Femme FATale

solidarity is (not)…
October 29, 2008, 1:40 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

i know that this can’t be a phenomenon with merely my friends because i’ve noticed the same thing going on with friends of friends of friends – you know, people who are, like, three times removed my friend. halfway-to-kevin-bacon sort of people. and at least amongst the people i know who are doing it, it’s all the more shocking because of the fact that these are folks i usually consider pretty righteous when it comes to their politics, i.e. they’re “progressive,” people – queer or queer-friendly, anti-racist/classist/sexist/sizeist/ableist, you name it. so what’s the grave offense?

i have, at present, several facebook friends who have changed their names to be as follows: [first name] hussein [last name]. before you roll your eyes at me over the fact that this post is about facebook, take a look at it. need i mention that all the folks doing this are two things: 1) obama supporters and 2) white folks with western european and/or american ancestries? what this means, in my opinion, is that while all of these people claiming the middle name “hussein” are undoubtedly doing so in an act of “solidarity,” they are simultaneously appropriating not “just” a name, but one that is tied to very particular histories and cultures that are not theirs. cultures which have been dominated, colonized, invaded, and oppressed by this country and other western european countries for hundreds, thousands of years.

while these people then also go and try on “hussein” as a middle name for the sake of the election season, in an attempt to shed light on the fact that links between barack obama and any sort of “scary”, middle eastern culture are ridiculous, they wind up playing cheaply and dangerously, putting colonized cultures at risk. because for black, brown and mixed folks in this country and abroad, as well as middle easterners cross-culturally and across region and religion, they don’t get to step away from the bullshit ignorant westerners have attached to the name “hussein” once next week comes and goes. for white supporters of obama to take this on for the sake of solidarity is to ignore an entire complex history of oppression and suffering that white people are responsible for.

your cultural appropriation is not cool. it’s irresponsible and it wounds. show your solidarity by voting. not by coopting something that does not belong to you, something that has been unjustly and negatively inscribed by the very culture you live in every day.


4 Comments so far
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I couldn’t agree more. Other cultures are not cheap fancy dress. QRx

Comment by QueerRose

I haven’t seen this, but I don’t think it’s any different than appropriating dreads or a keffiyeh (the hip kids love that shit) for “solidarity.” It’s all creepy and for attention. Anything for that taste of oppression! xo

i groan major over bullshit hipsters and their keffiyeh-wearing. dreads and mohawks too, of course, but this recent trend of coopting the keffiyeh is so infuriating. also, are you on facebook? because i’m pretty sure we should be facebook friends. how else will i get in touch with you if i up and move to pdx in the middle of the night? 😉 xo.

Comment by givemespacetorock

I’m curious why you are assuming this is the reason everyone has done this: “to shed light on the fact that links between barack obama and any sort of “scary”, middle eastern culture are ridiculous.” I’ve done it because I was completely disgusted by the way the McCain-Palin campaign used anti-Arab racism in the election; i was disgusted by the way McCain responded to whether or not Obama was an Arab by saying, “Oh, no, he’s a good guy” as if Arabs could never be “a good guy.” I did it because one should be proud of a name like Hussein. (And, no, I’m not voting for Obama. I vote for third parties. And I will be at the next anti-war demo and the next and the next until the US gets the fuck out of the Middle East.)

I wear a keffiyah since the intifada in the 90s to show my solidarity with palestinians. when someone asks me about it, it opens a discussion about the oppression of palestinians. to assume people are trying to appropriate someone else’s culture? You have a weak argument here.

while i can somewhat understand your argument around wearing a keffiyeh because it has been known, in your experience, to allow for discussion to emerge between yourself and white westerners who don’t normally give a shit about palestinian oppression, changing your name on facebook remains, in my opinion, a truly weak attempt at solidarity by someone who can, as easily, erase “hussein” the next day with as little consequence as they faced when they added it for a whole two weeks pre-election. there are more significant ways to show your support for anti-Arab racism than this.

Comment by mo

I am glad to have found your blog, but I have to say that I don’t agree about your response to what I see as a political action akin to the Christian Danish wearing stars of David when the Jews were forced to do so. Incidentally, not all of my Facebook friends who have temporarily taken on the middle name of Hussein are white.

However, I agree with you that there are deeper issues of concern here. Ironically, Colin Powell addressed some of this eloquently when he asked if people’s raising the “concern” that Obama is Muslim is meant to be taken by a young Muslim American boy as a warning that he could never be president. I dare say, it probably could be taken that way, but his point was way more sophisticated than you usually hear politicians making.

Anyway, that’s my $.015. Keep fighting the good fight!


Comment by Elizabeth

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