They Called Me a “Spic”

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Over the past week, my friends and I have been playing on a new roller hockey court that isn’t too far from my house.  Prior to that, we’ve been playing on a relatively unused basketball court (pictured above) for months, which has been fun for recreational hockey/pick-up games, but we really wanted to play on a better surface and actually use a puck instead of a ball.

We finally found a roller hockey court where a good number of people play at.  Although competitive, no one plays a rough game, there are people of all ages, and unsurprisingly, everyone is White.  Except for me (also pictured above) and my brother.  Being the only person of color at a hockey court isn’t something new to me.  When I played for an in-line roller hockey league in high school, I found myself getting self-conscious about it when people, including my teammates, would poke fun at my first and last name.  I remember one time, a couple of kids I played hockey with called me a “a stupid Afghanistanian” when I was carrying my hockey gear off the court.

I find myself operating under White gaze a lot, if not always, especially when I’m playing hockey with people I don’t know.  I can’t help but think about how they perceive me, a brown-skinned man, playing a sport that is filled with predominately White athletes (at least here in the United States and with what we see in the NHL).  If my friends and I are playing hockey on our old basketball court, I don’t feel like I’m going to be judged if I’m wearing my Pakistani cricket jersey or my Egypt and Turkey soccer shirts.  I don’t worry about it because I’m playing with my friends — people I know.  But when it comes to going on this new hockey court, I feel that if I wear a jersey that says “Pakistan” on it, people will be gunning for me or treating me in a rude way.

Maybe I’m thinking and assuming way too much, right?  Wrong.  Yesterday, before I went to the new hockey court, I swapped my red Egypt soccer jersey for a red Nautica t-shirt.  I figured, “I don’t want to deal with people giving me smack about my shirt saying ‘Egypt’ or making some stupid racial slur or whatever.”  I got to the court, laced up, and said “hi” and “what’s up” and “how’s it going, man” to all of the people there.  Everyone was friendly, conversational, and pretty much just wanted to have fun.  So far so good, I thought.

Since there were so many people, we played with line changes, and I think I played at least six shifts the entire day.  I ended up doing really well too and scored four goals.  When everyone packed up to leave, my friends and I said “good game” to everyone and that was the end of that.  Fun day, right?  Well, today, my friends and I played at the court again and a friend of mine told me, “Oh man, I have to tell you something.  When you scored your second or third goal yesterday, this kid on the bench said, “f****** spic!”  My friend said he was going to say something, but before he could, someone shouted at him and said, “yo, watch your language!”

It kind of messed up the rest of my day.  I’ve noticed that some people at that court try to play more aggressive against me (as opposed to others), and it could be because I stick-handle really well and they’re just trying to steal the puck from me, but then there’s another part of me thinks it’s because of my skin color.  Playing hockey for a long time in my life means I’m familiar with how the frustration and aggression levels can rise when you’re on the losing team or not performing as well as you would like to.  When you factor in a brown guy scoring most of the goals for the other team, would it be wrong to assume that the frustration could build into a racial slur?

The word choice of the person who delivered the racial slur just shows us even more how racists don’t even know who they hate.  It shows how ignorant, childish, and idiotic they are.  I am familiar with the racial slur, I know it’s directed towards people of Hispanic descent, but since this is the first time I was called it, I decided to run a few online searches just to read about it’s origins and use.   Reading about it just made me angrier and I don’t think it’s appropriate to share that information here.

I don’t care if people mistaken me for another race, there isn’t anything wrong with being Latino, Asian, Arab, or anything else.  What is offensive is when people use racial slurs — there is simply no excuse for it.  It’s offensive, it’s racist, it’s flat-out wrong.  If he thought I was Arab, he would have used another racial slur; if he thought I was South Asian (which is what I am), he would have had a racial slur for that too.  The point I’m trying to illustrate here is that I refused to wear a “team Egypt” soccer jersey for the sake of avoiding ethnic/religious stereotypes, but since I’m brown-skinned, I ended up getting stereotyped anyway.  How do you hide your skin color, right?  Thank God that I don’t wish I could hide my skin color, but what about the people who do wish they could hide their skin color just for the sake of avoiding conflict?  Maybe there are times when I do feel that way.

