Gay Marriage Nationwide: The Joy and the Sadness

gaymericaIt’s hard to believe it was nearly 7 years ago that Prop 8 passed in California.  I remember staring at the television, immobilized with disbelief and horror, my happiness at Obama’s election completely erased by my anger at the California voters for messing this up so badly.

What followed for me was an obsession.  An obsession with law, an obsession with the Prop 8 case, and an obsession with the intricacies of the Supreme Court.  That obsession led to my writing being published somewhere outside my blog for the first time, it led to me spending the night outside the Supreme Court to hear the Prop 8 arguments, and it led me to today — sitting home alone, watching SCOTUSblog live-blogging the legalization of marriage nationwide and sobbing so hard my Fitbit thinks I’m jogging.

I knew gay marriage across the US was coming, but I am still an emotional wreck, experiencing a full rainbow flag of conflicting emotions.

I am, of course, ecstatic and relieved.  It’s as though a huge weight has been lifted, but it’s also like that weight was holding the blood in from a lot of old wounds.  That night in 2008, that day almost exactly 2 years ago when California got marriage but the justices would not deliver it to the rest of the country, the passing of dozens of state constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and women, my mother’s best friend who died of AIDS twenty years ago, the struggle of so many of my friends in coming out or being dragged out in a hostile culture, and on, and on.

And I am exhausted because this was a drop in the bucket of injustices in the world and it took so much energy from so many people to manage this change.

There are other battles, other fronts, other wars waging. Marriage was a fight for inclusion in a conservative institution — for LGBT (although, let’s be real, it’s mostly G here) people to become more accepted by mainstream society and have access to institutions of that society.  Radicals are right to worry that we are buying into broken institutions with deep flaws, not just marriage, but the entire idea of a mainstream, conservative respectability.  I disagree with radicals that the way to do this is entirely from outside, we need outsiders AND insiders, but the worry is that if queers get acceptance they will no longer be interested in changing the problematic social institutions in the world — prison, gun violence, homelessness, climate change, the war on drugs, the war on terror, racism, sexism, and a host of other problems that exist in the world.  The worry is that the fight for marriage will have fully drained them of resources, and we’ve seen organizations lose funding while the focus was on marriage.

It’s like the flag at the SC State House, flying today during the funeral of Senator Reverend Clementa Pinckney.  Yes, it must come down. Yes, it’s horrifying that that is even under discussion.  Yes, it is a symbol of racism and hatred.  But removing the flag won’t fix the problem, it’s not enough.  That flag didn’t go to Dylann Roof’s house and point him the way to the Conservative Council of Citizens or Stormfront.  Taking down the flag is necessary but it is also a band-aid over a gaping wound we can’t heal with hiding flags, and we’re focusing on it because it’s the only thing politicians can get done to address the social issues brought up by this act of racial terrorism.

It takes obvious, in-your-face, undeniable injustice to get action, and too often the action is the easy action.  We aren’t dealing with racial inequality or access to guns or the reality that white men are our homegrown terrorists, we’re taking flags down. Gay marriage was the easy thing to fix, which is hard to believe considering how much time and money and energy and heartbreak went into the thing, but that’s true of that flag too.  And gay marriage matters, it matters so much, if for no other reason than it offers same-sex couples a place from which to fight for other issues, but Loving v Virginia didn’t end racism or even create full mainstream acceptance of interracial marriage.

And so today I cry.  I weep with joy and relief for a victory that was hard-fought and well-deserved.  I weep for the people who didn’t make it to today, for the millions who died in the AIDS crisis, and for those who simply were born too soon to see this justice. And I weep because there’s still so much to do, more than can ever be done in my lifetime, more than can ever be done by my exhausted hands. I weep for the future person who will be crying like I am because you and I didn’t make it to see justice done.

But I also celebrate because today is a good day, a day in which massive good was done in this world, and that’s not nothing.


ETA: For similar commentary with a little bit of a different perspective and details, see Greta Christina’s post.

If you like what I’m doing, please consider supporting me at Patreon so that I can keep doing it.

Politicians trying to make Charleston shooting about anything but race

I’m just trying to collect all these quotes in one place — please comment if you know of any I’ve missed.

