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Jul 10 2013

Creepy Crackers n’ Shucking Toms

django uncle tom & little eva

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Pity poor Uncle Tom.  When angry white male atheists start trotting him out as a cover for their racist circle jerk you know you’ve got a postmodern moment with a cherry on top.  Although it’s never stopped being open season on black folk in America the Beautiful, the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, its partial smackdown of affirmative action and the happy times for George Zimmerman defense trial signal that the gloves are off again.  So now it seems the wages of whiteness atheist privilege brigade has come full circle from American Atheists’ 2012 naked shackled black slave billboard to Cult of Dusty’s viral “Black Christians=Uncle Toms” You Tube tirade.  According to creepy-cracker-white-man’s-burden-Dusty all black folk who subscribe to Christianity are not only domesticated dupes but neo-slave House Negro Stephens (in reference to Quentin Tarantino’s wet dream of buck-dancing black male cunning) shucking and jiving in our own 21st century version of Django Unchained.  But this racist ignoramus is no latter day John Brown dropping knowledge on us docile backward noble savages cowering under the yoke of dis here Good Book blessed by da Massa’s benevolence.

Conveniently omitted from this and umpteen other white atheist paeans to enlightening the dark hordes of ghetto superstition is any analysis of the white supremacist brutality of exalted secularist icons like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other revolutionary war patriots who built American empire on the backs of slave labor and through the propaganda of democratic citizenship.  Missing from this equation is a takedown of the proto-capitalist engine of black exploitation under slavery, its echoes in 20th century Jim Crow public policy and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration that fuels the criminal wealth gap between whites and people of color.  As Toni Morrison so sagely put it, slavery and freedom existed side by side, for “nothing highlighted freedom if it did not in fact create it, like slavery.  Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities for in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only the not-free…but the not-me.”  Then, as now, freedom, individualism and universal citizenship (the ostensible ideological impetus for the Revolutionary War) were based on white supremacy and racialized notions of nationhood.  In the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 white working class laborers were conferred with citizenship privileges—i.e., the right to bear arms, assemble, hold property and move around freely—entitlements that no black person, slave or free, could ever enjoy.  After the gradual institutionalization of racial slavery in the 1640s the categories slave and black became synonymous as did the categories white and free.  There was no loophole for any enlightened black non-theists that might have been running around.  There was no honorary black slave status (with the advantages of beatings, rapes, lifelong enslavement and dehumanization) granted pesky white atheists and anti-clericalists.  And the very secular American Constitution branded black slaves as 3/5s of a man in order to ensure that slave states had equal representation in Congress.

Racial slavery was driven by economic conditions and the proto-capitalist rise of American empire.  It provided an insurance policy against white working class resistance against the white aristocracy (from Jefferson the rapist slaver to the Koch brothers) by giving poor white folk access to the wages of whiteness.  As Theodore Allen writes in the Invention of the White Race, “At every turn, from the late 17th to the early 18th century, underclass whites were granted more and more rights and privileges: ‘The white-skin privileges of the poor free whites were simply reflexes of the disabilities imposed on the Negro slave: to move about freely without a pass; to marry without any upper-class consent; to change employment; to vote in elections in accordance with the laws on qualifications; to acquire property; and last, but not least, in this partial list, the right of self-defense.’”

Christianity did indeed buttress the regime of racial slavery and white supremacy, but, contrary to the delusions of some atheists, no mass secular/atheist/humanist uprising led to its dismantling—just as there has been no mass secular/atheist/humanist uprising against the mass incarceration of millions of African Americans in the world’s “greatest” democracy.

African American Christian theology, critique, organizing and oratory were powerful tools for revolutionary black abolitionist and black feminist resistance.  Revolutionaries like Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart (a black feminist forerunner and the first American woman to address a mixed audience), Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Henry Highland Garnett forged a global religious and anti-clericalist movement against slavery along with scores of unsung activist whites and people of color.  This legacy of black resistance informs a 21st century context of anti-racist struggle in which African Americans are confronted by more insidious residential segregation, long term unemployment and barriers to upward mobility than during the Jim Crow era.  But white atheists who spew the Uncle Tom charge won’t be down with that analysis, because white supremacy means having the privilege to demean and school the ignorant backward Other while profiting from interlocking systems of race, class, gender and capitalist exploitation that keep white America safe and secure in its segregated neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, grocery stores, retail centers, churches, university science programs, hedge funds and think tanks.

