Dear Black People In The U.S: Please Join Forces With The Gays

I’ve been observing the endless liberation struggle in the land of the free (ha!) with great interest, waiting for the day that black people realize the truth of the saying, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend.” 

It’s astounding: having raised preachers, orators, writers and all manners of excellent academics to highlight the plight of ethnic minorities in America, you, broadly speaking, have not realized that you and sexual minorities have the same problem and could join forces to tackle it. Good people, why are so many of you so slow to realize and speak up about this?

By “enemy,” of course, I don’t necessarily mean white individuals: I mean a pervasive system that “others” those who are not white, not male and not heterosexual – othering them often with fatal consequences – with your aid. To the degree that you allow homophobia, to that degree you are complicit. Your struggles have so many overlaps with the struggles of the LGBT community that I don’t understand how you and they have not become best friends. If you are black in America, homophobia and transphobia are not things you want to tolerate, let alone perpetuate. You cannot afford to.

“But homosexuality is against God!” many of you will say. That argument has been used against emancipation, desegregation and against everything black people have needed to enjoy full equality in the U.S. It’s the same argument dressed in the same pious hypocrisy and the same imitation of godliness.

Homosexuality will undermine black society, they say. Will it do that in the same sense that racists say full black  emancipation will undermine American society, or am I only imagining the one argument to be an echo of the other?

Black people and sexual minorities have faced the same kind of hatred, similar types of endangerment and have been viewed with the same disgust and mistrust. It’s all learned and it can be unlearned. A change in laws and national policies are not going to help; in fact their multiplication will antagonize and intimidate those who do not understand. You have to internalize and become the change you want to see.

The LGBT community can help amplify the voices of black people fighting for justice but you need to make it safe for them to come out. Many say the murders of black people at the hands of white policemen have been senseless. Well, so has much of the murderous hatred faced by the LGBT community. The gender, social and religious constructs you’ve used to shun LGBT people are part of the package of ideas that have been used to shun black people. It’s the same poison, copied-and-pasted, and many of you have embraced it wholeheartedly as Gospel Truth. Many of you have thusly embraced and agreed to your own genocide. If you have kept quiet about the struggles of the LGBT community, you have exacerbated your own, tacitly saying Yes to the violence against people of colour.

You will not see justice until the LGBT community sees justice. You must understand that the senseless, systemic hatred you’ve felt directed against you is the same that the LGBT community has been receiving; the complaints and rationalizations and excuses you’ve received from the beneficiaries of the system that privileges white people are the same complaints, rationalizations and excuses that the LGBT community has received from the beneficiaries of heterosexism. If same-sex love is the same love, then racism and homophobia are the same hatred. For God’s sake, denounce the evil.

The belief that creating room for LGBTs will somehow take from straight people is the same fear held by many white people in your country. You cannot afford to hold to it any longer.

Form more and bigger coalitions. Get deliberate about tackling the intersectionality of your struggles, and use one another’s struggles to corroborate what you’re saying. It’s leverage; use it. Vast numbers of white people won’t understand what you’re going on when you insist that you feel systematically trapped or endangered, unless and until gay people get an opportunity to explain the same oppression in terms of being a sexual minority. Then both your stories will be understood, and the system that oppresses both black and gay people will be illuminated from both sides to the visibility of all. You will unmask the system as a team.

In other words, your chains fall off when you loosen those that bind the ones you have kept chained until now. If you want The Other to transform revulsion to understanding, start with your own hearts if you have not.

The world is watching, and, for better or for worse, taking your country’s lead on many issues. Kindly see this responsibility for what it is, and step up to the plate.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

 

Normalized Rape Culture And FAQ On Sexual Orientation

I’ve started these as a result of a conversation I’ve had repeatedly with a much-loved colleague over more than two years now.

Q:        “Isn’t it a waste that some men choose to be gay (???) when there are good women out there who are searching for husbands?”

A:        My response to this will seem extreme, but I do believe we need to be firm on this. 

I do not dispute my friend’s claim that her women friends are good women. But at a level this personal, people are not commodities that must avail themselves to other humans’ searches, lusts and life purposes. Nobody is “wasted” because nobody “has to” do anything for anyone else unless they want to. We must have the maturity to accept that. Nobody is accountable for not liking who they did not like. Nobody has an obligation to get intimate with someone they do not want to get intimate with. One would hope there would be no need to explain how or why it could be traumatic and unhealthy to try or be pressued into trying.

