, who barely fast during Ramadan or not at all.

Do you honestly believe that the Muslim dude who sneak eats a ham every now and then is out to murder you in your sleep? Do you honestly think that the lady walking to Mosque, as she likely does a few times a week and has done for years is suddenly a problem?

No, you’re scared and you’re trying to put a name and a face on your fear. And that name is Islam because you’re ignorant and afraid.

Stop being afraid of Muslims. Muslims are not the problem. Islam is not the problem. Religious extremism is and that’s a problem regardless of whether you love Allah or Jesus.

It is ok to be afraid. It is NOT ok to spew bigotry and hate at people who don’t deserve it because they happen to practice the same religion as someone else. It is not ok to call for violence against them. I know I can’t convince you to go out and educate yourself Islamaphobe, that’s asking too much. But I am going to tell you that your fear is not a good enough reason incite violence against an entire group of people who have nothing to do with the actual thing you are afraid.

All Muslims are not terrorists. All terrorists are not even Muslims. There are many feathered things with beaks. They aren’t all ducks.

Sincerely,
Donyae

Violence Isn’t an Answer, It’s a Reaction

Aleeyah post

Aleeyah is a hero to Black America right now and really she should be to all PoC. During a time in our country where one of the leading Presidential candidates is running on a platform of fear and hate, openly backed by racists and bigots who want nothing more than to harm brown people, she took a stand and said, “No, you will not.”

I know there’s a flood of people who are saying, violence is not the answer! She should have just walked away! As if the girl who felt confident to look Aleeyah in the face and call her a nigger didn’t deserve to popped right in the mouth.

Aleeyah’s actions are counter to the narrative of the “right” way to react when faced with racism. People of color are supposed to turn the other cheek. We’re not supposed to be upset. We are supposed to smile and sing “We shall overcome” while wearing suits and marching to church.

Here’s a quick history lesson for everyone though. Black people tried that, it was a big deal. The suits and singing and blessings. All of that. They were met with dogs and water hoses. Police that beat them with batons.

Their very peaceful demonstrations were met with violence. And to top it all off, the figure head of peaceful protest in the United States, the man that people trot out when they want to condemn any person of color for being upset when verbally or physically attacked by racists, Martin Luther King Jr, was shot.

The most peaceful, most respectable protestor who preached love and taught unity was shot and killed.

Fast forward to 2016 where we are still dealing with a ton of racially fueled violence. It is not surprise that Aleeyah, when met with it, choose to strike rather than just offer her cheek to be struck. It is completely understandable why she hit that girl. That is not what people should be talking about.

What needs to be discussed is why that girl felt like it was ok for her to call Aleeyah a nigger in the first place. We’re not really going to ask that though because we already know why she felt like it was ok. Because it was ok. Because America has a huge problem with racism and if you haven’t noticed it, you’re not paying attention.

So stop looking at Aleeyah and asking her why. Look at that other nameless white girl and ask her why she felt ok. Ask the society and culture that made her feel it was ok why. But don’t waste Aleeyah’s time asking why she swatted the wasp that stung her.

Information Illiteracy in the Internet Age

Someone on my Facebook feed posted this video of a “thugs” stopping an ambulance at the cancelled Trump rally. There was no additional evidence or facts. Just a video of black people “stopping” an ambulance and the assumption that there was someone sick in there or they were on their way to a sick person. Which may or may not be true. So I looked it up.

The only sources I could find were right wing, conservative media outlets which, by their very nature, are bias and terrible sources for news. So I am left still in the dark around what was going on in that video which I will not be sharing.

The reason why I am sharing this story however is because it dawned on me that the person who shared the video and the people who liked and commented on it, likely did no research and if they had they would have served up on of those bias sites as proof that these people were thugs and hurting some nameless infirm person. Which long story short is today’s topic: In 2016 we are flooded with information but most people are information illiterate.

Like most things centered around reading and digesting information, the concept of information literacy is an academic one because prior to the modern times we live in, information was funneled through very limited means. Now, we all have free access to a wealth of information but not many people really know how to vet it.

Information literacy is a set of skills that help you find and evaluate information. It is more than being able to Google something (although that is some part of it), it is also being able to look at a source and determine whether or not it is reliable.

This isn’t a terribly important skill set when dealing with something like celebrity gossip. It doesn’t really matter whether or not so and so is really getting a divorce or is pregnant. Those facts or fallacies do not impact anyone’s actual lives but there are many cases that have much more impact.

The lack of information literacy shows strongest in the way that we share things on social media. Sometimes it’s just a silly viral story about something gross someone found in their fast food. Sometimes its misinformation about refuges or dangerous health “advice”.

Because people do not take the time to engage in simple steps to check what they are sharing, they fuel these sorts of viral hurricanes of bad information. They can’t tell opinion from fact in many cases and treat them both as if they are interchangeable.

This is happening not because people are dumb but because they simply do not have any background in information literacy. We have been conditioned to believe that media, be it TV, newspaper, or internet, has already done the leg work for us which is why the joke that “it’s on the internet, it must be true” is still relevant. Because so many people haven’t realized that this is NOT true!

The nature of the 24 hour news cycle means that there is a lot of information out there and a lot of it is nonsense. A lot of it is opinion masquerading as fact or entertainment pretending to be news. It’s awesome that people have so much access now but the cost of that is that you have to do your own legwork.

It is irresponsible to just post things blindly. It is up to all of us to take a few lessons in information literacy. But for starters, just make it a habit to question things before you hit share. If the story is too salacious or fits too perfectly into one narrative, it’s probably not the whole tale. Real life is messy and complicated, it doesn’t fit perfectly into a 250 word article.

