Movie Friday: What REALLY happened to the dinosaurs?

Sometimes you can defeat an opponent through superior tactics – predicting her/his strategy and countering it out of the gate. Sometimes you defeat an opponent through brute force, having the sheer numbers to overpower her/him. Other times it’s just dumb luck, then the cards happen to fall in your favour and you end up the victor.

Other times your opponent defeats her/himself:

This is my issue with biblical literalism – that book wasn’t published by someone wishing to lampoon religion; on the contrary, it was written by religious people to demonstrate a system of belief. The fact that this system of belief is unbelievably stupid means that any attempt to build a factual narrative from it will also come out unbelievably stupid. Ron Babcock (the comedian) doesn’t have to do anything aside from just reading the book – the humour is already there.

My favourite line comes at the end:

I grew up Catholic, but I didn’t grow up fucking retarded

This is how I came by my atheism – not out of some kind of spiteful rejection of a God that I knew was there but I didn’t like – but out of using my (God-given) intellect to evaluate what seemed to make the most sense. Either I had to reject the idea that a completely incoherent, non-predictable, non-observable, fundamentally unknowable entity had specific designs for me based on a book that was both internally and externally inconsistent, or I had to essentially lobotomize myself and believe the crazy shit that would be a direct result of that book being accurate.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

N.B. A reader pointed out to me that it’s fairly hypocritical of me to talk about the use of language and privilege and all that other stuff, and then to turn around and use the word ‘retarded’. He makes a fair point, and I apologize for using it here without any sort of disclaimer. ‘Retarded’ is an ableist phrase that is extremely derogatory toward people with developmental disabilities. While I try not to use it in my day-to-day language, I shouldn’t have quoted it here without pointing that fact out.

Is atheism a ‘white people thing’?

I suppose I have been remiss in not commenting on Alom Shaha’s Guardian article entitled The Accidental Exclusion of non-White Atheists:

These are issues that the white “leadership” of the atheist and sceptic (sic) movements have largely ignored because they are not issues that concern them. But these issues should concern all atheists – because if we are to be a “community”, if, as so many of us want, we are to be given the same standing in society as people who identify with a religious group, then we must ensure that black and Asian people are not just made to feel welcome but actively encouraged to join atheist and sceptic (sic) movements.

Part of my hesitation is from the fact that the article really doesn’t say very much aside from the obvious fact that the public face of atheism is largely a white one. The other part of my hesitation is that I don’t know how much meaningful commentary I have to contribute – I am not really a member of the “black community” as much as I am a member of the “atheist community”. The reason for the scare quote is, of course, that these terms don’t really describe anything other than a media impression. There is no monolithic black community or atheist community, except insofar as when things happen that are germane to all blacks or all atheists. As a result, I can only really describe my own experience.

I came to the atheist community very recently – only associating with other people as atheists qua atheism since the beginning of this year. There are others in my social circle who have been involved in the political and social machinations of the secular movement for years, some even for decades. There was no outreach for black atheists, I simply ponied up the courage to show up to an event, and then a pub night, and then another event, and so on. It wasn’t long before I was ingratiated as a “full member” of the Vancouver atheist scene, to the point where new members of our little band of merry men assumed I’d been there since the beginning. I was welcomed with essentially open arms, and have never felt that my race was a barrier (or a white-guilt-ridden over-reach) to my involvement or membership.

Of course, that’s not what this article is about. This is about the “accidental” exclusion of PoCs, making atheism a de facto ‘white people thing’. There are a number of factors at play, but I will again restrict my observations to my own personal experience.

I’m a guy who doesn’t mind going to stuff by himself. If I had been, for example, relying on friends (particularly friends that look like me) to go to an atheist event with me, that would have been one additional hurdle – especially if my friends were particularly religious.

I’m also a guy who is used to being surrounded by non-black people. If I had been the kind of person who is uncomfortable sticking out in a room full of strangers – strangers who are staring at me for being both new and different – that would have been another disincentive.

I speak fluent English. I enjoy talking about my race. I have a racially diverse group of close friends – there are a number of things that I have going for me that are not what I would imagine to be typical of the “average” experience of a PoC.

