michelle obama and media mythmaking.

February 5, 2015

If you’re in the States, you may have heard a thing or two about the Obamas’ visit to Riyadh last week, in order to pay respects to King Salman. You may also have heard a bit about how Michelle Obama didn’t cover her head, the Saudi state TV blurred out Michelle, etc. You may have even read the comments.

It’s always a bad idea to read the comments, folks. Especially about Saudi Arabia. (Although I admit I’m terrible at following my own advice.) Because when it comes to Saudi Arabia, suddenly everyone is an expert except the people who actually live out their lives in Saudi Arabia. Now, to be clear, I’m not an expert on anything. But, I mean, I do live as a woman in Saudi Arabia. I live with a Saudi family. I have Saudi friends and relatives. I’m raising a half-Saudi daughter. I don’t know everything, to be sure, but I think I might know a bit more than Joe Schmo behind his keyboard in Wasilla, Alaska, who knows–knows–that women in Saudi Arabia aren’t permitted out of the house without a male guardian and if they show their faces in public, they will be beaten.

This is one of my favorite things about discussing life in Saudi Arabia with people who don’t live here, by the way. (Note: that was sarcasm.) When people really, really want to believe whatever terrible thing they think they know, I’m often treated like I’m lying, brainwashed, puppeteered, or just plain stupid, because I’m simply a feebleminded woman who is weak and easily led. For the record, these attitudes are no different than those attributed to the scary Muslim/Arab/Saudi who supposedly pulls the strings in my brain. Same package, different wrapping.

Anyway, even though misinformation abounds about Saudi life, Saudis aren’t immune to catching ridiculous ideas about American life, either. In my experience, Americans and Saudis are equally prone to believing awful things about one another’s cultures. For example, I’ve had Saudis tell me that American kids must move out of their parents’ house at the age of 16. American children are kicked out of the house at that age and must fend for themselves, often turning to prostitution and drugs and alcohol to ease the pain of being thrown away by their families. Because Americans don’t value close-knit families. Saudis value close-knit families.

And then I’m like, “Uh, no.” And I explain that there is occasionally such a case, usually after the kid and his parents have been fighting continuously for a long time, but in reality, the vast majority of American children are absolutely not thrown out of their houses at age 16.

And then they’re like, “Oh, really! Well, that’s very good! I am happy to know that!”

And that right there is the primary difference between my interactions with Saudis about cultural differences with America and my interactions with Americans about cultural differences with Saudi Arabia. You tell a Saudi that they’ve got a certain aspect of American culture blown way out of proportion, they’re like, “Oh, okay! Great!” They’re happy to be wrong about that awful thing they thought. Because who wants to be right about something like that?

This is generally not how it goes in similar interactions I’ve had with my fellow Americans (or at the very least, this is not how it often goes; I’ve not kept statistics on this, although maybe I should).

No, many Americans often seem like they really, really want to believe all these terrible things they “know” about Saudi life. Even when their information is demonstrably false, they insist that no, it’s true! Their cousin’s roommate’s ex-boyfriend went to Saudi Arabia once and told them so! These Americans need to believe that their culture is leaps and bounds ahead of primitive Saudi Arabia. They so badly want to believe that by not covering her head, Michelle really enraged those backward Saudis and taught them a thing or two. I guess folks need to do this in order to feel better about themselves and their own culture. That is really the only explanation I can think of for the almost entirely autotrophic American media firestorm that erupted last week when pictures and video emerged of Michelle Obama being greeted by Saudi government officials with a brazenly uncovered head.

And the media feeds into this sense of cultural superiority. Openly. Unabashedly. I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating now: journalistic integrity flies out the window when it comes to Saudi Arabia. Fact checking becomes unnecessary. If it fits the barbaric narrative, it gets reported. And then repeated. Over and over again. For instances of blatantly incorrect reporting, sometimes retractions follow, but rarely. And even when a retraction or clarification is made, it never gets the same amount of press as the original false or misleading story. And all I can do is sit back and watch the misinformation proliferate, because when I offer correct information via Facebook comments or such (again, I need to learn to stay out of the cesspool that is internet commentary), I’m asked (after being told, naturally, that my husband monitors my internet usage, that I will be beaten if I dare appear in public with my face uncovered, and that I must walk behind my husband at all times), “So you know more than CNN?” Well, not about much, but about this, it seems so. But only because CNN (like every other American media outlet) is atrociously lax about fact checking basic information when it comes to the country that I live in.

So here is some clarification in regard to the Obamas’ notorious visit to Riyadh last week.

1. Michelle didn’t cover her head.

Within 24 hours of the Obamas’ arrival, the internet was abuzz with news of how Michelle Obama made a stand for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia by not covering her head when she met with the Saudi king. The overall sentiment seemed to be that Michelle flouted Saudi law when she did this, and good for her, because she pissed off those backward Saudis by letting her freedom flag fly, baby!

There was just one problem with all that. Well, actually, there were a lot of problems with all that, but here are a few.

Despite the endless American reports of “outrage,” Saudis were very largely unconcerned with what Michelle did or didn’t have on her head. When the Obamas’ visit was in the news, not a single one of the Arabic trending hashtags on Saudi Twitter had anything to do with Michelle. Saudis were pretty interested in Air Force One, though. And the menu for the dinner at the palace. And the fact that King Salman left President Obama briefly around maghrib, the sunset prayer time, in order to attend to his ritual prayers. Those were all hot topics.

“Listen, American media is going crazy about how pissed off the Saudis on Twitter are about Michelle not wearing a tarha on her head,” I said to Mr. Mostafa. “Is that in any way true? Because I’m not seeing it.”

He looked puzzled. “What? I haven’t seen anything about that.”

“Yeah, supposedly there’s a lot of Saudi outrage?” I said.

“Hold on, let me look,” he said. He was quiet for several minutes as he did some research. “Oh, yeah, I guess here are a couple tweets about it, from ignorant religious people. But most of the people on the hashtag are making fun of the people who started it.”

Two, despite what internet commenters may tell you, it is not required for any woman in Saudi Arabia to cover her head in public. I’ve also written about this before, but I guess it bears repeating.

Now, I understand how folks who have never lived here can get confused about this. Before I moved here, I, too, used to believe that foreign women were permitted to not cover their heads if they chose, but that Saudi women were required to. It was my in-laws who set me straight on this shortly after I arrived. It is not required for any woman to cover her head in public in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudi women do, out of observation of social norms, a sense of religious obligation, other reasons, or a combination of many reasons. Many Saudi women also cover their faces. I cover my head, as many other Muslim expats do. Some non-Muslim expats do, as well, to ward off stares and deflect attention (much the same way a woman who covers in the States will be stared at, a woman who doesn’t cover will likely be stared at here, simply because in both cases, the view is out of the ordinary for many people). But plenty of women here don’t cover their heads. My mom never does when she visits.

