Naomusings

My musings on the mainstream media and culture.

Ice Bucket Activism: Reflections on Why People Obey the Facebook and Dump Ice Water on their Heads

ice bucket

So if Facebook told you to dump a bucket of HOT water over your head, would you do it?

Probably not. And yet, over the month of August 2014, thousands upon thousands of people dumped buckets of ice water over their head to participate in a Facebook challenge.

This is the result of an extremely clever marketing campaign by the ALS Association, which has gone viral to an astounding degree. My Facebook feed, and everybody else’s, is filled with people dumping buckets of water over their head to raise money for ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that most people know little about.

Now, in a futile attempt to keep my Comments section devoid of hateful comments, let me assure you all that of course, I support raising money to fight horrible diseases. If you are one of the many people who dumped water over your head to raise money for ALS, you indeed did some good in the world.

Any yet, there’s something about Ice Bucket Activism that, well, brings me a chill.

It seems that people are really attached to the Ice Bucket Challenge. And we’re not just talking about people with a connection to ALS. Ice Bucket Activism is really resonating with a large portion of the population. So why is that?

Well, take a look at everything else that’s been going on in the summer of 2014. This has probably been the worst summer of news that I can remember in my lifetime, and it almost reads like a Greatest Hits of Awful Things.  A passenger jet got shot down over war-torn Ukraine. A journalist was beheaded. ISIS is committing genocide against religious minorities in Iraq. Israel and Hamas are at war again. The most serious racial crisis we’ve seen in years is underway in Ferguson, Missouri. And don’t forget about ebola. Yes, even ebola is back!

And on top of all this, the most beloved comedian in the world was so depressed that he killed himself. RIP Robin Williams. Life sucks.

It seems like no coincidence to me that this is the month when the Ice Bucket Challenge caught on. People feel helpless. I mean, how can you not?

So, to mitigate the feelings of helplessness, we engage in collective action. We dump buckets of ice water over our heads. We collectively raise millions of dollars to fight a terrible disease. We might not be able to do anything about the poor suffering Yazidis in Iraq. But at least we can raise money for ALS.

So as a culture, we’ve engaged in collective action. We’ve done this before. During the Vietnam War, millions of young people responded to the feelings of helplessness by creating a massive anti-war movement. During the 1950s and 1960s, millions responded to the systematic discrimination of African Americans with boycotts, sit-ins, marches, and organized actions that in some cases cost people their lives. And during August 2014, collective action happened again!

We rose up and dumped water over our heads.

Part of what’s fascinating to me about Ice Bucket Activism is how angry people get at people like me who challenge it.  Just look at this Slate article imploring people to “stop dumping ice on your head and just give money.” Some of the anger directed at the author in the Comments section is outright vitriolic. It’s the kind of anger that seems more appropriate for someone who advocates, I don’t know, dumping buckets of ice water over kittens?

So why are people so angry at Ice Bucket Activism Dissenters? I think this goes back to the Greatest Hits of Awful Things we’ve been treated to in the summer of 2014. So many of these Awful Things are extremely polarizing. Israel-Hamas conflict? Polarizing! The shooting of Michael Brown? Even more polarizing! Try having a conversation in mixed company of one of these two issues and someone is bound to get very angry very quickly.

And that’s part of what’s so appealing about Ice Bucket Activism. There’s no Two Sides of the Issue when it comes to ALS. Horrible diseases are universally hated by all, regardless of their race or religion or political leanings. If you post your opinion about Michael Brown on your Facebook page, you will inevitably piss some people off. But go right ahead and post a video of yourself dumping water over your head. The “likes” will mount up immediately!

Like I said, Ice Bucket Activism isn’t wrong. It’s raised millions of dollars to fight a terrible disease. It’s also a reasonable response to feeling hopeless in light of recent world and national events. People want to do something, and Ice Bucket Activism is something.

But the thing about Ice Bucket Activism is that it’s easy. It diverts people away from the kind of activism that has the capacity to make a real difference. And the powers that be are more than happy to have people channel their energy into Ice Bucket Activism than demanding other kinds of change. If there was a viral campaign to end the vast socioeconomic and racial disparities that exist in the United States, then the powerful people would get nervous.

But Ice Bucket Activism? The powers that be are happy to see our need for change placated.

