More than time needed to heal some wounds

Earlier this week, fellow FTBorg Ashley Miller told a heart-wrenching story of being disowned by her father:

He was with me for Thanksgiving, to meet my mom and stepdad and brother and rest of my family.  Except my dad.  My mother, who is much wiser than me and deserves full credit for being right, told me not to tell my dad until she could grease the wheels, but I, who wanted to make the boyfriend part of my family, foolishly overreached and talked to my father thinking that she was underestimating his fundamental human decency.

And now my father has just disowned me.

I suppose I am thankful that he waited until the day after Thanksgiving to do it.  Not that he told me, he made my stepmother his proxy as he was too angry to speak to me directly.  I have been disowned for loving someone my father does not approve of.

If you haven’t read it yet, you should. Maybe locate some tissues first.

Many people in the comments and on Twitter expressed dismayed shock that such disowning could happen in this day and age. After all, Ashley’s dad’s justification for refusing to talk to or interact with his daughter is that she’s dating a guy… who is black. How could such a thing be possible in 2012? Surely we are a more enlightened society and culture now than we were in the distant mists of our shameful history, aren’t we? After all, racism was so… yesterday. We’ve moved on, into this “post-racial” utopia we’ve been hearing so much about, where people are “colour blind” and racism just isn’t a serious problem anymore. [Read more…]

The terrible burden of religious persecution

Part of the reason I have such a difficult time taking complaints about the “persecution” of Christians in North America (and indeed, most of the world), is because by degrees they demonstrate again and again that they have simply no fucking clue what persecution looks like. To wit:

Jamaica’s public transport authorities have banned lay preachers from addressing commuters in public buses. Jamaica is a predominantly Christian country, but many passengers have complained about the noise and disturbance. Drivers have been instructed to politely warn religious ministers that they are no longer allowed to evangelise fellow passengers. Preachers say the decision infringes freedom of speech and religion.

No, Jamaican dickhole priests, your rights are not being infringed because people are telling you that you’re not allowed to push your superstition to people riding the bus, on their way to actually doing something worthwhile in the world. Your rights are intact. You can still say whatever you want, you’re just not allowed to do it with absolutely no regard for the feeling or comfort of other people. You know, like a non-sociopath.

I am reminded of this comic: [Read more…]

The freedom of religion

I have to admit that I have a massive throbbing hate-on (read it again) for the phrase “freedom of religion”. It is an over-used canard that really has no useful value. The protection of a right to freedom of conscience, along with similar protections for speech, ensures that any religious belief or practice is protected. Carving out a specific protection for religion is redundant.

What it is a reflection of, as far as I can tell, is a cultural obsession with the totems and taboos of worshipping various failures of rational thought. We fetishize our ignorance, call it “religion” or “faith”, and then incessantly remind everyone how important and central it is to the human experience, to the point where people don’t know how you could possibly live a life without it. So of course it has to have special protection. After all, if we don’t protect something so essential to human functioning, how could we have any rights at all?


And yet, we continue to do it. We enshrine it in our laws, we plaster it on bumper stickers, we even create entire government ministries to oversee it. An office, by the way, overseen by a person who is capable of saying stuff like this in public:

In too many countries, the right to believe in and practise one’s faith in peace and security is still measured in blood spilled and lives lost. This is not an abstract debate. Blasphemy laws target religious minorities.

And then saying this:

Nothing is easy. And you really only get one chance to get it right. We know that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.

Oh really, Mr. Baird. Thanks for pointing that out. Let’s look at a couple of blasphemy law cases then, shall we?

Greek Church charges playwright, actors, with blasphemy:

The actors and creative team behind a play that depicts Jesus Christ and his apostles as gay face charges of blasphemy in Greece, according to court officials.

The production of Corpus Christi, a 1997 play by U.S. playwright Terrence McNally, was greeted with protests by priests and the right-wing Golden Dawn movement during its run in Athens in October. The Greek-language staging was eventually cancelled earlier this month.

Greek Orthodox Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus launched a lawsuit against the production and called for charges of “insulting religion” and “malicious blasphemy.”

Because, and I think the whole international community can agree, there’s nothing more important happening in Greece right now than cracking down on people who insult religion. Even though the play is about political corruption. None of that in Greece though…

India arrests two for Facebook status:

Police in India have arrested a woman they say criticised on Facebook the shutdown of the city of Mumbai after the death of politician Bal Thackeray.

A woman friend who “liked” the comment was also arrested, they said.

The women, accused of “hurting religious sentiments”, were released on bail after appearing in court in the town of Palghar, police told the BBC.

Yes, it would be just awful if people were allowed to express dissatisfaction at things that are tangentially related to deeply held religious beliefs! Don’t you get how deeply they’re held, you guys? Deeply! Like… really deep!

It seems to me that religion isn’t exactly under existential threat here. If anything, it’s got quite a bit of muscle to flex. And while the supposed goal of this “Office of Religious Freedom” is supposed to be about protecting minority groups, Minister John Baird expresses this ‘freedom’ in explicitly faith-y terms. Not a freedom to believe and practice according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, but a freedom to “draw upon one’s faith to contribute to the greater good of society—something greater than oneself.”

I’m, it hardly needs to be said, skeptical.

