Like Greta Christina says, anger motivates us, but unchecked it can destroy us.
– JT Eberhard, criticizing Bria Crutchfield for what he saw as her overly angry and harsh anti-racist commentary during Q&A at the recent Great Lakes Atheist Convention. A critique that assumed, among other things, that he is best able to decide when a white person is being intentionally racist versus, unintentionally so; that when it comes to racism, he is best able to decide when it’s best to present an outraged tirade versus calm engagement; and that he is best able to decide who African-American atheists should see as their allies in the atheist movement.
Jen McCreight has already done a masterful job dismantling JT’s piece, and I don’t have much to add to what she said. But since JT used my ideas to bolster his case, I want to say this. It’s an excerpt from my Free Inquiry essay, Why We Need to Keep Fighting:
In all too many cases, the exact same atheists who applaud my passionate, uncompromising anger about religion will turn around and say that I need to be polite, diplomatic, understanding, non-divisive, and moderate when it comes to my anger about misogyny and sexism. At least, when it comes to my anger about misogyny and sexism within the atheist movement.
If it didn’t piss me off so much, I’d think it was hilarious.
You don’t get to have it both ways. You don’t get to be inspired and motivated by my uncompromising rage about religion… and then tell me that my uncompromising rage about sexism and misogyny in the atheist movement is divisive, distracting, sapping energy from the important business of atheist activism. You don’t get to cheer me on for being such a badass when I stand up fiercely against religion in society… and then scold me for being a bad soldier when I stand up fiercely against sexism and misogyny within the atheist movement. You don’t get to applaud my outspoken fearlessness when I demand that social and political and economic systems be made safe and welcoming for atheists, and when I point out the ways in which they are not… and then call me a divisive, attention-hungry professional victim when I demand that atheist groups and organizations and events be made safe and welcoming for women, and point out the ways in which they are not.
Now, please do a mental search-and-replace. Replace “my anger about misogyny and sexism” with “Bria Crutchfield’s anger about racism.” Or “Natalie Reed’s anger about transphobia.” Or “Josh Spokesgay’s anger about homophobia.” Or… oh, you get the idea.
It is especially distressing to hear this notion coming from a hard-core firebrand atheist: someone who’s made a reputation and a career out of his uncompromising rage at religion and religious believers, and his passionate use and defense of anger, invective, and insults… aimed not only at religious believers, but at other atheists who critique his hard-line approach. And it is especially distressing to hear my ideas used in defense of this. Yes, I have said that anger can be a difficult and dangerous tool. But just as it is not up to religious believers to tell atheists how and when and where and in what tone we should express our anger about religion, it is not up to white people to tell African-Americans — or any other people of color — how and when and where and in what tone they should express their anger about racism.
So JT, in the future, please do me a favor: Do not quote me in support of your half-assed, hypocritical tone-trolling about social justice. Please assume that nothing I have ever said could possibly be interpreted as supporting your perspective on social justice. I do not support it. I think it is beyond fucked-up.