If there is something positive that came out of this, it’s that it reminded me that people of color face similar struggles.  I would say that most people assume I’m Indian (which is correct and incorrect at the same time, lol), but there have been a few people who mistook me for Latino, Arab, and even Greek.  When I hear a racial slur that is used against other people of color, it not only angers me, but also makes me think about the struggles they experience.  There are so many different stereotypes applied to all of us and they are experiences that we all share.  Most of the time, when I’m sharing some of my experiences with racism with a fellow person of color, I feel comfortable because I feel like they can empathize and understand where I’m coming from.  This person who used that disgusting word may have thought that it was “ok” or “acceptable” to use it, but I doubt he understands how hurtful it is.

I try to stay positive about it all.  At least someone on the bench told him to shut up, right?  Much Love to everyone who has experienced any form of discrimination, hate, or racist bigotry in their lives.  Keep your chin up, friends.

Don Cherry’s Xenophobic Remarks on Ovechkin Should Not Be Tolerated

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Someone needs to call Don Cherry out on his childish xenophobic rants.  Regarded as a legendary ice hockey analyst and Canadian icon, Don Cherry is known for his often inflammatory and controversial remarks, but it seems that the general public recurrently lets his ethnocentric diatribes slide rather than holding him accountable.

For years, Cherry has been characterizing European players as “cowards” for not understanding the “Canadian way” of hockey.  When asked to comment on why he didn’t have any European players on his junior team, he said, “They call me a racist because I don’t want any Europeans coming to play for my Ice Dogs. If a kid comes over here and becomes a Canadian, I’ll put him on in a minute. But I will not parachute him in so that he can grab the money and run.”  Cherry took similar jabs at the dazzling Czech center, Jaromir Jagr, accusing him of being “everything that’s wrong with the NHL.  He gets hit, he goes down and stays there. Get up!”  In the same interview, Cherry compared Jagr to another hockey legend, Tim Horton, a player who, according to Cherry, would stay on the ice and finish his shift even if “blood would be coming down his face.”  Apparently, Cherry thinks only Canadians know how to play “tough.”

So what’s eating at Don Cherry these days?  See number 8 on the Washington Capitals, a remarkably talented Russian left-winger named Alexander Ovechkin. Actually, to say he is “remarkably talented” is an understatement.  The guy is a magician with the puck and arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NHL today.  Playing in his fourth season, Ovechkin not only led the league in goals, but he has also earned his place in the pantheon of hockey superstars.  Cherry’s beef?  Ovechkin’s goal celebrations are too “over-the-top.”  That’s right.  Ovechkin’s enthusiasm is too much for Cherry’s “Canadian” standards.

On CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry complained that Ovechkin was acting like “those goofy soccer guys” by “jumping up and down” after scoring goals.  In pure dogmatic fashion, Cherry pointed at the screen and lectured Canadian kids not to act like Ovechkin.  Instead, he tells kids that they should behave the “Canadian way” and act like Joe Thornton, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla, and Bobby Orr (all Canadian-born players).  I didn’t realize the NHL had a “Canadians only” stamp on it.

What’s more disturbing is how ethnocentric and racist Cherry’s presentation is.  He shows clips of dark-skinned international soccer players jubilantly celebrating on the field, calls them “goofs” and says, “Look at this! This is what we want our hockey players to act with?”  Then he shows clips of Ovechkin’s celebrations and yammers, “Look at this!  Does he not remind you of a soccer player?”  For those who missed it, here is the clip:

Cherry receives plenty of criticism for his remarks, but the problem is not just his unapologetic ego, it’s also how the media and the NHL simply brush off his words as if they don’t generate negative and stereotypical perceptions of European players (or any player who is not from North America).  On the CBC Sports website, Cherry is showcased for his opinionated views, no matter how bigoted or how xenophobic, but the line needs to be drawn somewhere.  Cherry undeniably crossed it right here (and it isn’t the first time either, he once went as far as saying Russian players have “zero heart”).  Not holding him accountable is to ignore the weight of the issue altogether.

