The best laid plans of mice and small minds

One of the fascinating aspects of the denial of privilege is the pirouettes one must turn in order to square the denial with observed fact.

“Black people have just as many opportunities as white people!”

Well, here’s an assload of evidence that suggests that’s not true

“…culture of poverty! Single moms! Phrenology!”

This is the reason why I think race is a perfect subject for the skeptical movement, because we can point to the evidence and say “here’s a whole bunch of problems, and the excuses offered for them are based on stereotypes rather than facts”. This is what we do when it comes to homeopathy, UFOs, gods, whatever you like. We find ways to take human inference out of the equation, and then figure out what the truth looks like regardless of what beliefs you had before you asked the questions.

The hubris of those who discover that Obama didn’t raise their taxes, or that FOX News isn’t “fair and balanced”, or that outlawing contraception causes more abortions, is always highly amusing to watch. Well, sometimes amusing, other times depressing as they manage to find smaller and smaller loopholes of post hoc reasoning to justify the rapidly-disappearing credibility of their arguments (“he’s a secret socialist! You just wait!” “Scientists and media observers are all liberals!” “the devil lives in the uterus!”). At any rate, it’s never boring.

What’s even more amusing is when the myths of the obsessed are punctured at their own hands:

A bizarre chain email sent to district and school board officials in the Dallas area this October titled “IRVING ISD INDOCTRINATING ISLAM” inspired a recent investigation of “Islamic bias” in the district’s curriculum. Despite the outlandish claims, the district requested that an official from the organization that created the curriculum to respond. The results of a 72-page investigation done by the organization were not surprising: there’s a Christian bias in schools, not a Muslim one.

The official told the board that a bias toward Islam didn’t exist, even mentioning that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.” The Dallas Morning News has the details of an investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school”:

– Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.

– The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.

– If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

It is an interesting facet of privilege that makes us assume that what is ‘normal’ for us is the ‘objective’ normal. Flattering representations of Christianity would fly right under the radar of what a Christian person would notice, while every criticism would loom larger than life. So too would any mention, positive or negative, about any religion other than Christianity. So, when someone is asked to recall, from their own memory, the ‘balance’ of opinions expressed on the radio or on TV or in textbooks, of course it will feel like there is rampant anti-Christian sentiment plastered all over the pages. “Bias!” the call goes up.

The mistake this group made was trying to actually quantify the problem. Just like the people who deny the existence of racism or sexism in public life, they were left to confront the chilling reality of the numbers themselves: your group is the one getting the preferential treatment, not your perceived enemies. And if, by your own admission, bias and indoctrination are very bad things (which I agree they are), then all of a sudden you’ve got a lot of work to do to expunge the pro-Christian bias. Anyone feel like taking bets on whether or not they make the changes they were so recently clamoring for?

This is the great challenge we as skeptics are presented with. Can we be courageous enough to follow the evidence wherever it leads, or are we so comfortable with our status quo that we frantically dive for the most convenient loophole that allows us to justify our continued inactivity? We’re only human, but our guiding principle as a group is the prioritizing of evidence over the easy deployment of truism. We may not be better people than the member of the Dallas school board, but we are supposed to have better ideas.

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  1. smhll says

    It is an interesting facet of privilege that makes us assume that what is ‘normal’ for us is the ‘objective’ normal. Flattering representations of Christianity would fly right under the radar of what a Christian person would notice, while every criticism would loom larger than life.

    So true. At least this is the way my brain works. Insults that apply to my group(s), my positions or myself are very effing noticeable. Insults towards or bias against people I don’t like, man I barely notice them when I read them, other than to nod my head. (Consciousness raising compensates for this somewhat, but not fully.) It’s kind of like my personal insult detector works well of some frequencies but is very dampened on others.

  2. goidaym8 says

    I think both racial bigotry and gender bigotry are equally valid targets for skeptics to attack.
    Both misogyny and racism are rife in Biblical scripture.
    Just had an argument on Australian ABC religious forum (Compass) with a misogynist (Catholic) who claimed that he could show me that the Bible engenders equality for women, I challenged him and showed him that even the passages he quoted in his defense were entirely misogynistic and supported my case instead.
    Same goes for the Biblical racial favoritism in the Israelites and support for slavery.
    Though we have it from both sides here, racism from all the nationalities.
    I’ve witnessed native children ostracized at primary school (age 6) for playing with whites, when they have other black (actually light brown) children in the school to associate with instead.
    No, it is entirely wrong when you cannot choose who you would like to be with (similar hobbies, likes, etc…) just because of the depth of your natural sun tan.
    Racism sucks big time, so I believe it needs to be high on all Skeptical thinkers agenda!

    Aye M8!

  3. Ed says

    “It is an interesting facet of privilege that makes us assume that what is ‘normal’ for us is the ‘objective’ normal.”
    Spot on observation.

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