Another reason I’m glad I moved

Remember how Arizona wanted to instate horribly racist anti-immigration laws, and there was national uproar, from protests to boycotts? Well, apparently Indiana didn’t want to be left out of all the fun (emphasis mine):

A state lawmaker thinks it’s time Indiana followed Arizona’s lead in cracking down on illegal immigration — and wants to go even further by barring the use of any language but English in most government transactions.[…]

Like Arizona, the bill requires a state or local law enforcement officer who stops anyone for a violation of a law or ordinance to ask for proof that the person is here legally if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” the person is not either a citizen or a legal visitor. […]

Most government transactions, documents and meetings must be in English. That means the state would have to end the Spanish-language portal on its website, and stop issuing forms, such as voter registration or absentee ballots, in other languages. Exceptions are made for law enforcement and court proceedings; public health needs; tourism and international trade needs.[…]

The former home of the KKK just can’t be outdone in the battle for most racist state, can they? Come on, it’s a serious problem for Indiana – just look how close it is to the Mexican border. And those illegal immigrants are practically taking over. A whopping 5.5% of “Hoosiers” are Hispanic! They’re doomed!!! Better make sure even the legal immigrants can’t vote by making everything in English, or they’ll surely let all of their buddies in! And THEN where will we be?!

Though the Senator assures us it has nothing to do with race. I’m sure he’s very concerned about all the French speaking Canadians that have been dying to hide out in our corn fields.

Thanks, Indiana. This is why so many people in Seattle look at me with a mixture of horror and pity when I say where I’m from. You’re doing a great job living up to that image.

Racial diversity in the atheist community IS our problem

The Guardian has an interesting article up by Alom Shaha on “The accidental exclusion of non-white atheists.” I’m not sure if this was intentional, but it’s a timely follow up for the recent kerfuffle about the apparent lack of women in the atheist movement. One of his main points is that the atheist movement needs to actively try to fix its diversity problem. I think he’s spot on, and the same applies to women:

While black and Asian people may not be actively excluded from atheist and sceptic gatherings, the lack of black and Asian people as speakers or audience members might be one reason why many black or Asian people feel such events are not “for them”. So, even if there’s no deliberate exclusion, there is accidental exclusion. Perhaps some people are genuinely unaware of this, but perhaps others are just hoping the problem does not really exist.

We’re not saying we need to go knocking on doors of religious minorities and target them for atheist evangelizing. We’re saying we want minorities who are already atheists to feel comfortable within our movement. One way to promote inclusivity is to invite minority speakers to conferences or local events, or to encourage current minority members to consider more active leadership positions.

Shaha repeatedly states that he does not think the atheist movement is inherently racist or purposefully excluding minorities. I thought he was being overly polite until I started reading the comments at The Guardian. They’re almost unanimously oblivious, stating there’s no such thing as an atheist movement or community. Look, just because you’re an atheist who doesn’t feel the need to be outspoken or talk to like-minded people doesn’t mean we don’t exist. Is this a British thing, since atheism is so much more common and accepted there?

But my main beef is with the comments that deal with race, which have no excuse. For example:

“This article is a disgrace. Why is it that anything that happens to be white must become more diverse to become a “community”? What a crock of poo. Very expensive deficit causing poo, I might add. You fools would be better off worrying about the genocide of Iraq’s Christians, and the general bad feeling towards minorities in the mulsim world, than worrying about atheists being too white.”

“If people really are so simple-minded as to prefer the company of people of their own colour, then that’s their problem, and neither atheists (nor Christans nor Hindus nor Muslims nor Jews nor anyone else) are under any obligation to go out of their way to accommodate them.”

“oh god … AGAIN! what is wrong with these awful “white men”?? Why are we so bad? just out of pure contrarianism, i am going to campaign for the atheist movement to be a ‘white males only’ movement. i want it to have clubs, and bars and so on, where we are allowed to keep females and other races out. just so so bored of “minority” bleating on the subject of “white men” – gone far too far.”

“What, practically, do you think white atheists should do to encourage black and asian involvement? It’s hardly their fault that asian people (for example) feel a cultural pressure not to get involved, and it is not their fault that asian people feel more comfortable with their own kind (as you suggest). You seem to be blaming whate atheists for a problems which are not of their making. The onus is on minorities, not the audience to which your article is addressed.”

Those are facepalm worthy to say the least. But maybe that sort of stupidity and insensitivity is only from people who think the atheist movement doesn’t exist?

Then I read this comment at the Richard Dawkins Foundation website, presumably from someone within the community:

“We (like there is a ‘we’ in the atheist community) should have second best speakers at events, choose them solely on the colour of their skin, otherwise we might appear racist.