This is my momma. In Saudi Arabia. With her head uncovered. Learning to smoke a hookah. A giant hookah, as a matter of fact. Taking a stand for Saudi women, one giant hookah puff at a time, or something.

A muttawa told my mom to cover her head once. I got snippy with him, we ignored him, and he kept on walkin’, because for better or worse, the muttawa can tell you they think you should cover your head, but they can’t arrest you for not covering your head.

Like I said, I understand how the average, everyday internet commenter could be confused about this. But the reason they are so confused, as I was, is that journalists tend to do such a crap job of fact checking these sorts of things. It seemed that everywhere I turned last week, I was reading yet another “news” site “explaining” that “foreign women in Saudi Arabia are not required to wear the headscarf.” “Women in Saudi Arabia must wear the headscarf, but foreign diplomats are excluded from this rule.” “Saudi women must cover completely, including their faces, but visiting women don’t have to.” Everyone, it seemed, had a reason why Michelle Obama didn’t cover her head. But it seems that nowhere was anyone getting it right: women are not required to cover their heads in Saudi Arabia.

Now, there is one garment that Michelle didn’t wear that is generally required for all women, Saudi or otherwise, to wear in public in Saudi Arabia: the abaya. It’s a long, thin, black cloak that goes over one’s street clothes. Every woman, whether foreign or Saudi, must wear one in public (unless you’re in the Diplomatic Quarter, a gated and heavily guarded neighborhood where almost all of Riyadh’s foreign embassies are located), and if Michelle Obama had gone mallwalking or something sans abaya, there probably would have been a lot more discussion on Saudi Twitter about her wardrobe. But airport to palace and back to airport does not exactly constitute public, and anyway, even though Michelle didn’t wear an abaya, her outfit was loose, modest, and covered every part of her body that an abaya would have covered, had she worn one.

So as much as Americans might want to think otherwise, Michelle’s outfit was not revolutionary, nor was her lack of headscarf. Her clothing was obviously carefully chosen to respect cultural norms. Now, if she had appeared at the gathering in a kicky sleeveless, knee-length summer dress with a pair of strappy sandals, a case could be made that she was trying to send a message. But as it was…nope. And even if she had chosen an outfit without quite so much coverage, none of the men present would have dropped dead at the sight of an ankle. Really. I mean, Michael Scott was a walking joke in almost every way, but it appears that far too many Americans believe his grasp of Middle Eastern gender politics was totally spot-on.

2. Most of the members of the Saudi delegation that greeted the President didn’t shake Michelle Obama’s hand.

From what I’ve heard, a few members of the delegation tasked with greeting President Obama did shake Michelle’s hand, but most did not offer a handshake to the First Lady (nor did Michelle offer handshakes to anyone, which, again, if she had, might have been an indication that she was taking some sort of stand…but she didn’t). The videos show Michelle politely nodding back at the delegates who chose to acknowledge her with a nod, but not a handshake.

This isn’t unusual from a cultural or a religious perspective. In Saudi culture, men and women typically don’t touch unrelated members of the opposite sex, unless the situation requires it (for example, if you have to see a doctor). Although I am Muslim and generally don’t ever decline an offered handshake, plenty of religious Muslims, men and women alike, do avoid shaking hands with or otherwise touch unrelated members of the opposite sex, and not just Muslims (Orthodox Jews do it, too. So do Buddhist monks).

Michelle was standing to the left of the President, behind him. She was also holding a black clutch handbag with both her hands. Also, she is not the President. I’m guessing that had a wife of the king been present (which, quite frankly, would have been very nice to see; I think everyone can agree that Saudi Arabia suffers from a dearth of public female representation in government, although currently, the percentage of women appointed to the Shoura Council, the visible but essentially powerless advisory body to the king, is greater than the percentage of women currently serving in the U.S. Congress), there would have been no uproar if the Americans hadn’t gone up to her to shake her hand. Or, actually, there probably would have been, especially if she had politely refused to shake the men’s hands on religious grounds. Then it would have been, “Do you see how oppressed the women are? She can’t even shake a man’s hand! I mean, really, what kind of sexual feelings are stirred up by a handshake? She’s obviously refusing because she’s terrified of what her husband would do to her if she did shake hands. Those poor Saudi women!”

In regard to headscarf-gate, American folks have been (correctly) commenting, “Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if Michelle had worn the headscarf? ‘See, we told you! The Obamas are closet Muslims! Sharia law is a-comin’!'” I would like to present another hypothetical: can you imagine what the reaction would have been if the male members of the Saudi delegation had made it a point to go up to Michelle and shake her hand, even though she was standing behind the President and out of the way, while holding something in her hands? “See, look at those repressed Saudis! So desperate to touch a woman that they’re practically charging the First Lady. So barbaric!”

3. Saudi state TV did not blur out Michelle Obama.

This was originally reported by Bloomberg TV, and it spread like wildfire. Except it wasn’t true. Although Bloomberg did later issue a retraction once it was roundly denied that Saudi state TV blurred out Michelle when they covered her arrival and meeting with the king, you can still find endless articles with references to “reports” that she was blurred out. Reports that are, once again, totally false. Heck, it’s even on Snopes.

As I always do when writing a post of this nature, here is where I must offer the disclaimer that I am not defending everything the Saudi state does, nor am I saying that every single aspect of life in Saudi Arabia is peachy keen, jellybean. But that doesn’t mean that ethnocentric, imperialistic, neocolonial, racist, Islamophobic, and just plain inaccurate media coverage about the country is okay. It’s dehumanizing and inexcusable. And if you’re a consumer of Western media, you might want to start thinking about why this happens, who it serves, how it shapes your worldview, who that serves, and what else you may not be getting the whole truth about. I know that as a direct result of living in Saudi Arabia, I certainly have.

Phew. And now, simply for the sake of my own sanity, I can’t help but hope that the Obamas don’t come back to Saudi Arabia for the remainder of Barack’s presidency.


