Why Are People Bigoted, Even When It Costs Them Money?

burning moneySo there’s this interesting social justice question that has some people puzzled. Why do businesses and businesspeople continue to do things that are racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, etc. — even when it works against their own immediate, tangible interests?

I was thinking about this when I was listening to the Cracked podcast interview with Andrew Ti, of Yo, Is This Racist? Ti was talking, among many other things, about TV producers who are weirdly not cranking out a dozen “Empire” ripoffs — even though the show is hugely successful, and even though TV is one of the most derivative industries around. (Ti was mostly talking about the sad excuses given by network execs for why they weren’t making more shows like “Empire.”)

But this question comes up a lot. It comes up in discussions of why bakers won’t sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples — even in the midst of a same-sex wedding boom. It comes up in discussions of housing, and why landlords and homeowners are less likely, even flatly unwilling, to rent or sell to black people. It comes up in discussions of hiring, and why employers reject highly qualified job candidates who would contribute greatly to their company, simply because those candidates are women/ people of color/ transgender/ otherwise marginalized. It’s absurdly common for businesspeople to perpetuate bigotry, either consciously or unconsciously — even when it means the loss of immediate, substantial profit. And this cuts across a large variety of businesses.

Sometimes this phenomenon gets treated with bafflement. “They’re so foolish! Don’t they realize they’re losing money?” Sometimes it gets treated as cause for optimism. “This means we’ll eventually win! Market forces and natural greed will break down bigotry and oppression! Capitalism will prevail!”

I don’t see it that way. I think it says something completely different. I think it says this:

The fact that people keep doing bigoted things, even when it works against their immediate financial interests, shows just how valuable privilege is.

empireEven if you lose money by not making a dozen “Empire” ripoffs, you still gain by perpetuating white privilege.

Even if you lose money by not renting or selling to black people, you still gain by perpetuating white privilege.

Even if you lose money by not hiring talented women, you still gain by perpetuating male privilege.

Even if you lose money by not selling gelato to the hundreds of attendees at an atheist convention, you still gain by perpetuating religious privilege, and more specifically Christian privilege.

Even if you lose money by refusing to sell wedding cakes to same-sex couples, you still gain by perpetuating heterosexual privilege.

Etc.

Think of it this way. Think about affirmative action, and the arguments that are most commonly marshaled against it. “You’re lowering the bar! You’re diluting the talent pool! By going out of your way to look for qualified black people, Hispanic people, women, disabled people, LGBT people — you’re discriminating against all those super-talented straight cisgender able-bodied white guys!”

If we think about this “reasoning” for six seconds, it becomes clear how absurd it is. Expanding a job search to look for qualified people who might not otherwise have been considered — that’s not diluting the talent pool. That’s expanding it. That’s getting more talented people into consideration.

And that’s exactly the problem.

Affirmative action doesn’t lower the bar. Affirmative action brings in more competition.

If you only have to compete against straight, white, cisgender, able-bodied, middle-class men — you’re going to do a whole lot better than if you’re competing against, you know, everyone. And if you’re only okay at your job — which, let’s face it, an awful lot of people are — more competition means you won’t do so well. (To use just one example: When Major League Baseball began to racially integrate, a lot of marginal white players wound up getting cut.)

And jobs are just one example. This phenomenon plays out in pretty much every business where conscious or unconscious bigotry exists — which is to say, pretty much every business.

Privilege is profitable. It’s profitable in thousands of observable, well-documented ways. It’s profitable in the long run, in the medium run, in the short run. In the (usually) unconscious cost-benefit analysis of “bigotry” versus “equality,” privilege is so profitable that perpetuating it is worth losing out on large bundles of cash being dangled right in front of your nose.

So what do we do?

We need to keep putting on the pressure.

