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They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab: And I Found All the Racism

So, apparently the white racial frame and the pressures exhorted on Asian Americans to assimilate (including the damage done to the psychological welfare of those trying to gain whiteness) is apparent in the micro-interactions of a small residential addiction treatment facility in North Georgia. The space is overwhelmingly white, upper middle class and male. The second of two, an Asian American resident was repeatedly subjected to the pressure of the white racial frame described in Chapter 5 of The Myth of the Model Minority during my time there (Chou and Feagin 2015).

Chou and Feagin (2015:142) write that individuals of color are repeatedly made to bear ridicule, humiliation and exclusion. I met J***d my third week in addiction treatment. His mother and father brought him and they looked about as worn out and scared as every other loved one who brings their child, parent, sibling or friend to rehab. Certainly no white savior/white knighting was necessary from me, but after seeing the way the only Black resident was treated during my first two weeks there, I guess I was apprehensive on this new client’s behalf.

J***, the nickname provided to him by his white, male counterparts in treatment who seemed to have “trouble” pronouncing his name began attempting to find his place in this closed community after about two days. The name problem was a persistent obstacle to his assimilation and an unacknowledged tool to remind him he was excluded. Referencing Sue (2007), Jennifer Gonzales (2014) writes about the lasting impact repeated mispronunciation could have on students of color…or anyone of any age who has a name not classified as “white”. While white America has no problem with names like Galifianakis, somehow a man’s name with five letters is too difficult for credentialed professionals at a mental health facility to pronounce. Gonzales (2014) has a category for both the professionals and the clients who gave J***D his nickname in this instance-“arrogant manglers” who continue on with their mispronunciations after repeated corrections and “nicknamers” who just don’t care enough about another human being (because that person is seen as less than human) to say their name correctly. Both of these categories were evident as J***d’s name was repeatedly corrupted for at least the first week he was there.

J***d attempted on multiple occasions to gain entry to this overtly white space. He “excelled” at rehab (a condition ironically named “making an A in rehab”) by never missing meetings or groups, giving out cigarettes to anyone who asked, playing corn-hole with anyone who would team up with him and making conversation with his most ardent attackers. When overt racism was apparent, he laughed it off. This is explain by Lara in the reading, “ignoring the issues and always just trying to be better than the people around me so…they didn’t have anything over me” (Chou and Feagin 2015:145). It’s impossible for me to know if his attempts were propelled by a need to be a model minority in a facility that attract so many from the low end of social acceptability or he was just trying to survive that experience or both, but the outcome was the same.

Of course, outward humiliation and degredation were present as well. During large group meetings it was common for clients to respond to roll call with silly or inappropriate outbursts, rather than “here” or “present”. Several young, white men began to respond with “Allah Akbar”—nevermind that none of these men knew J***d’s religious beliefs or had recognized that he is not Middle Eastern (which is assumed to be the reason they did this. I am not sure they understood the vastness of the Islamic population worldwide or that, as a near Asian descendent it was just as likely that J***d is Hindu or Christian.) This outburst was followed by some garbled version of another Arabic phrase turned into a bludgeon to associate Brown persons from Persia, the Middle East, India, Pakistan, etc. with terrorism. “Rocking the boat” was not an option for J***d (Chou and Feagin 2015:169). In a closed environment where these same men were his roommates, small group therapy-mates and his cohorts in games, outings and social smoking activities, speaking up was not available. At least, not if he expected to get through the program. At one point he or someone else did complain. The talk in the rumor mill began immediately. Someone was “offended” and “they were just joking”. While the responses to roll call stopped, the same phrases continued, even escalated during smoking times or free times. These spaces were even more important than the roll call situation because this is where clients create relationships. Close relationships with at least one or two other people in treatment are considered especially important to successful completion. In other words, exclusion can literally prevent a person from maintaining sobriety and gaining the tools to finish the program. This is another example of how racism can impact health care outcomes.