Rape culture exists when we believe it is normal to interfere or talk about interfering with what people have decided concerning themselves. This is not to say that being gay is a decision; it is to say that insofar as it does not interfere with the next person, it is really no one else’s business whether homosexuality is a choice or not. Is talking about sexuality wrong, then? No. But many of our social priorities and expectations are desperately wrong. It is a slippery slope from unreasonable expectation to forceful demand. It is part of the reason we have such spectacular statistics for sexual violence around the world.

Q:        “What kind of a man does not want to be with the right woman? And isn’t it selfish of lesbians not to be with men and have babies like all women should?”

I have observed that when we think the measure of a man is the willingness and desire to enter intimate relationships with women, we create a pressured definition of masculinity that can lead to men womanizing women (because if a man is successful for bagging one woman, why should he stop at one?). It leads to men feeling the need to “stage” their interaction with women for the sake of watching society and kudos from their fellow men. Women, in turn, become baby incubators defined by that “natural use” and sexual receptivity. The whole thing appears dehumanizing to me. It seems… contrived. I never have watched a popular wedding show, for example, not because I know from first-hand experience how good or bad the show itself is, but because I have a strong feeling that people become prima donnas when they are up to perform for social validation. Yes, you make a pretty damsel in distress. Yes, you are a handsome knight in that tux. People have identified for so long with scripted roles that they go out of their way to stand in someone else’s idea of what a perfect moment looks like.

This weird setup leads to those men having performance and control anxieties. When they discover that women are human and complex, they will resort to violence – physical, verbal, social or sexual – to keep dominance and the appearance of control where there is none. When these men “go too far,” society gets surprised. There should be no surprise. 7/10 times, heteroexpectancy begets violence, pure and simple. Hence the success of hashtags like #YesAllMen. As someone who was bullied for being gay, it is both very vindicating and tragic to watch the paradigm that was once believed to be “normal” terrorize everyone. Because if it is a shame that some people are gay, then there is some truth to lecherous expressions like, “That girl has such a fine body…how can she waste it on that loser boyfriend of hers? I’ll how her what a real man can do for her – ” cue sexual harassment or rape. Why? Because everyone has a role to play, and some have not quite read the script the way we would like them to. The answer is not to teach people how to better read and perform the script. The answer is to douse the damn thing in gasoline and set it on fire.

Not everyone wants what we want. Not everyone wants us. Not everyone wants who we want them to want. It is no exaggeration to say that the basis of rape culture is the belief that a person should want what we want, want us or what we want them to want.

Q:        “You’re a gay man. If a hot straight woman walked into your house naked, wouldn’t you be turned on?”

 A:        We, all of us, are human beings, not test subjects in a laboratory. Whatever would happen at the entry of the hot woman, I would hope she and I would leave the situation with our bodies and dignities respected whatever that looks like for the both of us and the people affected by our choices.

Likewise, if a straight-identified person should be attracted to or get intimate with someone of the same sex, I’d hope they would feel free to share that information with whoever they trust without fearing reproach.

Shame is so powerful and destructive that it should be used very, very sparingly and carefully. Be very slow with feeling shame for what you want, and be very slow for shaming others for what they want. Shame facilitates and nurtures the most devastating processes in the human experience. It is not the supreme evil, but it is not always helpful either.

Without shame, we develop a safe inner space where we wrestle with our feelings, pick out what is useful from what is not, and make wise decisions.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Maybe, Just Maybe, It’s Time To Quit That Job.

Buckminster Fuller

I have been observing people and thinking out loud for some time now. This has been in my head that whole time.

If you love your job and the company you work for, you may want to skip this post. If you believe in what your organization is about and that resonates with you, this piece was not written with you in mind.

In this post I will discuss things as broadly and generally as possible; it is up to the reader to see how these ideas fit into his situation if at all. It might sound vague, utopian and unstructured. I am nervous that if I do not get this thought out, it won’t crystallize into what it wants to be. More people are saying this and maybe the winds of change will carry it where it needs to go.

The thing is, I’ve overheard too many conversations that go like this: 

“So yeah, I told them I’m resigning.”

“I’ve been dying to leave this hellhole too. You’re so brave. And lucky that you have an opportunity to do it.”

 “Yeah, I’m doing it. I’m leaping to my freedom and chasing my dreams.” 

“Awesome. Where are you going after this? You have found a job to go to, right?”

This is my issue:

What makes people think that changing jobs or companies resolves the problems they ran from where they were before?

What is “brave” or “lucky” about moving from a bad job to a somewhat better job – in other words, from one slave-master to a slightly more merciful slave-master?

What changing jobs does, at most, is move someone into the next honeymoon phase with the next company – before the reality of that work environment sinks in as well and people need to jump ship, again. And again. And again.