We need to make it a whole lot harder to be bigoted than it is not to be. We need to make bigotry more inconvenient, more time-consuming, more costly. When businesspeople say and do bigoted things, we need to make it result in a PR nightmare and some expensive lawsuits and a whole bunch of customers saying, “Screw you, we’re taking our business elsewhere.” Market forces are not going to do it on their own: we need to create the forces that push things in our direction. (Please note that when pundits decry the so-called “witch hunts” and “lynch mobs” consisting of a whole lot of people on the Internet saying, “That’s racist,” “That’s sexist,” “That’s transphobic,” etc. — they’re basically saying, “Please stop putting pressure on people to not be bigoted. Please stop making bigotry inconvenient.”)

Privilege is profitable. We need to make it a huge pain in the ass. We need to make the cost-benefit analysis skew on the side of equality. We need to make bigotry not worth it.


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

The “Coming Out Atheist” Donation Recipient for May-June 2015: The CFI Student Leadership Conference!

Coming Out Atheist coverAs some of you may already know, I’ve pledged to donate 10% of my income from my new book, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, to atheist organizations, charities, and projects.

Here’s why. I got lots of help with this book, and working on it felt very much like a collaboration, a community effort. (To some extent that’s true with any book, but it was even more true with this one.) Because coming out is really different for different atheists, it was hugely important to get detailed feedback on the book, so my personal perspective wasn’t completely skewing my depiction of other people’s experiences. So I asked lots of friends and colleagues to give me detailed feedback on the book: either on the book as a whole, or on particular chapters about atheists with very different experiences from mine (such as the chapters on parents, students, clergy, people in the U.S. military, and people in theocracies). Many people were very generous with their time helping out: they put a whole lot of time and work and thought into a project that wasn’t theirs, because they thought it would benefit the community. And, of course, I had the help of the hundreds of people who wrote in with their coming-out story, or who told their coming-out story in one of the books or websites I cited, or who just told me your coming-out story in person.

I want to give some of that back. So I’m donating 10% of my income from this book to atheist organizations, charities, and projects: a different one each month. Each month, one of the people who helped with the book gets to pick the recipient. (For complicated and boring reasons, this donation is consolidating the donations for both May and June.)

The recipient for May-June 2015, chosen by Debbie Goddard, is the Center for Inquiry Leadership Conference.

cfi student leadership conference banner

Since 1996, the Center for Inquiry’s campus outreach initiative has brought together student organizers and activists to train them in outreach, advocacy, activism, and leadership. Now, the conference has expanded to include both campus and community leaders.

The CFI Leadership Conference is designed around three main objectives. First, they give student and local group leaders the tools and skills they need to make an impact in their communities. Second, they create an atmosphere where new and experienced leaders can network and establish important connections to other grassroots leaders in the movement. Finally, they hope to inspire and energize the attendees and empower them to make real change in the world.

The Center for Inquiry is a 501(c) nonprofit, and donations to them are tax-deductible. If you want to support the Leadership Conference too, here’s their donation page!



Coming Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina’s books, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why and Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More is available in ebook and audiobook.

Godless Perverts Social Club, Tuesday July 7 and Thursday July 16!

Godless Perverts Social Club banner 7-7-15

We have two Godless Perverts Social Clubs in July! The next one is this Tuesday, July 7 — and the one after that is Thursday, July 16.

Tuesday July 7 is one of our Casual meetups — we’re not picking a topic ahead of time, we’ll just chat about whatever comes up. Conversation is usually related to sex, sexuality, gender, atheism, religion, skepticism, science, etc. — but not always.

Godless Perverts Social Club banner 7-16-15

On Thursday July 16, we’re picking a discussion topic ahead of time — and this time, the topic is After Marriage Equality, What’s Next? Marriage equality is now legal across the U.S. So what’s next for sexual and gender politics? In the fight for secular sexual liberation and against the religious right, what issues should be our priority? Should we be focusing on transgender rights, employment and housing discrimination, homelessness among LGBT teens? Should polyamorous marriage be on the table? How shall queer communities face the problems of racism and classism? And how can atheists and skeptics support the fight for secular, evidence-based policies about gender and sex?

So please join us! Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce.