The things I have noted above (minus the accent thing, I guess) are also things that a non-PoC wouldn’t have to worry about, or would have to worry about much less. Just as I enjoy a certain amount of male privilege at atheist pub nights, not having to feel intimidated walking into a room of (mostly) men, not having to worry about being sexually harassed (and being able to defend myself against that if it did happen), there is a certain amount of white privilege at play when a non-PoC takes the initiative to attend an atheist gathering. All this means is that, at a population level, it is easier for non-PoCs to go to these kinds of things than it is for a PoC. It is not prohibitive, but that’s not how these things work. There is no sign outside the door that says “No blacks, no Jews”, but there doesn’t have to be – all that’s required is the general feeling that there are a certain “type” of people who are welcome.

Note that I haven’t said anything about my income, my level of education, my previous experience with lectures/debates, my interest in science – any number of factors that may be parallel racial/ethnic divides. Those variables most certainly exert influence and play an important role in why atheism is predominantly for non-PoCs but it is important to note the number of barriers that I personally didn’t have to jump through, but that a less-keen PoC would have. Even if we did have a level political playing field, I’d enjoy a head and shoulders advantage over the “average” person in my ethnic group for a number of reasons that have everything to do with race and nothing to do with anything else.

Based on the flood of comments after the Guardian article and the majority that follow Jen McCreight’s article on same, there’s still a long way to go before this becomes generally understood.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

George W. Bush misses the point, says something stupid

So George W. Bush is in the news again for saying something stupid. *Ho hum*

“‘I didn’t like hearing people claim that I lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction or cut taxes to benefit the rich. But the suggestion that I was racist because of the response to Katrina represented an all-time low.’”

So, to be clear. This is the president that presided over the September 11th terrorist attacks, two mismanaged wars in which thousands died, the largest expansion of government intrusion in history, directed smear campaigns and dirty tricks against political opponents, and watched as hundreds of thousands of people suffered in the wake of a hurricane. He was almost universally reviled by the international community, irretrievably tarnished the reputation of the United States, destroyed public schooling, and created a gag rule that denied health care to women all over the world. This is a man whose name is now synonymous with failure, ineptitude, stupidity, and hubris.

But being called racist was the low point of his presidency.

Hooooo boy!

This is part of the reason why I think the word racism needs to be redefined for accuracy. We use it to describe some kind of active hatred and violence against a group of people, when its contemporary face is far more insidious than that. I don’t doubt for a moment that George W. Bush doesn’t affirm white supremacy openly – I’m sure he thinks he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body. However, his lack of response to the tragedy in Louisiana, and the lopsided, mismanaged, haphazard way in which his administration responded is a clear sign that he, and the rest of the people responsible, don’t give a flying fuck about black people. It’s the same lack of giving a fuck that makes 3,000 New Yorkers worth starting a war (two wars, really), but the hundreds of thousands of genocide victims in Sudan barely worth a ‘meh’.

I don’t think Mr. Bush is any more evil or racist than anyone else on the whole, he just believes in his own non-racism more deeply than someone like me does. He refuses to be self-critical about his motives when it comes to racial disparities, so convinced is he that he could not possibly be racist. And when his clearly-racist actions are identified as such, he retreats into the role of the victim – how dare he call me racist! The mature response to an accusation like that is to defend your position, but at the same time try and understand where the accusation is coming from. Kanye was spot on in his description, and if Mr. Bush had spent 2 seconds thinking about it, he’d see that too.

But of course, the word racism immediately shuts down rational thought (insert ‘George W. Bush is stupid’ joke here), and all parties try to climb the highest tree to avoid getting splashed by the racism floodwater (perhaps a tasteless allusion). Once we can discuss racism as a phenomenon and not a damming character trait, we can start to address it, and in that way improve the climate.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

The scourge of “scientific” racism

As a scientist and a black man, I cannot describe to you how weary I am of having people throw “scientific racism” in my face. I don’t mean that people try to prove to me that black people are scientifically inferior; we’ve pretty much debunked that already. No, the thing I resent is when people say stupid things like “science used to say that black people were inferior – therefore everything that science says is suspect.” It is a wearying argument, because not only is it inaccurate, it is actually self-refuting.

First off, science never said that black people were inferior, at least not science in any way that I have described it in the past. Science is a process involving explanation based on observed data, controlling for alternative explanations. Scientists are people who purport to use that method. However, like all people, scientists are subject to human failings, and have been known to say some bullshit-stupid things. Luckily, we have a process for evaluating bullshit-stupid claims – it’s called science. The reason that we know that racial differences are largely sociologically-constructed (as opposed to genetic) is because of science. We didn’t use meditation or divine revelation or any of these “different ways of knowing” to figure that out – we used science.

