Did I Really Get Called That? Thoughts on being called a racist, and why I’m done for this year

2016 update: It has been about two and a half years since I wrote this, and there’s a serious addendum that needs to be made. I now know what it is I encountered.

An authoritarian progressive. Also known as the authoritarian left, the regressive left, or the tomato left. This was my first time being burned by one of these people on twitter. Sadly it was not the last.

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye!
Matthew 7:5

I never know how to react when someone accuses me of being racist against, well, my own. Incongruity is my first emotion; did I really just get called that? Really? For criticising those people? But I am one!

You see, I count not one, or two or three, but over a dozen nationalities in my direct line of descent. My ancestry ranges across three continents. It includes people who wore tartans (I’m entitled to two). It includes people who bore their own coats of arms (I’m entitled to one by name, two more by traceable descent). It includes people who were the victims of the first modern genocide. It includes the nation that built the pyramids, and the birthplaces of Aristotle and Joan of Arc. Surviving wings of the family exist from Cairo to Montevideo, from Beirut to Dublin, from Montreal to Melbourne. And that’s just what we know about.

Many of these people have significantly more melanin content in their skin than others, and couldn’t be mistaken for Caucasians no matter how much talcum powder they applied. Most have English as their second (at best) language. My mother was told, all the way into adulthood, to go “back where you came from” because she was so visibly darker than her peers (she refuses because she hates Melbourne weather).

In fact, their moronic hatred of her skin colour is the reason my father’s family doesn’t talk to us.

I am a person of Middle Eastern descent. I am a person of European descent. I am a person, if you count Egypt as Africa, of African descent.

So when I get called racist, my first instinct is to stop, check, and make sure I’m not slipping into inadvertently insulting most of my genetic code. My second is to make sure I’m not doing it to someone else.

So to be called racist, over and over again, by someone who is supposed to be a respected peer in a community of writers, well, that is very upsetting (along with the childish insults and refusal to consider any arguments longer than ten words  – if you want to argue with me, then behave like an adult or I have no reason to talk to you, and I’m trigger-happy with the block/ban/delete buttons).

I will point out now, for the sake of completeness, that the reason that I’m being attacked like this is that I refused to accept the proposition that Muslims are a single race, and that’s because I don’t accept that they are a single race. People of Middle Eastern descent are often (incorrectly and insultingly) grouped together as a single race, usually by white people who don’t know better, despite the great variety of cultures and languages and practices and ethnic identities on display, and the word “Muslim”, in the mouths of some unhinged lunatics, is code for “brown person” – I know this.

But Chechen Muslims and Kazakh Muslims and White American Muslims and African American Muslims and French Muslims and Javanese Muslims and Nigerian Muslims and Somali Muslims and Iranian Muslims and Pashtun Muslims and Malay Muslims and Kurdish Muslims and Turkish Muslims and all the others represent a stunning diversity of ethnicities and cultures and languages, united (more or less) only by their common faith. They are as diverse as the Christian world.

Key word; faith.

The are not united by a common line of descent or a common ethnicity or shared physiological features like skin colour or nose shape or what else is used as the basis of racism. They are united by their faith. Being prejudiced against Muslims as a whole is sectarian prejudice – a corrosive poison as strong and vile as racism – but it is not racism. It is racism’s sibling.

And it remains my fervent belief that calling it something it’s not devalues and invalidates the experiences of these people while minimising the impact and reality of racism. Calling it something it’s not also brushes real sectarian prejudice under the carpet, invalidating and denying the experiences of its victims as well, and that is equally abhorrent.

Erasure of the ethnic and, yes, the racial diversity in the Muslim world by saying that Muslims are all one race, homogenising that incredibly varied group into one single mass, is itself an act of incalculable and unspeakably vile racism. It invalidates the racial discrimination and violence that Hazaras and Kurds and Marsh Arabs and others have suffered, often at the hands of other Muslims.

It’s the sort of bigoted generalisation that comes from the mouth of a special kind of white racist, the kind that manages to combine misplaced idealism, hypocrisy, and stunning short-sightedness into one neat package. This makes the accusation levelled at me incredibly galling.

When you assert, in the face of the evidence, that all Muslims are one racial group, you are negating the differences between the many, many different ethnicities within that faith and invalidating the different experiences they have as a result of those ethnic identities. To pick one example, when you do that, you are erasing and denying the experiences a Hazara Muslim may experience as a Hazara person by subsuming their Hazara racial identity into a homogenous Muslim racial identity. You’ve done the same thing to the Kurds. And to the Marsh Arabs. And the rest of the ethnic groups in the Islamic world – too many to list.

That’s racist, and there is no room for dispute on that point.

What I am saying here is that not only are people who claim or infer that Muslims are one race factually incorrect, as incorrect as if they had claimed or inferred that Christians were all one race, but they are also being racist to boot. And then these people go and accuse other people, who recognise the indisputably multiracial, multiethnic nature of the Islamic world, the people who acknowledge and respect the unique and different racial experiences of the various ethnicities in the Islamic world, of being racist.

The hypocrisy is absolutely breathtaking; racism inseparable from and inherent in the very words being used to accuse another of being racist. The rhetoric would be worthy of admiration if it wasn’t so foul.

Speaking as a person of a multi-ethnic background, a descendant of survivors of the first modern genocide, who wouldn’t have to work again if I had a fiver for every time I was told I must have been adopted (genetics is funny), who has been shunned by half the family because I’m related to the other half; I’m getting very tired of white people whitesplaining to me what racism is and what it means.

Especially when they claim to know better.

Having had this slime slung at me, multiple times now, by someone who is allegedly my peer in a community… that was a bridge too far. I’m sorry, but I’m done for this year. I just can’t.

If you need me, I’ll be spending the rest of 2013 force-choking the shit out of puny little Jedi in Star Wars Online.