The Godless Perverts Social Club meets on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month, 7-9 pm, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce. [Read more…]

Speak the Truth, Do the (Blank)

Game time!

I was at an event at a Unitarian church a little while ago, and I saw a stained glass window that puzzled me. It’s a decorative pattern, featuring furly banners with words on them. But the last banner is blank. The window reads, “Speak the Truth, Do the (Blank).”

stained glass window speak the truth do the (blank)

So I have two topics of conversation here.

One: Why the blank banner? My guess is that the original piece of stained glass got broken, and it was cheaper to replace it with a blank banner than one with the missing word. But that’s just a guess. Anyone have any actual information shedding light on this — or any entertainingly uninformed speculation of their own?

Two, and much more fun: How would you fill in the blank?

“Speak the truth, do the (blank).”

Your time starts — now!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Why Progressives Should Stop Using Violent Rhetoric

(Content note: hate and threats, including violently misogynist hatred and threats of rape and death.)

Progressives condemn the hateful vitriol aimed at feminist women.

Why do we aim it at people we don’t like?

fireAs you probably know, Texas pastor and conservative activist Rick Scarborough recently commented on the right-wing Christian fight against same-sex marriage, saying, “We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary, we will burn.”

Many progressives responded as if Scarborough had threatened to set himself on fire. And many of those progressives responded to this supposed suicide threat with glee. They said things like, “I’ll give him the matches,” and, “Can I bring the marshmallows?” When the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality came down, they called for Scarborough to make good on his supposed promise, and mocked him for not doing it. (This isn’t just one or two people, either — it’s been all over my Facebook feed.)

I have a couple of problems with this. One, as Ed Brayton (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) has pointed out repeatedly on Facebook, is that Scarborough’s statement was not, in fact, a threat to set himself on fire. It was an absurd statement of a willingness to fight marriage equality to the death — but it wasn’t a threat to kill himself by burning. But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about my other problem with this progressive response.

My problem is that I see it as a threat.

Here’s the thing. I’m a feminist writer on the Internet — which means I get a whole lot of people publicly saying that I should experience brutal violence or die in some horrible way, and expressing pleasure at the thought of it happening. And when they do, I see it as a threat. Most of my readers see it that way, too. When people publicly tell me “I HOPE YOU GET RAPED,” or that “someone should tattoo a giant cock across your face,” or that “I think I’m going to become a far right wing, woman raping clergyman,” or that I should “GO CHOKE ON A DICK AND DIE,” or that I should “just die already,” or when they tell me to “Go fuck yourself with a knife,” or when they tell me “Kill yourself” — most of my readers recognize it as a threat. When other women are targeted with hateful messages saying, “You should be killed very slowly,” “Will somebody please rape Rebecca Watson,” “This bitch needs to be punched in the throat,” or “Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself Kill yourself…”– most of my readers recognize it as a threat.

My readers understand that a threat doesn’t have to be explicit to be real. [Read more…]

The Part about Black Lives Mattering Where White People Shut Up and Listen

Listen up, fellow white people.

If we care about racism—and if we’re humanists, we bloody well better—there’s something we need to do. It’s enormously important. If any other action we take is going to be useful, we need to take this one. And sometimes, it can be really freaking difficult.

We need to shut up and listen. “Black lives matter” means—among many other things—that black voices matter. So white people need to listen to those black voices. In person and online, with friends and colleagues and friends-of-friends and in-laws and strangers, wherever there are conversations about racism, white people need to listen.

And listening means not talking. It doesn’t mean jumping in with arguments about topics we know little about. It doesn’t mean waiting patiently until the other person has stopped talking, so we can say whatever we were going to say anyway. It doesn’t mean making the conversation all about us and our hurt feelings over being told we said something racist. It doesn’t mean constantly changing the subject away from racism and towards something we’re more comfortable with—like how black people are being mean to us, or how we’d be more likely to listen if they spoke more pleasantly. It doesn’t mean telling black people how to run their movement or telling black people how to talk to white people—especially when that advice is almost always “tone it down,” and “don’t make us feel bad.”