 

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Socioeconomic Pong: A Game about Inequality

Do all Americans have an equal chance to be economically successful? Or is the playing field inherently unequal?

To illustrate the concept of socioeconomic inequality, we created Socioeconomic Pong. Play Socioeconomic Pong and let us know what you think! (The game works best in Firefox, Chrome, or IE9.) Select the image below:

SEPong

Our version of Pong is modelled after Atari’s traditional arcade game. In traditional Pong, players are each given equally-sized paddles, and therefore neither has an advantage. In Socioeconomic Pong, the size of a player’s paddle is determined by socioeconomic factors. The purpose of this game is to demonstrate that the socioeconomic advantages and obstacles faced by an individual at birth have a strong impact on the likelihood of that individual’s success.

I created this game with my colleagues Matt Taylor and Estelle Domingos at Capella University. We are in the Course Media department, and we design media pieces for online courses. We presented Pong at the Games, Learning, and Society Conference and received the Judges’ Choice award at the poster session.

Jill Duggar and the #YesAllWomen Hashtag: Why Christian Patriarchs Don’t Own Women’s Bodies Either

lily

This week, two seemingly unrelated incidents happened in the world of female sexuality and the media.

On May 23, 2014, a 22-year-old man named Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California. According to his autobiographic manifesto, Rodger’s killing spree was motivated by the fact that women had been rejecting him sexually. It seems that he literally felt entitled to access to the bodies of these women, a belief that was reinforced by the”men’s rights activism” rhetoric he was reading.

In response to Rodger’s killing, women all over the world started tweeting their own experiences under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Their point: Rodger’s killing wasn’t the case of an isolated nut job. Women everywhere encounter men who think that they are entitled to access to women’s bodies. Here are just a few examples of the many, many tweets:

yesallwomen

 

Meanwhile, on 19 Kids and Counting, a small act of rebellion was committed by Jill Duggar, the 22-year-old daughter in this very public right-wing Christian family. You see, at the time of filming, Jill Duggar was courting a young man named Derick Dillard.  (They are now engaged.) In the Duggar family, daughters are not “allowed” any physical contact with their suitors other than a brief side hug.  Frontal hugs are off limits. Couples are “allowed” to hold hands after their engagement, and are “allowed” to kiss for the first time at their wedding ceremony.

And yet, on 19 Kids and Counting, there was a small, but perhaps not entirely insignificant, act of rebellion. Derick returned from a long trip abroad, and Jill was there to greet him at the airport with her entire family. Derick and Jill eagerly approached each other from opposite sides of the security barrier. Jill ran a little too far into the security zone, and the alarm went off.  This turned out to be a unusual moment of spontaneous reality TV gold, because as the buzzers went off, Derick and Jill dove in for an actual frontal contact hug. Her parents were none too happy.

Now, please let me get this straight. There is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to abstain from sex, kissing, or anything else before marriage.  The #YesAllWomen tweeters would most certainly agree.  A man is not entitled to any physical contact with a woman that she does not want to share, whether those reasons have to do with her religious beliefs or something else.  A woman’s body belongs to no one but her own self.

But that’s what’s so disturbing about 19 Kids and Counting (and about the Quiverfull movement they belong to and other similar movement) is that the message is not that women own their own bodies and control their own sexualities. The message is that their fathers control their daughters’ sexuality until these daughters are “given away” to their husbands, who then take control.

Think I’m exaggerating? The degree to which the Duggars, and especially Jim Bob, exercise control over their daughters’ dating experiences is comprehensive. Jim Bob must approve all “courtship” partners for his adult daughters. No, we’re not talking about a dad setting limits on who his 15-year-old daughter can date. We’re talking about 22-year-old daughters needing permission. Once a daughter is dating, or even engaged, Duggar girls are never allowed to be alone with their boyfriends. Ever. They always have to have a parent or another sibling along as a “chaperone” to make sure that no physical contact outside of a side hug ever occurs.  These girls are not even allowed to have private phone conversations or texts with their boyfriends. To promote “accountability,” the entire Duggar family has access to the texts exchanged between Jill and Derick.

Now, you might ask, isn’t this a choice that Jill is making actively?  She is indeed an adult, and if she wants to kiss a boy before marriage or send private texts, what’s stopping her from doing so?