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  • http://kitabiyya.wordpress.com Luisa Noor

    In France it was the same craze about “look at the courageous Michelle not covering her head !”. Errrr … Well, maybe because she doesn’t have to ? When I explained what was really going on and how un-scandalous it was, people seemed so disappointed that they’d almost not believe me. Let alone the “what do you more than the medias anyway ?” …
    Though french people should know better, since we had the exact same problem with Fox News following the Paris attacks : they reported about the supposedly “no go zones” in Paris and elsewhere … That’ how I discovered I was living in a “no go zone” of Paris where sharia ruled and non muslim were not permitted to enter ! I looked put at the window seeing the cafés and the butcher selling all sort of hams and had a good laugh but … Yes, a whole country, the U.S., believed for a week that we had no-go zones in Paris.
    So yes, go explaining anything that is the same kind of normal in the
    Middle East than in Europe or North America and you’ll get disbilieving stares instead of “oh okay, good to know that”.
    Let’s hope some things change in future …

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      exactly, luisa noor! people just seem so disappointed when they find out the awful thing they believed isn’t true. you have to wonder why? is it because once they find out that people are more like them than they thought, then it becomes more difficult to dehumanize them?

      and yeah, don’t you love finding out about how terrible your life is from the news? 😉

  • Jessica

    I did not question why Michelle Obama did not cover her head, rather I questioned why they were in Saudi Arabia in the first place, when they could have been in Poland at the time instead. Also, what with the human rights abuses going on there (Raif Badawi) I believe no such visit should have been made. Just because King Abdullah was a lesser-evil doesn’t mean the world should pay such respects –

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      i agree, the raif badawi situation is horrible. however, from a saudi/arab perspective, the same objections to the visit could easily be made, and on the same grounds: “with the human rights abuses that went on under bush–the iraq invasion, with over 100,000 civilian deaths; prisoner abuse at abu ghraib, including the rape of inmates in front of their mothers; guantanamo, including torture of inmates without due process or charge; a drone program that has killed well over a thousand people beyond the original targets, etc.–i believe no such visit should have been hosted. just because president obama is a lesser evil doesn’t mean the world should pay such respects.”

  • Kristine Livingston-Alzarqa

    Oh, you said it, and said it so well. Thank you!

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      thanks, kristine! <3

  • Anna

    Wonderful, wonderful article, in any number of respects. I’ll do my best to pass it to American friends in the hopes that they’ll hear and spread the word, but no fingers crossed.

    Living in Greece, I feel your pain, especially now when we’re so in the news, although I’ve seen it happen so many times since I moved here 20 years ago. False and propagandist news stories abound, and as you so correctly mentioned at the end of your article, one would be well advised to ask why, by whom, and who it all benefits.

    (Speaking of people who don’t live in a country insisting that they know better than the natives: I will never forget the time I was told by an otherwise-remarkably-savvy Greek that ‘people don’t use public transportation in the U.S. because it’s completely unreliable’. I think my mouth may have literally dropped open! He was basing his absurd statement on a recent visit where he heard or witnessed who knows what, and yet as I remember telling him, I used to commute into the center of San Francisco using no less than three types of public transportation each day (bus to underground to tram) and they were SO timely and well-run that I could set my watch to them!)

    Of course that bit of cultural color-blindness is essentially harmless: what you describe is quite the opposite.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      thank you for sharing, anna! i think that in american cities, the public transportation systems are so beautifully organized, and i envy that, having grown up in a part of the country where public transportation is nonexistent because the towns are just too small. i can only hope the up-and-coming riyadh metro is run as well! i always wish that america (well, and saudi arabia, too) had a good train system, like europe’s. did your greek friend try to use the amtrak trains in the midwest, perhaps? i adore taking trains and i often took amtrak from manhattan, kansas to st. louis, but the trains were almost never on time. ha! once i convinced mr. mostafa to take the train with me to st. louis instead of driving, and the trains were so off that we missed our connecting train in kansas city and ended up on a greyhound bus to st. louis…he was like, “how is this better than driving again?” 😉

  • Risi

    There is really no excuse for the press getting things wrong. For any state visit to any country the high muckety-mucks of protocol from both nations put their heads together and work out what will and will not be done. It isn’t rocket science and there is usually someone readily available to answer questions as to why things are done the way they are. Some of what I read was just lazy, irresponsible journalism. Printing a simple explanation of appropriate cultural behavior goes a long way towards reducing those ignorant comments. Some folks are beyond help, of course, but for most it can be educational. Too bad about those missed opportunities.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      “some of what i read was just lazy, irresponsible journalism.”<--that's exactly how i felt about much of it, risi. i was like, "shoot, i never went to journalism school, but i could do better than this!"

  • Jana

    That is so interesting to me that so many Americans insist they’re correct about cultural myths. Especially when it comes to terrible things. It’s like you said, who really wants to be right about that? So strange! Thanks for sharing this! I always love your posts about cultural misconceptions. They’re really interesting to me and they’ve definitely cleared up a few things I was thinking incorrectly. :)

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      thank you so much, jana! :)

  • http://beertimewithwagner.wordpress.com Jordan Beck Wagner

    Every time you write a new blog post, I’m literally hanging on to every word. I’m an American now living in Germany (who has previously lived in London and will be moving to Croatia and Bulgaria in the near future). Because I’m studying international relations and because of the US’s relationship with Saudi Arabia (and the importance of it), this was just such a fascinating post for me! Thank you thank you thank you for educating the world just a bit more : )

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      awwww, your comment made me smile! thank you, jordan! <3

  • Juliana

    The American media does blow certain things out of proportion. However, I’ve lived in Spain and have visited Europe several times. From my perspective the Europeans had an unusual obsession with American news. American news would lead, followed by EU news then the country news. It seemed like the European media spent more time talking about our problems than their own. From 1999-2000, my parents, who live in Mississippi, hosted a German exchange student, a very sweet girl who had been improperly educated on life in our state. She expected to see crosses burning in our front yards and for everyone to be tanned because it’s so much hotter in Mississippi than in Germany. She was pleasantly surprised to see it’s not like that and she came to enjoy country life, too.

