Movie Friday: Tim Wise and the illusion of “post-racial”

I am depressed.

I am depressed for two reasons. First, I am depressed that no matter how hard I work, I will likely never get as good at talking about issues of race and racism, history and the importance of advocacy as Tim Wise is:

The second reason I am depressed is that it seems like the forces of reason are losing the fight to the forces of revisionist history, post-hoc rationalization and short-sighted self-interest. I realize this post is much longer than what I usually post for Movie Friday (and has fewer jokes), but if you’ve found any of my posts on “the good old days” or the importance of recognizing black history, or really anything that I’ve said about race to be interesting (and the numbers suggest that at least some of you do), then you’ll absolutely love this clip.

Any of you who have watched any black beat poetry or other forms of spoken word, you’ll recognize that Tim uses a lot of their cadence and punctuated rhythm to get his points across. It’s not just a lecture – it’s verbal poetry. Amazing stuff, and I really really hope you watch it.

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Conservative Party of Canada is against science

There is a surefire way to ensure tyranny – undermine the education of the populace. When the people don’t have the tools required to determine truth from lies or to obtain their information from a variety of sources, they become dependent on the state to tell them “the Truth™”. We can see this currently happening in the Arab world, where state television in Libya is still being used to broadcast misinformation that is (perhaps fatally) undermining the cause of the pro-democracy rebellion.

One way to ensure a religious tyranny is to ensure that the populace doesn’t have access to adequate scientific information. Science is inherently hostile to religion, since the two are very different methods at arriving at answers. The scientific method involves testing repeated observations and inferring rules and laws from trends within those observations. The religious method involves arriving at a conclusion and then finding observations that support the a priori position. The problem with the latter method is that it is trivially easy to arrive at false conclusions and then justify them afterward. By ensuring that the public doesn’t have access to scientific knowledge, you can erode the cause of science and replace it with whatever system you like.

Enter the Conservative Party of Canada:

The public has lost free online access to more than a dozen Canadian science journals as a result of the privatization of the National Research Council’s government-owned publishing arm. Scientists, businesses, consultants, political aides and other people who want to read about new scientific discoveries in the 17 journals published by National Research Council Research Press now either have to pay $10 per article or get access through an institution that has an annual subscription.

Now this on its own is an incredibly minor development. The vast majority of people who access the scientific literature are scientists working at institutions that can afford to buy subscriptions. Furthermore, the lay public get most of their scientific information from people who interpret the studies that are now behind a paywall, so most people won’t notice the difference. This is not the straw that breaks the camel’s back by any stretch of the imagination.

However, erosion doesn’t work in giant leaps – it occurs gradually over time. One of the strengths of science is the ability of anyone who is curious to go back and investigate the source material. Someone tells you that a drug works to treat diabetes, you can go to the paper and check it for yourself. Someone tells you that homeopathy cures warts, you can go check it out for yourself. Someone tells you that the universe was created in the Big Bang, you can go read the papers. This process encourages skepticism and critical thinking, while increasing the trust that the public has in the scientific community (by increasing transparency).

By placing additional barriers between lay Canadians and the products of Canadian scientific researchers, the privatization of the National Research Council is inherently anti-transparent and anti-science. It discourages scientific scrutiny and question-asking, which are two things that the CPC really doesn’t like in the first place. If Harper can’t get a majority right now, at least he can do as much damage as possible with the limited powers he wields.

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My cup of dissonance overfloweth

As a thoughtful person with strong convictions, it is inevitable that I find myself conflicted over some issues. For example, I’m not 100% confident in my stance on free speech, I sometimes have trouble  drawing the line in racial issues, and I continue to struggle with my feelings about Anonymous.

This story doesn’t help:

A U.S. military base is the latest target of the online activist group known as Anonymous, which has taken up the cause of Bradley Manning, the U.S. army private accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks. The group’s objective is to “harass” the staff and disable the computer systems at the Quantico, Va., marine base where Manning is being held, Anonymous spokesperson Barrett Brown said in an interview with MSNBC. The group plans to reveal personal information about base officials and disable the base’s communication networks in protest against how Manning is being treated at the base, Brown said.