Lawdy! Massa cracker don didn’t tell us dat though.

On its Wednesday show the Black Freethinkers network, hosted by founder Kimberly Veal, will break down the video controversy as well as the historical context of slavery, Uncle Tom and the political subtext of black caricatures.  For more information contact: [email protected]

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists,Gender Politics, and the Values Wars and the newly released Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels.

 

 

20 comments

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  1. 1
    Great American Satan

    I had a question about 1/4 way through reading this, forgot what it was by the time I got to the end (your righteous fury scoured my brain), and looked up your wikipedia entry to see if I could remember what it was. I couldn’t, but I was reminded you’re hella awesome.

    I have been getting radicalized in recent years by economic indignities, repeated layoffs from corrupt industries steered by avowed libertarians… I’m getting more anti-capitalist by the minute. I knew slavery was driven by greed, but this reminder fed into my already intemperate hatred of the moneyed.

    What can we do? I am failing to care for my family. I vote for the lesser of two evils all the time and feel powerless in the state with the most regressive tax laws in the Union. Everything costs twice what it did ten years ago and I have half the money. And all the while my fellow poor white people are lining up to sell out their class because they hate a biracial guy in a white house.

    On an unrelated note, I used to have a kind of faith in atheism – that it was a mark of wisdom that would inevitably lead to progress. Hot damn, was I stupid.

  2. 2
    The Lone Apple

    Atheism is now and forever a personal choice for me borne of the fact that I do not and cannot believe in supernatural things. I was raised Christian and still subscribe to that philosophy but there are no miracles, people don’t walk on water or come back to life after they are dead. Sorry, doesn’t happen. But if someone else wants to believe it, it’s no skin off my nose. The blathering of an evangelical atheist are just as annoying to me as an evangelical religions person. Believe your belief and leave me alone is my motto and I will be good enough to leave you alone. The whining of the trolls of the world might be annoying but I’m more annoyed by the guy who is talking on his cell phone while riding the Xpress bus into Manhattan even though there’s an unwritten rule among riders that calls should not be made or kept to a minimum.

    I may think that racist people are poisoning the atmosphere but like the religious, I try to ignore it the best I can until they get in my face about it. I don’t go seeking it out just so that it’s in my face for me to be indignant about.

  3. 3
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    Righteous fury is a good way to describe this. I’m with @1: you’re a hell of a writer, ma’am.

    Am I right in thinking that it’s really inappropriate (not to say flat-out racist) for someone who isn’t Black* to use “Uncle Tom” as an epithet? I encountered someone the other day saying this of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas, and while I think the man and his rulings tend to be odious, it seems to me a problem when a critique of him turns on his race, no?

    I’m asking because I’m white and not USan, and can’t be sure from the outside whether my perception of this is accurate. So I wanted to know if anyone has any suggestions for a good critique/post explaining why that’s not okay (assuming I’m right and it really isn’t okay), something I can link to which would make the point? I’ve tried Googling, but all I seem to get are racist screeds about how awful Thomas is, rather than interrogations of the racism.

    * And also not my place to criticize if someone who is Black wants to use it, I believe.

    1. 3.1
      blackskeptics

      Thank you Caitie and yes that is one of the core issues here — as a white man this ahistorical ignoramus has the right and the privilege to smear Afr-Ams as Uncle Toms while benefiting from the very same apparatus of white supremacy that allowed all of those good freedom-loving white deist/secularists to rape, enslave and colonize in the name of democracy. The terms/figures Uncle Tom/House Negro come from the very particular cultural and historical context of slavery vis-a-vis betrayal and complicity. While often used satirically by Afr-Ams to call-out perceived race traitors they have a very painful subtext of intra-racial transgression and acquiescence to terroristic violence against Afr-Ams.

      1. CaitieCat, getaway driver

        Thanks for your reply, and the time and energy to answer my question.

  4. 4
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    You’ll certainly correct me if I’m way off-base, but the critique of African American Christianity by white Atheists usually looks a little like this:

    “I don’t know why you people continue to live in that house! It was built for you by someone you hate, for bad reasons. The pipes leak and the doors squeak, and it isn’t up to modern construction standards. You keep telling me that it keeps you warm in the winter, and your frequent family dinners around the huge table are a tradition you hold dear, but so what? It doesn’t matter that there’s plenty of room for family visiting out of state, and a nice big kitchen to cook your meals in, because it doesn’t meet current ideals about home construction. You need to move out immediately, and leave all your stuff and traditions and giant furniture and appliances when you move.