We should have second best speakers at events, choose them solely on the colour of their gender, otherwise we might appear sexist.”


The assumption that minority speakers are inherently second best? Now that is racist and sexist.

This is identical to atheism’s so called “women problem.” It’s not that we lack worthy non-white atheists: It’s that we have plenty of wonderful non-white atheists who we forget about. If you think people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Maryam Namazie, Hemant Mehta, Ariane Sherine, Salman Rushdie, and Debbie Goddard are “second rate,” you are part of the problem.

Where it really needs to be improved is at conferences. Events like TAM seem to be improving its representation of women, and it’s not just tokenism – I thought all of the female speakers were brilliant. But you know who some of the most disappointing speakers were? People who keep getting re-invited because of their fame, but just re-hashed old talks, gave crappy Q&A sessions, or bored everyone to tears. When all of those people happen to be old white men, it certainly doesn’t look good. Even if it’s the unintentional effect of attempting to sell tickets, it makes it seem like someone is choosing second-rate old white male speakers over first-rate minority speakers.

I’m sure it’s not deliberate, but if we don’t fix our diversity problem now, we’re going to have oodles of problems down the road (check out Greta Christina’s talks about the parallels between our movement and the GLBT movement, and you’ll know why). We need to start being more inclusive if we want the atheist movement to be successful. This is already starting to happen, with groups like the African Americans for Humanism and L.A. Black Skeptics becoming more and more active.

But denying we have the problem and that it’s our job to fix it? Not helping, people.

Colbert calls out Laura Ingraham for terrible writing and racist remarks

I think I ovulated while watching this last night:

<td style=’padding:2px 1px 0px 5px;’ colspan=’2’Laura Ingraham

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Seriously, does this man not have the best job in the world? He gets to call out people for being racist and for being terrible writers to their face because they willingly sign up for the verbal beating. All while not coming off like a jackass thanks to ingenious use of satire. I’m jealous.


Why do people forced to convert keep that religion?

Forced conversion and religious warfare is common throughout history. Millions of Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam from 1000 to 1500 AD, conquistadors forced Christianity on indigenous people in America, African slaves in the Americas were forcibly converted to Christianity by their white masters…and of course, let’s not forgot the Spanish Inquisition and Crusades.

I don’t blame people for converting when faced with death and destruction. If my life or my friends and family were on the line, I would be speaking in tongues and praising Jesus in a heartbeat.

But why do people keep believing long after the threat is gone? This question baffles me, especially with more recent converts like those with indigenous or slave ancestry. I hear so much about retaining culture, not succumbing to white influences, being proud of your heritage…but this is hardly ever applied to religion. So many Hispanic people have some indigenous heritage, yet Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. African Americans are known for their lively, charismatic churches that are a large part of their culture. Why would you want to hang on to something that was forced on you by oppressive, murderous people? How can such cruelty convince someone that that religion is worth joining? Is it just that religious belief is so powerful that you can trick yourself into genuinely believing something for your own well being?

This is just an honest question I’ve thought about occasionally, and was currently prompted by a post over at Womanist Musings about retaining African American heritage. I’m not trying to troll or be culturally/racially insensitive – I freely admit that I’m ignorant about this issue, which is why I’m asking. I’d especially like to hear from minorities whose ancestors were affected by this sort of thing, or people with background in sociology/psychology/history/etc.

The racial double standard

It really irks me when people say we’re “post-racial” or “colorblind” now that Obama is president, because it’s obviously not true. If you need convincing, here’s a good example:

“As a black father and adopted white daughter, Mark Riding and Katie O’Dea-Smith are a sight at best surprising, and at worst so perplexing that people feel compelled to respond. Like the time at a Pocono Mountains flea market when Riding scolded Katie, attracting so many sharp glares that he and his wife, Terri, 37, and also African-American, thought “we might be lynched.” And the time when well-intentioned shoppers followed Mark and Katie out of the mall to make sure she wasn’t being kidnapped. Or when would-be heroes come up to Katie in the cereal aisle and ask, “Are you OK?”—even though Terri is standing right there.”

Why is it okay for white couples to adopt children of different race, but not vice-versa? White couples seem “humanitarian,” while black couples are mistaken for kidnappers. People glorify Angelina Jolie and her Gotta-Adopt-‘Em-All strategy, but what if Tyra Banks did this with different races from underprivileged places around the world? …Ok, Tyra’s a horrible example since she’s full of crazy, and the idea of entrusting her with multiple children scares me. But I digress. There’s a part of me that hopes beyond hope that this can be chalked up to statistics. That is, there are far more white couples adopting black children than black couples adopting white children, so people see it as an anomaly. Unfortunately, I think that’s just wishful thinking. I’m pretty sure the dirty looks wouldn’t go away even if the adoption rates evened out.