Here’s my issue. On the one hand, I abhor what the United States military and government are doing in response to what is being called “Cablegate”*. Bradley Manning broke the law, and I do not dispute that (although it hasn’t been demonstrated in the court of law yet, let’s just stipulate that he didn’t confess to a crime he didn’t commit). As a result of breaking the law, it is entirely right to try him and punish him. Furthermore, hacking the U.S. military is no joke, particularly when they have active agents in the field. If such actions were undertaken by a foreign government, it would surely be interpreted as an incitement to war.

However, Manning has not been formally tried, but has been kept in solitary confinement. He is not a danger to anyone; he’s only threatening to the careers of politicians. The level of punishment far outweighs the crime. Considering that soldiers that are accused of war crimes have more freedom and privileges than Private Manning, his arbitrarily-harsh sentence reflects what the clear priorities of the military are – protecting their own asses. Considering also that the United States has set itself up as the ‘shining example of freedom’ for the rest of the world, their blatant hypocrisy in dealing with their military’s shortcomings and human rights violations is also a matter of national security. Also in light of the fact that freedom of speech is being suppressed by autocratic governments worldwide (and being met with overwhelming protest), it is entirely in the spirit of the Jasmine Revolution for a group to lodge protest against the suppression of free speech here in America.

So is Anonymous a cyber-terror organization, or a staunch advocate of free speech and a punisher of the iniquitous? At the present moment, I’m inclined to lean toward the latter definition. Their targets have been, up to now, unfailingly deserving of the negative attention. And it seems that their particular brand of internet policing is coming none to soon:

Last year on May 21, the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) reported reaching initial operational capability, and news stories abound of US soldiers undergoing basic cyber training, which all point to the idea that traditional super powers are starting to explore this arena. Recent activities with one government contractor and Anonymous, however, show clearly that cyber operations have been going on for a long while, and that the private sector has been only too ready to fill the cyber mercenary role for piles of cash.

While I am wary of a disorganized mob of vigilantes hacking various websites, I am far more threatened by the collusion of government and private interests conspiring behind closed doors to spy on computer systems. Anonymous’ activities are done in the open, with a reasoned and defensible justification posted for all to read. The government and military have shown their duplicity for decades when it comes to covert operations. The strength of democratic government is predicated on its openness – the people must know exactly what they are voting for so they can know when a regime must be voted out.

Nobody voted for Anonymous, and it seems as though they/it are/is self-policed and limited only by its own ambition and the complicity of its individual members. There is no auditing Anonymous, no way to check its power, no way to punish it for abuse. In that sense I prefer government. I can show up at my MPs office and voice my displeasure. If I try to do that to Anonymous, I am likely to have my e-mail accounts flooded with child porn. There is no mechanism by which one can defend her/himself from a headless organization – no courts can protect you, no lawsuits can be filed, no restraining order can be put out. As we know, humans given great power and no mechanism for controlling it almost inevitably abuse it.

And so my mind is still not made up. I applaud Anonymous for making the U.S. military deal with the consequences of their treachery and their betrayal of human rights, but I fear what may happen if Anonymous decides that fighting the good fight no longer provides the necessary amount of lulz.

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*The -gate suffix is really stupid. The Watergate scandal, upon which all other ‘-gates’ are based, was based on a hotel called “The Watergate”. It was not a scandal that was related to water, and adding the suffix is therefore completely nonsensical

If you’re surprised, then you haven’t been paying attention

We often like to delude ourselves into thinking that we have, as a society, somehow transcended racial barriers. That through sheer will-power and positive liberal vibes, we’ve managed somehow to craft the first society in the history of the world where racism is a thing of the past. Even those who reject my view of racism will point to the fact that at least we don’t see black men getting beat up for the crime of being black, right?

Right?

The people targeted in assaults in February by four men alleged to be white supremacists say the attacks were provoked by race. “I couldn’t believe something like this could happen,” one of the victims, who was born in Saudi Arabia and raised in Canada, said Wednesday. “I was upset and angry.”

The young man, who CBC has agreed not to name, was having a cigarette on the sidewalk outside a Whyte Avenue bar early on Feb. 13 when a friend was bumped by one of a group of men. “My friend looked back and he was like ‘Hey, excuse me,’ and the guy just ran towards him … I put out my hand so I would just stop them and he just punched me,” he said.