Around college campuses and street hockey courts, I hear hockey fans debating about Ovechkin’s exuberant celebrations.  I’ve been watching ice hockey since 1997 when the Philadelphia Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals (and were swept by the Detroit Red Wings), and I’ve never heard this kind of debate before.  It’s no doubt that the “celebration controversy” was generated by Don Cherry’s commentary, but whether people realize it or not, it reinforces this new idea that there is a Canadian/North American “unwritten law” on how hockey players are supposed to celebrate goals.  When Ovechkin scored his 50th goal of the season, Cherry ripped on Ovechkin’s “hot stick” celebration and had these words for the young star, “Have a little class and do it right.”  In other words:  Be Canadian, otherwise you’re “threatening” the “Canadian way” of hockey and aren’t worthy of admiration or praise.  It’s sort of like the Bush administration on ice.

The fact of the matter is that many aspiring hockey players admire Alexander Ovechkin, not because of his nationality, but for his extraordinary display of talent and leadership.  What worries me is how people like Don Cherry want to make Ovechkin’s nationality an issue.  It seems that he wants us to perceive Ovechkin’s style of play as “foreign” and “un-Canadian,” while making us forget the fact that Canadian-born players such as Theoren Fluery, Tiger Williams, Wayne Gretzky, and countless others have also displayed plenty of dramatic celebrations in the past.

Dictating how NHL players should celebrate their goals isn’t so much about hockey than it is about fascism.  Calling all European players “cowards,” accusing them of having no “heart,” and then comparing them with “goofy” dark-skinned soccer players is not about hockey either.  It’s called racism.  If Don Cherry is not held accountable, then what’s to stop him and other sports commentators from making racially charged statements about athletes outside of North America?  What’s to stop the xenophobia and ethnocentrism from spilling out on the ice?  Everyone remembers what happened to that other Don (Imus), right?

It’s funny because amidst all this controversy, whether its Cherry yapping on about the “Canadian” way of hockey or our generation’s hockey fans engaging in superficial debates about goal celebrations, a simple truth lies beneath it all:  Alexander Ovechkin is one of the greatest players to have ever played the game.

Great athletes don’t always have to be North American.

~Broken Mystic~

Deconstructing an Islamophobe

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Over at Beliefnet, there are plenty of Islamophobes who have the nerve to blame Muslims and Islam for what happened to Aasiya Zubair. I saw one comment that just really set me off and I couldn’t help but to respond. His original comment will be posted first, and below that, I will paste my little deconstruction. I hope he reads it so he can see how ignorant he is. Maybe he’ll laugh at himself too :P

Original post by Islamophobe (signed under the name “Me”):

Ah, the irony. I can sympathize with Broken Mystic regarding his fears of prejudice in the U.S. Yet as a Caucasian American citizen, I know the reality of the situation – the U.S. is clearly one of the safest and sanest places in the world for people of any color, ethnicity or religion.

Nearly everywhere else in the world, and certainly in the vast majority of Muslim-dominant countries, I would be threatened with much more than prejudice – how about loss of life and limb? How about jail time, beatings and – if you’re lucky – deportation, for foreigners who unwittingly offend Allah vis-a-vis some local “holy” man’s personal interpretation of Muslim Law?

Sad as it is, prejudice is a fact of life. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – historically speaking – you may face more scrutiny in a given situation than another individual. There is no use in dwelling on this fact and repeatedly whining about how unfair life is. Life IS unfair, to all people, at all times, in one way or another. So, moving on.

I’m glad to see Mr. Poonawalla’s commitment to ending violence, regardless of it’s form or location. I would encourage him – and all Muslim Americans – to prioritize even higher the need to address the incredible amount of violence and destruction caused by followers of his religion worldwide at this point in time. I’m no religious bigot. In fact, I could care less which dogma a person follows as long as it doesn’t interfere with my ability to lead a peaceful, productive life in the manner that I choose.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with most of our major religions at some point, today’s Islam is awash with ignorance, brutality, bigotry, incredibly harsh treatment of women, and a populist movement which seeks to force a particularly nasty strain of the religion on every person worldwide at the point of the sword, the bomb, the bullet, or the stone.