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A little immature snicker

News out of San Francisco:

San Francisco shed a vestige of its free-spirited past as local lawmakers narrowly approved a citywide ban on public nudity. Casting aside complaints that forcing people to cover up would undermine San Francisco’s reputation as a city without inhibitions, the Board of Supervisors voted 6-5 on Tuesday in favour of an ordinance that prohibits exposed genitals in most public places, including streets, sidewalks and public transit.

So y’know… that’s too bad I guess. Nudity doesn’t really hurt anyone, although I dare say there are some people whose naked bodies I would prefer not to see if I can avoid it. But so what? I also don’t like ads above the urinals at bars, but I’ve learned to deal. That’s not the funny part of this story. This is:

Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced the ban in response to escalating complaints about a group of men whose bare bodies are on display almost daily in the city’s predominantly gay Castro District. He said at Tuesday’s meeting that he resisted for almost two years, but finally felt compelled to act.

Umm... phrasing?

There is no larger point to be served here. I just thought it was a funny paragraph.

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Oh, Canada…

It’s really easy (and fun!) to point out the raft of egregious racism that in many ways defines the American political landscape. Part of the appeal of framing racism in an American context is that cornerstone of Canadian identity: rage/jealousy of our bigger brother. Without our American counterparts against which to contrast ourselves, the challenging of forming a Canadian identity that isn’t just another colonial throwback to our British roots is challenging*. Another part of it is the fact that the hypocrisy of America proclaiming itself as some sort of bastion of freedom is belied by its history of deep hostility and belligerence when it comes to the freedoms of people of colour (PoCs). The idea that America is ‘post-racial’ or any such fantasy is only sustainable if you ignore major parts of reality (which, to be sure, Americans have traditionally not had much difficulty doing when it comes to other elements of their politics).

But a big part of why I personally discuss racism in an American context so often is because, quite frankly, that country provides me with a steady diet of material. I don’t have to scour the web for examples of racism to help illustrate some point or another. Last week’s blitz illustrates perfectly that I will never want for scintillating news stories. Some might argue that this is because Americans are super-racist. To be sure, some of the most shocking and dramatic examples of racism are present in American history, and its regular refusal to come to grips with its own history means that they are doomed to repeat it frequently and tragically. Some might argue, though, that the reason American media produces so much about American racism is because it’s newsworthy. It means people care enough to highlight it.

Which is why I find this story so interesting: [Read more…]

Movie Friday: Suspicious

So last night we had a bit of a chuckle at the expense of a hapless boob from Maine who is the chairman of the state Republican party. After the laughter subsided, I said this:

What I will say is that this fits neatly with the larger Republican narrative from this last election cycle: that black people voting is suspect for fraud. That black people have to provide additional proof that they are indeed qualified to vote. In the old days, this was done through explicit policies like poll taxes and “literacy tests”. Today it’s done through barely-covert policies like “voter ID” that is designed to suppress the votes of not only black people, but pretty much anyone who would vote for a Democratic candidate. This is not a new story, and it is part of the attempt to erase people of colour from the collective consciousness, or at least to deny them (us) the possibility of equal partnership and participation. This story is not new, and it’s not just chuckle-fucks like Charlie Webster who are behind it.

And I wasn’t kidding either: [Read more…]

The black vote is the Maine problem

One common utterance you’ll hear when people go on the defensive about a racist statement or behaviour is that they couldn’t possibly be racist because they “have a black friend”. This “black friend” is sometimes a spouse, sometimes an actual friend, but just as often it’s a co-worker or someone they do business with, or maybe even someone who works for them. Whatever the person’s actual relationship with their “black friend”, they wish you to excuse a racist behaviour or attitude with the assurance that because they do not hate each individual black person on the planet, they are somehow safeguarded from having any of their behaviour identified as racist. This comes from the formulation that racism is something perpetrated by mythological creatures known as “racists”, a stance I unequivocally reject.

I have to say though, as common as the “I know and tolerate at least one black person” excuse is, this particular inversion of it is new to me: [Read more…]

Oooooo-klahoma where the racism’s sweepin’ down the plains

If you talk to conservatives about racism, one of their most common rhetorical positions is that liberals are “the real racists” because they (we) can’t seem to shut up about race. We’re obsessed with race – we see racism everywhere! But not conservatives. Conservatives treat everyone identically and don’t even notice race, or if they do notice it they certainly don’t let it affect their decision-making. Why, conservatives think that all of the races are born equal, and deserve equal treatment with equal opportunities for success.

It is because of this rhetorical position that conservatives are deeply offended by the idea of affirmative action programs. By giving one race an “advantage” in hiring or acceptance, liberals are discriminating against white people by saying that simply being born white makes you undeserving of a job or a placement in a school. That only non-whites should get into those jobs and schools, even if they’re not qualified, because liberals think white people are evil, or they feel guilty because some white people had slaves, like 100 years ago.

And it is from this mindset that we get stories like this: [Read more…]

SERIOUSLY?! Episode 5

We’re back with another episode of our podcast series that we’re calling “SERIOUSLY?!”. This week we talked about a post-election “riot” that happened on Ole Miss campus in Oxford, Mississippi. Roughly 400 students gathered in outrage over the election results, and some were overheard shouting racist epithets at both President Obama and black people in general. No physical violence was reported at this event, but it brought a lot of unwelcome attention to a school and a region that has a particularly fraught history when it comes to racism.

We were joined this week by Jasmine and Robert. Video and links below the fold: [Read more…]