    What’s that? You think I should make room in my house for you, or at least assist in helping you replace your old home with a new one? THAT’S CRAZY! You people are just as lazy and looking for handouts as they say on Fox News!”

    There are so many atheists, and white self-proclaimed liberals too, who are only in it for themselves and their feeling of being on the right side, and the ability to lord it over their “inferiors”. Not so much interest in doing the right things, or really putting themselves out there in a way that will break up the systems that benefit them, or doing anything besides pointing and mocking other people.

    1. 4.1
      blackskeptics

      Right on with the analogy — and while we’re on it why not add that we’re going to douse “ya’lls” house with kerosene and burn it down when ya’ll try and get an equitable loan to buy the land the house is on.

  5. 5
    Edward Gemmer

    I’ve never heard of that guy and at first didn’t watch the whole video because his voice grates on me a bit. I went back and watched it, and laughed at the end. It seems more of a condemnation of Christianity using black people as an example rather than condemnation of black people.

    The criticism of religion v. the criticism of culture is a constant struggle for any atheist and I don’t see any great way around it.

  6. 6
    Sean Sherman

    He’s done this before in his Fuck Kat Williams video.

  7. 7
    elly

    Two minutes in, I felt like smacking that guy over the head with a copy of Rev. James Cone’s “The Cross and the Lynching Tree.”

  8. 8
    double-m

    Apologies in advance for the lengthy comment.

    Conveniently omitted from this and umpteen other white atheist paeans to enlightening the dark hordes of ghetto superstition is any analysis of the white supremacist brutality of exalted secularist icons like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other revolutionary war patriots who built American empire on the backs of slave labor and through the propaganda of democratic citizenship.

    Very good point. That’s what you get for trying to build the future by appealing to the past. If you idolize people from the 18th century, you’ll end up with an idol gallery of primitive, 18th century savages, who were slavers, considered women to be inferior by birth, found nothing wrong with caning being a standard parenting instrument, had no problems imposing “sodomy” laws and so on.

    A true skeptic is a person who questions what others take for granted – no taboos. Yet for many self-proclaimed skeptics – especially white – the nation’s founders seem to be such a taboo. I get it that they’re trying to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the wider public by appealing to supposed authority figures from the past. I guess it’s easier to appeal to the “good old times” if you’re a white middle-class person, and those good old times left you a legacy of safe suburban homes, university degrees, health insurance and so on. But that’s no excuse. This glorification of the past, of authority figures, is exactly the kind of unhelpful behavior religions engage in. It’s unworthy of a skeptic.

    I think Atheists, especially Humanists who use their philosophy as a tool to bring about social change, should have the courage and the clarity of thought to say that there never were any good old times, no heroes from the past whose ideas could be used as points of reference. Genuine improvement requires an honest analysis of the past and present, as well as honesty about what “improvement” really means. And in this case, the honest approach is to say that this secular, equal-for-everyone, scientifically minded world we’re trying to build is something that hasn’t existed before – that it’s a journey into uncharted territory. True, in the short term that may scare off a few people. But I’m convinced that in the long term, it will enhance the credibility of Atheism.

    Christianity did indeed buttress the regime of racial slavery and white supremacy, but, contrary to the delusions of some atheists, no mass secular/atheist/humanist uprising led to its dismantling—just as there has been no mass secular/atheist/humanist uprising against the mass incarceration of millions of African Americans in the world’s “greatest” democracy.

    The connection between religion and the fight for civil rights is something I here about a lot. What little progress my fellow Roma people have made in terms of equality in Europe, America as well as Western Asia, is usually attributed to either Catholicism or Islam. In the same way many African Americans credit Protestantism for their advancements. What is conveniently overlooked is that this religious connection has also cemented bigotry in all its forms among us – misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, anti-scientism and so on. I’ve heard a thousand times, how evolution, higher mathematics, modern medicine, even proper education in general are “for white people”, and how we need something more in line with “our culture” (meaning faith healers and similar nonsense).

