Ani DiFranco and white feminist gate-keeping to the point of absurdity.

Of course many white feminists get that advocating for gender equality is valueless if you don’t include equality for people of color too. Supporting women of color is a no brainer. Then there are a few with blind spots, who ostensibly get this idea, but then in practice fail to question their own internalized racist ideas.

This is Ani DiFranco, singer, poet, equal rights activist, and to some feminist icon in words on economic and gender equality…

If you’re not angry
you’re just stupid
or you don’t care
how else can you react
when you know
something’s so unfair
the men of the hour
can kill half the world in war
make them slaves to a super power
and let them die poor

Here she is using slavery as a metaphor for fascist, capitalist, patriarchal oppression by imperialists. Yet here she is in deed...

 

June 25 – 29
Nottoway Plantation – White Castle, LA
http://www.righteousretreat.com/An Invitation from Ani…LOVERS OF SONGWRITING, POETRY & PERFORMANCE!Allow me to invite you down to Louisiana to learn and play with me and some of my friends,
exploring these and a few more of our favorite things!We will be shacked up at the historic Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, LA, for 3 days and 4 nights exchanging ideas, making music, and otherwise getting suntans in the light of each other’s company. During the day, myself, Toshi Reagon, Buddy Wakefield, Hamell on Trial and others will lead workshops and lessons that focus on developing one’s singular creativity. In the evenings we will perform for each other and enjoy great food in a captivating setting.

Why doesn’t she get that the Nottoway Plantation is the largest former plantation in the South?

Nottingham Plantation

From the Plantation’s website slavery apologetics…”It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time.”

Mark Faulk points on his blog what the problem is..

 Here’s the problem: Nottoway Plantation is the largest plantation mansion in the South, literally built by slaves who had to carry the huge logs over (as Nottoway’s own website puts it) “miles of plantation ground to the construction site”. The owner, John Hampden Randolph, built his fortune on the backs of slaves. He even signed over 46 slaves as collateral to build his 53,000 square foot dream house.

To date there has been no official response by DiFranco to answer the criticism about the appropriateness of the venue or to cancel this event. People make mistakes, and sure this one is a huge oversight in the most charitable light. But when people call it to your attention that you’re holding your folk songwriting event in a symbol of oppressive capitalism such that 46 human beings were used as capital to build it -just maybe you should reconsider. And too, going with what should be becoming more painstakingly obvious upon further reflection -the place is also an oppressive patriarchal monument.

More importantly, DiFranco and other non-black feminists can’t feel the injustice done here as keenly as black feminists do, but they can do the work required to empathize. I am not black and I haven’t really experienced the racism directed at black people in America. Even though my son is black, I can only listen and empathize. If you inadvertently step on someone’s toes; apologize and listen so you can make things right. Admittedly the price tag of this event is prohibitive to most people of any color, but who wouldn’t want to be welcoming to all women?

Although there are people calling DiFranco out as racist for this event, what it looks more like to me is a disconnect between words and deeds in regards to racial equality. Where the absurdity of this venue would have been immediately obvious to a black feminist; these things can be overlooked by some white feminists because institutionalized racism doesn’t target them. Indeed popular fiction like Gone with the Wind  glamorizes the Old South for young girls. The appeal of this plantation is that of a whitewashed bygone era of Southern gentility.

In absence of DiFranco’s answer to criticism there is a comment war going on between DiFranco’s defenders of her choice of venue and rational people on her facebook, who don’t get why people don’t get this.  The defenses range from minimization and telling black women what they should feel about this to outright absurd, racist gate-keeping as documented by For Harriet  . Get your oven mitts ready to facepalm…

righteousretreat Mandi

 

The post as is, is patronizing and has a badly, misunderstood idea of what it means to “reclaim” something. What if a man told her to attend an event at a “historic” and “captivating” remodeled Magdalene laundry owned by Hobby Lobby because the baby stealing era is over and “reclaim” it and give a symbol of brutal, dehumanizing oppression a “new meaning ? She could rightly tell them where they could go!