I cannot be clear enough about this point. When I say that we are all racist, I do not mean that we are all capable of doing something like this. I do not wish to imply that I look at my fellow citizens with fear and suspicion that, given the opportunity, they would assault me for being black. The very idea is nonsense – my race probably means more to my black friends than it does to my friends from other racial groups. I’d go so far as to say that 99.9% of Canadians would recoil from the idea of perpetrating physical violence against people based on their racial background. White supremacists of this type represent a vanishingly small proportion of the overall population, and can be looked upon as fringe elements that do not reflect the attitudes of the general public.

In fact, I’d imagine that even among the white supremacist community, these men are seen as outliers. They claim to be members of a white supremacist group known as Blood and Honour (link totally NSFW, and probably not safe for eyes either – bright red background), which is somewhat dubious given that B&H isn’t really known for violence. However, it’s not particularly relevant which particular supremacist group these particular assailants belong to – the point is that even among white supremacists they are a minority. White supremacists tend to exist in largely rural areas, where their extreme form of race-based hatred is considered a minority opinion.

However, a more general kind of race hatred does tend to exist in greater volume in many rural communities – a generalized intolerance and feeling that non-white people are somehow the “other” that deserves special scrutiny and attention. This is not because people who live in rural communities are bad people; I was a child in a racially-monolithic rural community, and the people there were some of the warmest, friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met. All the same, my “otherness” was palpable from a very young age. The attitude within these rural communities is a concentrated version of a generalized feeling of racial normalcy that exists as a popular myth in the broader culture that says that America was founded by white people, for white people, and PoCs are here by the magnanimity of their white brethren (so don’t forget to genuflect).

So here’s the thing: each one of the subcultures I’ve mentioned here gain support and succor from the larger group they exist in. While most members of Blood and Honour would likely repudiate the violence perpetrated in their name, they would likely agree with everything else the attackers stand for. While most rural people disagree with the members of Blood and Honour, they tend to tolerate the non-violent race bigotry of their neighbours. The general sense of mistrust and non-citation-supported anti-immigrant sentiment prevalent in the rural communities gestates in the larger sea of the white Canada myth. Each level of the pyramid is supported by a larger group in an act that diffuses responsibility, and makes the act of a handful of extremists seem to come out of nowhere.

Of course those of us who have been paying attention know better than to waste our time with arch-liberal hand wringing about how this could happen in our “post racial” utopia. We know that we all bear responsibility for at least a little piece of what happened in Edmonton, and by challenging the larger societal lies we can make the acts of violence even more unlikely.

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Let’s call this what it is…

Those accommodationists among us (I am not calling them “diplomats” here – there is nothing diplomatic about being a coward) will say that one ought not to use mean words or phrases against our opponents. Rational discussion is, they say, based on both sides maintaining a respectful stance – a stance which is impossible if people use words or phrases that put the other side on the defensive. When confronted, people will put their fingers in their ears and refuse to hear your side.

If the protests in the Arab world have taught us anything, it’s that the accommodationist position is full of shit. Standing up and calling out your opponents is an effective method of achieving change, provided you can mobilize those who agree with you. This has long been my suspicion, but it’s nice of the Arab world to prove it for me.

So, in the spirit of not pretending that bullshit arguments have merit in order not to offend the bullshitters, I invite everyone to call these anti-Muslim “hearings” what they are: straight up racism

A U.S. congressional hearing on homegrown terrorism has been labelled “shameful” and “un-American” by prominent Muslim leaders. A Republican-led Homeland Security committee began hearing testimony Thursday in Washington on radicalization in the U.S. Muslim community. Representative Peter King, the New York Republican who organized the hearing, has stirred controversy by accusing Muslims of refusing to help law enforcement with the growing number of terrorists and extremists.

Muslim Americans, according to Peter King, aren’t licensed to simply exist as law-abiding citizens. No, that’s too good for ‘those people’. They also have to help law enforcement do its job, I suppose by acting as sleeper agents. You know, just like how white Christians flocked to aid law enforcement crack down on anti-abortion terrorist groups. Oh wait… that never happened, did it? You know why? Partially because it’s not a group’s collective responsibility to do law enforcement’s job for them, partially because terrorists are a tiny fraction of the overall population of white Christians, but also because they’re white! White people don’t get scapegoated – it’s in their contract.

