Last week I found this older item in the BBC news. I had thought to do a little post around it. I would ask, what is religion, and how is it defined? Is it defined as Abrahamic, Indian, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Iranian, Kurdish, Western, Folk or Far Eastern? Or do we take the religious edifice we have constructed, break it into shards, pick up one to admire and kick at the rest?
After asking those questions, I would say that religion is a human idea. It is what we make of it. What we do in the name of religion can only ever be what we have in us to do. And we can do some pretty horrible things, and some positive things too. Whatever it is, we humans do it. We make interpretations; we analyze, exhort, cajole, threaten, torture and kill. Some of us take our human ideas, assign belief, and practice our religion as a political act of power and domination. The combination of patriarchy, authoritarianism and God ideas can be a particularly noxious combination.
Then, I would ask, what is race and ethnicity? I would say, as to race, at census time the US struggles to identify these groups. The 2010 Census outlines the following race possibilities: “White”, “Black or African American”, “American Indian and Alaska Native”, “Asian Indian”, “Chinese”, “Filipino”, “Japanese”, “Korean”, “Vietnamese”, “Other Asian”, “Native Hawaiian”, “Guamanian”, “Samoan”, or “other Pacific Islander”. It includes “Some Other Race” with the idea that multiracial, interracial or Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Heritage folk may include themselves here rather than as an ethnicity.
Notice that is does not name groups like Jew, Arab, Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinian, Afghani or Turk. That is because all those people are considered by the US to be white, unless they self proclaim one of the other categories such as black. They are not separate races. Now we can argue another time about what this means for immigration, or whether this is correct. For now, that is the state of affairs. I personally think it’s closer to right than wrong.
In regards to ethnicity, I would say it appears the US will again have two groups that will be in the 2010 Census. It is “Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin” or “not Hispanic Latino or Spanish Origin”. One reason for this is recognition that all of the Americas are a vast melting pot of peoples. Yet they comprise a very large group. The census does not include distinct ethnic groupings of Jew, Arab, Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinian, Afghani or Turk. Again, one might argue over the correctness of these groups. This is how we have formed our government to see us. We use the census findings for many things, but mostly in order to determine how direct our resources.
Our ability to advance human rights, and thus women’s rights, depend on our ability to understand the distinctions. By this I mean our ability to see that religion, while it includes traditions, is not race, race is not ethnicity, ethnicity, while it includes cultural mores, is not religion.
I probably would have left my little post at that. However, this last week I have discovered that I have another thing to say:
What happened at Ft. Hood, no matter how we hate it, is not because of a person’s name, religion, race or ethnicity. Those things did not pull the trigger on American born, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s gun. Rather he (allegedly) did. We may never know all the reasons why, or why the Military knew he was in trouble, yet was unable to understand the severity and act.
I believe human rights, and thus women’s rights depend on our ability to make distinctions. I believe humans, not religion nor race nor ethnicity; make choices for good or evil. Our society sets a standard based on the individual. I grieve for the victims, their families and I grieve for his. It is not right to kill for a God idea, nor is it right to assert, infer, inflame, that a God idea, name, ethnicity, or race pulled the trigger. Because I believe that, sadly, I must make some painful choices.