Someday, billions of average everyday people who happen to follow the Prophet but otherwise want nothing more than to lead a peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, will wake up and look around at what they’ve allowed their religion to become. It will happen slowly, in small pockets, and it will happen from within. The destruction, the violence, the outright murder will simply become so overwhelming that even the typical “average” Muslim won’t be able to deal with the guilt and shame any longer.

Neither the U.S. nor any other military power will have much of an effect on this process. In the short-term, in fact, it will likely result in the kind of backlash we’re seeing today but in even larger numbers. But again, all this (the wars, the terrorists, the violence) is simply a sort of window-dressing that provides a backdrop to the ebb and flow of religious struggles throughout the history of mankind. It’s scary to me how few people understand this. Sooner or later (probably later), as any first year history student could predict, the violence will ebb, the pain will lessen, the conflict will cool, and rationality will begin – however slowly – to re-exert its hold on the minds of the many Muslims who are simply too scared, too ignorant, too poor, too beaten down, or whatever to think logically in the face of the insane mutterings of many of the religions current leaders.

So, here’s my appeal to all of you obviously intelligent and thoughtful people out there: forget about the nay-saying, quit the whining, get past the fear, the threats and the knee-jerk one-liners (e.g., “you won’t find other religions doing that” – read a history book AmWiser, they’ve ALL done it in the name of ignorance at one time or another, and we’re just damn lucky that we live in a place and time where our dominant relgions and social constructs don’t allow the insanity to happen here).

Here’s what you can do with all that hot air you’re expending talking about who’s more peaceful, who’s religion is more charitable, less violent, and more open-minded. Take the time and energy used in that dubious venture and direct it towards a productive effort to counteract the status quo.

Write, speak, and otherwise communicate in any way you can to anyone at all that will listen – but most importantly Muslims like Mr. Poonawalla who have influence and the ability to to use it effectively – the message that only Muslims can solve this problem. Only Muslims will change their own “churh”. Encourage them, one and all, to stand up by the billions in the face of the angry, violent and deadly surge of destruction their religion has become, and denounce it in such a way as to leave no one in doubt about their feelings and their intentions.

Every Muslim Man, Woman and Child has the right and the responsibility to cry out against the evil and the bloodshed propogated on the world under the names of Allah and the Prophet. There is no other way, no simpler path, no magic solution and no other process by which Islam can be redirected towards its original objectives – bringing Man And God closer to one another and preparing the mind and soul of Man to sit with His Savior in peace for eternity.

By whatever name one’s god is called, by whatever words have been used to justify a variety of actions that never were or could have possibly been envisioned by that religions prophets, peace and love are the truest and highest callings of our modern religions. It’s just a fact that some would rather ignore this concept to focus on the minutiae of religious laws, contradictory and difficult to understand sayings, and enmity towards one group or another versus dropping their arms (as in rifles) and spending more time in the synagogue, the church, or the mosque.

It’s really so much more demanding of one’s intellect to become educated, to direct one’s life towards a higher level of understanding about one’s religion, neighbors, and world. It actually takes an effort to think critically about what is important and what is not.

And when millions upon millions of one’s fellow believers are spewing forth filth, ignorance and cruelty in the time honored fashion of the morally bankrupt everywhere – it’s more than just difficult to stand up and speak out. It’s very likely to be dangerous, even deadly.

It’s time for every Muslim to make a choice: to take action to move the religion forward towards more enlightment, or let it erode into a barbaric nightmare of hatred and violence that may last for countless generations.

And, it’s time for every American to stand up against violence and ignorance in every way, including bigotry towards the followers of the Prophet, the vast majority of whom simply want to raise their children in peace, teach them justice, and watch them grow into the adults who will inherit all their hopes, dreams and aspirations. If you are NOT a Muslim, your duty in this time and place in history is to help every Muslim you can to facilitate the dream of all of us who live in the world of sanity – to live a peaceful, prosperous and productive life while seeking wisdom and spreading love througout the world.

