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: [Read more…]

A response to Lee

A commenter going by the handle ‘Lee’ has been asking some pointed questions about how to respond to claims of discrimination. I tried to give a robust answer, which ended up ballooning into a full-length post.


I’ll respond by bringing the two into one. If someone claims they have been discriminated against, or they feel they have been discriminated against, what would you suggest as the next step?

1. investigate their claim, ascertain the details, come to a conclusion.

2. accept the claim, start accusing.

When you sort of scoffed at #4, I read that as endorsing (2) above. Perhaps I’m mistaken? I mean, I don’t want to appear to be dodging your questions, I think they’re good questions, but they’re not precisely relevant to the argument presented in #4. They assume that you would take route #1. Your second question seems to me to put that person’s participation into a higher priority slot than, say, checking if they’re full of it or not before making accusations.

So instead of jumping right to invective and scoffing back, I’m hoping to get an idea for why you reject #4 [#4 referring to point 4 in this week’s Movie Friday, and my disagreement that there is a meaningful difference between perceived and real discrimination – C].

And in a separate comment…

I suppose a correlated question would be: is it your position that we should take anyone and everyone’s non-rational (i.e. no grounds established) fears or feelings as actionable representations of the world, simply on the off chance that those fears or feelings may turn out to be grounded in reality, or because similar claims have been grounded in reality in the past?


The key to my objection to #4 is here: [Read more…]

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…]

Two views of black masculinity

Circumstances have once again robbed me of the time and energy to dig too deep into blogging. Part of this is a massive paper that I have just finished – it looks at whether or not mandatory childhood vaccination is legally, ethically, and scientifically justified in a Canadian context. Part of it is prepping for my Eschaton2012 presentation that I will be giving in Ottawa this weekend. Part of it is prioritizing my personal relationships above blogging, given how much of a time suck these other two things have been. At any rate, no post for you today.

In lieu, I want to highlight two essays on a topic I’ve had some call to think about recently. The first is by Robert Reece, perhaps better known to some of you as PhuzzieSlippers, a former guest on the SERIOUSLY?! podcast*: [Read more…]

Priorities: Indigeneity or Secession?

A post by Jamie

How exactly do I even begin? My language choices throughout this piece are applied conscientiously. Selection of terminology used here is neither made carelessly nor in jest. I am struggling daily with a profound and genuinely increasing sense of  dread, and this particular piece of writing is an attempt to account for this as concisely as possible.

We’ve got indigenous peoples in both Brazil and Canada essentially declaring war against their respective colonial governments and other occupiers with corporate interests (Brazil, Canada). While indigenous peoples in Canada are being neglected (see this… oh, and thisand this, too) and starved (see here), indigenous peoples in Brazil and neighbouring countries are being fire-bombed and gunned down — though media reports on indigenous peoples in South America are apparently often misleading (as in the title of the article about a Brazilian indigenous tribe declaring a fight to the death  [Read more…]

States writes

One of the most challenging aspects of anti-racism is the fact that we can only usually measure racism as an absence of a better explanation. We see an inequality and then we try to rule out the other plausible explanations, and then say “it’s got to be explained by racism”. Because there is no objective test – no screen or marker or physical indicator – that positively identifies racist intent (or even racism that happens unintentionally), it is usually left to anti-racist educators to make a case through narrative explanation rather than through empirical observation.

Their (our) task is made even more difficult by the fact that, partially because people are defensive and partially because people are assholes, any claim that racism plays a role in any event is met with a howling chorus of denials and demands for the kind of rock-solid proof that is so rarely available when discussing these kinds of social/psychological issues. When these demands cannot be readily met (‘my racism detector is on the fritz’), these voices devolve into smug pronouncements of ‘race cards’ being played, or perhaps a ‘playing the victim’ gambit being used.

Which is why it’s always interesting and gratifying to see exercises like this one: [Read more…]

Looking at it sideways

We often use college course abbreviations to describe the various levels of social justice discussion. Someone might refer to a “101-level” conversation when we’re talking about identifying racism as a social construct rather than a biological reality. Trying to access the specific ways in which racial constructs impact the lived experiences of people might qualify for “200-level” status, since it requires us to understand and accept the conclusions from the 100-level stuff before we can move on to the real-world implications. Discussing things like intersectionality and the consequences of multiple identities that intersect race is maybe your “300-level” stuff, which is more or less the level I think I can comfortably converse.

But then there’s other stuff that, quite frankly, baffles and confounds even me: [Read more…]

Episode 3: Where the Sidewalk ends

Xavier and I got together again and recorded another episode of our podcast. This week we talked about sexy sexy teenagers and flat Earthers on the internet. The video is below the fold.

Also below the fold is a plea for help with naming this damn thing. We don’t have a clue what to call it, so we’re throwing it open to the internet.

[Read more…]

Making it count

One of the most frustrating aspects of being involved in a social justice movement is coming to grips with the sheer scope of the problem. Social inequalities are grounded, more often than not, in centuries of history and the evolutionary detritus of human cognition. We can point to a handful of successes like the American civil rights movement, but those were foughts that people literally bled and died for, and resulted in a system that almost immediately adapted to restore as much of the racist status quo as was legally permissible. The fact is that the fight for equality is gigantic, and it’s easy to feel as though one person can’t do much to move the massive edifice the dictates the roles of various groups in power dynamics.

Indeed, even if one wasn’t so overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the problem, it’s hard to conceive of what actionable solutions are available. The whole Occupy movement was heavily criticized for even trying to get together and spell out all of the problems. When solutions were offered (and they were offered), their very existence was denied or ignored because it fit into the more easily-digested narrative that we live in a world where people cannot solve big, diffuse problems. Certainly those who are sincerely interested in, say, seeing the end of racism can see few avenues toward true progress: the problem is inside people’s heads. How can we fix the ever-warping landscape of human psychology aside from waiting for the ‘racists’ to die off and hope that the next generation does a better job?

While I agree the task is daunting, there may be one specific lever we can exploit: [Read more…]