Is “New Atheism” White Supremacist?

Apparently someone thinks so. Since my initial response of “WTF” isn’t too educated, I’m going to break down my reply.

But I’m no longer okay with atheist evangelizing. Firstly, I’m not okay with evangelizing, period. I don’t care if you’re a fundamentalist Christian, an agnostic Buddhist, or Richard Dawkins, I want you to leave me the fuck alone. You do it your way and I’ll do it mine.

You know what, once atheists start knocking on doors, trying to get schools to teach that there is no god, and threatening people with suffering and harm if they don’t convert, then I’ll agree with you. But atheist “evangelizing” in no where near the same as Christian (for example) evangelizing. What horrible things has Richard Dawkins done? Wrote a book that no one is forced to buy or read? Give talks that no one if forced to attend? I don’t think I’ve seen him on a college campus with a microphone shouting “There is no god, you bloody twits!” And you know, even if he did, he has the right to do that. Just like any other person you don’t agree with, you can just stop listening to them.

I’m happy to talk to politics with you, but my religious practice — which harms no one and in no way impinges on any other person’s rights — is really, really none of your business. I don’t care if the origin myth you’re peddling comes from science or from mythology. I don’t care how much history or evidence is on your side. I just want to be left in peace; I will do the same for you.

Again, once religious practices DO stop harming people and impinging on others rights, maybe we’ll shut up a bit. My goal as an atheist isn’t to convert people – if it doesn’t affect others and it makes them happy, so be it. But while planes are still being flown into buildings, while people are being fired at work for being atheists, while myths are being taught over science to our children, while gay marriage is having a hell of a time being legalized, your beliefs become my business because you’re not keeping them to yourself.

And as I said before, religious beliefs are no different than political beliefs. They don’t deserve any sort of special treatment, and should receive criticism like anything else.

The big reason, though, is that atheist advocates a la Dawkins and the rest are ethnocentric, colonialist cultural supremacists. When Dawkins says that sending a kid to Sunday school is child abuse, or that reasonable, tolerant, law-abiding people who happen to be religious are enablers of violent fundamentalists, he is not merely saying that religious people should stop believing in God/gods. He is saying that they should forfeit their culture.

Um, no. First of, do you know anything about Richard Dawkins? He, like many atheists, still joyfully celebrates Christmas complete with tree and religious songs and all the same traditions and culture that he had before he was an atheist. This past Easter many people commented on all the egg finding and bunny eating and family gathering that was going on. What’s the difference? We can still enjoy the culture we were raised in without cheapening it with supernatural nonsense.

The implicit claim here is that wealthy, white, Western secularism culturally neutral, the norm. And that’s bullshit. White, Western secularism is as much a subjective human culture as any other. There is no neutral. You can give up your ancestral culture, but it will be replaced. It will be replaced by white Western capitalism. This is what the atheist evangelists are advocating (or, if you prefer, advocating implicitly and spectacularly failing to disavow): assimilation.

Well, I disagree with you, but apparently since I’ve been implicitly advocating this all along, let me take a moment to disavow it: assimilation sucks. Culture and tradition are important. But, I have one caveat. Just because something is a tradition doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s good or that we have to keep doing it. For example, prayer at public high school and college graduations. If the school’s principal or President argues “tradition” for keeping it, that is a giant cop-out and unwillingness to deal with separation of church and state (and not just for the sake of nonbelievers, but for minority religions as well).

Now that that’s out of the way (probably not), I’m not quite sure how atheism = capitalism. I openly admit that I am woefully uneducated about anything economic, so if I’m off base here, let me know. But I know from our club, a good chunk of our members are socialists or anarchists, aka, Very Much So Not Capitalists. Our current treasurer has a hernia if anyone says anything remotely pro-capitalist. But really, I have no idea what rejecting supernatural belief has to do with economic practices anyway, so this just seems like a random stretch to me.

And I refuse. I refuse to replace Judaism with capitalism. I refuse to replace my traditional foods with McDonalds. I refuse to replace my history with the vulgar lie of pilgrims and pioneers sweeping across an empty continent. I refuse to believe the claim that wealthy white men are the most evolved, the most enlightened; I refuse to believe the claim that white culture is superior.