The post was bad enough, but in an absurd effort that would be funny if she wasn’t serious she posted this…

Mandi as LaQueeta 1

This post doesn’t resemble the speech pattern of any black feminist that anyone knows. The name LaQueeta Jones on top of this may be a clue that she doesn’t know any real, black people apart from hackneyed stereotypes. She goes on embarrassing herself, and illustrating the need for some whites to get out more especially if they are toting equality until someone busts her.

Mandi as LaQueeta 2mandi as LaQueeta3

 

Who are these people? Seriously. Who gets this personally invested in defending reprehensible, regressive ideologies? It would be funny if these types of ideas don’t pop up in every earnest discussion about racial injustice. When you find yourself telling people that they should just adopt the right attitude about the racist things that happen to them -just stop.  Even less obvious racist crap like this, like Di Franco’s decision of an exclusionary venue for songwriting about gender and economic equality have the net effect of marginalizing people of color’s voices.  Equal means everyone should ideally have an equal place at the table. Do the work and put more thought into it DiFranco.

However, as frustrating as the whole thing is, you can take heart in the fact that most of the posts are calling for Di Franco to do something about this on the event page. They are posting this same statement to her facebook.

“I stand in solidarity with the Black women calling Ani Difranco out for this decision to hold the Righteous Retreat at the site of a former plantation.”

And now there is a petition to sign.

[notice]About 15 min ago, DiFranco replied to the criticism on her facebook. You can view it in its entirety here. I’m still weighing her words, before I decide. I am glad though that she canceled the event and gave it more thought. [/notice]

Both parts of my time on the Blind Faith Virus Vaccine Show

I can now show both parts of the discussion between myself (representing atheism) Dr. Ann Gleig from Liverpool (representing Buddhism) and Pastor Joey Jernigan of Liberty University (representing fundamentalist Christian creationism).  The host, Mark Gura is moderating.  It was recorded in October and aired on Atlanta Georgia’s local access television channels in two parts, last month (November) and this weekend.

Part II (below) will be shown at 7:00pm Sunday December 15th 2013 on Comcast Channel 24 in Atlanta Georgia and on Comcast channel 25 in North Fulton County.

Well that was fun.  Let’s see if I ever get invited to do anything like that again.

A Good Question

Let me start by saying you have the right to not believe in any God.  As I have the right to believe there is a God. Then we divide. I want you to peacefully be able to not believe and I want all others to have the same opportunity as well . My question to you is, Why does there seem to be a need to stop others from sharing their beliefs? Do the Atheists believe they are saving people from something?  Please take a moment and help me to understand your view.

Understand that I also allow that you have the right to believe in Santa Claus if you want to.  You literally do.  I can disagree with you, and I don’t have to share your belief, but you have it.  The fact that you still make-believe impossible fairy-tales even as an adult who (in my opinion) should know better, that is not the problem.  When my children see reindeer listed with bats, birds, and bugs on a chart of flying animals presented in science class, then there’s a problem.

You have the right to believe that Columbus discovered Ohio in 1942, but you do not have the right to teach that in history class.  Sorry, you just don’t.

Other people believe differently than you.  Some of them have the right to believe that Benjamin Franklin was the first king of America.  You and I might both know that is rubbish, based on the same reasons that I know your perspective is rubbish.  You’ll tell your kids what crap that is, and in that case, you’ll refer to the same documented evidence I do -which shows that America never had a king.  And you’ll make fun of the fact that all those kids wear powdered wigs, despite the fact that people will kill each over things like that.  But it is still their right to believe that -no matter how wrong it obviously is.

Fortunately we live in a secular society, so that alternate ideas that are equally evidently wrong will not be taught as fact in history class. However offensive you may find this to be, there is another historical perspective which people don’t kill each other over, and which is always supported by every new discovery, while your position has never been supported by anything, and is held in rigid defiance of everything we can show to be true. You can train your children to object to the lessons taught to them, and you can lobby against all those other people pushing for that other history, but your position is still one that is evidently wrong, and therefore cannot be taught as fact in a classroom.