This is absolutely correct, technically. However, the cost of a Duggar child going against the teachings of their parents, and against the entire community to which they’ve been exposed, is enormous. The Duggars have gone through great pains to make sure their children have limited exposure to any ideas outside their own — including to the more mainstream Christian lifestyle choices that the majority of American Christians make.  They are all homeschooled.  None of the adult children have left the house to go to college or to get a job, except for the oldest boy, who’s married.  The family only socializes with other families with very similar values. The Internet is censored to about 70 websites for the younger children and for the adult children, which means no access to “subversive” ideas. So yes, Jill Duggar could leave the house and go to college and kiss boys and even wear pants (which the Duggar girls do not), but the Duggars have gone through great pains to make this level of free will enormously painful and unlikely.

And the children — including the adult children — rarely leave the house alone. There’s no, “Mom, I’m going to the mall with Katie.” The Duggars always bring a sibling along to make sure they act in accordance with their parents’ wishes. A few years ago, oldest daughter Jana left alone to speak at a retreat for young Christian women, and her parents made a big deal about how proud they were to send their daughter off alone into the world for the first time.  Jana was 22.

I want to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with parents teaching their daughters about sexual morality, and that there is nothing wrong with teaching the belief that sex (or even kissing) should be reserved for marriage. Every parent teaches their children about morality, myself included, and we all hope these lessons will stick. And when our children are growing up, we can indeed impose rules about things like dating.  I’ve already had a conversation with my eight-year-old involving a skimpy purple bikini. She was none to happy with me when I refused to buy her the bikini.

But when our daughters grow up, they can wear whatever purple bikinis they want, and they can make their own decisions about sexual morality because they are the owners of their own bodies.  And yet this is exactly what Jim Bob Duggar, and others in the Christian patriarchy movement, are trying to prevent. Just look at the recent popularity of the Purity Ball, a ceremony in which an adolescent girl literally “entrusts her purity” to her father, who is tasked with protecting it until she is married.

Attempting to control women’s bodies and women’s sexuality is wrong — whether we’re talking about a rapist at a frat party or a father who goes through great length to control his adult daughters’ sexual choices. In this way, Jim Bob Duggar isn’t all that different from Elliot Rodger. Eliot believed that he was entitled to make decisions about how women expressed their sexuality. Jim Bob feels the same way about his daughters.

Musings on My 25th Year High School Reunion, or, Miss Lynch is the Real Badass

Me, as Miss Lynch in Grease, at Pennsauken High School in 1986.

Me, as Miss Lynch in Grease, at Pennsauken High School in 1986.

My 25th year high school reunion is coming up soon. I am not going to the reunion. Mostly this is because the reunion is in New Jersey, and I no longer have family there. It’s not worth the trouble and expense. But I’ve been reading about the reunion on Facebook, and all kinds of memories are surfacing.

Let me start out by saying I intend this to be as non-whiny a blog post as humanly possible. I want this to be an empowering post. I’m tired of thinking of myself as a kid who was lonely and unpopular in high school. I’m tired of feeling sad that I skipped out on our senior trip to Disney World because I was afraid no one would hang out with me. I want to start thinking about myself as someone who rocked the shit out of high school.

PHS. The middle school, Pennsauken Middle School, is most unfortunately PMS.

PHS. The middle school, Pennsauken Middle School, is unfortunately PMS.

Here’s the part of the blog post where I risk being whiny and I summarize my middle school and high school years. I was the stereotypically bright child who severely lacked social skills and coordination. You know, the kid with the straight A’s who was always the last one picked in elementary school kickball? That was me.  After my parents’ divorce, I started middle school in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Being the new kid in seventh grade would pretty much suck for anyone, but if you’re painfully shy, that’s a disaster waiting to happen. To top it off, the largely working-class, conservative town of Pennsauken was just not a good fit for me.  I was a liberal professor’s kid, and one of only a few Jewish kids in the school. From the beginning, there was a pretty good chance that This Would Not Go Well.

Whining done. I have a mental library of painful stories I could tell you about my socially awkward attempts to fit in that ended badly. You don’t need to hear these stories, but more importantly, I don’t need to keep telling them to myself.

My sophomore year at PHS, I auditioned for Grease. I really wanted to play the part of Rizzo, the sexy bad girl. But then I read for the part of Miss Lynch, the curmudgeonly old lady teacher.  I was hysterically funny and got the part.