Good for you! Keeping your culture is great! My Jewish atheist friends still call themselves Jewish. I’d pick yuvetsaki or pastichio or tiropita or anything delicious food from my Greek heritage over a greasy burger. I’m pretty sure most atheists don’t advocate rewriting history with lies either, since we’re kind of concerned…um…with truth.

And pigs will fly to the moon and back before you hear Richard Dawkins say anything along the lines of wealthy white men being the most evolved. That’s just…there are so many things wrong with that statement, I don’t know where to begin. Do you know anything about evolution? The vast majority of evolutionary biologists would never make such a claim because it’s undeniably false – and when some idiot does try to insinuate something racist by using biology (Watson, I’m looking at you), they get torn apart and shunned by their fellow biologists and atheists.

And I’m still not getting where this “white culture is superior” thing is coming from. Can I get a quote of Dawkins saying that, please? Because until then, I can’t help but think of Christian slave owners making their slaves leave their tribal religions, or Christian missionaries today going to Africa and changing their culture, or our Christian-motivated government under Bush “freeing” Iraqis…and then all the atheists who have stood up and said This Is Bad.

If you think my attachment to my culture is a problem (even though I agree with you about every important political issue!), you’re a white supremacist.

Well, thankfully I don’t think your attachment to your culture is a problem. Culture can be good! But I just hope you don’t really mean that anyone who disagrees with you about the rest of your comments is a white supremacist, because that’s just silly and unproductive.

Lastly, it’s another lie that religion is the problem. Yes, religious fundamentalism (like all fundamentalism) is extremely destructive, and many innocent people have been killed in the name of religion. But secular, capitalist Western “democracy” is, today, just as destructive a force. This system is literally destroying the world as we know it — just ask a polar bear.

Me: Hey Mr. Pol
ar Bear, those shrinking ice
caps sure do suck, huh?
Mr. P. Bear: Why yes, Jennifer, they do. They make me a sad panda-I mean, polar bear.
Me: But has anyone tried to help you out?
Mr. P. Bear: Well, yes! Most of the people who are trying to help are scientists, many of which are atheists. And even non-scientist atheists realize this is a huge problem because this is the only life they have!
Me: But what about the religious people?
Mr. P. Bear: Well, a lot of them think that God gave man dominion over all the plants and animals on earth, so they feel they can do whatever they want to us. And they think any sort of catastrophic end is God’s plan through Armageddon, so they don’t want to stop it!
Me: Well golly gee! I guess it’s all the atheists faults for magically promoting capitalist democracy somehow!
Mr. P. Bear: Logically.


Now, does atheism have a hard time attracting and keeping minorities? Yes, I would say so. The movement is disproportionately white males. I know in our own club it’s only about 10% female, and probably 99% white. But is this because atheists are inherently racist and sexists? I’d argue no (though there are always a couple bad seeds in any sort of group). And if I had to give my best guess why this is (which is just a guess, I admit I’m not an expert) it’s that religion is such an important aspect of culture for these groups. So yes, culture is an issue to an extent…but that’s because people assume (like the person above) that atheism means abandoning your culture. No! You don’t have to. And even if you don’t want to keep your same old traditions but you need something, more and more atheist groups are forming to fill that void.

So do I think militant atheism is white supremacist? No. But of course, I guess that makes me a white supremacist. Darn.

Texas legislator asks Asians to change their names…

…so that they are “easier for Americans to deal with.” Um, what? I think these quotations speak for themselves:

Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.

“Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it’s a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?” Brown said.

I may be wrong, but I thought the way we used to make immigrants change their names to calm our xenophobic fears was now viewed as Not A Very Cool Idea. I think Brown might have missed the memo somewhere. But really, do you need to be fluent in a language to say someone’s name? How would she feel if she lived in China and was forced to change her name to something more Chinese? I’m no mind reader, but I’m going to guess she wouldn’t be thrilled.

You know, I’m sure this was just some dumb thing she said. She’s probably apologized already.

Brown spokesman Jordan Berry said Brown was not making a racially motivated comment but was trying to resolve an identification problem. Berry said Democrats are trying to blow Brown’s comments out of proportion because polls show most voters support requiring identification for voting. Berry said the Democrats are using racial rhetoric to inflame partisan feelings against the bill.

“They want this to just be about race,” Berry said.

Orrrr she can just refuse to admit she said anything wrong. That’s cool. What the hell?

How does she not think singling out Asians is a problem? There are plenty of European names that are hard to pronounce. Are we going to put a limit on how many consonants can appear in a row without a vowel? Watch out, Polish people! Or how about silent letters? I guess I’ll be deleting half of my last name, damn those Irish! Thank you, Betty Brown, for coming up with standards over what’s an acceptable American name and what isn’t.