    So, while religion may have played a role in helping us take the first tiny step toward equality, it is now preventing us from taking the second step. It’s keeping us where we are, and that is not some mistake, it’s by design. Because white Americans and Europeans have better access to education than ethnic minorities do, we’re the easier mark. It’s easier to indoctrinate a “Gypsy” guy in superstitious nonsense than a white middle-class guy, who went from school to university instead of straight to prison. And religion, again by design, exploits that to our detriment. I’ve seen members of my own family (they qualify as “moderate” Muslims by Western standards) tell me that we shouldn’t be fighting for equality, but simply wait for Europe to become part of the future Islamic caliphate (as if the prospective rulers of that “caliphate” cared more about Gypsies than Europeans do). So no, religion is not an ally in our struggle for equality. It’s an enemy masquerading as an ally.

    I still think that white Atheists can be genuine allies in all this, but not in their present state. They need to be educated and made aware that they’re violating their own rationalistic philosophy by restricting their commitment to equality for everyone to lip service, instead of taking concrete action. White Humanists need to understand that conferences and Atheist monuments are fine, but not if these things come at the expense of their basic Humanistic duties. Duties such as making sure that young African American transgender people have access to counselling and fosterage from Humanists who respect their identity, instead of religious organizations that condemn it. Duties such as making sure there is a safehouse and relocation system in place, to evacute Atheists from fundamentalist Middle Eastern families. Such as educating Romani families about the need for proper medical care for their children, while recruiting volunteering doctors to provide that care. White secular feminists need to understand that spending 100% of their time obsessing over a sexist word, while doing absolutely nothing in regard to equal pay, equal access to education and leadership, nothing in regard to confidence building and, if necessary, physical self-defense for women of color, is a mockery of feminism. And so on.

    However, these people will understand none of the above, unless we confront them over it. The problem is, they’re quite comfortable with their current approach, and we have to take that comfort away from them. They have to be told in no uncertain terms that they’re acting irrationally, in stark contrast to their philosophy. I’ve been trying to do that over the past two years, with varying levels of motivation (because I seem to be the only person doing it), but something like that would have to be a group effort. It would be much harder for American Atheists to make wild claims about diversity, if say, people of color walked out of one of their conferences and told them there would be no dialog until they moved their headquarters to a socially disadvantaged NYC neighborhood and divided their time equally between their legal activism and grassroots community work (just one ad hoc example out of many for what could be done). Again, as added value, this would significantly enhance the credibility of the Atheist community as a whole.

    If there’s any chance of a having a world, where full equality is not just an abstract concept, then in my opinion, Atheism and Humanism are crucial tools in building that world. However, the best tools are useless if their operators are incompetent. The current “operators” of Atheism need guidance, or at the very least an instructions manual, for their tool. It seems to me that only people of color can provide that guidance. I don’t really know how to express this without sounding silly, so I’ll just say it: the goal for Atheists of color should be to assume leadership of the Atheist movement, not just in the United States, but on a global level. People like you, Sikivu, like Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen, Salman Rushdie etc. are already doing that. But it’s not enough, there have to be more. And rank-and-file Atheists like myself have to approach this with more confidence, assertiveness, and willingness to lead (easier said than done, if you were raised to be a subservient Romani girl, but we have to try) than we do now. This may sound like reverse racism, but I don’t mean it that way. This isn’t about power or control. It’s about owning a movement that can serve as a platform for achieving equality.

    I won’t hesitate to say that there are things on our side that we have to change. We have to build the intellectual prestige to add credibility to a “coup d’etat” within the movement. I have a book called Introduction to Abstract Algebra from the local library right here in front of me, which I started reading yesterday. It’s a pretty atypical thing for someone like me to read, and my inner voice keeps telling me on auto-repeat “I’m not good at math, I’m better at social/administrative things, yeah it’s great if women do it, I’m just not the right person”. But too many women like me have used those lines as an excuse. I don’t have to become a mathematician, but I can hardly call myself a logical thinker, if I don’t have a basic understanding of mathematics. And then leadership, even if it’s just on a strictly local level, requires the willingness to leave your comfort zone.

    I know, this may sound like a particularly silly personal example, but think of it: how exactly am I supposed to argue against a white, male, middle-class Atheist, if his points are based on logic, coming from a solid scientific background, and all I have to back up my point of view are emotion and intuition? Any concessions he’d make would feel like nothing more than charity. My point is, we shouldn’t be asking for a better position within the Atheist movement. Because A) we’ve tried and it never worked, and B) even if we were given nothing more than the things we were entitled to, it would still feel like charity, at least to me. I think the correct and most effective approach is to make it impossible for the Atheist community not to give people of color a leading role.

