Thursday, August 2, 2007

Diplomacy & Dialogue Are Out

I watched 'Hairspray' with a friend from work tonight. As many of you know, I am not much of a movie-watcher. I find them to be quite disappointing, but this movie was different. I enjoyed it a lot, and it made me think. It reminded me of a friend that has an 'intense' passion for musical theater. One day I am going to watch her perform in New York.

The movie also reminded me of a blog entry I wrote awhile ago. It's very obvious that when I wrote this entry I had a lot of built up anger and frustration regarding race relations in the United States. I am not sure that has changed, but I find myself handling my frustration about racism in a different way. It's one thing to bitch and moan amongst a group of people that share your sentiments about the way things should be. It's another thing to make yourself vulnerable in situations where people may not understand your perspective and background. As a person of color, I used to get angry when people were ignorant of my identity as an Arab-American. I realize, now, that anger only causes more ignorance. If we scare away the very people that don't understand us, then we should expect racism and ignorance to continue. The burden is upon each individual to have the conversations that are difficult with the people that understand them the least. People shouldn't be afraid to ask me or anyone that is 'different' about culture, food, identity, geography, hair texture, hijab, religion, etc.

I was talking to a friend after Don Imus got fired. We had a very interesting conversation regarding the outcome of the entire spectacle. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson claimed 'victory'. I laugh at their definition of victory. When a co-worker does not fear getting fired for asking me about my Arab heritage, when people aren't too scared to ask Black people about their culture, when Americans aren't reluctant to engage in meaningful conversation about sensitive subjects -- once all those things happen, then we can claim 'victory.' Firing one White man for what other people may think does not solve any problems. I am waiting for a intimate and honest conversation regarding why those remarks were offensive to begin with. (Also, I am waiting for someone to ask for Al Sharpton to step down from whatever position he doesn't have. His previous homophobic and racist comments offend me just as much as Imus did: “White folks was in caves while we was building empires ... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.”) Hm, 'homos' and and 'white folks' in 'caves'. It's a wonder why we can't have real dialogue about any of these issues. People are either too pissed to answer questions or too scared to ask them. Clearly the only way to make people understand is to protest, yell, and wreak havoc, right? Diplomacy is over rated, and divisive exclusion and rejection of dialogue is in. My, how helpful this has been for people to understand us.

But shit, what do I know? I am just as racist and elitist as the rest of them.


Anonymous said...

My favorite entry by far.

Steve said...

In response, let me quote:

Imagine a world where we would settle our differences through diplomacy and dialogue and not through bombs or bullets. -- IAEA Director General and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 2005 Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, from his Nobel Lecture

Sirene said...

Nice addition. ElBaradei, nonetheless. I should have thought to include that. Thanks.