Lastly, in the same way that Coates (2015) discusses at length the ways in which Black Americans have little to no rights over their own bodies, J***d was repeatedly humiliated either in secret or in person for his dietary needs-his autonomy over his own person. This is another example of exclusion, othering, unrealistic expectations and humiliation (Chou and Feagin 2015:142). Clients and staff believed that J***d should be expected to put his faith-based dietary needs on hold in order to accommodate the facility. If he did not meet this expectation, he could assume some backlash. On a Saturday while an outdoor activity was being held outside, I read on the couch in the common space. A man from admissions was speaking loudly to the nursing staff. He was complaining about religion and having to respect the beliefs of others. “Just because you being in some Big Sky Fairy shouldn’t mean that we have to accommodate your food!” There was only one resident who required dietary accommodations for religious reasons. When I mentioned that he was being very loud and others, including clients, would be able to hear him, the response was one of categorical disinterest. A moment later after a short discussion on appropriateness of professional behavior, I was told that I was “taking this too seriously.” A later conversation with the head of the clinical team ended with an instance of rescuing whites (of which I am quite possibly a part given my minimal attempt to do anything) since this admissions professional didn’t “mean to offend me” (Bracey 2011). It seemed to go over his head that I wasn’t the person who needed to be assuaged or apologized to, another occurrence of whiteness being the important factor. I was talked to, humored, and placated rather than any meaningful conversation about race and its intersection with religion and bodily autonomy in a facility touted as a spiritually grounded program.

The instances of racism in my time at residential treatment were many. Beginning with the fact that I only saw four people of color my entire time there. The only other Asian client was a Vietnamese woman who suffered much of the same racism J***d did, but dealt with it differently, by utilizing her woman-ness to create connections with other women and separate herself from younger clients. Still, slurs like “slant eyes” were heard during her tenure as well. It was suggested that it would be helpful to have people on staff with a more broad understanding of inequality and social factors that intersect with addiction, but these were, as most suggestions, brushed aside in favor of a “what have you done to escalate conflict” approach. This was an eye-opening experience in a number of ways. A disheartening example of how racism still works in medical and mental health institutions, an example of how this treatment may do more harm than good for those not of the upper-middle class, white, male populations.

 

 

Bibliography

Bracey, Glenn. 2011. “Rescuing Whites: White Privileging Discourse in Race Critical Scholarship” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, NV, Aug 19. http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p506887_index.html Retrieved January 11, 2017.

Chou, Rosalind and Joe R. Feagin. 2015. The Myth of the Model Minority. New York: Routledge.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi. 2015. Between the World and Me. New York: Spiegel & Grau

Gonzales, Jennifer. 2014. “How We Pronounce Student Names, and Why it Matters.” Cult of Personality. https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/gift-of-pronunciation/ Retrieved April 6, 2017.

 

 

 

 

Written by thelittlepecan

April 22, 2017 at 10:20 pm

What’s a Good Atheist to do During December?

Well, hopefully spread good cheer.  Right?

(Plus all the other stuff I talked about in The War on christmas Pt. 3)

One way we can spread good cheer is to just spread the good.  I’m broke, a new grad student who’s had almost no luck finding a job, but I could at least spare $5.  Donate a small amount, or whatever non-perishables in your pantry that you know you won’t eat to a food bank, clothing to Goodwill or a few hours to a soup kitchen.  Even better, do all of them! This year, at the request of one of my Religious Roundtable friends, I donated to a charity that helps find homes for disabled orphans in other countries such as Serbia.

Another way to spread the good holiday cheer is to get involved in holiday events in your community, like these good folks from the Brazos Valley Vuvuzela Atheist Marching Band did by participating in the Bryan/College Station Christmas Parade.

[The idea that a vuvuzela is an instrument that’s players can  be organized into a “band” is another topic altogether that makes me cringe mightily.  We’ll let that go for now.  (It’s not nearly as annoying as it sounds…or loud.)]