I wish I could accuse Mr. King of being shockingly ignorant of American history, but I am not so sure that he doesn’t know who Joe McCarthy was and what his legacy is. Considering the number of people making the explicit comparison between the two, I will simply take a step back now that I’ve planted the seed and let you read on your own (if you care to).

If this were a more popular blog, and we had more American Conservatives(tm) commenting (or indeed, any American Conservatives), I’m sure I’d be flooded with comments like this one:

Nobody is “targetting” the entirety of American Muslims. That being said, an overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents in the United States within the past two years have been perpetrated by Muslims. These are FACTS – not biases or racist screeds – duly recognized by Congress, and the executives within the Obama administration.

It’s not racism, guys! Really! It’s just that those durn Mooslims keep blowin’ stuff up! Well, unless you actually bother to count:

But even if it was Muslims who are predominantly committing acts of terror (and it isn’t – I can’t stress this enough), that doesn’t empower Mr. King to put the Muslim community on trial for those acts. If Mr. King was really interested in getting to the bottom of this issue rather than just demonizing a minority group, he’d be inviting experts and members of the community, talking to law enforcement specialists, consulting statistics.

But he’s not:

Consider, for example, that so far at least, King’s witness list does not contain the name of Charles Kurzman, a professor of sociology of the University of North Carolina. A non-Muslim, Kurzman has produced a report for the university’s Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security that actually uses statistics and facts to examine the question posed in the report’s opening paragraph: “Are Muslim-Americans turning increasingly to terrorism?” Kurzman examines things like the number of Muslim-Americans who perpetrated or were suspected of perpetrating attacks since 9/11: 24 in 2003, 16 in 2006, 16 in 2007, a spike of 47 in 2009, and a drop to 20 in 2010. A total of 161 over nearly 10 years.

In a few cases, Muslim groups have even turned in provocateurs urging jihad who turned out to be undercover police agents.

This isn’t a concerned citizen looking to find the solution to a serious problem – this is an opportunist who is cashing in on the rampant anti-Muslim sentiment of the populace to make hay and brand himself as a patriot. Considering his hypocritical stance on state-sponsored terrorism – defending the IRA in the 90s when they were perpetrating acts of terrorism in Ireland – it’s patently obvious that Mr. King’s motivation here is to demonize the “other”. In this case, in this day and age, that “other” is the Muslim community.

And why do I care (and, by extension, why should you)? I’m certainly no friend of Islam, and am suspicious of all religious people, particularly those whose religion requires extraordinary levels of piety and compliance with arcane rules. Why should I defend people I disagree with so vociferously? First of all, I care because it’s the right thing to do. Innocent people are being scapegoated by the U.S. government, and that’s a violation of their rights. Second, any time a minority group is made an example of, every person should become immediately uneasy. As an atheist and a black person, two groups that have received its unfair share of negative attention from governments and social institutions, I am standing up for myself here too.

There is no virtue in pretending that Mr. King has a noble purpose in these witch hunts. It is not diplomatic to try and hear his side – his side is built on lies, hypocrisy and thinly-veiled racial animosity. The virtue here is in calling this exactly what it is, and refusing to stop naming it until Mr. King is shamed into obscurity.

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Well THAT didn’t take long…

*Sigh*

It’s easy to get depressed when you hear stuff like this:

At least 13 people have been killed and around 100 others injured in religious clashes with Muslims in the Egyptian capital Cairo. The deaths on Tuesday occurred in the working-class district  of Moqattam after at least 1,000 Copts gathered to protest the burning of a church last week. It was the second burst of sectarian fighting in as many days and the latest in a string of violent protests over a variety of topics as simmering unrest continues nearly a month after mass protests led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Just weeks after Copts surrounded praying Muslims to prevent them from being attacked by pro-Mubarak thugs, and Muslims reciprocated with protection of their own, it seems as though the statute of limitations has been reached on religious tolerance.

The protest outside Cairo’s radio and television building also came a day after at least 2,000 Copts demanded the re-building of the torched church, and that those responsible be brought to justice. The Shahedain [Two Martyrs] church, in the Helwan provincial city of Sol, was set ablaze on Friday after clashes between Copts and Muslims left at least two people dead. The violence was triggered by a feud between two families, which disapproved of a romantic relationship between a Christian man and a Muslim woman in Sol.