Are We Ankara?

Photo of attack taken by passerby. Sourced from BBC.

Photo of attack taken by passerby. Sourced from BBC.

Will we be Ankara? Yesterday a car bomb killed at least 32 people in the Turkish capital city. Today I have seen a few post about the tragedy on my timeline but Facebook hasn’t offered to change any profile photos in support of the country.

32 people lost their lives in what is likely an act of terrorism but will we be Ankara?

Probably not because Ankara is located in an Islamic country. An American ally but an Islamic country nonetheless and the truth is, the west is not any Islamic nation because our terrorist rhetoric is too steeped in the idea that this one religion is full of bad guys.

To look at this tragedy and say, “Yes, we stand with you, this is not ok,” is to call into question everything about the current “Muslims are bad” narrative. It complicates the over simplified narrative that people who say, “Praise Allah!” instead of “Praise Jesus!” are the problem and not extremist of either religion.

This is a sort of perfect microcosm for the Us vs Them mentality that prevails in the west. In order for us to be them, to stand with them, we have to admit that they aren’t the problem, they are aren’t the enemy.

We should do this. Because they ARE us. They’re people, just like we’re people. Living their lives. People who believe differently aren’t the problem. People who support hate and advocate violence are the problem.

It doesn’t matter if you stand with Allah or Jesus, if you’re calling for harm, hate and fear, you’re the problem.

The Truth About Tone Policing

black-and-white-africa-animals-wilderness

There’s this old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” which is to say that you can win more people to your side by being nice than being salty. People try to use this line as a reason to tone police others especially those that are speaking out against matters that end in any sort of -ism. The thing is though, in those cases, tone policing has nothing to do with being polite and everything to do with continuing to silence a marginalized group.

Tone policing is done by and large by the privileged group. Whether that group be white, male, cis, abled body or any combination of privilege, they are generally the ones that are first to point out that some point wasn’t made nicely enough. Be it a discussion on racist housing practices or sexism in the workplace, if the marginalized person that is speaking out against it in any way, shape, or form can be read as being “hostile” or “emotional”, then that privileged person feels justified in pointing out that they’re not being nice. Which is generally shortly followed up with something akin to “That’s why no one is listening to you.”

There are two things deeply wrong with this.

One, no one is or should be required to be polite or be concerned with the feelings of the privileged masses when they are speaking from a place of marginalization. If you are causing someone harm, you should not be concerned with their tone when they are telling you to stop. If you are more concerned that someone approach you nicely when informing you of issues that negatively affect them of which you may be contributing unknowingly to, you are definitely part of the problem.

Policing someone’s tone is a not so subtle way of saying that the privileged person’s comfort is MORE IMPORTANT than the marginalized person’s life.

The second issue is that it asserts the privileged person has having authority over the marginalized group. It is as if the marginalized person is a child asking their caretaker if they can have a cookie and getting the response of “Only if you ask nicely.”

Members of the privileged group don’t really have the authority to say that. It is only through systematic forms of oppression that they are in the position of power, not because they have any right to be there.

The real thing about tone policing is that most of the time, especially in online venues, there is absolutely nothing wrong with anyone’s tone. Being online, it lacks all nonverbal communication and you can read a message for the most part any way you want. The problem is though that when you are talking with privileged people who are used to feeling like they are in power, anything less than total submission is aggression.

The mere act of speaking for yourself, of saying, “This is a problem and I will not stand for it any longer,” is read as aggressive and it likely does not matter how nicely the marginalized person says it, just by speaking out, by calling into question the society that created the issue and continues to support it, that marginalized person has spoken aggressively.

Tone policing is always a way to silence a marginalized voice. It is not about being polite or civil or anything else. Is about dismissing someone or “putting them in their place”. If people have to say things nicely for you to listen, then you’re the one with the problem.

The Problem With “Make Your Own”

Robots on wall

When marginalized people talk about the lack of diversity in popular culture, one of the more common and ignorant responses is just make your own. Not enough brown superheroes? Make your own comics! Not enough Asian people staring in lead roles? Make your own movies! Not enough people with disabilities in books? Write your own novels! This response is about as thoughtless as responding to someone’s starvation with, “Just eat some food.”

The biggest issue is that, first of all, people from marginalized communities can and do create their own media. They make movies, draw comics, and pen epic fiction in all genres. A quick Google will spit out a ton of projects that anyone can follow and help support.

However, support is the second issue.

Thanks to the internet, non-mainstream creators have been given a platform on which to showcase their work. Be it art, written, or film, the internet gives these creators a way to get their creations to the people who would most like want to view them. But they’re not mainstream so they don’t have the type of support that your known director/writer/actor has.

They don’t have the type of support that will write them a check to fund their enterprise on a proposal. Even with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the people that generally end up with the most money are those that come in from a position of being known in their field.

Those are the people that get funded and they get this funding by continuing to make the thing that they know people like. Meanwhile, creators who are out there taking chances and forging their own path are overlooked because by and large, people want to buy things they know they like.

Be it a franchise or just a particular artist’s work, people like the things they like and they want the things they like. So the real issue isn’t creators aren’t out there making new and exciting media that features a diverse cast of characters, it’s that people aren’t supporting their work.

Artists need that support so they can keep creating. Not a pat on the back for how clever they are but actual money so they can buy supplies, rent space, quit their day jobs. You can’t pay your rent on kudos and “likes”.

The mainstream is starting to wake up and we are starting to see some diverse characters and moving away from many age old tropes but there’s still a long way to go before we can call all things equal. Until then, support indie creators.

Buy their books, see their films, share their stories. They’re out there, they’re making stuff. Help people see it.