Listening means just that—listening. It means letting the other person have the floor. It means letting the other person decide the topic and set the tone. It means that whatever talking we do is peripheral, done in service of understanding and amplifying. And sometimes—much of the time—it means shutting our mouths, and opening our minds.

*****

humanist cover july-august 2015 do black lives matter to humanismThus begins my latest “Fierce Humanism” column for The Humanist, The Part about Black Lives Mattering Where White People Shut Up and Listen. To read more, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

8 Awesome Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris

If you’ve read anything about the blossoming atheist movement, there’s a good chance it was about Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. And if you’re a reasonably progressive person who cares about sexism and racism, and you’ve read about Dawkins or Harris, there’s an excellent chance that the top of your head came off.

There’s this pattern with media coverage of organized atheism. When a media outlet decides that atheism is interesting and important, they all too often turn to Dawkins or Harris. Then, when Dawkins or Harris puts their foot in their mouth — again — the reporter cries out, “Atheism needs better leadership! Why doesn’t atheism have better leaders?”

Atheism does have better leaders. Plenty of them. Organized atheism has hundreds of leaders, arguably thousands — leaders of support organizations, charitable organizations, advocacy groups, online communities, local groups, and more. I’d like to introduce you to eight of them.

1 Rebecca Hensler 1502 Debbie Goddard 1503 August Brunsman 1504 Muhammad Syed 150

5 Sarah Morehead 1506 Mandisa Thomas 1507 Noelle George 1508 Amanda Metskas 150

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, 8 Awesome Atheist Leaders Who Aren’t Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris. To find out who they are and to find out more about them, read the rest of the piece. Enjoy!


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.

Godless Perverts Social Club Thursday June 18: Secular Sexual Transcendence

godless perverts social club graphic for 6-18-15

The next Godless Perverts Social Club is Thursday, June 18! We’re picking a discussion topic ahead of time — and this time, the topic is Secular Sexual Transcendence.

Sexual experiences can have a lot in common with what people describe as religious experiences: an ecstatic high, heightened sensory perception, being intensely present in the present moment. In fact, some religions see sexual experiences as inextricably linked with spiritual experiences, and incorporate sex into their practices. How can atheists and other non-believers frame these experiences without thinking of them as supernatural? And how can we discuss and share them with believers? What common grounds, if any, can sexual experiences allow both the theists and atheists to reach?

Our co-moderator for the evening, Ali Faruqi works a researcher at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Ali grew up in Karachi, Pakistan in a Muslim family. He has struggled with faith since end of his high school and considers himself to be an agnostic for all practical purposes. He is interested in science, philosophy and history and believes that religions can best be analyzed in light of these disciplines. He is also interested in understanding and exploring sexual identities, orientations and practices, free from religious dogma.

So please join us! Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) welcome. Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce.

The Godless Perverts Social Club meets on the first Tuesday and the third Thursday of every month, 7-9 pm, at Wicked Grounds, 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: they have beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce. [Read more…]

Greta Speaking in Richland, WA (Columbia Area) June 16! Plus Columbus OH; Manteca CA; San Juan Puerto Rico; and Winnipeg Manitoba

Hi, all! I have some speaking gigs coming up in Richland WA (Columbia area); Columbus OH; Manteca CA; San Juan Puerto Rico; and Winnipeg Manitoba. If you’re in or near any of these cities, I hope to see you there!

CITY: Richland, WA
DATE: Tuesday, June 16, 2015
TIME: 6:00 pm
TOPIC: What Can the Atheist Movement Learn From the LGBT Movement?
SUMMARY: The atheist movement is already modeling itself on the LGBT movement in many ways — most obviously with its focus on coming out of the closet. What else can the atheist movement learn from the LGBT movement… both from its successes and its failures?
LOCATION: Riverfront Shilo Inn, International Ballroom, 59 Comstock, Richland, WA
HOST: Tri-CIty Freethinkers
CO-SPONSORS: Mid-Columbia Pride and the Mid-Columbia Coalition of Reason
COST: Free
EVENT URL: https://www.google.com/calendar/render?eid=YzF1NW5laTNsMWltcjQ3OHN1ZzExcWdvaHMgZnJlZXRoaW5rZXJqZW5uQG0&sf=true&output=xml#eventpage_6 [Read more…]

“What a good thing it is”: Guest Post by Marsha Botzer for SSA Week

SSA Week logo

This is a guest post by Marsha Botzer for SSA Week.