    Sikivu, I don’t know if you’ve ever studied mathematics, but I think you’re setting a great example in that area. I’ve watched quite a few videos of talks you gave, and one thing that struck me was how your intellectual language and your ability to back up that language with sound reasoning, made it impossible to ignore you. As a child, I was taught to rely on intuition and feelings, and that rationality was for males, especially white males. My mother actually told me that too much thinking made a girl ugly. I’ve noticed how that kind of conditioning is a lot harder to shake in practice than in theory. Watching a debate on youtube, with Richard Dawkins, and then an African American woman called Dr. Hutchinson who was capable of matching his intellect one-to-one, was very refreshing in that context. It really was one of the things that ultimately motivated me to borrow that math book.

    By making an active effort to improve the soundness of our logic – at least those of us with access to libraries – we raise our prestige to the necessary levels to be accepted as leaders of the movement. To the point where being an Atheist of color is associated with leadership, just as being an old white male is now. Yes, it takes time. And yes, it means more work, in addition to surviving and the community work many of us already do. But in my opinion it’s also justified by the potential rewards. Because the combination of reason, willingness to lead, and the awareness of social issues that comes with being part of an ethnic minority, is one hell of an instrument for change.

    1. 8.1
      blackskeptics

      “The current “operators” of Atheism need guidance, or at the very
      least an instructions manual, for their tool. It seems to me that only people of
      color can provide that guidance. I don’t really know how to express this without
      sounding silly, so I’ll just say it: the goal for Atheists of color should be to
      assume leadership of the Atheist movement, not just in the United States, but on
      a global level. People like you, Sikivu, like Maryam Namazie, Taslima Nasreen,
      Salman Rushdie etc. are already doing that. But it’s not enough, there have to
      be more. And rank-and-file Atheists like myself have to approach this with more
      confidence, assertiveness, and willingness to lead (easier said than done, if
      you were raised to be a subservien
      t Romani girl, but we have to try) than we do now. This may sound like reverse
      racism, but I don’t mean it that way. This isn’t about power or control. It’s
      about owning a movement that can serve as a platform for achieving equality.”

      Thank you double-m for your critical consciousness. I identify with many of your points about the high stakes of making atheism/Humanism a global resistance movement that is steeped in the lived experiences, shared struggle and cultural capital of people of color. A major element of that involves building on the lessons and legacies of Jim Crow era anti-racist anti-imperialist anti-capitalist freethinkers who understood that our communities will not embrace secularism if it is not explicitly linked to economic enfranchisement and the humanization of black, brown, Asian and indigenous peoples in all segments of society. As I’ve said many times before, working class youth of color, queer and straight, may be more open to non-religious belief systems but have no visible viable humanist models in the community to look to when it comes to both social justice organizing and social service provision. When there is no secularist attention to the global crime of mass incarceration (and its root in slavery and racial apartheid) and progressive religious organizations appear to be the only frontline community providers of and drivers around prisoner re-entry resources for the scores of youth offenders who leave the system with no jobs, housing or education then “humanism” is an empty conceit for poor communities of color. When “Talented Tenth” atheists of color readily lap up the “dumb backward Black Christians” propaganda of white atheists and justify their classist estrangement from “those” unenlightened Negroes in the ghetto then mainstream atheist “activism” becomes, just as you indicate, an intellectualized vacuum of circle jerk conferences and smackdowns on You tube.

      Because of the myth of American exceptionalism and the insidious ethos of colorblindness (as well as “post-feminism” and its political Tweedledum “post-racialism”) I think the struggle to develop a truly intersectional humanist social justice movement is perhaps even more acute in the U.S. Yet I don’t think leadership visibility ultimately has anything to do with the soundness of our logic (because as a black person in the U.S. you can have advanced Ivy league degrees in nuclear physics or be Barack Obama and still be considered a primitive spear-chucking N) but the degree to which more humanists are willing to put their asses on the line, coalition-build and organize across liberation movements that do not privilege and universalize the experiences, discourse and world views of European and European-American atheists. Similar to your experience being told that rational thinking was the province of males, I know so many brilliant young women of color who have been told and shown that they are only capable of pursuing traditional caregiving jobs and that STEM fields are pie in the sky. Part of our Women’s Leadership Project pedagogy deals with the social construction of white Western scientific genius vis-à-vis the racial/gender other (especially the way in which this plays out in low academic expectations of STEM students of color and overall high K-12 suspension/expulsion rates for AA youth). I’ve found that making these intersectional links for youth of color is a strong bridge to developing culturally relevant humanist critical thinking. The kind that mainstream atheism, for all its loud blather about “critical thinking”, regularly denigrates.