Apparently, and certainly not surprisingly, the efforts of the Marching Band were not seen as cheerful or particularly welcome as you can see by a local mother’s reaction in this news cast.

As you can see in both videos (or by reading the write-up in the Examiner) the band played several traditional Christmas songs, wished people Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa, so as to be inclusive of as many people as possible in their greetings.  This was met with “disgust” that local children might be exposed to a different world view.

We are, as they say, damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

I’m starting to realize that there is no “high road.”  We are to be silent.  We are to especially be silent during the Advent, Lenten and any particularly patriotic seasons, lest we tarnish them with our presence.

So, what is a good atheist to do during December?

Shut up and hide.

 

Written by thelittlepecan

December 8, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Posted in atheism, religion

Tagged with , ,

No Backstage with the All Seeing Eye

God is always watching.  A personal deity sees everything you do, knows every detail of your life, and watches you pee?  Well, maybe not, but you gotta wonder…

What does the belief that Someone is always watching you do to the way adherents of a religious theology behave?  I wonder how damaging it might be to think that you have absolutely no privacy.  Of course, hopefully most of us have a conscience that guides us even when no one is watching, but even if we don’t have that, most of us are socialized enough to know what will be acceptable in society and what will not.  No need for the All Seeing Eye of Mordor to guide our every private moment.

Goffman is loved in undergraduate sociology theory classes because I think everyone can understand the need or pressure to be “on” or “off” (Marie and Becky, I bet both of you can really relate to this theory,  as well.)  Erving Goffman theorized that, like Shakespeare said, all the world really is a stage and everyone else is a player, a part of the audience and also the lead in their own life.  One of the most important features of Goffman’s theory is that like a play, we have a front stage and a backstage in our everyday lives.  Front stage is the place where we must be “on” we must conform to social norms, behave in a way that is satisfactory for us to navigate our world.  Our backstage is where we can let our guard down, like, say, the bathroom or during sexual intercourse.  The backstage consists of the places where we feel little or no judgment or where we prepare for the front stage.

So, I wonder, if god is always watching us, where is our backstage?  If we believe that god is always with us, even when we pee, where is our privacy?  Is there a place that is truly our own and no one else’s?  I have friends, who feel enormous pressure to perform in everyday lives.  They are not Christians, just victims of a culture not able or willing to modify its norms for those playing a different part than the rest of society.  If they did not have a place where they could just “be themselves” (and I’m sure as children, who have less backstage time than other humans this would be particularly difficult) the world would be plain unbearable.

This brings me to another concept that I think ties into my example.  Marx’s (yes, there he is again, oh noes! Call security!) Theory of alienation proposes that capitalism removed people so much from the process of their work (no more farming the food you yourself eat, you work is no longer personal, instead you are a cog in a machine, easily replaced) that they will become disenchanted with their labor.  Religion is often a huge machine, it has many rules and scare tactics are a familiar way to keep people in line.  If a person never feels like they have any privacy and that they have little to no control over their life (save the fact that they can control how well they follow the rules 24 hours a day) will they become disenchanted with religion?

I have spoken to so many religious people, current and former, who definitely felt that they could never live up to the expectations of the perpetual front stage where they were committed to be, all day, every day.  A daunting task.  In some of those instances, the individual did feel alienated from god, faith and the positive parts of belonging to a religion.  Others seem to feel that god, by the very nature of his supposed being, has the right to know each and every detail of our lives, and in fact, already knows it all (causing a free will exchange that usually turns into a mulberry bush.)

How can we reconcile the need privacy with an All Knowing Personal God?  If we cannot reconcile the two, how can we reconcile the need for privacy with the danger of alienating the faithful from their religion?  Are either possible, both or neither?  Ready?  Go!

Written by thelittlepecan

December 6, 2010 at 10:53 am

Posted in atheism, religion, Sociology

Tagged with ,

Top of the Totem: Protecting Best Interests of the Powerful

Towards the beginning of this school year, The Boyfriend™ allowed his boys to try Cub Scouts to see if that might be an activity they were interested in sticking with.  Now, I have issues with Boy Scouts of America, issues that are separate from the one I’m going to discuss here.