Dr. Alveda King: The motivation, it’s insanity, it’s rage.  Race can be behind it, I’m not going to deny that, but the man who shot my grandmother… in Ebenezer Baptist Church the mother of Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down by a black man… he was outraged, he was making his statement about the times… So now this disturbed young man, I understand he’s caucasian and he shot black people and that’s not good, but evil is not just limited to color.”  “It’s a lack of value for HUMAN life, you know I’m going to say that as director for African American Outreach for Priests for Life.  You kill babies in the womb, kill people in their beds, shoot people on the streets, so now you go into this church where people are praying…”

Nikki Haley: “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another.”  “Parents are having to explain to their kids how they can go to church and feel safe, and that’s not something we ever thought we’d have to deal with.”

Rudy Giuliani: “We have no idea what’s in his mind. Maybe he hates Christian churches.”

Rick Santorum:  This is one of those situations where you just have to take a step back and say we — you know, you talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before. It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”

Tim Scott: “…this senseless tragedy at a place of worship – where we come together to laugh, love and rejoice in God’s name – is absolutely despicable and can never be understood.”

Lindsey Graham: “Every decent person has been victimized by the hateful, callous disregard for human life shown by this individual. Our sense of security and well-being has been robbed and shaken.”  (Because Graham is likely to be targeted for execution by racists?)

Dr. Ben Carson: “In my lifetime I have seen such great progress. Though racial based hate is still very much alive as last night so violently reminded us. But I worry about a new hate that is growing in our great nation. I fear our intolerance of one another is the new battle ground of evil. Today many feel it is ok to hate someone who thinks differently than you do. The left hates the right. The right hates the left. This attitude is poison. Poison that will sicken all of us.”

And for a bit of a palate cleanser:

Bernie Sanders: The Charleston church killings are a tragic reminder of the ugly stain of racism that still taints our nation.

Leelah Alcorn and Being a Parent to Trans Teens

Drawing by Leelah Alcorn

Leelah was a talented artist

I was recently on the Scott Sloan show on 700WLW in Ohio to talk about Leelah Alcorn and how parents should deal with their children revealing that they are trans.  This is a pretty big deal for me — it’s a nationally syndicated show that reaches a huge audience.  Sloan misgenders Leelah a couple times in the intro, but I get the sense from this, and other things that I’ve listened to, that he’s someone who’s more or less on the right side of the issue and trying to make it palatable to what he senses Middle America to be.  For those who don’t know, Leelah Alcorn was a trans teen who killed herself last month in response to being isolated from her friends, forced into Christian therapy that was meant to make her be cisgender, and denied the ability to start to transition.

My major point is that when children need medical care that their parents don’t believe in, the state intervenes to ensure that those children get the care that they need.  Jehovah’s Witness parents don’t get to deny their children blood transfusions, parents that believe in homeopathy don’t get to deny their children chemotherapy.  We don’t prosecute those parents for child abuse, unless the child dies from medical neglect, but we also don’t let them destroy their children because of their personal beliefs in unscientific nonsense that will lead to the deaths of their children.

When parents deny proper care to children who aren’t cisgender, they are contributing to a state in which that child is guaranteed to suffer and may die.  Suicide is the third most common cause of death for teens, but it’s even more common for transgender youth.  In cases like Leelah Alcorn’s, it is often predictable and can be preventable.  41% of those who identify as trans will attempt suicide in their life and that number jumps much higher, into the 70-80% or higher, if they are mistreated by their family, are denied the ability to get medical treatment, are out as a teen, and suffer from depression or other mental health conditions, as Leelah was and did.  The national average for suicide attempts, by the way, is around 5%.  For LGB people, it’s 10-20%.

Charlie Hebdo, the attack on the NAACP, and racism

There have been a lot of accusations of racism thrown around in regards to the work of Charlie Hebdo and the media coverage (or lack thereof) around the domestic terrorist incident at the NAACP in Colorado and I want to tease out some of these ideas that I’ve seen.

1. Accusation: Media coverage of Charlie Hebdo and not the NAACP is racist

The idea here is that the media covered Charlie Hebdo because the villains were people of color and the dead were white, while the NAACP is an organization for people of color that was attacked by a white person.  The media thinks people are more likely to respond to narratives where the heroes are white, even if they are French.

I think this accusation is wrongheaded for a number of reasons.

