I can’t even say how deeply disappointed I am in JT Eberhard’s recent behavior on the subject of racism. But even more, I’m disappointed in the failure of the atheist community to address it better.
Actually, some prominent atheists have addressed it very well: Jen McCreight and Greta Christina articulated the problems with JT’s comments about Bria Crutchfield and his defense of those comments beautifully. The fact that Jen, a white feminist, was one of the first people to speak up gave me some initial optimism; when white people create a mess, white people should be first on the scene to clean it up. It should not constantly be up to people of color to explain what’s so fucked up about racism.
But, despite the beauty of execution on the part of Jen and Greta and other people at Freethought Blogs, the atheist community as a whole could have done a lot better. There are still too many people out there patting JT on the head for telling Bria Crutchfield to stop being uppity for me to be comfortable. Hopefully, this will be the Elevatorgate of racism for atheists: that is, it will make people a lot more conscious of how we need to address racism in atheist communities, much as Elevatorgate rallied people to start resisting misogyny and harassment. Atheism cannot be a mature, responsible alternative to religion unless we deliberately struggle with these issues. If atheism isn’t willing to stand up against misogyny, racism, transphobia, whorephobia, and homophobia, then it’s just another fucking bumper sticker to put on your car.
There have been a couple of really good posts made today about JT Eberhard’s fuckup, and why it’s relevant to the larger atheist community. The first is by Avicenna, a British ex-Hindu medical student who’s working in India. He speaks well to how atheists have institutionalized our own ignorance and prejudice while bragging about being enlightened:
I don’t think JT realises what it’s like to be outside of a movement you wish to be openly part of. In the medical community by day? I have to be helpful. I must behave “well”. I cannot call stupid statements stupid. I have to have a thicker skin and more patience. I have to be “Better” than normal. I have to call “X” a “Y” and not rock too many boats lest I be set adrift with a small menagerie in a highly allegorical piece. JT didn’t understand why that anger exists. Some day there will be an Indian standing there mad as weasels yelling at someone who asked a daft question. But for now you got me. And that day is sooner than you think.
We shouldn’t have to be extra nice. We shouldn’t be on notice. And for the love of god? The Question was stupid as fuck. The day Black people have to deal with Black crime as if it were a massive problem caused by Shaq’s coven of basketball witches (Actually… that’s not a bad idea for a Shadowrun game…. Just saying…). I mean when are white people going to stop producing so many spree killers? Or serial killers? Or can be trusted with economies without fucking things up over simple greed? It’s really that stupid.
Seriously JT? Sometimes we have to say “What the Fuck Are You Doing?” Do you know how many atheists say idiotic things about Islam? Hell my personal favourite is Taqqiyah or the rule that allows a Muslim to break any laws of Islam to save someone else’s life or to protect their own. Oh we may think martyrs are great but Islam was smart enough to realise that dying for your belief is stupid and living for them is better. Yet we see countless atheists claim you can use Taqqiyah to lie in order to kill when the Koran is explicit on it’s use to save lives ONLY.
The other excellent piece that went up today is a guest post on Dana Hunter’s En Tequila Es Verdad, compiled from two blog comments by Dezn_98. It’s likely to be very uncomfortable for a lot of white people like myself, because it’s very angry and unforgiving, but one of the things that white atheists are going to have to do in order to build a just and rational movement is learn to shut up and listen to things like this. It’s hard, and it sometimes gets my back up as well. But if there’s one thing I understand, it’s anger. I swallow a lot of it myself, because I can’t always find the middle point between holding it in and and just exploding in an inarticulate tangle of words and half-baked thoughts. But I admire the hell out of people who can let it go and still make sense.
I am tired of being treated as a subhuman when I get angry over racism. I am tired of society telling me that “this tone of voice” is the only acceptable form of expression for minorities talking about their pain… and anything short of that – you are not worth listening to. They really treat us like trash, and people do not know how incredibly traumatizing and devastating that sort of constant cultural racism can be.
It is so tiring… I saw JT’s treatise of racist white garbage tone policing…. and I can’t ignore it. I actually have to waste my day writing a reply to his garbage. Do people not get how exhausting this sht is? How likely it is that, because of people like JT, most minorities run out of steam on these issues? That most give up? That most just walk away? The only reason I am not ignoring it is because I am as stubborn and silly as PZ.. not matter how much personal pain JT’s ideas give me.. I still gatta say something.[snip]
Lots of people in this culture just do not get how utterly dehumanizing and traumatizing it is to talk to people like JT when you are a person of color.. it is indescribable. Yet I have to put my humanity on the line everyFCKINGtime when I talk about racism… and everytime, I feel like a piece of my empathy is being taken away, being chipped at, making me “apathetic” to my own oppression… this type of sht drains people of color.. so they stay away from it as much as they can. Yet no matter how much they run away, now matter how much we already dictate our tone everyday to avoid conversation with white people like JT… it JT’s racist micro-aggression and HIS ILK always find us and smack us in the fcking mouth.
In any case, read both of them. They’re a great start toward understanding how we can move toward silencing privilege and listening to anger.