For years, I told this story and emphasized how emblematic it was of my high school years that I had to play an old lady school teacher instead of a sexy bad girl. But these days, I’ve come to realize that Miss Lynch is the real badass. Because, you know, there are a lot of high school girls in the world who could play Rizzo. But I may be the only high school girl in history who could make the old lady school teacher the most memorable character in that whole play.

And when you think about, there’s no better musical to play the outsider than GreaseGrease is horrible play for high schoolers. The message is terrible. If you’ve never seen Grease, it’s all about Sandy, the sweet new girl who doesn’t fit into the bad girl culture at her new school. She had a summer romance with Danny, the king of the high school bad boys, but he won’t have anything to do with Sandy at school because she doesn’t fit in.

So, is Grease like High School Musical, where everyone learns that the most important thing is to be yourself?  NO!!  Sandy decides to change her looks and her personality, becomes a bad girl, and gets the boy.  At the end of the play, the kids all sing “We Go Together,” and Sandy’s a part of the “together” now, just like I wanted to be. But she’s only part of “together” because she’s squeezed herself into black Spandex pants. Three cheers for conformity!

Miss Lynch, however, doesn’t give a crap what these self-righteous, conformist little greasers think of her.

A girl whose name I can’t remember came up to me after the play was done and said, “You know, I used to think you were weird. But now I think you’re cool!” So there you have it. Fuck Rizzo. Miss Lynch was the real badass.

On Facebook, I’ve come to learn quite a bit about some of the people from my high school.  It’s been stunning for me to learn how many other students felt more like Miss Lynch than they felt like Rizzo. If I lived closer, I would love to sit down and have a beer with these people at my reunion and hear about what they really thought about PHS.  I used to think I would never want to go to a reunion, but now I think I might try to go to the next one. And why not? I was Miss Lynch. I rocked the shit out of high school.

Coming out as a Humanistic Jew

My daughter, reading the Four Questions at a community Passover seder at my Humanistic Jewish synagogue.

My daughter, reading the Four Questions at a community Passover seder at my Humanistic Jewish synagogue.

I am a Humanistic Jew.

Not everyone knows what that means. When asked what kind of Jew I am, people generally expect me to say I’m Reform or Conservative. My answer is less common, and according to some, more controversial.

I am a Humanistic Jew. In a nutshell, this means that I identify culturally as being a part of the Jewish people, and that I am proud to be a part of Jewish history. I am also an agnostic, so I do not have Jewish religious beliefs.

Here’s how the Society for Humanistic Judaism describes it:

huju

So why do I feel the need to come out as a Humanistic Jew? Well, not all Jews (or Gentiles) see this as a legitimate identity — and, frankly, I personally am someone who worries too much about what others think of me. When I belonged briefly to a Reform synagogue, I didn’t hesitate to answer the question, “What synagogue do you belong to?” In fact, it made me feel like part of the “club” to have a conventional answer. Unfortunately, belonging to that “club” made me feel like a hypocrite because of my lack of religious beliefs. I felt like I was being disrespectful to the religious people in the congregation.

The Humanorah, a symbol of Humanistic Judaism

The Humanorah, a symbol of Humanistic Judaism

So, happily, I found a new “club” when my family and I joined Or Emet, the local Humanistic Jewish congregation. It feels wonderful to have a warm, inviting place where I can unapologetically be who I am, a Humanistic Jew. But I still feel nervous about telling some people about Or Emet.  Recently, when I was chatting with a Jewish woman by the pool during our daughters’ swim lessons, she told me that she belongs to a Conservative synagogue and sends her daughter to a Jewish day school. She asked me if we belonged to a synagogue. I felt nervous sharing this information with someone who was obviously more traditional than me, but since this particular stranger had just spent half an hour oversharing juicy information about her ex-husband with me, I figured what the heck? Happily, she didn’t seem phased.

Others, however, are not okay with the concept that Judaism can be seen as an ethnicity and culture separate from religious beliefs.  For some people, this is because they are religious Jews. For others, regardless of their beliefs, it’s about a genuine fear that we’re all going to become assimilated and forget about who we are. There are only about 14 million Jews worldwide, and in case you’ve been paying attention to history, you know there’s been some effort made to both assimilate us into Christianity and to annihilate us. Many Jews are alarmed by a recent Pew Research Study of Jewish Americans that shows that 62 percent of Jews define Judasim is being primarily about ancestry and culture, and that almost a third of millennial generation Jews define themselves as Jewish and secular.