1. No one died in the NAACP attack, 12 people died in France.

2. One of the more compelling stories to come out of France is the story of the Muslim police officer who was killed defending Charlie Hebdo against the terrorists.

3. The villains are organized and have been established villains in popular imagination.

4. Most importantly, the victims are other members of the media.  It cannot be overstated how much the media latches onto stories of the media being victimized.  This bias in the media is the most mundane one, and one that rarely gets talked about over the left vs right bias.

2. Accusation: The media not covering and being slow to cover the NAACP domestic terrorism is racist

When you separate it from the comparison to Charlie Hebdo and just note that the media has been a bit reluctant to pick up the story, then yeah, I think this is a reasonable complaint.  This is a big deal and should be big news.  It does seem to be picking up a bit now.

3. Accusation: Charlie Hebdo made racist cartoons

Ehhh, this is complicated.  Of course it is, isn’t everything?  A lot of the commentary around these cartoons has been, in my opinion, very shallow, both in the accusations of racism and the defense from racism.  I think everyone is, of course, welcome to their opinion, this is not a personal criticism of any individual.

Political cartoons are almost always kind of racist the moment you put people of color in them.  Not putting any people of color people in them would also be pretty racist.  This is because caricature relies heavily on stereotype to get messages across quickly — all communication does, but political cartoons do even more extremely.  Now, show a bunch of edgy political cartoons to people who don’t understand the language on the cartoons or the culture that produced the cartoons and ask them how racist those cartoons are?  Yeah, they’re going to think they’re really racist.  None of that, by the way, relieves cartoonists of the responsibility to make not racist cartoons.  That said, many of the cartoons that are being called out as racist are making points against oppression of minorities or oppression within minority culture or referring to specific racist behavior of politicians or other figures.  That doesn’t make them entirely not racist, but it also makes them complicated.  They also come in the context of Charlie Hebdo being equal opportunity offenders.

However, Charlie Hebdo’s many layered context comes in the further context of France being a really awful place to live if you’re Muslim.  It’s an incredibly racist and xenophobic society.  What does that all mean?  Not any one thing, except that if you are going to read criticism of Charlie Hebdo’s interaction with race, make sure it is nuanced and culturally specific and not just, “Look at this racist cartoon.”  And just because a cartoon is racist or has racist elements, that doesn’t mean the publication or the people behind the publication were “racists.”  Finally, I personally am really hesitant to take seriously any criticism of these cartoons unless it comes from someone who is a fluent French speaker and follows French politics closely, criticism from anyone else veers perilously close to cultural imperialism for lacking enough context unless they’ve done an immense amount of research.

4. Accusation: Calling Charlie Hebdo cartoons racist means you don’t support free speech

No. Nope.  Incorrect.  There are a small group of people who think that the cartoons are hate speech and shouldn’t be allowed to be published, but the vast majority of people who think that the cartoons are grotesquely racist have valid reasons for doing so and are making points about complicated histories and relationships between people and media.  They are worth listening to even if you ultimately disagree with their conclusions.  And people thinking that speech is terrible doesn’t mean they want to regulate it away.  I think the KKK and Westboro Baptist Church should be allowed to say things.  I also think they are horrible.  These two things reflect totally different values that I hold independently in the same head.

5. Accusation: You can’t be racist against Muslims

Usually accompanied with “Indonesia has the largest population of Muslims in the world.”  To which I say, “Show me one Charlie Hebdo drawing that is of someone from Indonesia.” Islam is not a race, but that really doesn’t matter, because the Western world has a racial idea of what it means to be Muslim.

Maya Angelou, Susan B. Anthony, and Ashley F. Miller together at last

Sometimes you’re doing a deep Google search on your own name and you discover new things about yourself — I discovered a Table of Contents that included me.

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An article I wrote about feminism and atheism that was published in CrossCurrents last year was put into a women’s studies anthology textbook — apparently the #1 one on Amazon: Women’s Voices, Feminist Visions: Classic and Contemporary Readings.  So now there is a thing about atheism and women in the most recent edition of, according to Amazon, the #1 gender studies textbook.  So hurray for atheism being included in discussions of gender in academia!