(If you’re interested in how the BSA treats non-believing families and their children, I’d suggest a good reading of Parenting Beyond Belief and pay special attention to Chapter 2, “Living with Religion.”)

No, this is about the guidelines presented to parents (possibly Den Mothers only?) about the protection of children from sexual abuse by pastoral leaders.  There are several packets of information, one pertaining only to the Catholic Church.  I got my hands on these through Jim who suffers willingly (most of the time) my obsession with religion and knew I’d love to read them.

I finally got around to it and was (not surprisingly) disturbed by what I read right there in the introduction.  “The damage caused by sexual abuse is devastating and long lasting.  It is even more tragic when the consequence is a loss of the faith that the Catholic Church has a sacred duty to foster.” (Updated Policy of the Archdiocese of Atlanta Concerning the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Individuals from Sexual Abuse by Church Personnel-Revised August 1, 2003)

Now, I can look at this from two angles.  One is the personal angle of disgust and anger that; 1. The loss of faith is placed higher than the other dangers of sexual violence against children and 2. That it is somehow common for bad experiences to cause a loss of faith, when in my personal experience and observation (which is obviously limited, but I have a good individual convenience sample given my interest in religion) those who have suffered great loss, pain or other distress do not seem any more likely to lose faith and may even be more likely to retain it.  It is generally not painful life experiences that cause a loss of faith, but a life of education and critical thinking.

Instead, because that whole line does truly piss me off and causes a complete loss of objectivity, I’m going to look at this from an angle of power.  How the Church can spin this in the way that best retains its power.   If we could place religion on a classist totem pole, Christianity (and Catholicism in particular) would be right at the top.  Protecting that place would be pretty important, even in the face of insurmountable bad press.  If religion is the opiate of the masses, I’d say power is the opiate of religion.  Opiates are pretty expensive and religion has a vested interest in protecting its product (faith) and investment and resources (clergy) in order to retain its consumer base (followers.)

Also, we can find Marx everywhere.  You can get over that, too.  Marx and I, we’re like dis!

Of course, all of this further implicates the BSA as a primarily Christian association, by virtue of the pamphlets being handed out, alone.  But, again, that’s a topic for another time.

I’m sure all of this makes me look like a Catholic hating fool, but I’m really not.  I love the liturgy, the pomp and circumstance, all the stage presence.  I also like to see how I can look at something and find the other factors at work…because we all know that religion is not and never has been merely out to serve the people…or god, for that matter.

Written by thelittlepecan

December 2, 2010 at 11:20 am

Posted in atheism, religion

The War on Christmas Pt. 3

Back to me again. Because I rock.

Now that we have a better understanding of why non-theists and other non-traditional belief systems take such a big hit around the winter holidays, I’m going to try and answer the question I get more often than any other during this time of year.

“Why do you celebrate Christmas if you don’t believe in god?
I get many accusations of hypocrisy, lots of genuine curiosity and hopefully at least some interest in understanding. I don’t mind answering, but if I at least put it here, I can use it as reference from now on.

As I have mentioned before, I grew up Southern Baptist. My entire family is Christian. My mother is a converted Lutheran (yay!), my grandfather is a retired UMC pastor who now attends an SBC congregation, and my father, sister and step-mother are all Methodists. I’d have to run pretty far to find a place where people didn’t celebrate the Christian winter holidays.

Of course, there’s also the little issue of being “out” to people. Anyone who is my friend on Facebook is obviously aware that I am a non-believer. I try to limit my connections with family and youngsters on social networking anyway, simply because I’m not interested in having them completely connected to everything that I am. For other reasons irrelevant to this discussion, I am not “out” to my father’s side of my family.