      1. Great American Satan

        So cool. I love that Black Skeptics is involved in direct work to improve lives.
        That’s powerful and inspirational humanism.

        1. blackskeptics

          Thanks american1satan (love that handle)!

      2. double-m

        I’m really bad at keeping things short, so apologies again for another long comment.

        I’ve been away from the United States for some time, so I only have second hand information about the situation there today. During my time attending American schools in the late 80s and early 90s, the racism I experienced was mostly of the subtle and hard-to-prove type. I was given easier questions in class than white pupils, I wasn’t encouraged to try again when I got my answers wrong, and so on. This was also consistent with what I observed, happened to African American and Hispanic classmates. Overt racism was relatively rare, the education system simply seemed to commit fewer resources toward developing our potential.

        One area where we did face open and unapologetic racism, was from the police and the courts system. In many cases, white “police officers” were nothing more than criminal gangs, who treated us like animals. Also, white adolescent males who had committed things like gun violations were given warnings, second and third chances in court, prevented from being expelled from school by their parents’ lawyers, etc.. Boys of color on the other hand, like my cousins and their African American buddies, who had committed far more harmless transgressions, were treated by judges like a contamination that had to be quarantined (preferably in juvie).

        For me personally, this treatment made the first connection between Atheism and its link to evolution, and social justice. Because it seemed to me that, if variation was required for evolution, then a community that wanted to evolve needed a diversity of ideas and perspectives. What better source of that diversity than the unique biographies of ethnic minorities, gay people, transgender people, sex workers, and so on? So my reasoning was – and still is – that a genuinely Humanistic community, one which doesn’t ignore its philosophy like many white Humanists do, would make substantial investments in its minorities. Because it would see them as assets that should be developed to their full potential, not liabilities that must be managed in the most cost effective way.

        As for the “talented tenth”, from personal experience I’d say this behavior has a lot to do with fear of going back to your old life, in addition to feelings of inferiority vs. your new social stratum. For me, it wasn’t talent, but a relative who somehow became wealthy, paid for our relocation to Europe, and got my father a decent job. The first year or two in this new life, I really acted like a spoiled teenager. There was an episode when I refused to visit family from my mother’s side, because I was “too good for those people”. In hindsight, this arrogant behavior on my part was actually a cover for some irrational fear of having to go back to a time when I didn’t have my own room, couldn’t afford new clothes etc. I’m not proud of that time, but I’m also not sure if there would have been any way of preventing it. I was simply too caught up in the rush of my new social status to be responsive to moral objections. If there is a way of counteracting that other than waiting for some event that changes your attitude, I haven’t found it yet.

        As for well-meaning, white people, perhaps the biggest problems I’ve observed there, are unrealistic expectations and a lack of patience. They’re often unaware that not every problem has a quick fix, and that some social ailments take a generation or more to rectify. I’m part of a Freethought group for immigrants that does community work at the local asylum seekers’ home. Over the past year, we’ve had our share of white Swiss people who were willing to help (all of them actually male), but none of them have lasted very long. Mentoring girls, for example, is one of the things we do, and Swiss feminists will usually agree that that’s a good idea. But to actually do it, you’ll have to play along with the social order of your target group in order to gain their trust first.

        A family of Romani refugees won’t let you anywhere near their children, unless you show appropriate reverence to the male head of their family. So you’ll have to be respectful to some old man, who thinks women are inferior, bosses his wife around, and has probably beaten her a few times in his life. Or, the only reason they’re letting us hold a martial arts class for girls, is because we’ve mixed it with teaching them things like cooking and ironing, that are “proper” for a girl. After the class, we help the women at the facility cook a Sunday meal for the males, to show them that we’re “good women”. Those things are necessary to establish the rapport you need to gradually introduce change, and you have to be careful not to move too fast, or you’ll break that rapport. Most white feminists would be unwilling to get their hands dirty like that, because it would seem demeaning to them.