Of course, this inclusion happened last April and no one told me that it happened so…? I’m going to contact the editors of the book and talk to them to see if I can get some more information on what happened and see if I can get a copy for less than the $110 it’s going for.  I’ve asked my local library to pick up a copy and it looks like the school library has one that you can’t check out because it is required reading in a class.  I was contacted last year because my article was the required reading in that class, but I guess no one thought to mention that it was in a textbook rather than a journal.  Internet searching also reveals to me that the article has been cited in at least four academic papers and assigned in at least three courses.  That’s not bad for something that’s been published only 18 months.

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Anyway, so Ashley F. Miller of FreethoughtBlogs is listed and included as the same kind of feminist expert must-read in a major text as Maya Angelou, Gloria SteinemEmily Dickinson, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, bell hooks, Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde, Susan Douglas, Jessica Valenti, Barbara Ehrenreich. Also, you know, Natalie Merchant, so there’s that. And more.

Torn between being confused that no one told me it existed, to ecstatic that I am considered anywhere close to the same caliber as these other writers and thinkers, to fighting down imposter syndrome, to super stoked to include this on my resume.  Gonna go die now.  And not just from the mono.  Will update if/when I find out more information or locate the Discussion Questions!  Discussion Questions, people!

Provide Abortion: A Giving Tuesday Ask

hey2This is going to be a donation ask, but in my defense, I don’t talk about where I work that often, so let curiosity lead you to read on — Provide is the real deal. It’s really rare to be able to say that about a place, to see the sausage being made and still be able to say, no really, this place is legit. Provide works in Southern, conservative states to make abortion more accessible, specifically because they are challenging and because the culture is hard to move. We train health care and social service providers on how to refer to abortion care, often giving them some of the first accurate information on abortion they’ve ever encountered. This is a huge gap in their education — abortion is a basic healthcare need for women, nearly 1/3rd of women will have need of one in their life, but it is not treated that way for political reasons. A third of women need a service and that service is hidden behind closed doors and misinformation, even from people in health care roles.

What Provide does is really different from what other abortion organizations do. The reason that I am so proud to work there is because it is situated so well at the intersection of so many concerns — class, race, gender, health, and geography — without making it about us versus them. We train people who are pro-life because our training isn’t about politics, and we have them acknowledge a professional obligation of care to their patients that is different from their own personal beliefs. There is a place for abortion politics and there are a lot of great organizations that do that work, but we’re about on the ground culture change. And we’re actually making that happen.

I am immensely proud to work for an organization that so successfully integrates intersectional feminism and harm reduction philosophy into its worldview, and I am immensely proud to work for an organization that cares about and invests resources in people who are from the South. Our trainers are people who were already local activists in the states where we work. My creative communications work means that I’ve gotten to put money into the local creative economy for video and acting and graphic design. We’ve got a UU church lady and an LGBT Youth Advocate; they didn’t hesitate to hire me despite my atheist activism and have never asked me to stop blogging and seeking attention on that front; we’re translating all our resources into Spanish and holding Spanish-language trainings. It’s really an amazing place. And it does it on a smaller budget than almost any other national abortion organization that you’ve ever heard of.

This is the link to where we’re trying to raise $5000 today for‪ #‎GivingTuesday‬. This is the cost of one of our Abortion Referrals Trainings — a day long intensive training that teaches up to 40 health care or social service workers, at no cost to them, how to do non-judgmental, accurate referrals, why they should be doing them, and allows them to ask an actual abortion provider questions about what happens when they refer someone to an abortion.

Here is a video featuring our field team from across our states that I spent about four months producing over the summer and I’m quite proud of it. If you have a minute (three minutes), check it out. And if you can donate, even a little bit, I know it’s not as aggressive a cause as atheism or politics, but it is a thing that is really making a difference in the world. And if you can’t, but think that what we do is worthwhile, maybe share what we’re doing, because a lot of people haven’t heard of us, and I think they should.