As I said, the claim is both inaccurate and self-refuting. Scientists did, at one point, make claims about the inferiority of The Negro. They did not, however, base those claims on science. They made the claims, then looked for evidence to support their conclusions. That is not the scientific method; that is the religious method. The doctrine of white supremacy was not based on evidence, but on a supernatural belief in the manifest will of the Creator, who endowed white people with superior qualities. The doctrine absolutely did co-opt the scientific establishment into supporting its assertions, but when the shine was off the apple and real investigation was done, no differences were found. It didn’t have to be so – we could have found a great deal of genetic differences between different ethnic groups. The evidence, however, does not support any doctrine of supremacy (and yes, I have met actual black supremacists – they’re just as bereft of science as their white counterparts).

However, we cannot simply ignore the history that the scientific establishment played in the legitimization and mainstreaming of racism, as Ghana is teaching us:

The Council For Afrika, a UK-based think-tank has commemorated the third global campaign to combat scientific racism, reiterating its commitment to counter the marginalisation and dehumanisation of Africans. The council used the anniversary, which coincided with the first decade of the 21st Century, to draw attention to the escalation of afrophobia, attributed to the global recession. A statement issued to the Ghana News Agency in Accra, by Dr Koku Adomdza, President of the council, said: “Afrophobia has escalated based on discrimination against name, ascent, physical appearance, ethnicity and African ancestry in all spheres of life in the Global North.”

“Scientific” racism (I feel obligated to use quotations here, because it’s not scientific) is not a spectre of the past that we’ve thankfully moved beyond. The campaign started in response to bizarre comments made by James Watson (yes, that James Watson):

“[I am] inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa [because] all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.”

Dr. Watson said he hoped everyone was equal, but added: “People who have to deal with black employees find this not true.”

Stay classy, Dr. Watson.

Dr. Watson was making those claims based on “scientific” research that had been done into intelligence among different racial groups. Of course, like the phrenology studies of the early 19th century, this research was based on faulty assumptions and poor methodology. It has since been largely discredited. It becomes problematic when preeminent scientists start making recommendations about policy based on bad science, which is what happened here.

It is for reasons like this that I am a skeptic. Whenever someone tells me “well X and Y are true”, my first thought is “how do you know that?” Most of the time I ask out of genuine interest, particularly when it’s a topic I’m unfamiliar with. However, other times it comes out of a deep suspicion that the claim being presented is bolstered by nothing other than confirmation bias and anecdote. “Scientific” racism definitely falls under this category.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

I present to you: Privilege Denying Dude

I was contacted by the person who owns the stock photo that was used to make Privilege Denying Dude and asked to remove the images from the site.

I am new to the world of the tumblr. My current favourite is definitely stfuconservatives, which is a (mostly) tongue-in-cheek listing of unbelievably stupid things that conservatives say. There is a stfuliberals as well, but it is somewhat… lighter on content.

However, I have just recently discovered what I think might be the greatest tool that a blogger like me can have:

Privilege Denying Dude

Some of my favourties:

 

 

This one’s for Brian:

 

And of course…

 

 

I don’t get a lot of them, and there are some repeats, but it’s a hilarious meme that I want to see continue.

I made one too, just for grassrute:

 

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Religious thinking used for good

I try to be an honest broker. While I am staunchly anti-religion, I am perfectly willing to recognize when it does something I think is good. This is one of those rare examples where I can’t really spin this as anything other than a positive:

“Today I will start with a three-part sermon on: Jesus was HIV-positive,” South African Pastor Xola Skosana recently said in a Sunday church service. The words initially stunned his congregation in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township into silence, and then set tongues wagging in churches across the country.

However, as Pastor Skosana told those gathered in the modest Luhlaza High School hall for his weekly services, in many parts of the Bible Jesus put himself in the position of the destitute, the sick and the marginalised. “Wherever you open the scriptures Jesus puts himself in the shoes of people who experience brokenness. Isaiah 53, for example, clearly paints a picture of Jesus who takes upon himself the infirmities and the brokenness of humanity,” he told the BBC.

He is also quick to emphasise that he is using the metaphor to highlight the danger of the HIV/Aids pandemic, which still carries a stigma in South Africa’s townships.

