One of the most challenging aspects of anti-racism is the fact that we can only usually measure racism as an absence of a better explanation. We see an inequality and then we try to rule out the other plausible explanations, and then say “it’s got to be explained by racism”. Because there is no objective test – no screen or marker or physical indicator – that positively identifies racist intent (or even racism that happens unintentionally), it is usually left to anti-racist educators to make a case through narrative explanation rather than through empirical observation.
Their (our) task is made even more difficult by the fact that, partially because people are defensive and partially because people are assholes, any claim that racism plays a role in any event is met with a howling chorus of denials and demands for the kind of rock-solid proof that is so rarely available when discussing these kinds of social/psychological issues. When these demands cannot be readily met (‘my racism detector is on the fritz’), these voices devolve into smug pronouncements of ‘race cards’ being played, or perhaps a ‘playing the victim’ gambit being used.
Which is why it’s always interesting and gratifying to see exercises like this one: … Continue Reading
In Vancouver, BC, there is a rather annoying anti-choice blight on the corner across the street from one of the only two clinics that are not associated with a hospital. They call themselves pro-life, co-opt famous quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., and directly compare what they are doing “for the unborn” (i.e., by standing around as a visible and often vocal pillar of shame to all women, encouraging other people to campaign to eradicate women’s rights to bodily autonomy and self-determination) with what MLK Jr. accomplished for the Civil Rights Movement. Unfortunately, this is a rather tame version of the greater “pro-life” pseudo-social-justice-movement (I call it a glorified popularity contest). More on what exactly that means momentarily.
I began picketing these bigoted, misogynist hypocrites (who pull out their rosaries and start praying whenever someone yells at them), approximately six months ago, when I found out that they were actually slut-shaming women and telling them in so many words that they deserved to be raped if it should ever happen to them. I showed up for the first week in my tightest and brightest underwear, a clown wig, and a cape, holding a clown horn and a sign declaring my reasons for being there. As one of them began shaming me, I began honking my clown horn repeatedly, shouting “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over all this noise I’m deliberately making!” until her lips stopped moving. She turned to someone who was with me, and told them that I deserve to be raped multiple times. For a popularity contest that prides itself on how anti-violence it is, this is already painting a pretty grim portrait of hatred and violence against women. But wait! There’s more!
Over the past six months, they have now told numerous women that they deserve to be raped or are asking for it, and that at least half the time that a woman is raped it’s because she provoked it or secretly wanted it. They’ve grabbed and punched two of my friends (the police made up every excuse they could to avoid doing their jobs when this happened). They’ve literally cackled while a man repeatedly walked straight up to my face to yell at me then followed me around while I kept yelling at him to just fuck off, until he finally asked me why I don’t just punch him (I didn’t, because he’s able-bodied, so why should I have to punch him to make him get the fuck out of my face? Why isn’t “get the fuck out of my face” enough?) They’ve stood by and done nothing while another man walked up and began antagonizing the one person he could most easily isolate from the group, before verbally gay-bashing him and doing the same to me before threatening to “smash [my] fucking head in.” I’d have to be utterly dense and cognitively dissonant to believe that these antagonists weren’t invited there by the anti-choicers themselves. … Continue Reading
We often use college course abbreviations to describe the various levels of social justice discussion. Someone might refer to a “101-level” conversation when we’re talking about identifying racism as a social construct rather than a biological reality. Trying to access the specific ways in which racial constructs impact the lived experiences of people might qualify for “200-level” status, since it requires us to understand and accept the conclusions from the 100-level stuff before we can move on to the real-world implications. Discussing things like intersectionality and the consequences of multiple identities that intersect race is maybe your “300-level” stuff, which is more or less the level I think I can comfortably converse.
But then there’s other stuff that, quite frankly, baffles and confounds even me: … Continue Reading
Xavier and I got together again and recorded another episode of our podcast. This week we talked about sexy sexy teenagers and flat Earthers on the internet. The video is below the fold.
Also below the fold is a plea for help with naming this damn thing. We don’t have a clue what to call it, so we’re throwing it open to the internet.
… Continue Reading
We recorded a second ‘episode’ of our podcast experiment this past week, and invited journalist and superstar atheist Jamila Bey to join us for a discussion of the results from a recent Pew Forum survey that shows that religious ‘nones’ represent an all-time high of 20% of the American population.
The video is below the cut: … Continue Reading
One of the most frustrating aspects of being involved in a social justice movement is coming to grips with the sheer scope of the problem. Social inequalities are grounded, more often than not, in centuries of history and the evolutionary detritus of human cognition. We can point to a handful of successes like the American civil rights movement, but those were foughts that people literally bled and died for, and resulted in a system that almost immediately adapted to restore as much of the racist status quo as was legally permissible. The fact is that the fight for equality is gigantic, and it’s easy to feel as though one person can’t do much to move the massive edifice the dictates the roles of various groups in power dynamics.
Indeed, even if one wasn’t so overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the problem, it’s hard to conceive of what actionable solutions are available. The whole Occupy movement was heavily criticized for even trying to get together and spell out all of the problems. When solutions were offered (and they were offered), their very existence was denied or ignored because it fit into the more easily-digested narrative that we live in a world where people cannot solve big, diffuse problems. Certainly those who are sincerely interested in, say, seeing the end of racism can see few avenues toward true progress: the problem is inside people’s heads. How can we fix the ever-warping landscape of human psychology aside from waiting for the ‘racists’ to die off and hope that the next generation does a better job?