Ferguson: 5 Points We Need to Understand

Mike Brown

Mike Brown

We often hear about the cultural bubbles that we build for ourselves online, but, for better or for worse, I’ve never managed to insulate myself from the opinions of those I disagree very strongly with.  Ferguson has been no exception.  I thought it might be worth the effort to lay out, in detail, my own opinions and observations here on my blog.  This is a bit difficult because, for the most part, I would much rather promote the voices of others on this issue, particularly those voices coming out of Ferguson, but I also think that there are people that I can reach by writing about it myself.  It’s worth noting at the top, then, that I am a white, upper middle class woman who has never had any trouble with the police and never thought twice about calling the police when I was in trouble myself.  But that’s who I’d like to talk to right now, white people who aren’t afraid of the police, because I think we’re the ones who aren’t getting why people are burning buildings and cars in their own city in frustration.

I have some quibbles and questions about who exactly is burning things down, but let us assume for the sake of this discussion it is in fact residents of Ferguson behaving destructively and looting and so on and not, as rumored, militant anti-protester groups, out-of-towners, anarchists, or the KKK.

Forget, for a moment, what you know about Ferguson.  I want to talk about anger and despair.  When is the last time you got angry?  Really, really angry?  That you felt unjustly treated, that someone got something that should have been yours?  You were robbed, you were violated, you were cheated, you were mistreated, powerless to control the world around you.  Have you ever been so mad that you screamed? Threw something? Punched a wall? Got in a fight?  The last time I got angry, really properly angry like that, it was because someone had lied to me.  I was so angry I wanted to hurt something, wanted something else to hurt so I didn’t have to.  I had no power to change what had happened.  Despair and anger and powerlessness together are destructive — usually self-destructive. [Read more…]

A Letter from Morehouse SafeSpace President Marcus Lee UPDATED

by Marcus Lee

Thank you for writing this poignant blog about your experience. I’m the President of Morehouse SafeSpace—Morehouse’s Alliance for Gender and Sexual Diversities—and these issues are ones we grapple with frequently.

Our situation is a complex and peculiar one. I’m proud to say that many of us (students & alum) have committed to loving ourselves/each other regardless of—and in some instances because of—our differences. Moreover, there are many faculty and staff members—including the President of the college, the Office of Student Life, several professors, etc.—that embrace us. However, Morehouse’s curricula, institutional policies and procedures do not reflect this embrace. There are no Black queer studies courses, gender and sexual orientation are absent from our employment nondiscrimination policy, we have a dress code that outlaws wearing ‘female attire,’ we have an inactive diversity committee, and the list continues. So, I don’t think the football team’s reactions are inherent to them specifically. Instead, they are a product of a grooming process—that begins in the world, and is buttressed or goes uninterrupted at Morehouse—that’s checkered with heteronormativity and silence; inclusive spaces are forged here in spite of, not because of, the culture of the college.

To be sure, Morehouse will respond to this issue—many of us (students and alum) have reached out to the President and the VP of Student Affairs and they’ve responded with disappointment and noted that the football team will be engaging in dialogue about this soon. And, when asked about an institutional commitment to diversity, the VP noted that it’s also coming soon.

I hope this is true. Issues like these cannot and should not be dealt with discreetly. This is a systemic issue that permeates campus no matter how friendly and encouraging a few administrative folks are toward us. In short, I implore anyone who is concerned to ask, not what will happen with the football team particularly, but what will be installed to permanently mitigate homophobia on campus. That’s the key.

Thanks again,

Marcus Lee


So many folks have reached out about the “Dear White People” blog and I’m so thankful for your support. I haven’t been able to offer detailed responses to folks asking about our needs because I’m still a student with A LOT of work to do, applications to complete, etc. But, I wanted to write a short post advising folks on what support for us looks like in this moment.

Things that don’t help:

– [Erroneously] saying that Morehouse is a school full of girls (which is somehow supposed to elucidate the irony of the situation; but, in reality only implies that there is something wrong with being a “girl” [gay] and reinforces homophobia.)

– Opportunistically reaching out to us to be flown down for a panel, a meeting, etc. without actually having any real concern about or knowledge of Morehouse’s history with diversity–i.e. our setbacks and triumphs.

– Castigating the actions of the football team without asking questions about what Morehouse is or is not doing institutionally to interrupt homophobia [thereby, allowing for the possibility that the football team may be used as a scapegoat to avoid dealing with institutional issues].

– Suggesting that homophobia among those men–some of whom are my friends–was inevitable [thereby, perpetuating the myth of Black “super-homophobia” (as opposed to white “gentle-homophobia”?)]