There are two types of people in the working world. There are those that fit well in the environment they are in, and there are those that do not. The biggest delusion we have bought into is that to add value to humanity, each person has to work in one of a few very narrowly defined fields. It is possible for people to exchange goods and services without locating themselves that strictly in a revenue-producing entity: the only stakeholder that would lose out is the government in bed with everyone except the man on the street (aka “We, The People” – remember us? They loved us voting season). So I am advocating for a very mixed type of economy.

It’s like relationships. Most people move from one to the next before they find a good fit or settle for an okay one – or remain single – but few are lucky from the start. And as in relationships, most people never openly talk about the backdrop paradigm that creates a lot of frustration. Instead, they let years slide by without deciding what they want. The reason people don’t discuss the backdrop paradigm is that they’ve never imagined a more authentic way the world could work. So they’ve never known a reason to question the way things are being done. Instead, they will accept that the defect must be within themselves and shut up about their misery. People of good conscience will feel guilty for feeling miserable, and observant psychopaths will milk that cycle for all its worth. Manipulators rely on people’s reliance on whatever they think is stable and safe, and they create systems and situations and environments where their prey can be exploited. I submit that much of the world we live in is precisely such a system writ large.

So if talented, smart people hate their jobs it’s probably because they work in toxic environments in toxic economies and toxic paradigms; they seek validation and stability in something that will give them just enough to make them stick around. Government s are run by humans everyone believe to be infallible but are not; economies are ruled by super-rich elites everyone think know what they’re doing but don’t always; all human power is in the hands of a few who seem to know best but don’t. If they knew – if they really knew – we would have more education than war, more nature flourishing than pollution and destruction, more peace than violence and more equality than discrimination. Those basics would be in place. But they’re not. So it has failed. Given centuries, what we have regarded as correct has failed to fulfill the promise of a better civilization. Civilization has not worked out well.

If anyone is going to have power, everyone must be empowered. The onus is not on the powerful few to surrender their power but on the many to take power up. 

The onus is not on the powerful few to surrender their power but on the many to take power up. 

The super-powerful cannot hear those under their feet either because they have no communication with them or because they do not care. At any rate, this is not about them; it is about each person becoming more of himself or herself. Far more important than changing jobs, then, should be changing the system and making it work, sustainably, for everybody, for good, for ever. If that cannot be our first project, we have failed as a collective.

For too long, the system has been the unquestioned, unshakable constant. It is protected by people’s need for security and stability. It promises a future the one day but eats that future out of people’s mouths and strips it off their backs the next. It divides. It has also been protected by guilt. People have been tacitly told that they have to stay in bondage because they deserve it. Because of that home loan they took and must pay off. Because of that better lifestyle they tried to afford. Of that spending spree they’re still paying off. That mistake they made. Those medical fees they have to repay. Because of those children they brought into the world and need to feed. Of the extended family that depends on their income. People have a thousand reasons to give pieces of their soul away, and lawmakers – not as individual persons but as unwitting agents of impersonal systems – serve to produce and protect the environment where people sell their minds, bodies and souls away. On the surface it looks like a fair deal. But as a species we can do better than that and if we are not trying to then it is a damning revelation of what we are plugged into. Putting food on the table cannot become first priority; if it were, then we would have to be okay with theft as a means to an end. A wise man said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God” which I understand to mean that if it comes to a decision between principle and survival, principle should get first preference. Bank on truth first, stick to your guns, and other people will (eventually) follow you because they will see their vested interest in doing so.

He also said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” Read into that what you will. If we allow systems to continue as they are, they will deteriorate further. If we stand together for what we know to be right, true, just and equitable, the system will have to adapt itself to our commitment to our values or die and be replaced by something else.

The only thing that should keep people in jobs they hate is their not knowing what they’d rather be doing instead. This isn’t to mean people shouldn’t leave their jobs until the next one is lined up – that reasoned, unreasonable hesitation is precisely what I’m arguing against – but it is to say that people shouldn’t leave their day jobs until they have a fair idea of who they truly are and what they’re about. Some people need to be immersed in what they are not so they will figure out what they are. Clarity is key.

Feeling inadequate and obliged within this very responsible-sounding paradigm, people will surrender their best years and energy to jobs and paradigms and relationships and religions they don’t fit into. Because they do not know themselves. For a pay that often does not cover all their bills. Men will sacrifice hours they could have spent doing something more meaningful because the definition of manhood they’ve been given tells them this is the necessary sacrifice. Because they do not know themselves. Women will do the same. Because they do not know themselves. Armies of young people will spend decades paying off study loans because that’s the price of a “good education.” I believe in education, but for decades the best education in the world has led the most educated people in the world to believe that there was something just about inequality in the world. What kind of education is that?

