Skip to main content

Interrogating the White Race

Trayvon Martin, Reza Aslan and Jesus are linked, not just because they have been in the news lately but because there seems to be, thanks to Fox News, a lot of noise around race, religion, good and evil. Most of it a disconnected framing of beliefs built on prejudice.

Rather than moving away from bigotry, right-wing media seems to want to inflame it. Is this a strategy to keep public fears and prejudices chained to hierarchy and oppression?

Christ with beard (Wikimedia commons)
In an article titled Who Owns Jesus? Tasbeeh Herwees interrogates the interview between Fox News' Lauren Green and Reza Aslan. Tasbeeh says "The insinuation underlying Green's questions was that a Muslim writing about Jesus was not just outlandish, but inconceivable without some kind of hidden agenda."

How dare Aslan write about Jesus when he is not white? That would be the question among many people who are informed only by popular propaganda.

Who knew, without having read Herwees article, that middle eastern people were found to be white in a 1915 court case when Syrian immigrant George Dow fought to overturn a ruling that proclaimed him ineligible for naturalization because he wasn't white. A federal appeals court ruled in his favour because of Jesus!

Aslan remained patient and rational throughout the interview as though he were explaining something to an eight year old.  Perhaps because "Aslan, like many Muslims, faces this kind of suspicion in his everyday life - by policemen, TSA officers and passers-by who find his dark skin and foreign name threatening" says Herwees.

Where did the term "white race" come from?  It entered the "European languages in the late 17th century beginning with the racialization of slavery at the time, in the context of the Atlantic slave trade and enslavement of native peoples in the Spanish Empire", says Wikipedia.

In this context it could be argued that economics required this category so that the "white man" could, with a free conscience colonise America, India and Africa.  But it seems it was not enough.  Scientific studies had to be pursued to support the white man's entitlement to exploit and abuse other people for profit.

Samuel George Morton (1799-1851) created Crania Americana (1839), An Inquiry into the Distinctive Characteristics of the Aboriginal Race of America and Crania Aegyptiaca (1844), and concluded that "the ancient Egyptians were not African but white and that Caucasians and Negroes were already distinct three thousand years ago." (Wikipedia)

After centuries of the white man's savage treatment towards aboriginal peoples it seems like some are desperate to hold onto the notions of white supremacy, long after the survey of human mitochondrial DNA (Cann, Stonekind, and Wilson. Nature. 1987), points out that "all mitochondrial DNAs stem from one woman" who lived 200,000 years ago in Africa.

Or more to the point, it seems like capitalism requires a global state of injustice and structural violence in order to maintain its hegemony. But this can only be maintained while we, the majority of people, remain in a state of preferred ignorance and apathy.


Popular posts from this blog

About Humanity

"A chosen people is the opposite of a master race, first, because it is not a race but a covenant; second because it exists to serve God, not to master others. A master race worships itself, a chosen people worships something beyond itself. A master race believes it has rights; a chosen people knows only that it has responsibilities." Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name, Schocken, New York. 2015.

As someone who does not identify as a chosen people or part of a master race, I ruminate about how to respond to the world, particularly that part of the world I cannot endorse. So I am comforted by the people who have taken on ministry and who feel responsible enough to care for community.

How do I act on a feeling of responsibility without assuming that I know what other people should do, or what we should do? It's very easy to slip into a political preaching that suggests I know, or that my being a good example means that others should follow it. Or worse yet, create…

Creating Chaos

A very important article in The Guardian analyses the rise of hyper-masculinity and the phenomenon of Angry White Men.  "Sociologist Michael Kimmel is one of the world’s foremost experts on the phenomenon. - His recent research has looked at topics including spree killers (who are overwhelmingly male and white), as well as the relationship between masculinity and political extremism."

In the article there is a report on a study on testosterone where 5 monkeys are observed. The one who rises to the top beats up number 2 and number 2 beats up number 3 - and so it goes down to number 5. 

"So the experiment is: he takes monkey three out of the cage and he shoots him up with testosterone, off the scale, and puts him back in. What do you think happens? When I tell this story my students always guess that he immediately becomes number-one monkey. But that’s not true. What happens is that when he goes back in the cage he still avoids monkeys number one and two – but he beats the …

Albert Camus: Our task