Is it only religion that does this? I’m inclined to say ‘no’ – families have come to blows over tribal affiliation, race, politics, and even simply historical familial animosity. It seems that in this case, religion is just a place-holder for the things that have divided groups of people since time immemorial. There have always been oppressed minority groups on the receiving end of systematic discrimination by a majority with an overinflated sense of entitlement, and there will always be even if religion were to suddenly evaporate.

However, and this is important, if you are a religious person who fears the creeping advance of secularism, your fears are misplaced. It is not the atheists who torch churches, who start riots, who stage demonstrations demanding that people’s civil rights be taken away. Just like you are far more likely to be robbed by a white corporate banker than a black gang-banger (more on that on Friday), you are far more likely to experience violence and suppression of your civil rights by your coreligionists than you are by us non-believers. However, just like the bankers/bangers, we fear the “other” more than we fear the party that is actually more likely to hurt us.

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Freedom: it’s contagious

Something important is still happening. It’s still happening, and it’s spreading.

Egypt struggles with constitutional reform

Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel laureate and former head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, has said on a privately owned TV channel that he intends to run for president in Egypt’s 2011 presidential election. “When the door of presidential nominations opens, I intend to nominate myself,” ElBaradei said on ONTV channel on Wednesday. ElBaradei also said that suggested constitutional amendments to move Egypt toward democracy are ‘superficial.’ He appealed to the military rulers to scrap them or delay a scheduled March 19 referendum on them.

These protests have been somewhat akin to life-saving heart surgery, or perhaps limb-saving removal of gangrene from a wound. All the drama happens at the beginning – the dramatic removal of damaged and dying tissue, the machine that goes “ping!” – and there is a flurry of activity. However, once the problem has been removed, there remain the several hours of tissue salvage and repair. You see, just because you get rid of a corrupt government (to put the metaphor aside for a second), it doesn’t result in good government springing up overnight. The people of Egypt have a long road ahead of them if they want to move toward a true representative government.

Any state that overthrows its government has to deal with the aftermath, and this is even more challenging in countries that have been ruled by autocrats for decades – most of the citizenry doesn’t remember life any other way. To return to the metaphor for a final moment, after the surgery is done and the patient is stitched up, there still remains months of painful rehabilitation and physiotherapy – these uprisings will have implications that will resound for decades to come.

Gaddafi’s forces fight back

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi are reported to have made gains against anti-government rebels in two key areas. Western journalists in the city of Zawiya, west of Tripoli, confirmed the Gaddafi regime’s claims that the city had fallen after days of bombardment. Rebels are reported to have fled from the oil port of Ras Lanuf to the east.

Whereas the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Oman were (mostly) peaceful, Libya’s revolution has devolved into a civil war, with two separate factions vying for control. There is a non-centralized (but soon to be centralized) rebel “government”, and the forces loyal to the deposed Muammar Gaddafi. This state of bilateral conflict was made official when the French government formally recognized the rebel force as the legitimate governing regime in Libya. This recognition was, in my mind, premature and stupid. No elections have been called, no official leadership has been formed, and the situation is still incredibly volatile.

There have been repeated calls for the establishment of a “no fly zone”, including a petition from Avaaz. For the record while I am usually directly on board with Avaaz’s causes, they got this one dead wrong. A “no fly zone” means that foreign military aircraft will be patrolling Libya’s airspace and shooting down any Libyan military aircraft. However, in order to do this without being shot themselves, the foreign powers would have to disable Libya’s anti-aircraft capabilities, which necessitates the deployment and active combat engagement of ground troops. Yes, this means declaring war on Libya. Considering that a) the African Union has explicitly denounced the plan, b) the Arab Union would not look kindly upon Western military involvement in their territory, and c) military intervention by the West is what started all of these problems in the first place, I am opposed to the idea of getting more involved than trade sanctions and the seizing of foreign holdings.

However, that means I have to stand impotently by and watch as Libyans are slaughtered by their own military. This is one of those times where we have to go with the lesser of two evils – foreign involvement in this conflict will only make things worse.

Saudi Arabia gets bitten by freedom bug

Hundreds of police have been deployed in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, ahead of anti-government rallies planned for after Friday prayers. Security forces have blocked roads and set up checkpoints, while reports suggest some protesters have begun to gather in the eastern town of Hofuf. On Thursday, police opened fire at a rally in the eastern city of Qatif, with at least one person being injured. Activists have been inspired by a wave of popular revolt across the region.