“Education” has been wrong about many things; empathy has seldom been wrong. We bought into a bad, bad deal and we are still recovering from the effects of moralism and many other counterfeits of goodness. The very people who remind us of our obligations from pulpits and from across desks of power have often broken theirs. It is important to meet obligations but it is more important to add concrete value into the lives of people around us and be authentic – not line the pockets of an elite few shareholders in super-rich companies that make their money out of the little man’s stomach. And right now, more of us are just meeting obligations than adding value. That is a slave.

You cannot create value if you do not know who you are and you cannot know who you are if you have acclimatized to a paradigm of inauthenticity. And somewhere along the line, many of us were taught that the way we fundamentally are is wrong, while another way of being in the world is right. We masked up and forgot we were wearing masks; we dressed up, and forgot we had been born naked. When everyone around you is wearing clothes, you don’t see it. It becomes the normal, and everyone becomes terrified of the alternative. Reality becomes our greatest fear while illusion promises us our biggest protection. It’s really the other way around: reality sets free while illusion enslaves.

Shakespeare has Polonius say in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” You need to know the hill you would die on. Know thyself. Know yourself relative to history and the world and – if applicable within your worldview – know yourself relative to God.

Some companies and businesspeople are wonderful. Others only appear to be. Deep down inside you know the difference. If you haven’t got the guts to act on the difference, you have sold your soul and have a far bigger problem than your lights being out and your table being bare: the light of your consciousness is off, and your soul is starving. If saving face is more important to you than being authentic, then there is nothing behind the face anyway.

There is a time to get a “normal” or “real” job and work at it. There is also a time to recognise that the system upholding these jobs is fundamentally flawed and unequal – and that we must work on fixing that instead.

The thing is, we do not need everything that money can buy, nor is everything we need only obtainable through money. If enough people decided to drop the ball at the same time – if enough people told advertisers and banks and the whole system that it does not own them – then the one side would be less likely to take the other for granted. Because so long as we need the system, its brokers can call out any price for any essential service it can render. Vast numbers of people are enslaved and need to be set free.

It comes down to authenticity. The world is starving for it. But you’ve got to make the first move towards it. If not you, then who?

Isn’t it time to take a leap of faith?

I am just observing people and thinking out loud.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

White Jesus v.s Brown Jesus

I read a quote by an Asian writer who confessed his preference for white writers over writers of colour because, having had the luxury of time and resources to think about the meaning of life in a universe they had “matured” to seeing as as empty and purposeless, they focused on the human condition in general and existence in the abstract far better than writers of colour.

Black writers, he observed, wrote too often on suffering – because they were more familiar with it than more abstract topics. Their works were rarely disembodied. They were in the trenches of human being, in the mud where black people are still exposed to greater levels of physical danger. Their minds could not afford to soar with those of white writers who had few such worries and could explore the safe and bloodless everything and nothing.

This is similar to a podcast in which Lebogang Mashile spoke about a white gentleman who preferred her work when it discussed suffering in the abstract but not in the black female concrete body. The cerebral, the non-local, the nondescript, he liked; the abruptly bodied and historical, not so much. 

The Asian writer was critiqued by a black commentator for his unconscious absorption of the narrative of whiteness as normality, niche supremacy and the human mind fully realized.

Since reading and hearing these thoughts, I have been dissecting Jesus with much sharper apparatus than I used in my most testing crises (of faith?). I have since figured that there are two Jesuses I feel the need to speak of.

The first is White Jesus, who, despite never having existed, is the most popular artistic subject in human history. If the fastest way to gain control over someone’s will and mind is convincing her that God looks like you and not her, then the whiteness of White Jesus has been a necessary component of every crusader’s and colonialist’s Christology since, I dare say, Constantine. Now, some souls have taken very personally my tendency to name a colour – or rather, the whiteness which has often been presented as the colourless, the norm, the uncoloured human experience – but I didn’t do that: white supremacy did. I’m just taking it at its word when it assumes the normality of whiteness. Please don’t shoot the messenger.

