Tuesday, November 28, 2006

White People?

So I was reading back posts of El 3atal's blog when I noticed a commenter saying to El 3atal in a derogatory manner that he must get along well with "white people." Hunh? What exactly is that supposed to mean? It also referred to the fact that we must live in apart of Amman where they have guards to protect "white people" and government people. How interesting... Does that mean that the commentor was defining him/herself as something other than white? And, how does the implication come that white = bad? How curious.

Now, I grew up in the American South. And, I know that racism is rampant there (although perhaps not as bad there as Philly, where I lived as well). I'm also aware that there is a form of reverse racism (all whites are bad) that has become somewhat prevalent. And, yet, I find that everyone is degraded by such sentiment. While the intention is to show that the "other" guy is bad, in reality the person who has and expresses these thoughts is just as bad. In reality, I suspect it is part of human nature to fear what is different than us. It is equally as ordinary and valid for someone who grew up in a small town in Jordan to fear a big, liberal American as it is for the American to fear someone who wears a long beard and hatta w/egal. But, embracing that fear and hatred rather than trying to understand the people behind it leads only to a degrading of yourself.

The most embarrassed I have ever been of being an American (and that includes current times with an administration that causes me GREAT embarrassment) is when, in college, some stupid boys called El 3atal's phone and left a message calling him a "sand nigger". Now, do you know the most ironic thing about this? The guy doing it was an Arab-American. How sad is it when you listen to people who cause you to truly degrade yourself? Perhaps as people we can learn to set aside our fear, hatred, and misunderstanding. Once we have done so, we will realize that everyone in this world is concerned with the same things. In every country around the world mothers worry over the safety and happiness of their children. Parents worry about how to provide the best possible life for their families. Underneath the trappings of difference, colors of skin, hair, and eyes, we're just people.

Happy shades of grey!


At 3:32 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said! T

At 3:38 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

well there is all out racism and there are racist undertones, what you're talking about might fall in the latter.

but in any population there are bound to be ignorant people. "the white man" is seen as the group of people that have created and supported much of our region's problems since the first world war.

that being said, i would guess there's a hundred times more racism towards peoples of color coming from white america than the other way around.

At 6:08 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nas, I don't know about that. Every new baby I've visited in Jordan is deemed pretty or not by the lightness/darkness of skin.

At 7:39 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Glad to see I sparked some comment. And, thank you all for keeping to the validity of my thoughts rather than personal attacks!

At 9:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

white black and arabs,the call me sand nigger alots of times,but i dont give a .

At 10:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

kinzi: yes light skinned arabs are preferred but usually because they imply that the person is from a segment of society that is usually urban and wealthy as opposed to the dark-skinned farmer villager types outside the city. also this is usually applied to the females rather than the males. it's very social.

in any case, that is a whole other matter than white westerners. the attributes attached to their white skin runs deeper than the skin itself. rather than social the connotations become political and historical.

but this is just my opinion of course.

At 10:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good point, Nas. Is that why all Amman has gone blonde, too?

As a white Westerner, I know I have blind spots, so I will look for those attributes I unconsciously carry.

At 11:32 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...


Thanks for your follow-up. I recognize the negative things that Westerners have done in this part of the world. However, I hope mothers will begin to develop tolerance in their children. Otherwise we end up with the continuing cycle of racism, as in the US people who feel justified hating Arabs because of the 9/11 attacks as if that represents all Arabs. Each type of racism harms the person holding the beliefs more than those they hate. Hatred breeds hatred. Nothing good ever comes of it.

Oh, and I wish these absolutely beautiful Arab ladies would stop with the frosting and dying of their hair. Their natural brown and black hair looks so much prettier than the fake looking blond. But, being a woman, I also get that every woman wants different hair than she has (striaght haired want curly, curly haired want straight, brunettes want blond...). Such is the life of a woman I suppose.