What a good thing it is to be involved with the Secular Student Alliance!

I’ve been an out and proud Atheist since I was a young adult and went through a lonely summer of doubt, confusion, and intellectual struggle, emerging as many of us do with a firm realization that all religions are created by people, and most often as systems of control rather than systems of comfort.

These days I spend most of my time working for social justice issues, with a focus on LGBTQ, especially Trans* and Gender Non-conforming concerns. So far it has been a great life, one that I did not expect and was not prepared for by my family, school or first work, but one I truly love. What changes we have made! We have gone – in some areas of the world at least – from the days of simple survival as a trans person to today when trans people are leading organizations and taking on strong roles in politics and social change.

When I first heard transitions were possible and that I wasn’t alone in my feelings about self and gender it was a time of surprise and hope. Like a lot of LGBTQ people early on I had the fear I might be the only one or one of a few having such different feelings and thoughts. Very much like coming out Atheist, actually.

That time for me was during the 1968 Workers and Students uprising in Paris. Among all the turmoil and struggle I met some great people who were leading actions, creating change and art, and we had many conversations. During one night of talk I heard someone say they knew of a person who made a gender change! Later, as I traveled I met another activist who also knew of someone else who’d transitioned. The knowledge I wasn’t alone made a difference, and I came back home with real hope of finding help.

There was no help – at least none I could access our use. I spent a lot of time trying to find people, but “they just did not know what to do” in the best cases, and “don’t contact me again” in many other cases. Again, I see this can be a lot like coming to understand our secular selves within systems that have other ideas: in one world they only allow ridged ways for gender to be expressed, and in another there is only a very limited option for how you should think about the universe. Neither of these ways worked for me.

What happened is that I finally realized what I knew all along: If it isn’t there we must make it ourselves. That is, we must bring together others who are asking such questions and learn from one another and make the changes we need to make. I began to put the word out for others, not for already existing systems, and that led to founding Ingersoll Gender Center. Ingersoll, named after Robert Green Ingersoll, has been serving the Trans* and Gender Non-Conforming Community, our families and friends, for over 35 years.

And here is Secular Students Alliance doing something similar! Creating a way and a place for people to pursue their true selves and their real understandings. As I speak about gender issues with other organizations these days I often mention secularism and freethought as valuable allies in creating safe and healthy spaces for people to discover all parts of themselves. And people respond! I see so many opportunities for our groups to work together, so many people who are excited about including both our areas into their work, and who want to help LGBTQ and Secular organizations.

I say: Why shouldn’t we – LGBTQ and Secular – be a primary core around which other groups can gather? Once Labor joined together different progressive groups in the United States, now Labor has been weakened. Where is a core for all to gather around today? Why not us?!

There are already good people at work on these ideas, the amazing Greta Christina for example. Let’s build on this work. What better way to spend your heartbeats than in building a better world, a freer world?

This week is Secular Students Week, when we are all celebrating the fantastic work the SSA is doing to empower students. Their goal is to get 500 donations this week, and if they do they will receive a $20,000 challenge grant! Help them keep up their amazing work by giving this week.

Thanks to everyone involved in Secular Students Alliance. I am proud to join you in your work. Like Robert Ingersoll said: “The Time to be Happy is Now”, and together we can make this so!

Marsha Botzer


Comforting Thoughts book cover oblong 100 JPGComing Out Atheist Bendingwhy are you atheists so angryGreta Christina is author of four books: Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless, and Bending: Dirty Kinky Stories About Pain, Power, Religion, Unicorns, & More.