    Back to Nicole’s point about Michelle’s uncovered head, the media’s obsession was plain silly. I’m not so sure that most Americans want to believe something bad about somebody. If they do, well, then I think that’s proof that folks are too into tabloid news. But that’s a cultural generalization I find hard to make. I do believe many Americans have led a very isolated life from the rest of the world, not because they choose to but due to the sheer size of our country and it’s location on the globe, most of us can’t just get in a car, cross a border, hear another language and observe another culture. We can see subtleties in different communities in larger cities. But I know you understand, Nicole, that’s it’s just not the same as actually living in another country for which many Americans simply out of lack of need will never do.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      hi, juliana! i’m glad to know your parents’ exchange student guest was pleased to find out she was wrong about america. we had an exchange student in our tiny town when i was in high school (he was from brazil), and i think he was rather disappointed with the america he encountered, lol, having grown up on baywatch and such! 😉

      i don’t necessarily believe that all americans want to believe bad things about other people; rather, i think it stems from our earliest education. from a young age, we’re taught that america is the best. everyone would be american if they could. we are lucky to be american. america is so wonderful, it’s the only country where people are rushing the borders to get in (i’ve heard this lots of times, but the father of one of my longtime friends–i’ve known her since high school–just told me this on facebook not long ago). we’re also taught that america has an Enemy. even in the past 30 years, i can never remember a time when america did not have an Enemy. the Enemy hates us for our freedom. the Enemy wants to see america fall. and nowadays, the Enemy is in the middle east. the Enemy is violent and barbaric and we are not. even though saudi arabia is technically a political ally of the united states, for many americans, saudi arabia fits into the middle eastern Enemy narrative. and so when people are faced with the reality that no, not everyone would be american if they could, and no, the Enemy is not an entire culture, it really messes with their heads. because if this isn’t true, as we’ve always been told, then what else isn’t true? and who are we, as americans, if not the best at everything, the shining cultural ideal to which every other country aspires? also, i think that for many people, it’s uncomfortable to find out that the people that you had previously considered so incorrigibly villainous might actually be, you know, people a lot like you. it’s uncomfortable when the Enemy can’t be easily dehumanized, because once that’s taken away, it becomes much, much more difficult for our consciences to square all of the awful things america has been funding, if not openly doing, in this region (the invasion of iraq, drones in yemen, isis funding in syria, etc.). but in general, i don’t think that americans are so unwilling to have benign cultural ideas challenged and corrected.

      • Juliana

        Oh, dear, how many exchange students have been disappointed because of Baywatch?! I lived in Central America as an exchange student many years ago. My host brother, while watching Baywatch, asked me if America was like the show. I had to disappoint him. He also took offense to me referring to my country as America. I had to tell him that there’s no such word as United Stateser or United Statesian as there is in Spanish and that, yes, America, is part of the official name of the country. Once while living in Europe, a coworker called me – a Southerner – a Yankee. Oh, the horror! I looked at my boss who was raised in Georgia. He smiled. I then told my coworker that I’d never been called that and left it at that. :)

        Do you mind if I elaborate a little? I’ve been a long time reader but never a commenter until this weekend. At different times in American history, the word enemy obviously meant different things. During WWII, the Axis powers were obvious enemies. During the Cold War, it was obvious that communism was at odds with a free market so all nations that were communists and had arms were enemies. Now, who is this “enemy” who flew planes into our twin towers and our Pentagon? Who is this enemy who convinces young American immigrants to flee the safety of their homes and fight with ISIS? It’s true that it does mess with one’s head because it’s an ideology not a nation that killed 2,996 people on 9/11 and is still killing people in Nigeria, Syria and Iraq, for example. Not all of us socially and fiscally conservative people wanted to invade Iraq nor do we want our soldiers to rape anyone just like Jordan didn’t want their soldier burned alive. Many of us, especially those of a more libertarian leaning, want to leave others alone as much as possible. And, for those of us who understood ISIS before apparently our government did, we did not want to fund them. I’m sorry that you don’t encounter enough people like me….hahahahahaha!

        I think each of us must look mercifully and prayerfully at our neighbor and try to understand his/her position. For rural Americans who only know black and white (literally black people and white people who are all of their faith) and who are coming to know Mexicans who are also of their faith, it can be hard for them to accept racial and linguistic changes. Change takes time. As a former rural now urban person, I’ve adapted to living in a neighborhood with folks from every continent except, of course, Antarctica and don’t feel threatened by hearing other languages, by seeing saris, by seeing veils, etc. :) I am Eastern Orthodox Christian. If you were still living here and still Catholic and walked into my church you would wonder what country you were in. We pray in English, Greek, Russian, and Romanian. Some of our women wear headscarves and we fast for literally half the year. Very few Protestant Christians whom I’ve encountered in the South have been educated on the Middle East, its various cultures, its history, its languages, its beauty. Some truly do assume Israel is always right and the rest be damned unless they embrace democracy. That is unfortunate. My patriarch lives in Damascus. I pray for everyone in that region and contribute to the assembly of relief kits to be sent to the Middle East through IOCC. If you would like to help with that, the website is http://www.iocc.org. They distribute kits only, no evangelizing. I pray that my Protestant friends would realize that there are Christians and Muslims in those ancient lands who’d like to live peacefully and freely and not have a bomb dropped on them or be invaded by anyone.

        Statistically speaking I have no proof that America is not the most desired place of residence for foreigners who desire to improve their circumstances. I’ve read that there are 12 million illegal aliens currently residing in the US and many who cross daily, some sent back and some not. Regarding visas issued to immigrants, that tally comes up to over 470,000 for 2013 not including Mexican nationals non-immigrants for whom the total is about 1.3 million. Another 7-8 million visas for admission to the US were issued in 2013 for non-immigrant, non-Mexican nationals. For me, it’s not a matter of who has said what but what do the available statistics prove. Perhaps people in a sense are rushing the borders to get in (sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally). Was your friend’s father on FB perhaps referring to the stats that he knows or is it just a preconceived notion of his that America is better than everyone else no matter what? It is true that there are Americans who see their country as the best no matter what and perhaps Americans believe that in general more than others about their own countries. But, what causes that belief? How does the media affect it? We do live geographically isolated from many nations. America does have the infrastructure to live more independently than other smaller countries, most especially when it comes to food. It isn’t necessary to do so much direct importing from China all in the name of cheap goods at big box retailers. I think that’s where Americans may confuse freedom with the ability to consume as much as they want. I think it’s a consumerist attitude that drives this arrogance you’re referring to more than anything else. Most people here are comfortable and that, no doubt, can contribute to arrogance and unfortunately a lack of interest in anything more than one’s TV shows and shopping. Most of our poor don’t come anywhere close to resembling those who are truly materially poor, to those who have very little to eat and don’t have access to government or charitable assistance.

        So, to wrap it up, I understand that your blog is a blog about the things you enjoy and the things that frustrate you. You mentioned enemy a lot in your response to my original comment. That’s frustrating because in casual conversation with the average American that word doesn’t come up. But, I digress unless I end up in an emotional diatribe from which I try to distance myself. Having been a retail analyst for over fourteen years it’s the facts I try to look at. And, the facts tell me that governments rarely represent their citizens well. Most people are not warring. Most want to live in peace.

        May our good God inspire each of us to pray unceasingly for our neighbors and ourselves, to love our neighbors more than we criticize them and to give unselfishly to all who have needs. I hope and I pray that my above statements will be received with all the humility and kindness with which they have been sent.

        • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

          hi, juliana. thanks for your elaboration. my friend’s father was not referring to stats; in fact, he was provided with stats that disproved his theory. like many/most americans, he was just raised in a cloud of “america is the best”–i know i certainly was. like i said, for many, it’s hard to let go of that.

          in terms of the word “enemy,” you’re right that it has meant different things in the course of america’s history, and that is exactly my point–we always have to have an enemy. it unites us…well, except for the people it excludes. there is no better way to unite the people behind dubious foreign and domestic policy than establishing an enemy…even hermann goering understood that. you’re probably right that “in casual conversation with the average american that word doesn’t come up,” but that’s just semantics, and if the conversation became less “casual,” i think you’d find that the word “enemy” would come up quite a lot. and just because that specific word isn’t used, doesn’t mean the sentiment doesn’t still exist. quite frankly, “casual conversations” don’t necessarily give way to this sort of discussion, but the ugliness is there. for example, just a few days ago, my mom went into the break room at work to see the custodian, a man she’s always been friendly with, sitting at one of the tables, eating his lunch and watching the news. my mom sat down and started eating her own lunch, and the custodian said to her something along the lines of, “we have to do something about these muslims. they would kill us all if they could.”

          my mom replied, “oh, i don’t think so. my daughter is muslim.”

          the man said, “is she violent?”

          my mom assured the man that no, her daughter isn’t violent. then she left the room. now, the word “enemy” never came up in this conversation, but i think any rational person would be hard pressed to argue that the sentiment wasn’t there. i disagree with a lot more in your comment, but we can agree to disagree on those things, lest i end up in an emotional diatribe of my own (well, aside from the ones already posted here, ha!). :)

          i also think that you’re spot-on when you say that governments rarely represent their citizens well. you made an important point when you pointed out that as a fiscal and social conservative, you didn’t want to invade iraq, and you didn’t want young boys raped in front of their mothers (i’m assuming that’s what you’re referring to when you mentioned rape, since i posted a link about it earlier), and you didn’t want any of those other things that have caused great pain to people in various countries. i would never, ever assume that you did. i would also never assume that people of another faith/ethnicity/nationality largely feel positively about atrocities committed in their name. but i think that’s something that many americans–and american media–have a hard time understanding when it comes to others. because…ENEMY.

      • Risi

        If exchange students ever stayed on reservations, in barrios, and African-American neighborhoods in Oakland and Watts they would get another “educational “opportunity. And another vision of the other ” Americas”.

        • Risi

          If the German exchange student stayed with me, I could take her to the very spot where a native woman was dragged out of her car and had the crap beat out of her by Neo-Nazis recently. The conservative white judge wasn’t going to classify it as a hate crime until the native community pushed it. Wonder how that story would go down in Germany these days.

          • Juliana

            Dear Risi,
            I’m sorry this happened to that woman. I’ve read of several stories over the last few years of unsuspecting people being assaulted by strangers, most especially black on white and black on Jewish violence. Forgive me if I’m not aware of all the cases. May justice be served and may cold hearts repent and be filled with compassion for their neighbor. I wish you all good things, Risi. Really, I do.

            By the way, you’re absolutely right about the irresponsible journalism on the part of the Obama visit.

            With much love and sincerity,

        • Juliana

          Dear Risi,
          Not all Indians choose to live on reservations; my great, great, great grandmother did not. Not all barrios are dangerous nor are all Hispanics impoverished. I’ve worked with many middle class Hispanics who live in mixed neighborhoods. I drive through a barrio often. Not sure why I shouldn’t show it to an exchange student. As far as African-American neighborhoods are concerned, I live in a majority African-American city run mostly by African Americans. We have our problems like any city but we also have good things, too, and a lot of good people of all races and religions.

          • Risi

            Hi, Juliana,
            Thanks for the good feelings,but I’m talking about the experience of this concept ” America” by a good deal of its minority and and ( increasing numbers of )poor people. I think most exchange programs, due to the nature of what is needed, of course self-select for households that can support an extra mouth and bed. I can’t, for instance. I don’t know that stats, so could be wrong…but when I look at the host families on websites they mostly ( actually all I’ve looked at)appear to be Caucasian.
            I agree there are good people everywhere,but that’s still not what my post was about. It was about foreign students getting a truncated view of America basically skewed through a white , middle class lense. I think you can see how this would be problematic. My child could go to visit her friend in Qatar and live in her four storey house with a glass elevator then come home thinking everyone in Qatar has a peachy life and Qatar is just the best place ever….if she never saw the workers neighborhoods. That’s a part of the story, too. A big part.

            Sure, there is African-American violence on other peoples as well as black-on-black violence. But minorities are abused by the dominant culture’s people and forces every day…most of it doesn’t make the news so there’s no way you could find out about it even with the best of intentions. The incident I related to you is one of a great many in this region. But it seems if it doesn’t happen to white folks…it doesn’t happen at all most of the time.
            How much time do you spend on the reservations? Some are doing alright depending on a few factors. Too many are like third world countries. Many natives can’t ” choose” to live on their reservations even if they want to in order to preserve the cultures and languages of their nations for several major reasons…often because there are few jobs and/or most of the land for housing, etc. has been taken by settlers, often in direct violation of treaty right which had the effect of federal law ( Your “great, great, etc. grandmother “, whoever she was,aside…depending on tribe and era, she might not have had a Rez to be “put on established yet). Some of ours didn’t.
            I didn’t say all Latinos were impoverished or all barrios “dangerous”.
            (Again, not my point.)
            Most, if not all, barrios are poor though.
            I’ve never been in one NOT heavily patrolled / harassed by the police.
            That’s the ” dangerous” I was referring to,for the purpose of my post.
            In them, in our experience,the brown kids of any ethnicity, including native kids, including mine and those of my relatives, are often , among worse things,put up against the wall all the time for no reason and often their backpacks and personal effects gone through right there in the street. Really hard for a young brown school girls walking home from class to be lined up, backpacks opened, and pencils, money, and sanitary pads to be tossed out there for all to see. Still not as bad,though, as the cop who cruises up and harasses your 16 year old niece on the daily by threatening to “get your boyfriend for statutory rape” ( they haven’t had sex) because he doesn’t like the kid …he’s a young activist. Seems that graduating from high school, getting a native scholarship to college, and managing to avoid being in, dressing like, or acting like, a gang member ( we don’t even have a major gang problem around here) doesn’t save my son from being cornered ,put up on the wall, and questioned for the crime of walking down the street.” being native in public” his then-girlfriend said. Or being followed by the police with them reminding him ” We’ve got our eyes on you!” And, of course, these are just, again, a few things of the things that go on here ad nauseum and generationally.
            ( This is in addition to the online and in-person death threats, obscene notes put in books or scrawled across the covers, insults as well as bottles and cans thrown out of cars at them,etc.etc. perpetrated by the non-police general population. My personal fav is when I decided to help out at a church bazaar…I didn’t belong to the church but did it as a favor and one big guy came up and yelled at me in front of the whole crowd ” F*ck you Indians! You drop down and suck my d*ck! ” and kept on like that for a good long time whilst I attempted to ignore him. Neither the people,the pastor, nor the police there did a thing about it. Cured me from going to church,though.)
            I AM happy you are open to your exchange students seeing something like that. Like I said, education is key.
            You may live in a ” mixed neighborhood” in a “majority African-American city”. Do you live in an African-American neighborhood? Especially a poor one…or spend time there? Do you feel you have the same experiences vis-a-vis the ” American culture” that they do? ( Not rhetorical…for all I know you could live there and feel that way)
            I live in a mixed town,too. Black man in the White House notwithstanding…The POC get treated differently than the whites …consistently.
            I don’t know if exchange students get to see that too much. Glad you are willing to help by letting them witness that.

