Reflection on heteroism

Holy Spirit, how do I understand heteroism? My understanding is connected to my experience and my worldview. I have seen fear as a part of my reformational Jacob worldview. In conversation with Bryan this morning, I felt scared to share my thought about marriage roles as having to do with a man making a decision finally over a woman, and then would have also felt scared to share that I think women have a desire to control the man, which is a result of the fall (this is what Kendel Lyn shared that she thinks). I felt scared to share that with him to the point where I made a gender neutral statement, “someone in the relationship is determined to have the authority to make a final decision to break an impasse.” I felt afraid that I would hurt Bryan by holding to that understanding, also that I would be rejected by him. Fear of difference in this case led me to not battle fear for the sake of love, it led me to not open up as much, to hold back and be less intimate. Fear of difference becomes an enemy in the pursuit of connection. This is what happens on an individual scale.

On a larger scale, such as between two people groups specific to a region, say, whites and blacks of Elverson, this same fear becomes a force that keeps these people apart. Out of this fear of difference less black people move into the predominantly white Elverson. The fear is that there will be differences, disagreement, lack of agreement during the life together, so life becomes life side by side rather than life together.

People, because of sin, which is the reason for much of the fear in these situations. People were made without sin initially, and thus without fear of rejection. You created people with desire for connection to others and to you. Fear did not impede this movement towards others. Sin introduced fear, but your redemption introduced the possibility for that fear to be eliminated. Your consummation will excise the final bit of fear from people. That is when heteroism will be gone. Why does your redemption have the capacity to eliminate fear? Because in it we no longer need to fear being hurt forever. As John Prickett says, we get hurt, but we get healed as well, because the ultimate healer is in us. We have hope that life will get better, so we don’t need to become despondent and despairing. We are no longer slaves to sin, part of sin is fear, because fear is out of line with your character. You do not fear. We are to fear you though. You are with us. One of the fears is of being alone. Rejection can lead to a sense of loneliness, but with you we are not alone. Part of following you is being with community. Although at times you call us to more lonesome walks, as Bonhoeffer observes in Life Together. Finally, God is the hero. The world is not ours to save. In this sense we can rest that ultimately racism will be cured. However, God uses us to do his work. We are not the only way he does work, but one of the ways, and as such we must do our work to advance God’s work. We are his bondservants (John 15).

Albert Memmi is a male, Tunisian Jew who immigrated into France. He is a philosopher personally familiar with Jean Paul Sarte, intellectually familiar with Simone De Beauvoir. At the time of writing Racism, 1982, Memmi had been writing for long enough to have responses from readers into his work. He had published a few works by 1982. The Colonizer and the Colonized is one, evidencing his familiarity with social issues.

He said that racism is a social structure, not simply an idea. Racism spawns out of difference. When a few people observe differences, they have the option to interpret it in various ways. Racism in people affects their observation or invention of observation of differences, and then the way they interpret that difference can either be racist or not. It is racist if it somehow takes advantage from the group or person in question, and that person in turn is disadvantaged. Racism can occur not only in the victimizer, but also in the victimized when they buy into the devalorization of the oppressive group. Racism has been happening for centuries and centuries, from anti-semitism in Rome to anti-semitism from Nazism.

He did not say why people become racist beyond saying that they desire money, sex, and power. The origins of those desires Memmi did not account for. Christopher West, in Fill These Hearts, accounts for the origin of desires as God or sin. Why do people become racist? To fulfill their needs. Why do people have needs that beckon for fulfillment via devaluation of other humans? That question goes unanswered in Memmi’s account. It is a relevant question because it helps to understand the root and origin of racism.

I agree with Memmi’s concept of racism. It is not illogical, misinformed, or uninformed. Though I wonder if uninformed by not being coauthored with a woman, his theory of racism, as Dr. George’s Diversity syllabus notes, “can … be generalized to the perspectives or experiences of large groups of other people”. A woman could appropriate his theory of racism and accept it as true, therefore co-authorship with a woman would not change his theory of racism. His theory is verified by the observations he gives of White dominance over subjugated Black slaves in colonial America.

What does Memmi mean by racism being a social structure? A set of social relations? Is it that racism is a pattern of behaviors?

Through reading this I realize that I am racist when I believe the invented myth that Black members are so large as to make Black men more attractive than White men. Neither are inherently more beautiful to all people. Though tastes between women may differ as to whether Black or White men are more attractive. Here in believing this I am playing the victim by accepting the disadvantage of being less attractive for being White.

I observe the difference between Kika and I. Differences exist between us, and he has an Arabic voice impression he does sometimes. When I tell stories about him and jokingly use that voice, like just before seeing Mary Poppins with my family, “One! Ah Twoo! Threee!! Okay!” Am I there interpreting that difference between us in such a way that devalorizes him? No, because I understand his different customs. From poor understanding comes racist relations.

When I made a joke to Chapman on the way to the grocery store, “I’m excited to feel like a mom”, were there sexist undertones to that message? I can discern whether or not there were by asking if I was denigrating moms with that. In that joke I’m making the comment that moms typically grocery shop, not dads, which is generally true. I’m not enforcing that stereotype though, and I can assume that Chapman knows I’m not sexist (though I probably am in some areas), and as such will not understand my joke as sexist, or devaluing moms. In fact, I admire moms and dads who grocery shop. I could have also said “I’m excited to feel like a parent”. In that way am I devaluing EP by in some way calling them children? No, again, I’m not making a serious statement here. In this way I am being a parent to EP—parents typically acquire food for their children, but my “parenthood” type role here is not superior to the “children” role. They are different though. But neither is inferior to the other in value. They are mutually dependent roles. I don’t want to assume what Chapman will think, but I do want to anticipate what he will think, with awareness that I very well may be wrong, and if he is going to react poorly, that is not always a reason to withhold what I was going to say. I’m trying to learn what to say. I don’t want to become paralyzed about speaking.

I wonder why Memmi capitalizes “White” and “Black” and “Brown”. Perhaps because he wants to separate words for color and for race.

-fear of rejection in difference between Bryan and I on personal level

-heterophobia on social level of Elverson between whites and blacks

-cause of heterophobia: sin

-Memmi is a male Tunisian Jew living in France

-He says racism is when someone takes advantage over another because of a difference

-He does not say why people are racist. People are racist because they tend to desire power
over others

-I agree with Memmi’s understanding of racism

-What does Memmi mean by social structure? As opposed to an ideology?

-I am racist regarding all black men as having larger members

-Kika and I are different, I’m not being racist when I imitate his Arabic accent because I’m not
devaluing him by it, though I don’t have a deep understanding of its origin

-Mom grocery shopping joke. Again, not devaluing anyone.

-Why does Memmi capitalize “White”?

I wrote this reflection in the context of taking the Gordon College course, Diversity in U.S. Populations. Find the syllabus below.