When I was young, I had a book of Aesop’s fables. For those of you too lazy to click, Aesop was a slave and story-teller from about 2600 years ago. His fables are among the most famous of all time, and still persist in our common lexicon (“sour grapes”, “crying wolf”, “dog in the manger”, “lion’s share”, “tortoise and hare”). The great things about the fables is that they didn’t require verisimilitude to teach a lesson – a talking fox that wants to eat some grapes is a stupid idea, but we can still apply the lesson. Oftentimes complex moral lessons could be drawn from the childish stories. It didn’t matter if Aesop actually wrote them, or if he even existed.

In the same way, Pastor Skosana is using the tale of Jesus of Nazareth to teach a complex moral lesson about compassion and empathy. As a non-religious person, I certainly doubt that Jesus of Nazareth was the son of Yahweh. There is some historical doubt as to whether Aesop actually existed, or whether (like Homer of The Iliad) he was in fact a non-corporeal “author” for a number of stories that were spread by word of mouth. There is equal doubt as to whether Jesus of Nazareth actually existed, or whether his story is an amalgamation of several messianic leaders that was hodge-podged into the story of one person. For the religious, it is vitally important for Jesus to have been a real person who actually lived; who did and said the things attributed to him. For the rest of us, it’s a relatively unimportant detail if Aesop, Homer, or Jesus were real.

There is a device of literary interpretation that is singularly well-used by the religious – that is, the co-opting of certain themes or passages to defend a position held a priori. The bible has been used in (roughly) equal measure to both protest and defend things like slavery, war, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, evangelism… you name a topic, there are passages that both support and decry it. Thereafter, there are bitter fights among the religious to find out which is the real interpretation – for the rest of us, it’s a relatively unimportant detail if the Bible is for or against something. What matters is what the consequences are to people.

Most of the time, this cherry-picking and selective interpretation irritates me – people hold up the bible as some sort of inerrant guide for the world, when it is a largely-incoherent group of stories from either a pre-literate society or the half-remembered recollections of hearsay. However, in this particular case I will tip my cap to Pastor Skosana’s willingness to take a fable and use it to teach a much-needed moral lesson about acceptance. Jesus would have been on the side of those with HIV – they are the lepers of today’s society. If you wish to follow his example, you would have to drop the stigmatization and outright oppression of those who are stricken with the virus.

However, as with any religious debate, there are people who vociferously disagree:

For Pastor Bele, portraying Jesus as HIV-positive means he becomes part of the problem, not the solution. “The pastor needs to explain how it came about for him to bring Christ to our level, when Christ is supreme and is God,” he says. “There is a concern that non-believers would mock Christ and try to generalise Christ as opposed to the powerful force we believe him to be.”

And the facepalming can begin.

So I guess I have to walk back my original statement a bit. I agree with Pastor Skosana’s use of the story to teach a moral lesson about compassion. I disagree with Pastor Bele’s religification of the story – intentionally disregarding the dozens of passages wherein Jesus ministers to the sick and tells others to do the same – in order to advance some kind of untouchable, inhuman deity. I think they’re both wrong to say that one should follow one school of thought or another because YahwAlladdha says so – nothing could be further from the truth. The word of YahwAlladdha says all things and nothing, and should be used only like Aesop’s fables – using simple, childish stories to flavour moral lessons.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Tanzania elects albino to parliament

Last week I talked about the dangers of believing superstitions, and confusing superstition with culture. I also illustrated the specific plight of albino people, who are particularly targeted with violence for the supposed magical properties of their limbs. Of course, albinos have no magical properties – albinism is a single-gene mutation affecting pigmentation. But that doesn’t stop people from kidnapping and maiming albinos.

Tanzania has taken one small step toward correcting this practice:

An albino has been elected as an MP in Tanzania for the first time. “This win is a victory not only for me but also for all the albinos in this country,” Salum Khalfani Bar’wani, from the opposition Cuf party, told the BBC. “My joy has no end,” he told the BBC Swahili Service. “The people of Lindi have used their wisdom and have appreciated clearly that albinos are capable. I am so touched that this is the first time in the electoral history of this country for an albino to be elected by the people in a popular contest to be their representative in parliament – and not through sympathy votes or decisions.”

This is a great feed-forward mechanism that could have real positive effects. An albino MP is a recognizable, prominent public figure that challenges the commonly-held narrative around albinos. A greater level of awareness about albinism can start to take hold in the public consciousness. Of course such a shift will take a long time, so strong is the staying power of superstitious beliefs. However, the fact that Mr. Bar’wani was popularly elected suggests to me that such a shift has already began.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Vancouver vultures circling for cash

Hello readers, I’m Crommunist. I’m not a witch. I’m not anything you’ve heard. I’m you!