Saudi Arabia is an unlikely place for such widespread protests, given the disproportionate wealth and absolute power of the ruling class. However, the fact that there are protests is testament to the fact that once people get a taste of their collective power they are willing to use it to improve their standing in life. Egypt showed us that protests can work to effect change even in autocracies. Libya showed us that people are willing to fight and risk death for their freedom, and Saudi Arabia is showing us that no matter how oppressed a people are, they will rise up and fight when given the opportunity. These protests are also happening in Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Yemen – this is no isolated thing.

The irony in all of this is that the United States devoted billions of dollars to wage war, with the ostensible goal of promoting democracy and freedom in this very region. History will eventually decide, but it seems today that that war only succeeded in increasing resentment toward the West and retarding the cause of democracy. Now, while the western world is cracking down on the rights of people in Europe and North America, it seems as though the Arab and North African world is giving us a lesson in how to wage freedom.

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I’m not talking about the Earthquake

I’m not sure if anyone is expecting me to comment on the recent catastrophe in Japan, but I’m not going to. A really tragic thing has happened, is still happening, and the effects of it will continue to be felt for many months and years to come. I have no more insight to offer than that, and I won’t make any more comments about it unless a story comes out of the tragedy that intersects with the subject matter of this blog.

Why I care, and why you should too

Jeez, it seems like forever since I did one of these.

Regular readers may have noticed a significant up-tick in the number of times I’ve talked explicitly about women’s issues in these past couple of weeks. Really regular readers will have noticed that I often go to bat on behalf of the ladies, even on issues that have nothing to do with race, free speech or religion. The same goes for LGBT issues, actually – it seems as though I can’t stay away from women and gay shit.

It may seem somewhat antithetical, or at least counterproductive, to spend the amount of time and energy that I do talking about issues facing communities to which I have little-to-no connection. Sure, I have sort of a vested interest in women’s issues – many of my friends are women. However, I don’t really have any close gay friends (a fact that has baffled me for years), nor do I think that blogging about women’s issues will somehow impress or mollify my female friends (the women I am friends with are smart enough to judge someone based on his/her actions, rather than his/her blog). Why then do I put so much effort into pointing out women’s and LGBT issues?

First of all, I defend those positions because it’s the right thing to do. Not having a selfish interest in an issue is not license to simply ignore it. To be sure, there are a number of issues that I don’t talk about (quick list: genocide in Sudan, global warming, third world exploitation, naval piracy in Somalia, loss of the manufacturing sector… the list goes on). These topics are all worthy of intense discussion, but there are only so many hours in a day and, as callous as it sounds, there are things I am more passionate about. It doesn’t mean that I don’t care, so much as it means that I have different priorities. I am glad that there are people out there who care more about world hunger than they do about race issues – both are problems that need passionate advocates. I’ve chosen my fight.

Second, I actually do have a selfish interest in the advancement of women. As the rights of women improve, so too does the standard of living for the entire society. From the moment we are conceived, the health of our mother is of direct impact to our physical health. The better educated both of our parents are, the better chance we have of receiving education ourselves. Our interactions with women in the workplace or out in society generally give us a wider viewpoint than we’d expect in a male-dominated society, which allows for cultural progression and growth. From the moment we are born to the moment we die, the welfare of women is directly tied to our own well-being, regardless of our sex.

Thirdly, and perhaps most selfishly, when I speak on behalf of women I am actually speaking on behalf of myself as well. While I may not be a woman, women are a political minority that face generations of prejudice and antiquated attitudes. They are marginalized, and have been for so long that it has simply become the norm – so much so that sometimes it is other women who are doing the marginalizing. Women in North America face economic disparity, are more likely to be victims of crime, and face a disembodied and largely invisible series of obstacles that seem, without discernible effort, to put them at the bottom of the ladder.

The above description could have just as easily been written about black people. The cultural establishment has been, for years, stacked against the advancement of black people, to the point where our standing in the social ladder is thought to be essentially inevitable. The forces we struggle against are no longer concerted efforts by a shadowy cabal of active racists who are trying to disenfranchise the black population, but if one takes a step back, the outcomes are identical – black people are pushed as though by active effort into the margins of society. Being a minority within a minority (black atheist), this kind of cultural pressure is even more palpable to me.