  • https://anamimneskein.wordpress.com Ammenika

    I feel like this post needs to have a big disclaimer that states that this is what life is like in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is a major city as well as the capital of the country. People are used to diversity there and have come to accept it. Jeddah is the same way. It is one of the most liberal cities in KSA and people are very open minded there. However, the author is doing her own media exaggeration and embellishment. Not every town in KSA is like Riyadh and there are still many places in KSA that are not as open minded and accepting. Comparing life in Riyadh to life in Al Jawf is much like comparing life in Las Vegas to life in the Ozarks of Missouri. It is completely different. Women do not walk around with their heads uncovered there. The reason people and the media get confused is because there are the laws and then there are the unwritten rules in KSA. Technically, there is no law saying women can’t drive here but we all know women are not allowed. In Al Jawf, people are not accustomed to seeing people defying the unwritten dress code of covering your head. They are not as open to the idea. I wouldn’t recommend any woman to do it there. You will make yourself a visible target of more than just stares. Saudis are more lenient on older women like the author’s mother. They don’t enforce the unwritten dress code on them nearly as much as they do on younger more desirable women. It is insulting but true. I’m sorry. I am not an American diplomat. I don’t feel confident walking around in Al Jawf as a younger woman with my head uncovered and expect not to get harassed.
    The same can be said about the States. The country isn’t nearly as Islamophobic as the author suggests. Some places are very open. You can walk around in hijab and no one cares. When I did it, no one even noticed and I got compliments. However, some places in the States like rural Missouri are extremely narrow minded and safety would be a concern.
    I think the author should check her Muslim privilege. Just because she is unaware of the intolerance of Saudis, it doesn’t mean it does not exist. I see it. I agree it is not the majority of people but it is also not some small immeasurable minority. There is a statistical significant amount of people there who don’t take kindly to people breaking the unwritten cultural rules of the country. My suggestion to the women who might visit KSA one day is to check the local customs of whatever town you are visiting in KSA before you arrive.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      i have a few thoughts about this comment.

      1. i am “the author,” and you’re commenting on my blog, so you can address me directly.
      2. it’s interesting that you would tell me to “check my muslim privilege,” since saudis here in “the las vegas of saudi arabia” regularly ask me if i’m muslim, because i’m not saudi and i don’t cover my face.
      3. i never suggested that it’s always easy or simple to walk around with one’s head uncovered in every place in saudi arabia. the only way in which your parallel would be valid is if saudi media were regularly propagating the utter falsehood that women in the united states are forbidden from appearing in public with their heads (or faces) covered in the states, and excusing it by saying, “well, you can’t blame us for getting confused, because there is no law forbidding it, but there are unwritten rules in america!”
      5. i never said that saudi intolerance doesn’t exist (what a ludicrous suggestion), and the idea that i am unaware of the intolerance of saudis is a pretty major assumption. granted, i will never be aware of it in the same way that a saudi/native arabic speaker will be, but it’s a jump to suggest that i’m completely unaware of it. and just as i have never said that saudi intolerance does not exist, i have never said that america is straight up islamophobic in every corner. however, like in saudi arabia, the islamophobic portion of america is “not the majority of people but it is also not some small immeasurable minority.” i have experienced both.
      4. in fact, you are supporting the entire point of my post (and it could be argued, my entire blog), which is that folks in saudi arabia are a whole lot like people in america in many ways, although that’s certainly not what you’ll get by watching the american news.

      • https://anamimneskein.wordpress.com Ammenika

        I didn’t address you because my post wasn’t about you. It was toward women who might go to KSA one day. They need to know there are the unwritten rules and the law which often conflict with one another. It is very confusing. Reading your post heavily suggests women can walk around anywhere in KSA with their hair flapping in the breeze and the worst that will happen is a few stares. Many places in KSA would not accept it. I did agree with your post. I wasn’t trying to argue. I was just adding another perspective. Nonmuslims feel very different about it. And yes I have heard Saudis call Riyadh and Jeddah the “Las Vegas” of KSA.

        • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

          with statements like, “i think the author should check her muslim privilege,” it’s difficult to make the argument that “my post wasn’t about you.” your comment was insulting (you admitted that much yourself) and rude.

          • Anna

            If it’s any help, ladies, some of us didn’t even get the ‘check her Muslim privilege’ comment :-)

            Seriously, though, Ammenika, there are unwritten rules in every society, aren’t there? And judging from my own ex-pat experience (here in Greece) in conjunction with what you and Nicole write, the more rural the area, the more conservative the unwritten rules are likely to be.

            We live in Athens where my teenage daughter was permitted certain behaviors and dress that we forbid in our island village. No, none were illegal, of course, and yet they would have ‘set tongues wagging’ without doubt, and we would have been naive to believe those tongues couldn’t affect her overall reputation in that village. She didn’t understand, then, especially because there were precious few similar rules forced upon her brother. But now, five or six years later, she does.

            Being oblivious to the presence and the power of unwritten cultural norms is a sign of youth or just general naivete. Being oblivious to the fact that those norms can differ hugely between cultures — and sub-cultures — is usually a sign of not being well-traveled or of not having crossed the threshold of your own comfort zone at home. Youth cures itself :-) and having your eyes opened to cultural differences and learning to respect them is a matter of experiencing different thing and people with your eyes and heart open — with people like Nicole offering some helpful shortcuts to insight if you’re lucky.