At 1:29 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

kinzi and mommabean: i wouldn't know about the dying of hair, or everyone going blonde. perhaps it has something to do with this. but at the same time there is a seperation between western culture and western history. the "white man" coming off the plane at queen alia airport represents both but from a jordanian, arab or general outsider's point of view the latter is what dominates. history is difficult to undo, especially when it's still being repeated.

in other words, elitists will always love western culture, from pop music to blonde hair..it represents all that is modern, hip, and in fashion. if japan was the cultural superpower then everyone would be walking around in kimonos maybe. it's western history, politics, imperialism and all these other elements that become inherent in what it means to be "white". this is the perception.

as for teaching hate.

it doesn't matter. to say mothers should teach their kids better is a cliche that no culture on earth has or can live up to. we are born to be desriminate of those who differ from us. the elements inherent in human beings and a culture will always trump and nullify any sense of parenting.

some americans will continue to be racist towards arabs and vice versa.

what one can hope for is that it remains "some" and does not become "most".

At 1:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

i meant to link to
this post in the second sentence.

At 8:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

as fate would have it i was studying this past night a few papers on racism and colonialism and i thought this might interest you guys. it's a piece written by frantz fanon called 'black skin white masks' that i recommend. fanon grew up in french antilles and eventually goes to france where a child on a train becomes scared of him, calling him a negro...

fanon says this:

"...i discovered my blackness, my ethnic characteristics; and i was battered down by tom-toms, cannibalism, intellectual feiciency, racial defects, slave-ships, and above all else, above all - 'sho' good eatin'"

he then quotes Sir Alan Burns' treatise Colour Prejudice:

"...as colour is the most obvious outward manifestation of race it has been made the criterion by which men are judged, irrespective of their social or educational attainments.."

At 6:20 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your posts. Because of you- I know more about Safeway and Cozmo than my Jordanian boyfriend!
Nas- I have to say that I disagree with your statement that mothers should teach their children better isn't possible for a culture. I believe that it is possible. How do I know? It happened in my own family. My mom taught me to embrace cultural differences and that every culture has positive aspects and negative. She used to say that we should embrace the positive. She took us to international fairs, and exposed us to cultural foods as children. I'd say her open mindedness won out. My brother, sister and I are blonde and fair skinned. However, my brother's wife was born in Canada, but her family came from Itay. My sister's husband is first generation Chinese American and my boyfriend is Jordanian! It can be done, but it does start from the cradle.
MommaBean and Kinzi- thanks so much for teaching me what life is like in Jordan for us Americans. I have to say that you have, along with Rebecca, taught me so much from comments and blogs that has given me reassurance. If I do get married and if we did move to Amman, I know that I wouldn't be isolated.

At 11:15 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bo: what I meant to say is that parenting is not the absolute solution to yield the absolute positive result we would need to cure this ailment. Not only does racism stem from centuries upon centuries of histories and inherited prejudices but even in this day and age when people all over the world are more accepting of different cultures, society is a much more powerful force than parents. the only time you get real tangible change is when there is a noticeable shift in the social paradigm. In the meantime, there is a larger environment out there to consider. You are one of the lucky ones.

At 1:47 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

MommaBean, yes, I bemoan all that lovely dark hair going so, so, yellow! So, true though, we all want what we don't have.

Nas, good points. I'm chewing on the word 'xenophobia' these days. I made a Jordanian baby cry last week...her mom said it was because I was the first white person she had ever seen.

Bo, are you the same one that posted on Wedad's blog a few days back? It's a pleasure to know our ideas are helpful. There is a great book out for cross-cultural relationships, it's called "Love Across Latitudes". I can't remember who the author is, but I know many US/UK ladies married to Jordanian men have been encouraged by it.

At 4:51 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Wow, Kinzi. I haven't heard of that book before. Maybe I should read it, although 10 years in might be a little late. Bo, I'm glad you're enjoying the blogosphere from little 'ole Jordan. If you need any other insider information, just drop me an e-mail!


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