Things that do help:

– Reaching out to the Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities and asking her how many of the several open positions in the social science departments will be filled by scholars who study sexuality and gender–more specifically, scholars who label their work “Black/Queer/Feminist” [be sure that the word “Black” is included somewhere in that label.]

– Reach out to the President of the college and the VP of Student Affairs to ask which campus-wide programs are happening in order to mitigate homophobia.

– Ask the VP who is on the Diversity Committee, how often they meet, and what they have done for the campus

– Reach out to the Provost of the college to ask which part of the general education curriculum includes a necessary, thoroughgoing engagement with Black/Queer/Feminist work. Then, ask which texts are being read.

– Ask when the LGBT diversity competence training happens on campus and how many faculty and staff members show up.

– Reach out to General Counsel and ask how long it will take for gender identity and sexual orientation to be added to the employment non discrimination policy and the student non-discrimination policy.

– Reach out to the President and ask that the “Appropriate Attire Policy” be abolished.

– And the list continues.

I hope this helps!

How the Morehouse Football Team ruined Dear White People and proved its point

dear white people

Response from Morehouse SafeSpace president here.

As a filmmaker, intersectional scholar, and a huge fan and supporter of the original trailer and campaign for “Dear White People,” I was ecstatic to be able to go see the film here in Columbia, SC.  The film itself didn’t disappoint.  Clearly influenced by Wes Anderson in cinematography, but wholly unique in tone, it was a brilliantly funny, biting, and moving film.  The acting, the directing, the cinematography were all superb, even before you take into account the origin story and budget of the film.  The experience of seeing the film, however, was incredibly unpleasant.  Spoilers ahead.

Just as the trailers were ending and the movie starting, a hundred people started pouring into the theater.  This was the Morehouse College Football Team, here in Columbia to play Benedict College tomorrow.  Morehouse is an all-male historically black college in Atlanta not too far from my own undergraduate institution of Emory.  It is the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  As the movie started, I was excited that this many people were in the theater to see the movie.  It was a short-lived excitement.

There are three main plots in “Dear White People,” and one of them focuses on a black gay kid named Lionel, played by “Everybody Hates Chris” star Tyler James Williams, who doesn’t fit in with any group — not with gay kids, not with white kids, and not with black kids, who have historically treated him with homophobia and cruelty.  His story is about the toxic effect of homophobia in the black community.  In addition to the heterosexual romances involving all the other characters, there is also a budding romance between Lionel and another man.  The initial hints at this romance did not win the Morehouse College Football Team’s approval.  They started saying homophobic things every time Lionel was onscreen.  When Lionel had a same-sex kiss, the team went into a frenzy — everyone turned on their phones and said they weren’t looking, they started yelling, “What kind of movie is this?”  Several of them walked out, others started yelling at anyone on their team for looking at the screen when the kiss happened, “Man, you looked at that, I saw you!”  “What is this gay shit?”  “Some of y’all didn’t turn your heads away!”

It was nauseating.  But it got worse.

Lionel has a major heroic moment toward the end of the film in which he breaks up a racist party being held by an entitled white jerk, who is, more or less, the antagonist of the film, and who verbally and sexually harassed Lionel over his sexuality throughout the film.  The racist white guy tackles Lionel and pins him down.  In retaliation, Lionel kisses him (this freaked out the audience again), but the racist white guy responds by punching Lionel repeatedly in the face.

They cheered.  This room full of black men who attend Dr. King’s alma mater.  They cheered for the racist white guy because the black man he was being allowed to beat without repercussion was a faggot.

When the beating stopped, the Morehouse player behind me said that the white guy should have kept hitting him because that’s what he got for being gay.

I want you to imagine yourself in a dark room with a hundred physically fit men rooting for a hate crime to be perpetrated against a gay man.  It was terrifying.  It was horrifying.  It was depressing.  Can you imagine what a kid on that team who was gay would have felt?

When the film was over, it was all the men of Morehouse could talk about.  Who hadn’t closed their eyes and looked away when there was gay kissing?  One player said of Tyler James Williams, “Man, I must’ve watched every episode of ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ back in the day.  Can’t believe he’d go out like that.  Shit kills me.”