You have the right to wish upon a star, and your children can do that too -even in school.  But please understand why it is not legal for the teacher to force the whole class to do this. You may wish on the North Star like most people do, but that doesn’t make the people who wish on other stars any more wrong than you are.  That’s one reason why the teacher is not permitted to tell the students which star to wish on, nor what to wish for.  We can’t make all the kids stand up and do that together.  Nor do we need to ostracize those kids who see that wishing on a star is foolish, and that it can even be dangerous if you use star-wishing in place of medicine.

You have the right to believe that the western desert was created by an act of deforestation brought about by a giant named Paul Bunyon.  The problem is that when everyone else in this area believes that too, then they’ll conceal all evidence indicating environmental dynamics, because they’re considered ‘forbidden’ beliefs.  Sometimes the data being concealed is an important matter of consequence, where the Paul Bunyon belief never will be.

My complaint is when I can’t catch a plane on December 24th because all the airlines are shut down in order to avoid colliding with a hypersonic flying sleigh.  That dozens of kids turn up dead in the news every year because the star didn’t answer their wish.  That teachers are prohibited, criticized, or fired just for explaining the simple and evident facts that Columbus was here centuries earlier, and that Franklin was never a president, much less a king.  Sometimes it can be problematic when everyone has a right to be wrong, and they’ll defend that right violently if they have to.

Me?  I’d just rather accept evident realities and not waste time on all that other weirdness.  You have a right to be wrong, but I also have a right to be right, and I’m going to exercise it.

I’m eighty-eight!

It’s time to thank my subscribers, all 92,929 of them.  I have just become aware that my YouTube channel is listed as one of their Top 100 Most Subscribed News & Politics Channels.  Ain’t that nice?  Of course I’m way behind Alex Jones, who is so high on that list as to be statistically scary.  The Amazing Atheist is way behind him, with “only” half a million subs or so!  Even Pat Condell still has more than twice as many as I do.  There are a lot of people above me in that list, but at least I have more subs than Arnold Schwarzenegger.  I guess I can brag about that.  :-)

Back to the book

It looks like the Canadian tour has been postponed, and I had to cancel the trip to Minnesota for personnel reasons. (That’s not a typo)  So Skepticon was last presentation of 2013.  I’ve only been on 21 airplanes this year.  Compared to 33 last year!  But to be fair, I think I drove to most of this year’s events.

Anyway, it’s weird but after more than two years of giving at least one presentation every single month, I find myself without any confirmed dates on my horizon.  So I’m taking that opportunity to get back to my book.  I promised the publisher that I would, and I’m having fun doing it.  Chapter III should be done by the end of this week, but it requires that I re-read the gospels afresh.  Wow.

I read Matthew again this evening.  So much I forgot.  How the fuck did anybody ever read this and manage to believe it?  I’m not going to go into details; y’all already know it all.  But I retire this evening shaking my head the gullibility and hypocrisy of the people who claim to believe in and follow this ridiculous book.

Reaching the choir

Much discussion has focused on bringing women and minority groups into the secular fold.  Considering the gender gap in secular communities (these numbers are from America) this is a laudable goal.  Conversely, in religious communities there is an inverse relationship in the ratios of women and ethnic minorities. From Protestant communities where there are 8 percent more women than men to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Historically Black Churches where there are 20 percent more women than men. There is a real disparity in the secular community between gender and ethnic minorities and white males. In fact atheists equal the Mormon Church, a racially segregated community until the 1970s, in disproportionate ratios of whites to ethnic minorities with 86 percent white adherents to 14 percent ethnic minority adherents.

Why is there a gap between women and ethnic minority participation in the secular community? That’s the million dollar question.