The creation of White Jesus serves to normalize and centralize the straight white male experience while hiding that this has been done from those who are straight, white or male. The more of these three things one is, the less likely one is to know what’s happened and the more offended he will be if you try to make him see that God Incarnate himself has been recruited into the business of making the world safer for him but not others.

image

White Jesus was created out of a deep insecurity that could not be masked by a thousand worldly achievements. Insecurity is marked by the need to be right. When being right is an end in itself, one’s ideology becomes rigid and that rigidity becomes its own blind spot, erasing any competing interpretation of the same set of facts and scriptures. This is why church history is a tragicomedy of errors punctuated by brief, fleeting moments of beauty and brilliance. It’s also why #TheChurchIsNotListening.

Where we are determines the kind of God that will appear to us. This has less to do with what’s happening “out there” or whether there even is a God than with the lens we’ve developed to interpret life. The realest theophany still has to be critiqued. Was that bush really burning, or was the sun setting behind it just so? No matter. Literal suffering can only be met by a tangible, incarnate God – an Immanuel, a God-With-Us – who rescues from captivity, bondage and slavery. He speaks truth to the Powers-That-Be, often losing his life in the process. His resurrection is the vindication of the underdog and the liberation struggle his death catalyzed. Ideological suffering can only be relieved by a God who props up politics and government. This God looks exactly like the Powers-That-Be because he backs them, and not the little guy getting crucified by them. This God’s resurrection is his fulfilling The Terminator’s last words – “I’ll be back” – and no mistake about it: he is out to terminate someone.

The absence of suffering can either start the search for a transcendent rescuer, a divine saviour (the embodied, incarnate Brown Jesus of tangible bodily suffering) or it can kill the search (atheism) – or it can spark the search for God with the goal, in some instances, of propping up existing privilege and superiority over and the expense of those who do experience bodily suffering. In a word, White Jesus died for the bodily sins of Brown Sinners, the greatest of their sins being the having of bodies, and you get on his side by voting Republican.

Because his inventors needed him to prop up their privilege and ideology more than to come bodily to save them, the creators of White Jesus interpret his words not through his incarnation – his appearance among and identification with the disenfranchised – but through the abstracted, legalistic privilege of the Pharisees. Instead of seeing him as critiquing and being killed by the system for critiquing it, the inventors of White Jesus deny the system existed (because it looks just like them and the Powers-That-Be), preach that he preached against the sins of the embodied, and was resurrected to lord it over the now dead bodies of brown Jesuses and brown people. Oh, and White Jesus did not have a sexuality (well what else could “without sin” possibly mean, dear?) or if he had a sexual nature, held it back for 33 years, being the bloodless God he was.

In other words, White Jesus didn’t go to prostitutes and other outcasts to be with them: he went to them to preach at them. This is a complete reversal of the first-century witness, of course. The historical gospels say Jesus partied with “sinners” to the point that critics described him as a wine-bibber, glutton, demon-possessed, bastard half-breed Samaritan who cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (aka “the spreader of sodomy upon the earth”). The historical gospels also show Jesus preaching hellfire and damnation at the religious and self-righteous. Go read them for yourself. Because he appears in response to and in solidarity with human need, Brown Jesus’ words on the system are understood as a critique of the system – a critique that gets him killed – while White Jesus’ words are understood as him creating and endorsing the system that now exists.

Here is the supreme difference between White Jesus and Brown Jesus: Brown Jesus comes to save you because you are oppressed and in need and broken: White Jesus comes, tells you he will save you, gives you instructions on how to save yourself and your bodiedness, then watches to see how well you will do it. White Jesus pisses on you but doesn’t have the decency to say it’s raining. He tells you it is all grace but implicitly dumps a pile of works or guilt on you. That’s why more and more people are telling him to go f**k himself.

#TeamWhiteJesus is not necessarily composed of white people but of those who refuse to admit that white privilege is real. Many brown people worship White Jesus because Stockholm Syndrome is real.  

#TeamBrownJesus is not necessarily and exclusively composed of brown-skinned people, but of those who recognize structures of power and privilege that have crushed people of colour, women and members of the LBGT community – basically, anyone who wasn’t as straight, white or male as White Jesus was.

Hashtag that. Discuss that. Call that out. #WhiteJesus is no longer sustainable. Tell me what you think.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Dear White American Christianity, So-Called

They say open letters are self-indulgent because all it is, supposedly, is someone venting at best or bringing attention to themselves at worst. They also say group blame is unhelpful and asking white people to acknowledge well-established patterns of privilege is reverse racism. Also, putting a colour to the addressee scares certain people, brands and entities – and their money, and forming relationships, etc. But I love you too much to let good manners get in the way of the truth.