There’s a bunch of other reasons to celebrate that have nothing to do with fear or insecurity, too. I love my family. This is what they do and what I did with them my entire childhood and most of my adulthood. I’ve only been a non-theist for a few years. I can just imagine the reaction if I said, “Well, yanno, I don’t want to hang out with you guys on Christmas because I don’t believe in all that.” How rude and how wrong to cut myself and my son off from the family that loves us. I have no interest in deciding for my child what he will and won’t believe, so I’ll not be keeping him away from supervised religious experiences just because I don’t personally put any stock in them.

There are quite a few holidays that are celebrated this time of year. I suppose I could get confusing (as several of my friends do) and say I’m celebrating Yule or Saturnalia or the Winter Solstice. I’m not sure why I would need to, though. I celebrate Halloween, which is also a religious holiday (All Hallows Eve) with pagan roots (Samhain) and no one ever seems to question me why I let son go trick or treating. I’ve also noticed that many of the same people irked by my superficial acknowledgement of a religious holiday are the same people that get their undies in a twist over the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses refusal to celebrate any Christian holiday with pagan roots…including Christmas and Halloween. Lots of moaning and groaning about kids being left out and not having any fun. So which is it? Celebrate for the sake of the children or stand fast to perceived principles that most people don’t give a rip about anyway?

I celebrate because it is fun. I celebrate because it is a time set aside by culture and government for recognizing the role my family plays in my life and attempting to communicate my appreciation for that role in a way that honors them. I celebrate because it is important for others in my life who do believe. I celebrate to share my family history and traditions with my son. I celebrate, because contrary to popular belief, it is not all about me. Just because I do not worship any gods does not mean I worship myself.
I have also participated in church choir since becoming a non-believer, I have sung as the special musician at the church of my family, and I allow my son to attend church with my mother without me. If any of this makes me a hypocrite, well, then I think some people may have a misinformed idea of what the word means. If my parent requests that I sing at their church because they are proud of my talent and wish to share that with others they care about, why in the world would I say no? To be self-righteous? No. I listen to rock music by Christian artists that I am crazy about, too. Do I need to believe as they believe in order to appreciate what they do or participate in being a fan? No. If my mother wants to take my son to church occasionally because she loves him and is proud of him and wants to show off her grandson to her friends, why would I tell her no? To be self-righteous and arrogant and assume that just because I allow him extra time with her in a place of her choosing somehow is an acknowledgement of hidden belief? Not likely.

I don’t need to believe in something in order to nod to its cultural, familial and traditional importance. I don’t need to believe in Catholicism to celebrate the opportunity to drink beer in March, or dress up in October and I don’t have to believe in god to celebrate Christmas.

If you don’t like that, I’ll kindly request that you get over it.

Written by thelittlepecan

December 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

Posted in atheism, religion

Tagged with ,

The War on Christmas Pt. 2

So, yesterday I talked about why people push back against differences of opinion, especially on religion.  This comes out expectedly during the holiday season.  When minority opinions challenge the perceived best interests of the majority a threat to hegemony is revealed, causing friction.

Today, I want to talk about the dichotomy of “keeping Christ in Christmas” versus the capitalistic orgy that is the holiday shopping season.   I recently wrote a paper, “The Business of Being Christian,” (shameless plug!) about the transition of capitalist consumerism and affluence as an example of Godly blessings to religion being a capitalist commodity all its own.   This, l have realized, is painfully obvious during the Christmas season and is more than a little difficult for many believers to accept or reconcile.

Christmas is arguably the most (or second most, depending on who you ask about Easter) important holiday in the Christian religion.  It is definitely the most important season during the American fiscal year.  There’s no other time when businesses can almost guarantee a jump into the black no matter how poor the previous 8-10 months have been.

Now, I don’t doubt for one second that many believers actually do abhor the rampant consumerism exhibited during November and December.  But, for many this seems to be a hidden conflict that is projected onto those who wish to take Christ out of Christmas or those who fail to acknowledge the “reason for the season” just by their preference to celebrate a purely secular version of the holiday season.