Some charts with data collected by the Pew Forum’s Religious Landscape Survey…

table-gender-by-tradition

table-ethnicity-by-tradition

Unfortunately often when these sorts of questions are asked; there are superficial answers that affirm the status quo rather than brainstorm solutions to the problem. To paraphrase some have speculated that women are less likely to be secular because they aren’t “intellectually active” enough. On the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities; I’ve sat in presentations where whites have asked black speakers why blacks are Christian because of slavery in the Bible. There is a bit of lazy thinking that comes with stereotyping and overgeneralizing going on. Especially by secularists who aren’t members of these groups, and lack the personal experiences or they haven’t taken the time and thought required to educate themselves to understand a different point of view.

One often neglected piece of data on the topic of secular diversity is income.

table-income-by-tradition

Christians still hold an eroding majority at 78 percent of the US population. About 30 percent of Protestants and Catholics, the largest sects of Christianity, live under the poverty line. In comparison atheists and agnostics are about 4 percent of the population, and about 20 percent of them live under the poverty line. If you look at the numbers for historically black churches the number jumps to 47 percent. Another church with a high level of minority participation are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Half of the JWs are black and latino and 42 percent of their members live beneath the poverty line.

It’s true that at about 40 percent college graduates atheists and agnostics are better educated than the average Protestant and far exceed churches with majority minority populations. Education is definitely a factor in religiosity. However the list of most educated adherents also reads like which groups have better access to education in this country by culture or income. Not just for women and minorities, but for everyone affected by poverty including whites. So you still can’t tease income out of the equation.

Religious institutions have traditions in place that support the poor. However, the support can often come with ideological beliefs that trap their adherents in the cycle of poverty. The Catholic Church’s stance forbidding birth control is a good example of this.

My experiences growing up in both the Catholic and the Southern Baptist Church doctrines limited my choices as a woman. I was told early and often that my role in life was to be subservient to a man. These doctrines condition women to accept patriarchal authority without question. Looking back on it now deciding who’s in charge of important decisions by genitals rather than critical thinking was not a good idea. Studies have shown that educated, empowered women make better life choices that fight the cycle of poverty.

Some organizations in the secular community are working to close the income gap by offering childcare and low cost and free admissions. Skepticon every year is supported by donations. It is an example of an organization that saw a need and stepped up to fill it. Low cost regional conferences like FreeOK help to alleviate problems caused by the cost of travel. Internet conferences like  FTBCon and internet resources like podcasts, blogs, and youtube help to close the income gap too.

One of the most interesting findings of the Pew Forum’s study is that the “Religiously Unaffiliated” is the fastest growing population of them all. The Catholic Church is losing the most to attrition, but they are staying even by immigration. Although Protestants still have the most adherents in the US especially in the South, it too is in decline. The young are where churches are losing the most adherents to us. If the trend continues most people will be unchurched. Secular organizations will hopefully rise to the occasion and welcome the newcomers.

One group that interests me that could use more focus is evangelicals. They are most often from the South. I live in the South, and was raised in a Southern Baptist Church. So I have had a front row seat to the havoc they wreak on public policy in education, reproductive rights, poverty and so on. Can they be reached? The answer sometimes is surprisingly yes. Matt Dillahunty and Beth Presswood of the Atheist Experience and Seth Andrews of The Thinking Atheist are examples of evangelicals gone rogue. Their media outreach has helped other evangelicals to see the light of reason.

It is one area where me and Aron Ra are different. He doesn’t understand why believers believe because he never really had strong religious beliefs. There is a disconnect between unchurched and lifelong disbelievers and former believers that gives rise to generalizations just like with any group that is prone to being misunderstood. The secular community can always find new ways to welcome former believers, and that can only be improved with greater understanding.

Towards that goal, I have asked Tasa Proberts, former believer and musician for the GUTS megachurch In Oklahoma to chat with me and Shanon Nebo on The Nones about her deconversion from evangelical Christian to atheist. Part of what helped her deconvert is the outreach of The Atheist Experience. We’ll be joined by the Atheist Experience’s Russell Glasser and Jen Peeples. We will also have Recovering from Religion Tulsa facilitator Rhonda Dorle on. It should be interesting if you want insight into former believers to have a greater understanding of them, or if you are a former believer too and want to help, or if you are an evangelical looking for a way out.