Let’s start with the obvious: more of us are rejecting White Jesus. Far from waiting for him to vomit us out of his mouth, we are the ones who have found him lukewarm and are vomiting him out of our mouths; we have weighed him and he has been found wanting. We haven’t rejected him because he’s white but because he doesn’t exist except to bestow privilege on some and throw everyone else under the bus out of Christian love. 

Certainly, there may exist or have existed a number of brown-skinned men named Jesús (you know, the guys trying to cross your borders to destroy the land of your fathers?) or a brown-skinned man who was crucified 2000 years ago. Heck, he may even have risen from the dead to watch the world from behind an invisible curtain and answer prayers. That would still make him realer or more believable than White Jesus, who is a brainwashing, behaviour-management tool. Though you invented him, he is so effective at the purpose you created him for that even you believe in him on the pain of eternal damnation. Not of your own, of course: of those homosexuals and of everyone else who “sins” differently from you, especially if they aren’t white, straight or male. It’s a sweet deal you have going there with White Jesus. He certainly looks out for his own.

You have done what you’re doing across the centuries and you keep doing it today but you don’t think it’s you doing it. You never did think you were doing it, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it: what makes you think you aren’t still doing it now?

You’d argue it was your mistaken forefathers who did it, not you. Because nothing of them and their ways rubbed off; you’re better educated, now, so you wouldn’t go so far as to keep slaves. It’s not in vogue anymore. It stains the moral whiteness of being white and interferes with the narrative of essential white goodness. Or, it’s a few misguided policemen and not you. You wouldn’t kill black people. Lynching days are over. Jimmy Crow is dead. You love black people, now that you’ve remembered that white Jesus died for them too. Afterthought much? So, those policemen are not your sons, fathers, neighbours, brothers and husbands. Their attitudes are magically isolated from yours so you just have no idea how they can do what they do. They are not your worldview armed and taken to its ultimate physical conclusion. Certainly, you’re not doing it so you can’t work out why they are doing it. It’s impolite of them to keep drawing attention to the race issue and reminding you of how America used to be by killing black people in 2015. And those acts of violence have nothing – nothing – to do with White Jesus and his offer to forgive people for the sins they’re conveniently more likely to commit if they’re not white, straight and male, or beholden to persons who are straight, white and male.

You tell “sinners” that God loves them but hates their “sin.” I question your definition of sin and its astounding convenience in propping up your ideology, one I have come to find more sinful than any “sin” you piously and pettily preach against. You’re the scandal, and it is your ways that are abominable. I haven’t wanted to tell you that. I’ve wanted to listen to your worship music and read your online sermons and hear your podcasts. But the body count is too high. And White Jesus and I have agreed to see other people.

SandraBland

Just How Did #SandraBland Die?

You lost credibility long before you lost the right to define marriage for everyone else. The flaw in your theology and theopraxy has now claimed the life of a beautiful, intelligent black woman named Sandra Bland, and I see those flaws showing up in the Christianese I am bombarded with – in South Africa. Wasn’t Uganda and its gay people enough for you? I tell you that you’ve caused suffering but the connection is too remote, too tenuous and too contrived to be credible to you right now. It’s always six persons and six shades of skin colour or six rainbow colours removed from you. Don’t you feel safer knowing White Jesus gave you and your loved ones one of the most powerful shields in the western world – white skin? But you wouldn’t know because you have never had to.

You are too busy worshiping your paternalism disguised as complementarianism; you’re worshiping your archaic moralism – self-preservation and the preservation of privilege, really – to see it for the patriarchy and racism that much of it really is. You worship your disregard for the ecosystem by calling it stewardship but it’s just failure to call to account billionaires who share your skin colour and speak with your accents and pad your church pews. While slashing pensions and toying with savings. They have bribed you to keep quiet, and you cannot even see that.  

The world cannot take you seriously when your entire approach to the world blinds you from seeing the damage you inflict on the world. You’re a chip off the old block even as you were founded fleeing the old block. Another group that looked like you and spoke like you came to Africa with bibles like yours and preached a Gospel much like yours, which was really no Good News at all except for those who benefited materially. You are the terror that you escaped in Europe, and no sooner than you had escaped it, you copied and surpassed it. The abused becomes the abuser and you cannot see.

You have preserved – rigidly – your theology at the expense of human experience. You have shrunk back from those whose human experience cannot be explained within your theology. No wonder you are spiritually disengaged from the world you affect and harm so profoundly.

You want to “take America back for Jesus”? Then for God’s sake, just love people. It is love that produces the fruit of life-giving goodness, but the “spiritual fruit” you celebrate – when you have people acting straighter and whiter and less human – only serves humanity within the fantastical paradigm it has set up. And that’s just before your own people hit spiritual burnout. Your paradigm is a closed system and seldom reaches real people on the ground without harming them.