            So no need for Nicole to put a disclaimer on her viewpoint — it’s every bit as valid as one coming from a more conservative corner of the Kingdom. Even if women visiting KSA (or elsewhere) aren’t 100% prepared for what they’ll find (and how could they be?) never mind, they’ll figure it out soon enough once they get there if they have half a brain. I did, others do, even if as I’ve often said, it’s not a graceful or a pretty process :-). What doesn’t kill you, cures you!

        • https://anamimneskein.wordpress.com Ammenika

          For someone who throws around white privilege at people, you seem rather offended by the remark you do to many times to others. Yes, muslim privelege exists in KSA. Nonmuslims do not get the same benefits and kind treatment. From my perspective, the religious intolerance in KSA is vastly worse compared to the U.S. My country doesn’t arrest nonmuslims for praying inside their homes. The Saudi government hires and pays people to go around and enforce unwritten rules (rules based on extreme religious interpretation) onto people. This goes beyond normal culture norms and falls more into government control. For a nonmuslim, it is more than just a inconvenience. It is oppression. Again, America has issues too. I can admit it. I just don’t understand why get so defensive about vast human right abuses in KSA every time someone shows criticism. Why always deflect the topic with stuff the States does?

          • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

            as an american, i don’t go to other countries and cry oppression precisely because i am aware of my privilege and the power dynamics behind it. in the context that you’re trying to use it, i don’t think ‘privilege’ means what you think it means.

          • http://gravatar.com/habeeta Ammenika

            The sociological definition of privilege is that some groups of people have advantages relative to other groups. In KSA, Muslims are awarded certain unfair benefits that nonmuslims are not. Nonmuslims cannot freely practice their religion like Muslims can among numerous other things. Contrary to Saudi doctrine, which directly contradicts Islam, the region was not a land solely created only for Muslims. It was never the history of Saudi Arabia nor the norm prior to the Saud regime. The area was deeming with religious diversity until the Saud regime came in and religiously cleansed the area of all religions outside of Islam. Before the foundation of the Saud regime, many pagan, Christian and Jewish tribes existed on the peninsula which were wiped out completely through unfair social inequalities of the Saud regime that are still implemented today. One can simply look at Islamic history to see the truth in this. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) allowed Christians to pray in his mosque and he swore to protect the churches and religious practices of Christians till the end of time. The ruins of churches still lie in KSA. This is government oppression and not normal cultural attributes. To deny it as such is just hypocrisy. I don’t deny my government’s oppression so I am not going to deny it when it happens by another country. It is not acceptable no matter how much one tries to deflect it.

          • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

            no one is deflecting, claiming oppression is a “normal cultural attribute,” or denying the history of saudi arabia. you’re grasping. :) and your understanding of privilege is simplistic and denies a much larger historical and sociopolitical context.

          • https://anamimneskein.wordpress.com Ammenika

            White people are not subjected to social inequalities that black people are in the U.S. Same thing in KSA. Muslims get better social treatment than nonmuslims. It is painfully obvious. Why do you think people ask you if you are Muslim? If it really didn’t matter, random people wouldn’t ask. Intolerant people in every country will speak their mind to you. However, KSA government reinforces its intolerance. It is not against the law to walk around with your head uncovered but the government pays people to walk around and harass people to cover their head. You may think it is not a big deal or a minor inconvenience but to many others it is especially when it is not against the law. This harassment still happens even in Riyadh. It goes way beyond bigoted civilians in a remote village. It is government sanctioned bigotry. If it was the U.S. doing such a thing, you would throw a bigger fit about it. Anytime a criticism is made about ksa, your response is, “Well, the U.S. does this and that…” That is deflection. Ignoring the issue all together.

          • http://gravatar.com/habeeta Ammenika

            What is interesting is you adamantly say I am misunderstanding the concept of “privelege” but never expanded what these historical sociopolitical aspects are that I am misunderstanding. What I know is for the past 82 years since the founding of KSA, Nonmuslim Arabs as well as foreign nationals living in that region have have not been allowed to freely practice their religion which is their God given right even in Islam that KSA claims to follow but often makes rules that directly contradict Islam. Nonmuslim tribes have lived in that region long before the founding of KSA but now they can’t practice their religion like they have been doing for centuries because the Saud regime and majority of Saudis state you can’t. Just last summer in the Saudi news it was reported that a group of Christians were arrested by the Haia and Saudi police forces for the crime of praying in the privacy of one of the member’s home. The Christians were ratted out by a nosey Saudi neighbor who didn’t like that a group of Christians were praying together. In KSA, if a group of Christians pray together in a home, it is considered a church and therefore against Saudi law even though Saudi law technically states Christians can freely worship privately. This is the contradiction of Saudi law versus unwritten Saudi rules that runs rampant in KSA. It goes way beyond cultural norms and falls into the realm of government oppression and oppression of the majority group over the minority group. That is the very social justice perspective of “privilege.” Since the founding of the country, Saudis are not even allowed to freely chose their religion. They are born into Islam and never given much choice to chose a religion outside of Islam or none at all. I know Saudis who admit to not even being Muslim but are afraid to openly express it out of fear of being punished by the government for apostate. This is oppression. Not some arrogant American misconception of the culture. I feel bad for nonmuslims here. I freely acknowledge that nonmuslims are given unfair treatment here and I have certain privileges here that they don’t. Just like I can admit the U.S. gives certain privileges to some groups over others. For someone who claims to be about social justice, you seems to give little acknowledgement or forethought to the plight of nonmuslims in KSA. Even more interesting, it is offensive when I call out the obvious Muslim privilege you have here in KSA that you refuse to acknowledge but yet you don’t think it is offensive to call out other people’s white, male, Christian, etc privilege that people have in the States. Oh the irony….

          • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

            wow, you are making a whole lot of assumptions about me, attributing a whole lot of feelings to me, and putting…a whole lot of words into my mouth. :) i’m not going to unpack your invisible knapsack for you (you can do that work if you care to; google postcolonial theory, cultural studies, and media studies), but i will say that i care very deeply about injustices in every place.

          • Risi

            Well,I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I think both of you seem to be very passionate about social justice issues in the region and globally. So glad there will be folks like you two to carry on when I’m taking a dirt nap.
            I’m personally curious because some of the students from the Middle East at my daughters college are from Iran…not a bastion of civil and human rights either, but the kids ( all Muslim) are used to diversity…living with Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians because they say that those are technically “protected “groups there. One group of Christians was getting harassed by some hard-liner Muslims in the town one kid was from… so ,according to him,the Christians went to the authorities to claim their rights of protection under Islam…and got results. The local law enforcement made sure the Christians weren’t bothered again. Now there’s a story you don’t hear in the West.
            Maybe the Arabian region was once like that?