No, actually I’m not you. I’m me. But none of that is important, because I can predict the motherfucking future. You may remember back in April of this year I talked about the so-called “liberation therapy” for Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In that post, I said this:

When you’re sick, you have only one goal: getting better. Millions of years of evolution have hard-wired a strong survival instinct into all living species, and human beings are no exception. People suffering from disease and their families are willing to do just about anything for a chance at recovery, and logic plays nearly no role in the decision-making process. The problem with this is that people suspend their disbelief and are willing to jump at any chance, no matter how remote, unlikely, or unproven.

When the stakes are high, we will abandon logic and chase after whatever seems right – putting rational thought to one side in favour of quick and dirty heuristics. It’s why the Republican party is so adept at getting votes – they stoke the fears of the populace (the Muslims are coming to get us with their socialist Obamacare!) to shut down the critical thinking part of the brain (the part that notices that Republicans are bad on security, bad on the economy, bad on individual freedoms, bad on pretty much any measure you can think of). Once critical thinking has ceased, your lizard brain takes over and you make decisions based not on evidence or critical thinking, but on gut reactions (blame illegal immigrants!)

The sudden popularity of the new treatment has prompted Jeff Donegan of Chilliwack, B.C., to sign up to get the therapy through another company in California. “When [liberation therapy] first came out, I was very skeptical,” said Donegan, 31. But five years of constant nerve pain, blindness in one eye and severe fatigue have been a nightmare, he said. “Every day is different,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to wake up to.”

The stakes could not possibly be higher when you have a debilitating, degenerative disease. And like the Republicans, there will always be those who are willing to put ethics and common decency aside for the sake of profit:

A Vancouver-based medical tourism company is cashing in on the reluctance by many provincial governments to fund a controversial therapy to treat multiple sclerosis. Passport Medical has arranged for foreign treatment using so-called liberation therapy for more than 350 MS sufferers from all over North America, said company owner Mark Semple. The company’s two-week trips include surgery and recovery care in Costa Rica for about $13,000.

Semple said the outcome for many of the patients is encouraging. “Some of the things I’ve seen could only be described as miracles,” he said. “Is it a cure? No. Is there a vascular component of the disease? I can only say yes.”

Safety regulations got you down? Is The Man telling you that you can’t have this experimental surgery that has no proven efficacy and will likely as not do nothing to alleviate your illness? Got 13 grand to spare? Fuck it then, give me your money, I’ll send you to a place that has no safety regulations. You’ll come back $13,000 poorer, and no better off than you were before (for all we know). Also note the complete lack of confidence on the part of the owner, who admits it’s not a cure. He likens it to a miracle – not a good thing when you’re talking about a medical procedure. You don’t want miracles in science, you want regularly-occurring phenomena that can be predicted and replicated. If it’s ‘miraculous’, you’re probably looking at the placebo effect.

But yes, I called it in April, and it’s happening now. People are flocking to Costa Rica to get surgery, paying ridiculous sums for it, and Mark Semple is laughing all the way to the bank.

I’m you!

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Not a racist bone in my body

There is a groove worn in the palm of my right hand. No, it’s not from that. It is there as a result of consistently smacking my face into my palm every time someone uses the phrase “I’m not racist…” or “I am the least racist person in the world” or “I don’t have a racist bone in my body.” A couple Fridays back I pointed out a pair of stories in which people who had done unequivocally racist things immediately retreated to this excuse. It’s like catching a kid in the kitchen, cookie jar broken on the floor, chocolate smeared all over her face, and hearing her say “it was the dog.” It’s a stupid attempt to deflect an accusation that is entirely true, but distasteful.

Part of the reason for this cognitively dissonant response to racism is because there is a fundamental fallacy – a false dichotomy – that is drawn around racism. This false dichotomy is drawn between two extremes: racist and not racist. Those are the options, according to this fallacy. Our social construct of ‘racist’ brings in the whole fire-hoses and dogs idea of mid 20th-century racism (of course I favour a much more accurate definition). Few people, least of all those in public life, wish to be seen as being that kind of racist. In fact, most of them probably don’t have particularly negative ideas about people in a different racial group, or they imagine that the negative attitudes they do have are justified by some cognitive trick (I don’t hate Mexicans, just illegals; I don’t hate Arabs, just terrorists; I don’t hate black people, just thugs). However they arrive at their answer, most people will not self-identify as racist.

