Saturday, August 9, 2014

How Dare You?: Challenging White Female Christian Entitlement

I've been having a bad year in terms of my relationships with white women.Well, not with Cicely who's been a dear, close friend since we met in college, but truthfully she never seemed very white to me - she's always just been Cicely. My friend. She doesn't count. Nomi, of course, she doesn't count. Actually, I'm not even sure that Nomi is white. I'll have to ask. It's odd, even if Nomi has some birth claim to whiteness, she long ago handed in her membership card, so I can't truly in fairness think of her as White.

But my problems in relating to white women (or is it their problem in relating to me? It's a mystery) have gone beyond just the problem of casual gritted teeth in fake smiles that white women and black so often offer one another; it's beyond the problem of politeness for the sake of being polite.  I'm finding myself more and more often in situations where I'm experiencing feeling of deep offense that escalate into all out nuclear-winter rage where I drop my hardest weapons and actually relish seeing the shock and defeat in the eyes of my -- I don't want to use the word "enemy" -- shall I say opponent? Combatant? (Ah, but that dredges up connotations of the word "enemy" again).

White people are not my enemy. White women are not my enemy.

I mean, so far as I know I don't have any enemies. Still, I find that I am too often facing crises of female armed conflict fighting with hard, cold words of dislike, disrespect and flat out contempt.

But if I were to claim an enemy, then I have to truthfully say that lately I am fighting a battle, inside myself and face to face and in hand to hand combat that becomes more pitched and more violent everyday that I am forced to face-off against the arrogant abasement demanded by those who uphold, defend, own and revere the values of white, female, Christian entitlement.

I had an argument today with a woman who was not really a friend, more like the friend of a friend rather; it began as an intellectual discussion the like of which I have perhaps everyday with family and friends of all colors, genders and sexualities. The woman - we'll call her Becky - took insult and offense at a post I made on Facebook.  It was a random post that I had paid little close attention to as I captioned it. What made Becky outraged was that I dared to criticize the hypocritical actions of a man who called himself Christian, yet whose behavior was far from the principles espoused by Christ.

We're living in an age where religious warfare and violence has erupted in nearly every part of the world. Though I have finally calmed down from the events that I shall describe presently, I'm still left with feelings of shame, failure and deep sadness. Did I really just engage in an argument over religion? There's no justification for such a thing, truly. Level-headed adults discuss, they don't argue. They don't lose emotional control or abandon rational behavior. I still feel mortified, conscience-stricken for my role in what follows. Good intentions pave the road to hell, it is said; and, if you are curious how a mere difference of opinion can boil into a far more serious and wide ranging conflict, I regret to say that I am the example that I shall use to illustrate how such a thing can happen to even the most reasonable and well intentioned beings.

 I assumed that the discussion would ultimately end with our acceptance that our likenesses were greater than our differences; still, I had invested quite a bit of time and patience before I realized that Becky did not have the educational background nor the intellectual openness to express tolerance of our differing spiritual ideals.

Becky went into full tilt defender-of-Christ mode and she emotionally berated me for being so offensive to Christians in my post.

I explained that I have a college degree in Christian theology. I explained that I have been a lifelong seeker devoted to spirituality. I explained to her that despite being raised and baptized as a Christian I had largely left behind any allegiance to the Church because I could no longer align myself with an institution that had betrayed Christ in its propagation of war, slavery, female subjugation, lack of humility, lack of compassion, absence of care for the poor, and persecution toward those Others born to non-heterosexual natures.

 I explained that such theological hypocrisy was the equivalent of nailing Christ back upon the Cross to suffer without even the companionship of his disciples (the most devoted of which being Mary Magdalene, she who has been demeaned as whore and prostitute for two millenia). I explained how yoga had become my savior and that the teachings of the Hindu swami Paramahansa Yogananda had taught me more respect for Christianity than I had ever learned in eight years of education by Jesuits.

Becky was unable to tolerate my spiritual stance, she returned again and again to the topic which most outraged her - my shocking disobedience to the authority of the God given Christian church which required, indeed, my submission, conformity and compliance.

"How could you??" Becky wailed emotionally again and again. "How could you?"  I tried calmly to explain again, this time in much simpler language. But Becky was so emotionally overwrought that she flounced away from the conversation in a fit of temper as I was in mid-sentence.

That's when I lost my temper with Becky and abandoned my Ivy League professorial stance. That's when I climbed down from the pedestal of exalted learning -- which was far too high above Becky's head anyway --  down to the ground to do battle like a natural woman. At this point, I decided that Becky was a silly bitch, with very little intellectual curiosity, whom I only just realized that I disliked heartily; so I figured I might make more progress if I talked to her the way I often heard folks speak down on my Grandpoppy's corner, deep in the ghetto of my hometown.