Love people, I say. But that’s too simple for you, so you won’t hear it.

Dear White Right-Wing American Christianity, So-Called: your days are numbered.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

White Jesus v.s. Black South African Liberation Struggle Heroes

White Jesus v.s. Black South African Liberation Struggle Heroes

The Albatross Of Straight Male Privilege

This afternoon I made the mistake of entering a discussion on male privilege. Male privilege has been described as greater-than-normal exposure to a set of unearned social, economic, and political advantages on the basis of being male.

I believe the real requirement for receiving these privileges is not maleness but one’s relationship to and positioning with or within maleness. Gay men and transgendered women are not necessarily safe from victimization and exploitation by those who possess male privilege. They pay a price for being different; they may pay that price throughout their lives and with their lives.

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Look at what men do because they are stupid and we don’t insure them.

(Straight) women can be commoditized by that patriarchy. To the degree that women can or would resist being subjugated, they are victims of patriarchy; to the degree that they freely welcome it and the rewards that come with partaking in the oppression of their own sex, to that degree the oppressed is also the oppressor. In other words, the universal victimhood of women is a truth that needs to escape its own gravity if it is to be grasped clearly. When they emasculate a men on misogynistic grounds or tolerate homophobia, women support heteropatriarchy. Erica Jong described women as “the only exploited group in history to have been idealized into powerlessness.” I digress.

When I was young, I realized that there is a language to society (colloquially referred to as “social cues”) that escaped my awareness though it was expected that I would “get” its claims on me as a male. It was the tacit rhythms of boyhood that just didn’t stick in my mind.  Everyone assumes that maleness is the all-access ticket and backstage pass to male privilege. They do not realize that you first have to “get” its “language” and adhere to it. Being male is not enough.

For that, and not necessarily a penis, is the locus of male privilege. That’s what counts when you network and play golf and make small talk and nod at other men in the corridor. It’s an unspoken “Yes” to partaking in dominant masculinity; it’s a “Yes” to treating women like objects and trophies to crown men’s achievements in life; it’s a “Yes” to that strange blend of endless one-upmanship and solidarity among men. It is a “Yes” to not showing women that they are actually prey and targets and trophies and tokens in a game understandable only to the men playing it; it is a “Yes” to using chivalry and generosity and being a player or charmer or pick-up artist (or whatever they call it these days) as a respectable disguise for this game. Acting and passing straight is not enough: you have to “get” this. And I did not. This is an unspoken, body-language promise to remain invincible and stoic and impassive and close ranks; it is a promise to never cry, never show any emotion other than fear or anger, never flinch, never back down from a challenge and never question patriarchy. It’s a body-language commitment to never articulate these issues or make other men vulnerable by speaking about them. It is to never cast the shadow of doubt on the idols of patriarchy, tribalism and feudalism (if you are Zulu and Zwelithini and Zuma are your kings and fathers). I never got this, and other guys knew, instinctively, that I never got this. So, I was not, and could not ever be, “one of the boys.”

In other words, there is an agreement among penis-bearers to never expose the burdens and dynamics of being a penis-bearer, or expose other penis bearers to criticism and scrutiny on the basis of their being penis-bearers. Male privilege is a pact among men who “get” this language, this secret handshake. I think it is biological and instinctive. And I never got it.

And if you do not get this, and others can sense that you do not, you get ostracized, “othered,” excluded, bullied and so on. You are free to do yourself and other men a favour by committing suicide because your existence makes them uncomfortable and threatens to expose the whole deal. Of course, nobody talks out loud about why you’ve been left out because nobody talks about Fight Club, so those who don’t “get it” (such as women, who are not supposed to get it, who never have to get it, whose only role in this is to look pretty and stay in the kitchen) will never know why you have been othered. Wait, I lie. Some women do get it. My mother hired someone to help around the house. After seeing me for a split second, she privately said to my mother, “You know that your son will never bring home a makoti, right?” My mother fired her, of course, but that does not change what she saw, or that others will see it until the day I die.

And on some level everyone else in straight society “gets it”. Whenever someone sympathetically says of gay people, “Who would choose so much victimization and suffering?” what they are admitting, whether they realize it or not, is that there is a bro code among men that goes beyond its commitment to limiting all sexual affection to women and the control and possession of women; they are admitting that this unspoken bro code is the essence of male privilege, and they are admitting that gay men have been left out on the side-lines, some gay men more so than others. When gay people say, “I did not choose to be gay,” they may be stating a simple truth about themselves and their sexuality. But they may also be admitting that simple biological maleness was not sufficient for the acquisition of male privilege, and they now suffer. It takes biological maleness, plus heterosexuality, plus, plus, plus a lot of other tacit agreements with the hegemony, to actually benefit from male privilege.