I can understand the fear of Jews dying out. I fear this too.  But I see Humanistic Judaism (and other alternative movements, like Reconstructionist Judaism) as part of the answer. Humanistic Judaism is one possible space where that third of millennial Jews can go to be Jewish and still be secular. Both Reform and Conservative Judaism evolved to meet the changing needs of American Jews who had immigrated from the Old World. Humanistic Judaism can fill in a similar need, while still promoting Jewish identity.

Some may wonder why it’s so important to me to retain my Jewish identity if I don’t have Jewish religious beliefs. Part of it is that like many humans, I feel a powerful connection to my ancestry and history. Religion is not a mandatory part of that type of connection. After all, would you tell an African-American that she couldn’t be African-American unless she was Christian?  Of course not. Christianity has been an integral part of the African-American experience, but it’s by no means the only part, and someone isn’t “fired” from being black if she professes agnosticism. I feel the same way about being Jewish.

Like many Jews, the connection I feel to my heritage was reinforced when I travelled to Israel as a young adult. I was sitting on a bus on the way to Jerusalem and felt overcome by emotion. I though about the many generations of Jews who have ended their Passover seders with the words, “Next year in Jerusalem.” For years, this was an unrealizable dream, and yet here I was. When I arrived at the Wailing Wall, I did what many Jews do: I wrote a prayer on a piece of paper and inserted it into the cracks of the wall.  One of my best friends, who is Jewish, was about to have her first child, so I wrote a prayer for her and her baby.  Despite my agnosticism, I am getting choked up just writing about this moment. This was a moment in my life when I felt deeply in touch with my place in the human experience.

And that’s the thing about Humanistic Judaism that probably has the most meaning to me — it’s about feeling proud and connected to my place in the beautiful, tragic, and complex story of humanity as a Jew. On my trip to Israel, I visited the Diaspora Museum, a museum that documents the detailed story of the Jews throughout history. After spending hours in the exhibits tracing Jews throughout the world, I finally came across the exhibit about American Jews. There was a U.S. map with push pins, and a sign explaining that each push pin was inserted into an American community with a significant Jewish population.  My first thought was that the Minneapolis-St. Paul area probably didn’t have a large enough Jewish population to warrant a push pin. But then I looked, and I was wrong. And there was another moment when I felt deeply connected with my place in human history, in Jewish human history. There I was! There was my push pin!

Of course, one part of my understanding of myself in the human Jewish story is the Holocaust. Like many other American Jews, my great-grandmother was murdered by the Nazis. In fact, there’s a photo of Bessarabian Jews in a Nazi ghetto on Wikipedia, and I actually think the woman on the left hand side might be my great-grandmother. Even if she’s not, my place in history is now digitized.  My daughter has started asking me questions about the Holocaust, and it’s painful to answer these questions, but I always tell her, “This is one reason why we can never forget we’re Jews.”

And when I tell my daughter about the Holocaust and its place in our Jewish human history, I want her to remember not just victimization but also heroes. Like Boris. My father doesn’t talk about his childhood as a first-generation American Jew very much, but after we saw Schindler’s List, he told me about his father’s friend Boris. After Boris escaped from a concentration camp, he spent the rest of the war running back into Nazi territory and smuggling out children. Later in his life, Boris suffered from tremendous anxiety attacks and hid under tables, and my grandfather was the only one who could coax him back to reality. Boris was a hero.  And so was Liviu Lebrescu, a Holocaust survivor and a Romanian Jew who was born not too far from where my grandparents were born. Lebrescu was a professor at Virginia Tech and was in his classroom the day in 2007 (on Holocaust Remembrance Day) when a deranged student started slaughtering people with a machine gun. Professor Lebrescu died as he barricaded the door with his body, and all but one of his students escaped through the window.  These stories of Jewish heroism fill me with pride, as does the tradition of the Jewish labor organizer and the many Jewish politicians who have fought for social justice, like Paul Wellstone.