I’ll end with a quote from an unknown author that seemed appropriate -

Time will soon teach you what you were ignorant of

Response by Broken Mystic:

LOL @ “Me”

You wrote: “I can sympathize regarding fears of prejudice in the U.S. Yet as a Caucasian American citizen, I know the reality of the situation – the U.S. is clearly one of the safest and sanest places in the world for people of any color, ethnicity or religion.”

Translation: “That sucks that you’re afraid of prejudice, but hey, America is the best country in the whole world so it’s best for you to shut your mouth.”

You wrote: “Nearly everywhere else in the world, and certainly in the vast majority of Muslim-dominant countries, I would be threatened with much more than prejudice”

Translation: “So if I see a Muslim getting beat up in a hate crime in the United States, I’ll just pat him on the back and say, ‘hey buddy, Muslim countries discriminate against non-Muslims all the time!’ Can’t help you with this one!”

You wrote: “Sad as it is, prejudice is a fact of life. If you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – historically speaking – you may face more scrutiny in a given situation than another individual.”

Translation: “With wars going on in Muslim countries these days, it just sucks to be you! Sorry Muslims!”

You wrote: “I’m glad to see Mr. Poonawalla’s commitment to ending violence, regardless of it’s form or location. I would encourage him – and all Muslim Americans – to prioritize even higher the need to address the incredible amount of violence and destruction caused by followers of his religion worldwide at this point in time.”

Translation: “This was a nice little blog entry, but since I know EVERYTHING about Muslims despite not visiting Mosques on a weekly basis, I’m pretty darn sure that Muslims don’t prioritize stuff and don’t speak out against violence! I know they don’t speak out because I don’t see it on TV! If its not on TV, it doesn’t happen!”

You wrote: “Unfortunately, as has been the case with most of our major religions at some point, today’s Islam is awash with ignorance, brutality, bigotry, incredibly harsh treatment of women, and a populist movement which seeks to force a particularly nasty strain of the religion on every person worldwide at the point of the sword, the bomb, the bullet, or the stone.”

Translation: “Basically, Islam is a violent religion that promotes brutality, bigotry, oppression of women, and forced conversions. I’m a non-Muslim, so I know everything about Islam!”

You wrote: “Someday, billions of average everyday people who happen to follow the Prophet but otherwise want nothing more than to lead a peaceful coexistence with their neighbors, will wake up and look around at what they’ve allowed their religion to become.”

Translation: “The peaceful majority of Muslims are responsible for atrocious crimes like the murder of Aasiya Hassan and terrorist attacks like 9/11! Even you Muslim kids who just want to play video games and watch “Twilight” — you should be speaking out against terrorism because you’re Muslim!”

You wrote: “The destruction, the violence, the outright murder will simply become so overwhelming that even the typical “average” Muslim won’t be able to deal with the guilt and shame any longer.”

Translation: “Every Muslim should feel guilty and shame for the crimes that other people did.”

You wrote: “Sooner or later (probably later), as any first year history student could predict, the violence will ebb, the pain will lessen, the conflict will cool, and rationality will begin – however slowly – to re-exert its hold on the minds of the many Muslims who are simply too scared, too ignorant, too poor, too beaten down, or whatever to think logically in the face of the insane mutterings of many of the religions current leaders.”

Translation: “In order to get people to think rationally, we need to bomb the hell out of them until the violence dies down. War is good!”

You wrote: “So, here’s my appeal to all of you obviously intelligent and thoughtful people out there: forget about the nay-saying, quit the whining, get past the fear, the threats and the knee-jerk one-liners.”

Translation: “Here’s my appeal to you over-sensitive Muslims: ignore Islamophobia, stop standing up for your civil rights, stop being so paranoid about racial profiling and the patriot act, and don’t call the police if someone threatens to blow up your Mosque or your car. It’s ok, there’s nothing to be afraid of, America is the safest country in the world!”