[important]The show will be on Thursday December 19th on our youtube channel. I will also post a link to watch it here on the day of the show. Visit our facebook for updates.  You can also PM us there with story ideas or questions.[/important]

[notice] This is the link to watch the show directly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IExEG9dKzdg[/notice]

Proof that Hellenism is the true religion

So it seems that scuba-diving archaeologists were looking for remains of Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of Lord Nelson, when they accidentally discovered the sunken city of Heracleion instead.  This was the Egyptian city where Herodotus said that Helen had fled with her Trojan love, Paris.

OK so maybe it’s no quite proof of the truth of the Hellenist religion, but if the city were called Sodom instead, you know that Jews and Christians would be calling that proof of their god(s).

Some of the ruins of this city are remarkably well-preserved, especially this obelisk inscribed with hieroglyphics.

Apart from it’s obvious significance as a text speaking to us from a lost civilization, it is also (I think) quite a beautiful object, and priceless as a work of art as well.

Whether it was rising sea levels or a sinking shore, the city was submerged by some point in the 7th century.  Bearing that in mind, look at this next image.

This elegant bronze statuette has not only fallen beneath the waves, it is being slowly buried as well.  Think of it.  To me, this artifact of our culture represents our impermanence, just one of the many accomplishments of humanity which will eventually be lost, reclaimed by nature, and forgotten forever, like every other trace of our species.  Knowing that, I take some delight in the idea that this piece at least was rediscovered and rescued to be appreciated for just a bit longer.

The Blind Faith Virus Vaccine

On a Saturday evening on the 16th of November, predominantly Southern Baptist television viewers in Atlanta Georgia got to see a pair of Buddhists trying to direct an argument with me juxtaposed against a Biblical literalist from Liberty University. That was great fun!

BlindFaithVirusVaccinept1www.BlindFaithVirusVaccine.TV

The host, Mark Gura described himself as a spiritual non-theist, and he invited Dr. Ann Gleig, a Liverpudlian Professor of Indian religions, to defend his position in this triad of perspectives. Seated next to our host was Pastor Joey Jernigan representing fundamentalist Christian Young-Earth Creationism.  It was called the ‘Blind Faith Virus Vaccine Show’, so I’m not sure how many Southern-Fried Christians would have watched it, but I’d bet there were probably more Christians in that audience than Buddhists or Hindus, statistically speaking.

I don’t know how he happened across either of these other guests, nor why he decided to throw me into the mix.  I’m rarely on TV because -let’s face it, I have a face for radio.  But I was glad to be on, and the show turned out really well I think.  If you weren’t watching TV in Atlanta that weekend, you can still see the show on YouTube.  The host has even graciously allowed me to upload it on my channel for promotional purposes.

That was only the first of two episodes.  Part II, (which was recorded in October) will air on Comcast Channel 24 in Atlanta, and on Comcast channel 25 for North Fulton County, on Sunday, December 15th at 7:00pm.  The producers have assured me that Part II will be much better.  In fact, they said it was it ‘explosive’.

So please help me promote the live television viewing of the second half of this show by passing these links around your social media.  I’m really happy with the idea of Evangelicals in Georgia turning the channel toward their Reverend Creflo Dollar, and happening across me instead.  [cue villainous snickering]

The re-recording of my Skepticon speech

I thought I was getting over my laryngitis in time for my presentation at Skepticon, but as I approached the mic, my voice gave out again.  There I was on stage in a Civic Center, doing an impression of Vin Deisel playing the Iron Giant.  I talked for 45 minutes like that.  I didn’t have a choice.  But I wasn’t going to upload that video.  There were other issues too, video segments that wouldn’t play and so on.  So once I got my voice back, I recorded the speech as a voice-over narration in the kind of video I used to make, back before I had to write a new and original speech every month.  I enjoy doing these.  I wish I had time to do more.    

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