Wednesday, May 8, 2013

2013.05.08 Shameless At Home, a Rant

My upstairs home-newscaster and spouse, just sent me a piece from the Huffington Post of May 7, 2013, written by Seema Jilani, a physician reporting from Afhanistan, “My Racist Encounter at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”  She reported from Afghanistan.

Jilani  was not invited to attend the D.C.dinner, just the cocktail hour. I gasped, having myself  been shut out of an inner circle church search committee interview where my husband was being interviewed and I (newly ordained priest), was invited to come, but only to the social time.  “You can sit in the library,” I was told. Jilani’s dinner was for correspondents only. OK —sort of.

But she had forgotten to get the car keys from her husband who was already in the ballroom for what she calls the “hideous schmooz fest” of “wannabe-famous.” 

Jilani tried to explain her case several times to the security police and was not admitted  because she “had no ticket”. She tried to reach her husband but couldn’t.  Then to her horror she observed that several women—all Caucasian— were let through and no tickets were checked. When confronted she was told that “Well now we are checking tickets.” 

The story reels on and it made me nauseous. Attempts by Jilani to confront lying and request respect for her own credentials, as native English speaker who was born in New Orleans and a physician trained at a prestigious facility, only met with more lies and ridicule, like:  “You were here last year weren’t you? We had trouble with you last year.”

The horror set in: “White privilege was on display, palpable to passersby who consoled me. I’ve come to expect this repulsive racism in many aspects of my life, but when I find it entrenched in these smaller encounters is when salt is sprinkled into the wounds. In these crystallizing moments it is clear that while I might see myself as just another all-American gal who has great affection for this country, others see me as something less than human, more now than ever before.”

I could go on, but it’s enough to say that Seema Jilani’s rage and pain were quite justified. There was racism blunt and bold; ugly paranoia led the way; and prejudice based in revenge and hate, posing as Security, was the order of the day in the wake of bombings and acts of terrorism against our country.  Such attitude is toxic to our own souls.  I’m afraid it will spread.

Dr Jilani is an American. So was Dzhoknar Tsarnaev. I admit I was disturbed by all the local negativity about the burial the older Tsarnaev borther's body in Massachusetts. And I admire the funeral home in Worcester for its graciousness. The man’s body should go back to Russia. Not because we are mean-spirited and ethnically puristic but because it would disgrace our country if there was desecration of a grave.

When we Americans behave this way we only shame ourselves and we are not Americans. I know it is too soon for many to feel anything else but pain and the need to close in and exclude, but I pray that will begin to happen soon, or we ourselves will be un-American.

And we won’t be Christians either— because what Dr. Jilani experienced was racism, sexism AND religious bigotry.

More now than ever Christians, and other religions who have like covenants, need to renew and remember our covenants. In the Book of Common Prayer baptismal rite, Anglicans promise to: “Strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being and the whole created order [italics mine].

Thank God, we promise to strive for this “with God’s help” because we sure can’t do it otherwise.