You wrote: “Here’s what you can do with all that hot air you’re expending talking about who’s more peaceful, who’s religion is more charitable, less violent, and more open-minded.  Take the time and energy used in that dubious venture and direct it towards a productive effort to counteract the status quo.”

Translation: “Anyone who posted something on this blog hasn’t done a single bloody thing. I know because I am God.”

You wrote: “Write, speak, and otherwise communicate in any way you can to anyone at all that will listen – but most importantly Muslims like Mr. Poonawalla who have influence and the ability to to use it effectively – the message that only Muslims can solve this problem.”

Translation: “I insulted your religion and now I’m going to tell you what to do. You should listen to me because I know what’s best for Muslims.”

You wrote: “Every Muslim Man, Woman and Child has the right and the responsibility to cry out against the evil and the bloodshed propogated on the world under the names of Allah and the Prophet.”

Translation: “Again, I reiterate, like a broken record, every single one of you Muslims — yes even the CHILDREN — are responsible for the violence in the Muslim world.”

You wrote: “There is no other way, no simpler path, no magic solution and no other process by which Islam can be redirected towards its original objectives – bringing Man And God closer to one another and preparing the mind and soul of Man to sit with His Savior in peace for eternity.”

Translation: “Let me sprinkle in some positive things about Islam just so I don’t get called an Islamophobe (even though the positive things I’m saying about Islam completely contradict everything I just said!) God bless Tokenism!”

You wrote: “By whatever name one’s god is called, by whatever words have been used to justify a variety of actions that never were or could have possibly been envisioned by that religions prophets, peace and love are the truest and highest callings of our modern religions.”

Translation: “Let me speak about peace and Love now, even though peace and Love should have led me to visit Mosques on Friday and actually listen to the sermons instead of making lousy accusations here! Yes, peace and Love. You Muslims need to learn about peace and Love.”

You wrote: “It’s really so much more demanding of one’s intellect to become educated, to direct one’s life towards a higher level of understanding about one’s religion, neighbors, and world. It actually takes an effort to think critically about what is important and what is not.”

Translation: “Muslims aren’t educated and can’t think for themselves, therefore I, a non-Muslim, have every right to tell them what to do.”

You wrote: “And when millions upon millions of one’s fellow believers are spewing forth filth, ignorance and cruelty in the time honored fashion of the morally bankrupt everywhere – it’s more than just difficult to stand up and speak out. It’s very likely to be dangerous, even deadly.”

Translation: “Since I don’t see Muslims speaking out against terror on TV, it must be because they’re freakin’ scared!”

You wrote: “It’s time for every Muslim to make a choice: to take action to move the religion forward towards more enlightment, or let it erode into a barbaric nightmare of hatred and violence that may last for countless generations.”

Translation: “The fate of the world depends upon the choices that Muslims make.”

You wrote: “And, it’s time for every American to stand up against violence and ignorance in every way, including bigotry towards the followers of the Prophet, the vast majority of whom simply want to raise their children in peace, teach them justice, and watch them grow into the adults who will inherit all their hopes, dreams and aspirations.”

Translation: “Yeah, here’s my shield against being labeled an Islamophobe. After all, I’m an intellectual man, if I only spoke badly about Muslims, I wouldn’t look very educated!”

You wrote: “If you are NOT a Muslim, your duty in this time and place in history is to help every Muslim you can to facilitate the dream of all of us who live in the world of sanity – to live a peaceful, prosperous and productive life while seeking wisdom and spreading love througout the world.”

Translation: “O’ non-Muslims, help the Muslims, just like I am by telling them what to do. Tell them what to do because they cannot think for themselves and there are no such things as Muslim leaders. Only we, non-Muslims, can lead!”

You wrote: “I’ll end with a quote from an unknown author that seemed appropriate – ‘Time will soon teach you what you were ignorant of’”

Translation: “Oh shoot, this quote actually just backfired on me! ‘Time will soon teach ME what *I* was ignorant of’”

PWND.

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