Being an ally means I take “other people’s” problems as my own.
Being a pacifist means I don’t talk or write in violent, or even divisive or comparative terms about anyone. I mostly write from within what I describe–healing or harmful.
Being a contemplative, I practice non-attachment to views, including to my own.
Being abundant means I know manifestation comes first from seeing differently.
Being abundant also means I know how we see “others” is a fractal of how we see ourselves. To change the limitations we set on others, all we need do is undertake the huge work of changing the scarce, small, fearful ways we see ourselves.
Being a clarity-raiser means I try to distinguish between the distinctions that matter and the ones that don’t:
- There is a furor over Leonardo DiCaprio being shortlisted to play Rumi–the Persian-descent, Turkish-born, Sufi Muslim spiritual leader made famous in English by Coleman Barks. Casting an actor without connection to Rumi’s culture and faith cuts deeper than just whether or not #Rumiwasn’twhite. Subtle distinctions* become important:
- What we understand by whiteness is not enough to express the problem. Many Persians have blond hair and blue eyes; Rumi may well have been white–til he opened his mouth, like immigrant “white-looking” Persians today. Are you white if you are “white-looking?” What makes you white? (Hint: Whiteness doesn’t exist; we make it exist because we need it to perpetuate racism. It’s a construction, not an ethnicity.)
- Contemporary Hollywood has no trouble finding “Muslim-looking” actors to play terrorists.
- Past and present Hollywood appropriates cultures of color and casts white actors to play people of color. This is so common it has a name: “whitewashing.” Cultural activists of color and their allies are definitely calling “whitewashing” on this casting.
- Rumi actually means a lot more to some even than the beautiful, powerful English-language translations we see quoted so often: his spiritual tradition lives, and some of us practice it; I do. It’s my personal belief (NOT the official line of our tradition) that it’s offensive to cast someone to play Rumi who has no ethnic connection to Rumi. Ethnicity means (at minimum) the shared culture of a particular group of people. (It’s a useful term; ethnos means “a people.”). If DiCaprio has a connection like this, it has not been offered as justification for his casting; instead, the producer has offered his celebrity whitewashing as evidence his film will lift up the image of Muslims in movies!
2. Some kind people have felt it better to de-emphasize that the Orlando shooter was a Muslim. What this blurs however is NOT how Muslim his crime was but how American it was: impersonal, isolationist, homophobic, made uniquely possible by American gun laws. Practitioners of almost every faith knows that our faith not only can be but has been interpreted as urging us to violence. Islamophobia is behind both emphasizing and hiding the shooter’s Muslim-ness.
What one person can do is distinguish distinctions that matter. Our post is to help you do this–and to blur mine: when it comes to Islamophobia, just consider me Muslim. When it comes to racism, consider me a person of color. I am ally enough for that already, and in all my actions, and at all my subtler levels, try to write, think, speak and live as if I were the “other.”
*What are now “subtle” distinctions may one day be so obvious we will not believe they were ever in question. Many things we take for granted now are like that if you think about it: slavery, women’s voting, the right to free public education, the right to free public healthcare…