And so, because the other option is “not racist”, when confronted on their racist actions, the majority of people will insist that they are in fact “not racist”. Within their specific framework, based upon two fallacies – the false dichotomy and a failure to understand racism – their denial is true. However, in an objective sense it is simply the product of a series of cognitive constructs designed to shield the self-esteem. They are racist, by any objective external measure. The denial only serves to ensure that more racist actions will occur, and each time be repeatedly explained away as being something else. It is this kind of attitude that props up the current racial dynamics – a refusal to accept one’s own racist motivations.

What we have to recognize is the fact that “not racist” is not an option. Unless you are born in and live your life in a place where all people are so similar that lines are drawn around some construct other than race (perhaps religion, or politics, income, geography), and never come into contact with any other cultures, you will inherit the racism that exists worldwide. I’ve said it before, and I will keep saying it – we are all racist. I’m racist. You’re racist. Your parents are, your teachers were, your politicians are, the guy who runs the pulled pork sandwich cart at Broadway and Granville is (but his sandwiches are still delicious). There’s no escaping it.

Our dichotomy needs to be redrawn between racist and anti-racist. Anti-racism is a methodological approach, much like scientific skepticism, in which actions (our own, and those of others) are constantly scrutinized in a racial context. Rather than merely reassuring one’s self that they are not a racist person, the anti-racist approach invites us to look for possible racial overtones, to examine how attitudes and behaviours might have differential consequences for those of different racial groups, and to try and understand what motivates those attitudes/behaviours at the conscious and subconscious level.

Of course intrinsically wedded to the idea of anti-racism is being non-judgmental when it comes to race. Spotting racism doesn’t win you points as an anti-racist – identifying the faults of others doesn’t somehow exonerate your own flaws. Instead, it invites you to appraise how your own attitudes and behaviours might be subconsciously influenced in a similar way. Most people, as I’ve said, are not overtly racist, or if they are they certainly don’t mean it in a hurtful way. However, there are still consequences to racism, most of which are unintended. Representative Weaver certainly didn’t intend for anyone to be upset by her Hallowe’en stunt, but it definitely conjures ghosts for me, and has certainly tarnished the sterling (heh) reputation of the great state of Tennessee. I don’t doubt that she doesn’t think that she’s a racist person – it is entirely immaterial in this case.

It’s important to state that being an anti-racist doesn’t make you the opposite of racist. Anti-racism is a tool. Much like skeptics can compartmentalize and believe in things that are not supported by science, anti-racists can have very racist beliefs that they either don’t know about or don’t wish to confront. I, for example, have a real issue with Chinese immigrants, an issue which began with my time at the University of Waterloo. As an anti-racist, it’s difficult for me to reconcile these feelings that I have about Chinese people to my stance as a crusader against racism. However, what I do have at my disposal is a mindset that allows me to examine and confront my own actions when dealing with my Chinese colleagues and friends – a mindset that I have to take particular care not to let my feelings affect my decision-making.

It’s funny – even writing that I felt a deep sense of foreboding. Admitting racial biases is incredibly difficult, for a couple of reasons. First, you don’t want to cause offense in others. Second, it has deep personal implications about how you see yourself in the world. I consider myself a good person – having a character trait that is so unequivocally negative casts doubt on my own self-concept. However, being aware of it makes me less susceptible to succumbing to it subconsciously. I will always be checking and re-checking my statements and interactions to make sure I’m not discriminating against the people around me.

This is the advantage to the anti-racist approach – it gives you a cognitive framework in which to work, whereby you can mitigate some racial biases, both conscious and unconscious. Dropping “non racist” from our mental lexicon and adopting “anti-racist” instead gives us a powerful tool for identifying and ameliorating the racism we see around us.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!

Movie Friday: The Great Debate

My cup runneth over with frustration these days whenever I am drawn into debate with someone who trots out old, pre-debunked arguments, as though I’d never heard them before. It happens when discussing race, it happens when discussing gender, and it definitely happens with religion:

I wish life came with a moderator like this. Let’s stop with the old arguments. Let’s stop letting them clog the pipes. If we’re going to have a discussion, can we please start without me having to punch myself out of energy by carefully taking down each fallacy you’ve parrotted off of some website, particularly if they’ve been shown to be false again and again.

Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!