        I’ve seen this inability to change everything in one generation in myself, as well as the impatience white people show toward it. I’ve renounced religion, I’ve taken an interest in science and logic, but there are also things from my upbringing that I won’t be able to overcome. For example, being married and having children, for me personally, excludes working outside the home. Community work yes, attending meetings of the local Freethought group yes, but a paid job no. In the eyes of Swiss non-religious feminists, that makes me the dumb Gypsy woman, and somehow invalidates any feminist community work I do. What they don’t realize is that this has nothing to do with being “dumb”, but is a matter of conditioning. I already know there’s no logical reason why I’d have to be a housewife. What white middle-class people have difficulty understanding, is that there are only so many fundamental things people and communities can change within a certain amount of time, without placing themselves in severe emotional distress.

        I suspect, this impatience also plays into what you mentioned about a “colorblind” society. Another aspect, in my opinion, is this misguided positive attitude mantra which, in my experience, is even more widespread in the U.S. than in Europe. Many people seem to be under the illusion, that pretending this colorblind society already exists, will somehow magically make it exist. I guess it’s more comfortable to delude yourself than to tackle the economic reform, reform of the education, justice, and law enforcement systems, the massive investments, hard work and changes in attitude necessary to create a genuinely colorblind society.

        Another issue we’re dealing with in our community work specifically, is a lack of solidarity between the various groups. Often their conservatism, reinforced by religion, stands in the way of cooperation. The Roma at the asylum seekers’ home are outright afraid of the African people there, because of their dark skin. They believe that since lighter-skinned Romani people come from “god”, those dark people must come from the “devil” (this is of course total nonsense, because Roma have visibly darker hair and skin than “whites”). On the other hand, the Ethiopian families at the facility, whose culture appears to emphasize cleanliness and almost military discipline, want nothing to do with “those filthy, chaotic Gypsies”.

        This in particular is something that bothers me personally, because being in a mixed Jamaican-Romani marriage has taught me that Black and Roma people are natural allies. Because of historical parallels (forced relocation, slavery, genocide, child-snatching, forced sterilizations and so on are in the collective memory of both groups), as well as strikingly similar challenges in the present (living under third world conditions in Western countries, facing discrimination in education and work, young males being funneled into the prison system, superficially equal laws that disproportionally target our people, being trapped in superstition, misogyny, homophobia, and so on). I have to admit, this is one area where I’m really impatient, and I’d like to push some magic button that makes the two groups cooperate.

        Finally, there is one point where I have to respectfully disagree with you. In my opinion, intellectual prestige is crucial, especially for women. I don’t know if this is your experience as well, but in my experience, both ethnic minorities and women are automatically expected to argue from fuzzy emotions and intuition, and to be less capable of precise logic. Irrefutable evidence to the contrary, at least for me, has been able to change that attitude in other people. As an example, the women here at our local group were often patronized and our arguments seemed to have less weight with the males. One thing we were especially belittled for, was our lack of computer skills. At some point, I became so annoyed that I went on the internet and forced myself to learn the mathematics of binary numbers, and then started talking about it during our weekly meeting. The other women then tried the same. Aside from the fact that stunning boys is always fun, it also had a lasting positive impact. Since we’ve proven beyond any doubt that we were capable of understanding “hard logic”, we’ve been taken much more seriously. We’ve all tried similar approaches in different settings since then, by demonstrating understanding of rigorous intellectual topics at work, with our husbands, etc.. I know, ten women are a small sample, but our results have been pretty consistent.

      3. double-m

        In many cases, white “police officers” were nothing more than criminal gangs, who treated us like animals.

        Looks like the situation is “evolving”. You don’t even need cops anymore to be hunted and killed like animals.

  9. 9
    Skeptic Dude

    What a steaming load of horseshit.

    You want to see a fucking racist, try looking in your god damn mirror you smug self-righteous hypocritical piece of shit.

    1. 9.1
      CaitieCat, getaway driver

      It’s not considered goot netiquette to talk to yourself in someone else’s comment thread, dude. If you want to practice calling yourself out for being a racist, well, that’s a good thing. But I don’t reckon you have to inflict it on this nice lady’s thread, do you?

      1. CaitieCat, getaway driver

        I’m gonna go with, “I was tired”, as my reason for goot. I meant, of course, good.

        The point still applies.

    2. 9.2
      Anri

      Any minute now, ‘Skeptic Dude’ is going to actually rebut some of the good factual points made in the OP.

      Really.

      Like any minute now.

      Soon!
      Now!

      Oh, false alarm.

      …aannyy minute now…

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