I started this blog less than 2 years ago, partially in a misguided attempt to impress a girl (how could that possibly have failed to work?), but also because I had some encouragement from friends who liked the kinds of topics I would talk about in periodic Facebook notes. I had also just moved and had started a new chapter in my life – I thought it was worthwhile to write some things down. In that short time my writings have attracted a small but loyal following, and I’ve been lucky enough to place them on a variety of platforms aside from my lowly former home at WordPress. Most recently, this includes a regular gig here at FreeThoughtBlogs.
When I was first invited to write here, I was delirious with happiness. Who would have thought that a pup like me would get a chance to run with the big dogs? How amazing it would be to get a big of splashover traffic from Pharyngula or from Dispatches? What a great chance for me to rub shoulders with people who I’d previously only been able to quietly admire from afar! And hey, maybe I’ll get a couple of bucks out of the deal too! Because I’m not an idiot, I said yes almost immediately.
But as the date for the launch grew closer and closer, I began to feel my anxiety grow. Blogging is not a game for the thin-skinned, to be sure. When you put your ideas out into the world, provided you actually care about your ideas, opening them up to the scrutiny of anyone who happens to pass by is a pretty daunting prospect. Imagine literally living in a glass house, where every move you make could be scrutinized by your neighbours or just people strolling down the street – people who feel entitled to spraypaint their opinions of you on your walls. Now, if you live out in the boondocks (as I have up until now), this kind of exposure might not be a big deal. After all, it’s the same few people passing by, and they’ve seen your man-boobs before – whatevs. Now I was being offered a similarly-transparent accommodation, but this time in a bustling metropolis.
Anyway, I thought I would take this opportunity to share with you some of the thoughts that have been cropping up in the ol’ noodle over the past few weeks.
What I am looking forward to:
- I really like talking to smart people.
While I do write this blog for you, I write it just as much (if not more) for myself. While I have some ideas that have become cemented in my mind over a number of years, I am constantly scrutinizing my beliefs and looking for opportunities to be more correct. Having a blog here at FTB means (hopefully) that my more egregious ideas will yield interesting and fruitful commentary, which will allow me to either find better ways of defending my position or abandon that position for a more nuanced and refined one.
- I am excited to have a larger audience.
I think I have good ideas. I think some of the ideas I have, if adopted by others, could make the world a better place. That’s pretty much the ethos of any polemic blogger. I’ve received e-mails from readers, I’ve received comments from friends, I’ve heard from other bloggers that I have tapped into an interesting niche that straddles my personal interests in a way that makes those interests accessible to neophytes to the worlds of atheism and anti-racism. The more people we have talking about these topics, particularly those who may not see the parallels immediately, the better.
- I think diversity is important.
While I work as a scientist, I am not a ‘real scientist’. I’m more interested in politics and law than I am in cosmology or evolution. While I think science is the key to understanding the physical world around us, understanding the human world around us is just as important. Beyond simple diversity of ideas, I also think that diversity of opinion is important. Who could possibly argue that Greta Christina’s voice is unwelcome in discussions of atheism, just because she doesn’t focus on religion all the time? She adds a perspective on LGBT-related issues that gives me a fuller understanding of what the experience of that group is like. I am looking forward to doing my level best at offering something similar.
What I am not looking forward to:
- Hate mail.
I talk about race and racism in a very explicit, no-punches-pulled kind of way. Because of power dynamics being the way they are in my country, our Southern neighbour, and in most of the world, this usually involves criticisms of white people as a demographic group. In the same way that religious people feel ‘persecuted’ when atheists disparage the actions of religious institutions, I have found that white people are unaccustomed to criticism that falls along racial lines, and often unwilling to distinguish criticism of ideas from criticism of people. I do my level best to make this distinction clear (although I am not always perfect and sometimes need to be reined in), but I am quite sure I will upset a few people along the way.While I have found the freethinking community to be fairly forgiving and tolerant, even when they themselves are being criticized, the experience of people who had the galling temerity to talk about something that criticizes the majority (I am thinking explicitly of Rebecca Watson here) gives me reason to be a bit anxious. At least I am less likely to be threatened with rape.
- Questions about my ‘qualifications’
I do not hide the fact that I am not a credentialed commenter on the things I discuss most frequently. I don’t have a PhD in racism or anything like that (although that doesn’t really seem to matter). I accept that I may (and do) get things wrong from time to time. I try to support my arguments as best I can, and never go so far as to equate my opinion with iron-clad fact. That doesn’t seem to matter to people who like to question my credibility at every turn, and dismiss me because I’m just some guy. I really am sorry that I’m just some guy who said some stuff you don’t like. Show me where I am wrong and I won’t say it anymore.
- Being the ‘token affirmative action black friend’
I don’t have a book or a popular podcast or even a position in a secular organization. I’m just a guy with a blog on some far-flung corner of the internet that got asked to sit at the cool kids’ table. I share your doubts about whether or not I’ve ‘earned’ the right to be here (if you have them). I can guess that aside from my ability to string together grammatical sentences, my reasons for being here have largely to do with my alternative perspective, which is directly informed by my racial identity, history, and familiarity with the subject matter. So be it.
What I’m not looking forward to is the implication that the guys here at FTB just needed to fill some kind of quota to deflect accusations of race bias (“See? We’ve got a black guy now!”) Such an implication is insulting to me personally, but I think it more strongly impugns the integrity of the people running the show. I am prepared to work my black ass off to demonstrate that I really do belong here, and that I really do have something worth bringing to the conversation.
Anyway, I wrote this mainly to clear the air, and to give you a bit of insight into my thought process coming into this. I am excited and eager to grow into this platform, and to engage with you good people on some issues that I think are important for us all to consider. We might not always get along, but hopefully we’ll still respect each other in the morning.
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