I know that for many Jews, this sense of connection comes from going to a temple and participating traditional prayers. My own experiences do not exclude this. A few weeks ago,my great-uncle Morrie died and I attended services for him at a Reform temple. Most of the people in the sanctuary were older, probably in their eighties at least. The rabbi told a humorous anecdote about Morrie’s poker games and about how the expectation back then was that the wife would offer the poker group a big tray of food around 11:00 pm.  There was a very old couple sitting in front of us, and when the rabbi told this story they beamed at each other spontaneously. I felt honored to witness this brief, loving moment in the life of these old strangers. And I felt connected. I understand that the experiences of the Jews in that sanctuary have probably been very different than mine, and I felt honored to be in the sanctuary with them, sharing their traditions.

So there you have it. I am a Humanistic Jew. I hope that no one will read this and think that I disapprove of Jews who are more traditional and who have religious beliefs. That is not the case, just as I don’t disapprove of religious people who are not Jewish. I only hope that traditional Jews will share the same feeling of inclusion about me. For many years I felt lost in the Jewish community, eager to find a way to connect, but feeling shut out because the only way I could see in was through beliefs I didn’t share. I hope that traditional Jews who read this don’t reject me as an outsider, and that they will see something of themselves in my stories of feeling connected to the human Jewish story.

Attention Racists! “Muslim” is a Religion, Not a Racial Slur

Miss America 2013, Nina Davuluri, "accused" on the Twittersphere of being a Muslim

Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, “accused” on the Twittersphere of being a Muslim

Here’s my latest theory on racism in America.  Since the 1970s, and especially since 9/11, there’s been quite a bit of anti-Muslim hatred in America. My theory is that this racism falls into two categories.

First, there is anti-Muslim rhetoric that is the same thing as anti-Islamic rhetoric.  Proponents of this type of rhetoric oppose Islam and the people who follow it.

The other type of anti-Muslim rhetoric? It’s not about followers of Islam per se.  Rather, I suspect that many people who spew hatred about Muslims do not actually know what “Muslim” means. It seems that Americans have come to see the word “Muslim” as synonymous with “brown-skinned foreigner.”  Or at least with brown-skinned foreigners who don’t fall easily into a category with whom many Americans are familiar.  People from Mexico and China aren’t often “accused” of being Muslim.  But people from Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Kenya — and Americans who descend from people from these nations?  They’re all a bunch of “Muslims.”

And when I say that some Americans don’t understand that Islam is a religion, I don’t mean that these people are ignorant about the details of Islam. I mean that there’s a certain percentage of the population that literally doesn’t know that Islam = religion, just like Christianity = religion.

What made me conclude this? Just look at the bizarre anti-Muslim comments that spread throughout Twitter after the crowning of Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri. This woman is an American woman of Indian descent.  Like most Indians and people of Indian descent, she’s not a Muslim.  And yet you’d never know that from reading Twitter after the pageant. Here’s a representative tweet that declares that Miss America is a “Muslim”:

Miss America Muslim

Of course, in lieu of actual information about Islam, Americans with this mindset “know” that Muslims are associated with terrorism.  Hence, the Twittersphere was abuzz with accusations that Miss America is a terrorist:

miss america terrorist tweets

Of course, this all relates to anti-Obama rhetoric that Barack Obama is a Muslim.  Barack Obama has stated clearly that he’s a Christian, so people who “accuse” Obama of being a Muslim are (1) believers in the conspiracy theory that the president is lying about his religion and is part of a secret Muslim takeover or something like that, or (2) do not understand that “Christian” and “Muslim” are mutually exclusive categories.  For people who define a Muslim as a “brown-skinned foreigner,” and who know that Obama’s father was from Kenya (and who was, indeed, a Muslim), then of course Obama’s a Muslim.  I mean, just look at him!

Obama flag

Among other things, this makes for a more socially acceptable way to use a racial slur to describe the president. After all, it’s not socially acceptable to call him the n-word, much as some people would like to do this.

Of course, part of what’s infuriating about the “Miss America is a Muslim” rhetoric is that it demonstrates ignorance about the world. Anyone with basic knowledge of geography and culture knows that India is not located in the Middle East, and that dissimilar countries like India, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya can’t be lumped together as one homogenous group of brown-skinned people.  But it’s more than just cultural ignorance.  The “Miss America is a Muslim” rhetoric points to the birth of the term “Muslim” as a racial slur directed at an ill-defined group of brown-skinned people, some of whom of actually Muslim and some of whom are not.

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