Becky, fucked with the wrong one. Straight up.

The only reason I didn't curse Becky out was that she was not American so my best foul-language would have been wasted on her.  What Becky did not understand, and will never understand if I talk til I am blue in the face is that I, and many folk white, black, brown, red and yellow, do not respect hypocrisy. I have walked away, rebelled, divested myself from duty and subservience to Whiteness, to the oppression of the Christian church, to any form of humiliating deference to whiteness, or white womanhood-upon-the-pedestal.

Becky will never be able to understand that she was demanding my obedience, that I check my haughty, high ideals and recognize that she -- all she believes, all she represents -- was the representation of right, white and might. I had stepped out of my place.

"How could you?! How could you?! Are you calling me a hypocrite?!" she demanded. Becky was in absolute, genuine, pure distress. Despite a conversation that had very deep implications and intriguing spiritual inquiries, the bottom line for Becky was that I dared to cast aspersion upon her faith. Nevermind that my post had nothing to do with her; when she added a comment to it I had to sit for several moments to think who the hell she was. She would not be tempted to consider my own faith, my own spirituality because only hers mattered. Only Christianity mattered to Becky Perhaps 90 minutes after flouncing away from our conversation she returned with a flimsy casual air and tried to pretend that she hadn't run away.

"You know what? I've lost all respect for you," I told her. "No, I am not calling you a hypocrite, Becky. We were having an adult, intellectual conversation and I would never conduct myself in that kind of manner. I would not disrespect you or your beliefs in that way. We're grown-ups. But we aren't friends anymore and you aren't interested in an intellectual conversation. I'm not calling you a hypocrite but I am calling you a coward and a jerk."

You see, it doesn't take a Dr. Evil to propagate white supremacy and its institutions. Racism, sexism, and all forms of human oppression are very easy to pass on to their rightful owners; one need not even be told much about the purpose or true nature of these inherited values. But even the most ignorant, least savvy individual can sense when an Other bucks the trend, when a wrong has been done by a lesser being who rightly must genuflect and demonstrate sincere  obeisance. For those to-the-manor-born who neglect to question, who reject curiosity about the values handed down from the authority figures in clericals, in government, in white skin and power positions, then all the hard work is made easy; it is instantly swallowed, and entirely accepted as good and right and just so that those who are White and Alright wear them with pride.

From that point, the distance between Whiteness and Otherness cannot be reconciled without deep, long, honest and hard consciousness raising. There is a chasm  that all the Beckys of the world, who are in truth merely second-class citizens to all the Don Drapers of White Might, have forfeited any interest in crossing, not realizing or caring to discover what goes on in the minds and hearts and souls of the Others on the other side.

So she becomes angry, offended, wildly emotional when she can't seem to comprehend that not every Other woman agrees with her sensibilities that force an Other down as a lesser being with fewer rights to existence, to free thought, to individuality. The fact is that there is a very particular kind of white female Christian entitlement that can't even conceive that there are people in the world who despise what these traits stand for, who deplore the violence and dehumanizing conditions that her values have created for billions of Others.

 There is a certain type of white female Christian entitlement that is utterly shocked and disbelieving upon discovering that there are Others who are victims of terrible crimes committed in the name of a white Christ; Others who have suffered, been degraded, demeaned and humiliated in the shadows of white beauty which presumes to explain to the Others, in tones of soft regret, that while everyone has an inner beauty, still sadly, some of you Others can never be anything but ugly, fat, dark and unworthy.

There is a kind of white female entitlement that cannot even understand why an Other would even think, dare to rebel against these laws of the natural world that surely were established by God who placed Whiteness as guardian over all the Others, who clearly gave Whiteness dominion over the earth and its creatures.

So how dare you, a lowly female Other speak against that God, against my God, against benevolent Whiteness, against the charitable and pure white friendship, against my lily-white hand extended in kindness and offered in the name of Christian values and downright decent human nature?

No, Becky. How do you dare to contradict your white Christ? How do you dare to wreak intolerance with one hand and yet claim to honor spiritual fellowship, fraternity, equality and freedom while denying it with the other hand?

I'll never, ever be able to be friends with the Beckys of the world. I like to think of myself as kind. As friendly. As tolerant. As a spiritual seeker. But when one encounters an Other who refuses to accept the gifts that one offers in the spirit of truth and peace in which they are offered a chasm opens in the crust of the earth and forever separates two people of opposing viewpoints, and the chasm is named Hypocrisy. Is there a bridge strong enough to cross it?

How do we dare to brave this abyss? Should we dare? Will we ever?

Or must the Beckys and the Others - like me - go our own ways forever and ever?

I will always dare to question.

I will always dare to defy might over right.

I dare. I always have. And I always must.

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