  • Juliana

    Dear Risi,
    Would you happen to have the news article about this Native American woman? I searched for it but I guess I don’t have enough specifics. Would you happen to know if a gofundme or youcaring page was set up to help with her recovery?

    I really can’t say how such a story would be received in Germany. Our exchange student, a tall, beautiful blonde, dated both white and black boys.


  • Risi

    Thank you…due to her youth, I will honor her request for privacy. However, here is almost a carbon copy attack from California. Didn’t get a lot of press,either, but some native publications picked it up and this one is in my files from a couple of them.
    Happened about four years ago.

    CLOVIS, Calif. – On June 14th, also known as Flag Day, Patty Dawson dropped her Apache uncle off at the Fresno train station after a family visit, and headed for home around 2:30 p.m.

    What happened next she will never forget.

    Dawson, who is Navajo and San Carlos Apache, said she was at a stop sign in the small town of Clovis when a car behind her bumped into her lightly. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw three people in the car, and decided to keep going.

    As she continued down the two-lane highway, the car behind her sped up alongside her and tried to force her off the road. Dawson said she tried to evade them, but the car then tried passing her on the right dirt shoulder of the road, forcing her into the oncoming traffic lane.

    Fearful of their intentions, Dawson headed for the next business she saw, an Arco station with people in the parking lot where she thought she’d be safe.

    Before she could get out of her car, she was attacked by one of three people, who she described as “skinheads,” that had followed her into the parking lot.

    Witnesses told police they saw a white woman and two men with swastika tattoos and shaved heads kick and beat Dawson, leaving her unconscious and bleeding in the parking lot.

    Dawson, a mother of a young family, said all she remembers is a woman covered in tattoos spitting on her, then hitting her so hard she blacked out. Two men – one with a swastika tattoo on his face and the other with a shaved head – joined in the beating, but it was mainly the woman attacking her, according to witness statements to the local police.

    Cindy Dawson, the victim’s sister, said Patty woke up in a Fresno emergency room, in shock and pain, and unable to remember her name.

    “She had a broken nose and a concussion when she was released,” said Cindy. “I don’t think they should have let her go without a thorough exam. I think she also had a broken rib, and now she may have to have surgery for her injuries.”

    Cindy Dawson also said her sister is having a hard time coping with the trauma of an inexplicable and random attack. “She has no idea why anyone would do this to her, and she’s trying to recover from her injuries.”

    Because of a lack of federal funding to Indian Health Service facilities, Dawson was told that if her injuries required rehabilitation or surgery, she would have to travel to the nearest IHS facility in Phoenix, Arizona for medical care.

    “My sister is a kind and quiet person who did nothing to deserve this,” said Cindy. The family has no insurance, so treatment for trauma or counseling is out of reach, and she worries how this will affect them in the long term.

    “Her head injuries are still causing vomiting and other problems, and there’s damage to her upper cheek. The doctor told my sister she’s not to be working and she was the sole source of income for her family. We’re still waiting to hear from victim’s services to see if we can get some assistance.”

    She speculated that ongoing racial tensions and “deep-rooted hatred for Indian people” in the region was part of the motive for the attack on her sister.

    The family has been concerned that they were not getting a response from local police, despite repeated calls by family and community members.

    “My dad and I started contacting people because we couldn’t believe something like this could happen without being noticed. People need to be aware of this, and the fact that no one was punished,” said Cindy.

    Messages at the Clovis Sheriff’s Department for the detective assigned to the case, but calls were not returned. Another staff member said he was on vacation.

    “Detective Tuscano from the Sheriff’s Department assured my sister that they will find the people who did this to her,” said Cindy. “I’m told they may know who the assailants are because witnesses reported the license plate number.”

    In the meantime, the family is trying to get on with life and seeking treatment for Patty’s physical and emotional trauma.

    • Juliana

      Thank you for the info, Risi. I found some general information about the fund.

      I can’t even begin to comprehend all of your experiences nor do I have control or input over where exchange students are sent to live or the experiences they are granted by their host families. Are you desiring that they are sent to more minority neighborhoods? Is there a way for you to push for that? Have you hosted an exchange student? You don’t have to answer. There’s no way possible I could feel I have the same experience as the Chinese couple to my south, the son of Syrian immigrants to my north, the black policeman and policewoman to my west or the African-Americans to my east or even the white guy right beside me who couldn’t afford to keep his house. I would not expect you to have my experiences as a Southerner. I acknowledge that almost everyone experiences racism and that some groups experience it more than others but not everyone experiences discrimination and brutality.

      Risi, I can tell you want everyone to see the struggles in Native American communities and in all minorities’ communities. Is there a constructive way to get your concerns out there and highlight the communities you want people to know more about? Again, you don’t have to answer. Look at Nicole! Just a blog and look at the most interesting off-topic conversation we’ve been having! I think all of us have mostly agreed with each other in the comments but we’ve gotten there in different ways. God bless you and your daughter!

  • Risi

    Wow, are we off-topic. Sorry, Nicole.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      carry on, risi…don’t apologize. these are important conversations.

  • Risi

    Nah, not. Just got back from a major intertribal gathering on some issues facing the native nations and Juliana likely isn’t part of the problem. No need to dump on her. Just touchy tonight. Will PM you.

    • Juliana

      Oh, dear, Risi, I hope I’m not part of the problem! You are a very interesting lady. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a conversation with someone who has just returned from an inter-tribal gathering.

  • Juliana

    Thank you, Nicole, for elaborating on things I too often forget. I’m glad you sent me the link on net migration rate. I couldn’t get that blasted phrase to pop up in my head last night. I don’t doubt for one minute that such a sad encounter happened to your mom. I’m glad that we have conversed politely. Too often comment sections are used to ridicule and bully people. I understand what you mean by semantics. I sense these things and sometimes try to gently correct others who are mistaken about cultural things that might hurt others or give credence to the idea of an enemy. I worked mostly with Mexicans for fourteen years. I’m well aware of many Southerners who feel threatened by them like they’re some enemy, too. And, I totally understand more than I did years ago that many folks perceive all Muslims as the enemy. Since becoming Eastern Orthodox several years ago I’ve met Syrian refugees within my own parish who fled after being kicked out of their homes thus the reason I mentioned the IOCC relief kits for people who desire to add acts of charity to their words. I totally get the dubious foreign policy and wish the world had never heard the word ISIS.

    • http://thesamerainbowsend.com Nicole

      thank you very much for being able to have these conversations in a respectful way with both me and risi, juliana! <3