So wherefore the gays? Well it shouldn’t be too difficult to piece together the fact that the same kind of ancient hatred and exclusion that has faced women and black people is currently shouldered by the gay community. The absurd taboo about same-sex attraction is older than the scriptures that are used to justify it. We have begun, as a society, to recognize that gay people are part of the human population and have been since time immemorial. There is no reasonable justification for the way they are treated, or to curtail their civil rights.

So even though Glenn Beck has forever ruined the quote for me (and he gets it wrong in that clip, which I wouldn’t bother watching unless you enjoy the paranoia-stoking ravings of a carefully-cultivated clown act), it does remind me of the old adage:

First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Or perhaps even better expressed by Martin Luther King Jr.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

I speak about women’s issues, LGBT issues, atheist issues, race issues – all of these and more – because they are all the same thing. The forces stacked against women and against gay people are also stacked against me, and they’re stacked against you too regardless of who you are. It is only by recognizing the shared threat that we all face that we can struggle against them, and prevail.

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Happy Birthday to me!

Well ladies and gentlemen, one year ago I began this blog in earnest. While the official first post went up a couple months before that, it wasn’t until March that I really hit my stride and began running this blog in more or less its present form. I am inordinately proud to say that in that year, I have never missed a post (despite some close calls around Christmas and while I was traveling). I like to think that my consistency is part of the reason why, in my opinion, this blog has been as successful as it has been.

Who wants fresh stats?

Since this blog was started, I’ve had a staggering 49,887 hits (give or take a few, depending on what time you’re reading this). A good chunk of those are thanks to being linked a handful of times from Pharyngula, but surprisingly the most popular post got most of its traffic from Stumbleupon, so whoever “Stumbled” it, you have my thanks. As it stands now, I am averaging around 100 hits per day, which has been steady since the new year.

There are a total of 381 posts (including this one) on the site. Assuming an average of ~750 words per post (I aim for 1000, but some of them are short mini-posts so I am rounding down), that’s a total of 285,750 words all told (roughly the same number that are in a Harry Potter book, apparently). You and I have contributed a total of 1,236 comments to these posts, the only ones of which I have deleted being my own (and one that was a response to one that I deleted, so I deleted it because it wouldn’t make any sense out of context). And spam, obviously (2,100 spam comments deleted – go Akismet!).

What have I been writing about?

The following graph shows the breakdown of the top 10 subjects tagged in my posts. Please keep in mind that each post may (and often does) have several different tags at the same time.

It’s perhaps unsurprising that religion is such a large slice of the pie chart, as many of my thought pieces have been on that topic. The interests of this blog have bloomed from simply talking about race, religion and free speech, and a similar chart drawn a year from now will probably look very different.

What’s next?

When I started this blog, it was largely at the request of friends, and also partially to (unsuccessfully) impress a girl – side note: there is a girl (and I’m pretty sure she’s the only one) who is impressed by a guy who blogs about race, religion and free speech, but she lives very far from me so I’ll have to fall back on the whole “being a rock star” thing for now. I didn’t have a coherent idea of what I was going to do at the time, but in the past year I’ve become more aware of where the niches are in the blogosphere, and I am going to try and exploit some of those more directly.

I plan on retiring and replacing the current theme/background. While it has served me quite well, it’s time for a change. I plan to register the domain crommunist.com and take WordPress out of the title, so look forward to that (if you have bookmarks don’t worry: you will be automatically forwarded). I’m also going to reach out to some of the blogs I read and see if I can get some more collaboration going on. The only fallout from all of this for you, my dear readers, is that there will be the same content (possibly more) with a new shiny look.

Thank you

It’s been a great year for me, both blog-wise and life-wise. I’m looking forward to more great things in the coming year. You readers have been a big part of what made this so great – there were times when I felt like giving up and putting the whole “blog” thing on hiatus, but knowing you’re out there and reading my random cranial ejaculations keeps me focussed. The many supportive comments and e-mails I’ve received mean more to me than you know. A quick note to the few of you who have hung around to disagree with me: while I may not always be charitable in my responses, I do value your input and am glad to have opposing viewpoints expressed here.

Anyway, thanks for making this such a great year for me, and I promise I’ll keep doing my part!

XOXO

- Crommunist