Of course male privilege exists. I would know. I spent my whole sixth grade avoiding being further victimized by it by point-blank not going to school. Puberty was setting in, the differences were getting pronounced and magnified, I felt more vulnerable and exposed, the bullying was intensifying, and I just could not cope. I went through a slew of psycho-somatic illnesses and studied from home for years, literally only showing up for major tests and examns, before mustering up the courage to eventually get back into the fray and navigate it. My greatest achievement in school, I believe, was that I went to school. I pulled through because I learned to tolerate and navigate and block out abuse I cannot talk about. And I know that I am not the only person who has been through stuff like this. I do not normally talk about it, but the Facebook conversation compels me.

Whether you accept male privilege or not, it becomes an albatross, a cross, that you carry around for being male unless you are built to benefit form it. “You cannot be the victim of ____ (name a form of sexual or any other kind of violence coming from men or women,) because you’re a man.” When a woman violates my personal space in ways that would be frowned upon if roles were reversed, I am told, “You’re a guy, so you must feel very lucky that ____ is happening to you.” You are a guy, so you have three emotions, three modes of being: horny, angry and aggressive. You do not have the right to be more human than that. Suffering from an emotional trauma as debilitating or dehumanizing as can be? Pull yourself together. You are privileged, so your suffering is not real.

That’s why, when I stumbled across a Facebook thread touching on First For Women’s ads, I ranted off about their adverts. Most of their ads seem premised on a very simplistic (but not simple) idea: men enjoy risky and stupid behaviour; therefore, we will cater solely to women’s insurance needs. I see women lauded as the only other, and superior, way of being in the world. By exaggerating the dichotomy, the brand exacerbates it. Instead of questioning the idea of superiority on the basis of gender and fighting the status quo, the brand’s adverts simply take the status quo and flips it, giving women power (which is good) on an inversion, not an elimination, of the bases that patriarchy has given it to men all along. The status quo is not abolished; it is turned the other way which simply means the knife cuts me (and many like me) the other way. It still cuts, though this time the hand wielding it has nail polish, and the person, the common decency not to have a penis. It is a different language and a different hegemony, but it is still a language that upholds one hegemony over another. I do not apologize for abhorring the brand. Do not get me started on the women who actually buy into this because of this man-shaming or the reinforcement of gender stereotypes. That would be too small a thing to be angry about, and I am not that petty.

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I have yet to see an ad by the gay-niched insurance companies sells its insurance products comparing them to straight people to the detriment of straight people. First For Women, on the other hand, has, with one exception, consistently made ads that have taken the worst fauxs men are known for, and projected them onto all maleness. No nuances and no exeptions: pure gender binary reinforcement and misandry, packaged as harmless advertising and therefore much more difficult to call out. You become the chronically angry screaming queer if you say anything. “Male privilege is the very capacity to be angry about this,” I was told. “We have a lot of room to be angry about so little.” I beg to differ. I replied, “Your critique overlooks those of us who are male and don’t want male privilege” – because it hurts and terrifies us, viscerally, every day. “That aversion to male privilege is not something we can opt in and out of: it’s the essence of who we are and the uphill struggle we’ve been involved in to be ourselves. The ‘lot of room’ is as much an effect of patriarchy as the trivializing of the ‘so little’ that you and many others do so glibly – knowing not what you do.”

This lots of room is actually a big stage with a massive audience, and you are called on to perform your masculinity. You have a penis; therefore, you have no excuse: you are supposed to tick all the boxes that the boys you are not one of have ticked by your age. If you say you are against the system that has privileged them, you are told you are lying because you have also benefited from the system. If you say you have been hurt by it, you are told that you have a lot of room to be angry about so little. If you use your voice to call out male privilege, you are reminded that you at least have a voice as a man to call out male privilege. Your critics forget that to speak about the system is to be marked for death by it, and that you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Fact is, you were damned from birth. I know I was.

Shouldn’t she be just so grateful that she is not a man, because men are just so dumb? She should, and we are insuring her.

In the thread, someone commented, “Without changing the status quo, the only other way to ‘lose’ your male privilege is by dying. You don’t want it, but you have it.”

To which I responded, “Is that why gay kids are at a four times greater risk of committing suicide than their straight counterparts?”

It was an honest question. I would hope for an honest answer.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com