The reason for the season has been for many, many years rampant consumption to the nth degree.   As religion becomes a bigger commodity (The Creation Museum, the Holy Land Experience, and Prosperity Gospel are all fine examples of this) it becomes very difficult to separate the secular  (or Profane, thank you, Weber!) from the sacred.  So, if the blame for this fuzzy line between the two can be placed on those who do not wish to celebrate anything sacred, then those who truly move the transition along are exempt from responsibility.

The war on Christmas is not being fought by non-theists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews or Muslims but is a product of the ever increasing commodification of Christianity by Christians themselves.

Written by thelittlepecan

November 30, 2010 at 11:46 am

Posted in atheism, religion

Tagged with , ,

It’s All About Me and My Big Evil Atheism

When I decided to start writing again, I was sort of hoping that it wouldn’t all be about me.  There are some really important issues out there that I hope I can shed a different perspective on, but in the end, my goal has more to do with education and understanding than ranting and negativity.

There are a thousand atheist related blogs, networks, discussion boards and informative websites in the world these days.  I keep thinking that there’s nothing much left for me to add about “the atheist mindset,” simply because there is no atheist mindset.

Unfortunately,  I am met over and over with the same questions or worse, accusations and assumptions and being the glutton for punishment I am, I feel compelled to respond.   Why?  Well, unlike many of my other non-believing counterparts, I really am not all that comfortable being overly confrontational.  My goal, and it may be incredibly idealistic, is to forge understanding, not further a greater divide.

So, while this is not going to turn into a daily dose of atheism, I do think there’s some redemptive value in attempting open discussion for the purpose of breaking up stereotypes and hopefully answering questions or dispelling misconceptions.  If none of that happens, well, then we’ll just move on to other things.

I’m going to start with a remark that really got to me yesterday.   The assumption was made that I do not understand faith.  I think the reason that actually bothers me is because its part of the career path I have chosen to put myself in the shoes of others and honor their humanity-even when I don’t agree with them, hell, even when I find their beliefs disgusting or harmful.

I grew up Southern Baptist.  Our entire social experience from the time I was born until I was about 14 years old was centered on the church.  I was active in GA’s,  children’s, youth and adult choir, Sunday School, Bible study…basically, if the doors were open, my family was there.  My sweet grandfather is a retired United Methodist minister.  He was a small congregation/circuit pastor for something like 30 years.  I was christened in the Methodist church and baptized at 11 in the Southern Baptist church.  I was outwardly expressive of my faith.  While I had many questions, those questions did not lead me anywhere outside of faith for a very long time.

So, that’s all (well, some) the “talk” part of the walk.  The walk part is a lot more personal and I certainly am under no obligation to explain myself to anyone, but I do wish to speak honestly and respectfully, so that I may receive the same in kind.  God was not a concept for me as I child.   God was a real entity in my life.  I described my relationship with god recently as the pal I chatted with at night.  I may have a completely different understanding of what was going on now, but at that time, I was communicating with my God.

Bible study was important, as well.  I was involved in a number of activities related to study, not the least of which was avid note-taking during service.  Something my mother began for my step-sister and I so that we would pay attention during the sermon, but it turned into a great tool-one that still serves me well today.

So, without getting much more personal, let me just say.  Yes, I do understand faith.  There was nothing hypocritical about how I felt when I was a Christian.  I was a believer.  To say that no True Christian™ could actively leave the faith because there was something lacking with them is erroneous at best and terribly insulting at worst.  I understand the need to justify by placing blame somewhere on the person whose faith just wasn’t strong enough, whose heart wasn’t broken for Christ, whose belief wasn’t child-like enough, but the fact is…that’s just an over-simplified justification.  It is scary to think that strong believers can leave faith, but, it happens.  Please don’t attempt to diminish my experiences because it makes you uncomfortable.

Written by thelittlepecan

November 23, 2010 at 11:24 am

Posted in atheism, Christian, religion