Kavin Senapathy on why organized skepticism ‘can’t afford to ignore racial inequality’ (Non-fiction)


Kavin Senapathy was, until last year, one of the co-hosts for the Center for Inquiry’s “Point of Inquiry” podcast.  She recently posted about her dismissal from the podcast and CFI for Undark.

I believe the dismissal was a response to my outspoken views on CFI’s negligence toward matters of race and diversity — issues that the organization has often sidestepped in the past. If that is indeed the case, it sends a discouraging message. At a moment when racist pseudoscience is making a disturbing comeback, skeptics shouldn’t shy away from talking about race — and we can’t afford to overlook the white privilege among our own ranks.

As someone who was involved in organized skepticism for years, I think this article is spot on.  While the Chicagoland group I volunteered for was very diverse, overall, the movement was and still is, very white and male-dominated.  I used to think organizations, like CFI, would change, instead, many of them became resistant to change.  (It doesn’t help when Richard Dawkins argues that eugenics can work.)

Which is wrong, because the ideas and tools of skepticism should be for everyone, not just for a select group who consider themselves superior thinkers.  The movement should expand beyond debunking Bigfoot and UFOs.  As Senapathy writes, skeptical organizations should play a role in debunking pseudoscientific racism.  Especially when white nationalists and their beliefs are shaping many of President Trump’s policies.

Racism is among the most pressing pseudoscientific threats of our time. But it can be deceptive, masquerading as mere inquisitiveness and even helplessness. The most insidious white supremacy doesn’t carry tiki torches of festering hatred. It comes from well-meaning people who nevertheless uphold power structures with whiteness at the top. It’s woven into the very fabric of America and its institutions.

Unfortunately, CFI might have to be added to this list.