While I agree the task is daunting, there may be one specific lever we can exploit: … Continue Reading
So the other day, I had written a post that was supposed to be about the strange dance away from logic that seems to be common on the fringes of the raw, organic food lifestyle (ROFL). What I ended up with however, was an extended detour into the social fascination with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about here, the sort of ‘authenticity’ that leads people to buy clothing made by hand in the Peruvian mountains by semi-nomadic alpaca herders, because by doing so they were being more ‘authentic’ and less ‘fake’ or ‘consumerist’.
I have no problem with Peru, or mountains, or nomads or alpacas, and I have nothing but good things to say about herders of all kinds. My fascination was with the people who buy their products – or perhaps more specifically, those particular beliefs that spur people on to seek out ever-more ‘alternative’ lifestyles. There’s a scene in the Ben Stiller movie “Zoolander” where Hansel, a model played by Owen Wilson, is describing a particularly vivid memory he has of his wild and adventurous life. He describes mountain climbing in some far away nation, and recounts the extreme danger that he was in, before revealing that he was in fact remembering a particularly vivid hallucination brought on by the heavy use of peyote. He was confused because, we are told, Hansel’s life is so wild and adventurous – so real, that the fictional mountain climbing adventure could have been something he had actually done. Hansel has put his money and status to good use, by embarking on a campaign of living life authentically. Oh, and while he was remembering this experience, he was baking artisan bread in a wood-fire stone oven located in his industrial-loft apartment. Owen’s character was the embodiment of nearly every trope and cliché associated with the idea of living ‘authentically’. … Continue Reading
If you’re not reading the Black Skeptics blog, I have just one question.
If you are reading, you’re already well acquainted with the perfect blend of passion, fact, and relentless courage that is the writing of Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson. You may have even seen her in this discussion with Richard Dawkins:
If you’re in the Vancouver area, this Saturday (September 29th) is an opportunity to see Sikivu live, and to meet her. You can imagine how I felt when I first found out:
So if you’re free on Saturday at 4 pm, head down to UBC Campus to see Dr. Hutchinson speak about humanism, gender politics, and racism:
According to an African proverb, “until the lion learns how to speak the hunter will always be a hero.” In the U.S., the right wing conservative backlash against social justice, abortion, family planning, undocumented immigrant rights, and ethnic studies tells the same old hunter’s tale of American “exceptionalism” under siege. Much of this propaganda relies on racist stereotypes that criminalize communities of color, demonizes women of color and undermines their right to self-determination. On the other hand, culturally relevant humanism challenges traditional Western notions of what it means to be human. By building on the lived experiences, cultural knowledge, and social history of people of color it explicitly rejects colorblindness and myths of meritocracy. This talk will explore how culturally relevant approaches to humanism can inform feminist pedagogy and youth leadership.
There is a reception happening afterwards, where you will get a chance to meet not only Sikivu, but myself as well (if that’s a draw for you at all).
This event is sponsored by the BC Humanist Association, and more information about the event is available on their website.
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Last week I posted an e-mail correspondence between myself and South African BigThink skeptic blogger Tauriq Moosa. He was kind enough to follow up his e-mail, and I am posting my response here. You will notice that I am quoting from his e-mail without printing it in its entirety. I am hoping to avoid a nightmare of indented quotations. I will provide the full e-mail in another post if there are issues.
Was a busy weekend spent mostly with my lovely ladyfriend, so sorry that this response has taken so long.
I suppose as he’s equated “the movement” with “organisational membership”, the continuing framework that he operates in will be slightly narrowed (ignores those instances where divisive behaviour does occur because they’re not part of “the movement”). I assume this is what you mean?
In the statement of his thesis, Mr. Lindsay posits that the reason why misogyny isn’t divisive within the community is that the major organizations have come out against it. If you keep in mind that the orgs are not representative of the movement, nor do they set its direction, then the entire argument is a non-sequitur. It would be just as effective if he had said “We know that global warming isn’t a threat because the ice cubes in my gin & tonic haven’t melted yet”. It’s a nonsensical conclusion to draw from the premise. … Continue Reading
Some of you may remember the story of Satoshi Kanazawa, a “scientist” and “researcher” who made fame by raising some “tough questions” about the relationship between race, IQ, and health outcomes. He also pondered the evolutionary reasons why black women are just so damn unattractive (hint: it’s because they have so much testosterone – I’m not making that up). There was a predictable backlash against this brave scholar simply for asking “the tough questions”, and he was drummed out of academia, never to be heard from again.
But the career necromancers that are the BigThink editorial board have raised this errant genius from the depths of oblivion and have restored him to prominence on their group blog site:
Without a doubt, Satoshi Kanasawa is a willful, and highly effective, intellectual provocateur. In his scholarship, he has boldly overstepped traditional academic disciplinary bounds to posit interconnections and relationships between our evolutionary past and psychological present that address questions very few of his colleagues are even asking, let alone attempting to answer. In daring to ask these questions, Satoshi has made us think more than most.
His passion for endeavoring to think bigger and his deep-seeded contempt for the constraints of orthodoxy have informed a diverse body of scholarship that have turned a scientific light on an array of taboos, sacred assumptions and unquestioned — even unnoticed — realities. Like all heretics, Satoshi has become a lightning rod for criticisms across the spectrum which has only hardened his resolve to defy convention and expectation. In his public writing and blogging, he doesn’t posture or hedge to insulate himself from attack; on the contrary, he opts for the most extreme hypotheticals couched in the most sensitive, real-world contexts — he then stands firm and unflinching against the blowback.
Such a brave maverick! Not letting little things like “proper research design” or “understanding the topic” or “restricting your conclusions to the strength of the data” get in the way of preaching bold truths! Fuck your taboos of scientific rigour, squares! Satoshi is here to blow to roof off your narrow-minded “needing to do things correctly”! … Continue Reading