I don’t know if Morehouse College offers LGBT sensitivity training, but it should have someone come speak to the football team.  Even if you don’t approve of homosexuality, to come to a city as a football team, representing your college and your hometown, and to spit hate and vitriol in a room that includes other people, including LGBT people — it is not OK.  What kind of school sends out ambassadors of hate?  Can it be the same one that sent out Dr. King?  Hewing to the stereotype of black homophobia makes Morehouse and the black community weaker, and there are real victims.  Lionel may be fictional, but his treatment was not.  It’s a shame that “Dear White People”‘s message of acceptance didn’t reach everyone in the room.

EDITED TO ADD: Raynard Ware, a member of the Morehouse Football Team who was there last night offered this comment below, and I thought I should highlight it:

As a student and football player for the Maroon Tigers, I was disturb by the reaction of my teammates during certain scenes of the movie. The remarks and outbursts were upright embarrassing and prejudice. I am big on reputation and presentation. However, this is not a true reputation of our institution. We are sincerely apologetic that the loud embarrassing remarks were heard and not the intellectual discussion, which we also engaged in after the movie. Sorry to give off such a poor perception to the public eye, we ARE apologetic.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention, some of my teammates needed to know the perception they give to people.

Richard Dawkins on Date Rape vs Stranger Rape

Richard-Dawkins-slider-14Sometimes it’s hard to remember who you’re supposed to be allies with.  Richard Dawkins and Ophelia Benson released this lovely joint statement about harassment and, in a moment of severe not surprise, Dawkins proceeded to blow up Twitter by saying something he didn’t realize was quite as wrong-headed as it was.

It started with this tweet:

OK, that is perfectly logical.  Fair. Then it moved on to this example.

OK, well, this is an odd example, but considering Dawkin’s history of abuse and the probable difference he’s referring to, groping vs penetration, I can see what he’s saying here.  It’s probably a bit more subjective than that, but I see what he’s getting at: pedophilia plus violence is worse than pedophilia without violence. And then he went off the rails and Twitter exploded.

So the only way this analogy would work is if he removed date vs stranger and said rape without a knife is bad, rape with a knife is worse.  Except it’s clear that the knife thing is just a weird addendum and what he’s saying is that stranger rape is worse than date rape.

1. Responses to abuse are pretty subjective.  Different people respond differently to being harmed in different ways.  Maybe Dawkins is saying that he’d prefer to be date raped than being raped by a stranger.  But that, of course, is not what he’s saying.  He’s saying stranger rape is objectively worse.

This would be like me saying “Being stabbed in your left arm is bad.  Being stabbed in your right arm is worse.”  I will have said this for personal reasons — I am right-handed.  There are, however, a lot of people who are left-handed or ambidextrous to whom this statement would seem absurd.  Further, it’s making the assumption that the amount of damage inflicted in either case is the same.  But Dawkins is talking psychologically, not physically.


2. The main reason that this blew up in his face is that the majority of rapes are acquaintance rapes, so the majority of rape victims seeing this post see it as delegitimizing.  This is happening in a society that already says that date rapes don’t count the same way that stranger rapes do.  As it turns out, acquaintance rape is just a pre-meditated and intentional as acts of stranger rape.  Even if his assertion was true, it would be perpetuating the stigma that surrounds date rape survivors and paints them, inaccurately, as overreactors or people who changed their mind about sex.


3. What he is saying is FACTUALLY INCORRECT.  I cannot state this more clearly.  Dawkins is absolutely wrong on the fact in this case, assuming the psychological impact of the rape is what we care about.

Victims of acquaintance rape are as traumatized as victims of stranger rape. Specifically, they report equal (and high) levels of depression, anxiety, hostility, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms…” ( and victims of acquaintance rape are more likely to be unable to reconcile what happened with their beliefs in the world and to blame themselves. (Researching Sexual Violence Against Women edited by Martin D. Schwartz).

So, to be clear here, he’s claiming subjective feelings as fact, contributing to the deligitimization of the majority of rape victims, and not even operating with correct facts.  And doing so just because he did a bad job trying to explain what a syllogism is.  He could so easily fix this if he would just do a little research and listen to criticism and acknowledge he said something hurtful.  I have no reason to think he will do this, as he never has before.  It’s a shame, too, there’s just no reason for a man of his intellect and commitment to science to be so unwilling to examine facts and accept criticism of bad ideas.