It’s the Dear Muslima of atheist progressives, so knock it off.
Not enough? Okay, we’ll do this the long way.
No, not all atheist progressives. (Do I really have to do this?) Plenty of atheist progressives manage to critique the actions and priorities of atheist organizations without suggesting that the enterprise as a whole isn’t needed because the atheist oppression white guys complain about isn’t real. It still happens, particularly among a subset of well-educated, urban, white, progressive atheists.
Oppression of people who are otherwise well able to withstand the oppression does not stop being oppression.
The inability of Jewish merchants to be elected or appointed to local office across much of Europe for much of our recent history wasn’t “not oppression” because they were able to otherwise live comfortably or to flee when things got bad in a particular neighborhood or town or country. They were still oppressed.
Mild forms of oppression are not the same as a lack of oppression. We know what microaggressions are. We understand how they affect access to spaces. That doesn’t change when we’re talking about atheists, even atheists who annoy us.
Mild forms of oppression don’t historically stay mild. When a group is an acceptable target for hostility in normal times, this increases their acute risk under more unusual circumstances. Marginalized groups are more likely to be scapegoated in times of economic stresses or societal upheaval. People from marginalized groups are more likely to be considered “safe” targets of random aggression or to be the object of the rare dangerous paranoid delusion.
Hearing from comfortable white men about oppression doesn’t mean other people aren’t experiencing the same oppression in far less comfortable circumstances. When you complain about a problem, you get pushback from people who are happy with the status quo and from people who just don’t have any tolerance for strife. White men can afford to complain more because they are more insulated from the risks posed by that pushback. It is easier to complain about how your employer treats you when you live in an urban center with lots of other jobs available to you as a white man.
If you’re hearing complaints from white guys about oppression that isn’t some form of “reverse discrimination”, you’re likely looking at an iceberg. If people feel comfortable discriminating against people at the top of the totem pole, they’re going to feel more even comfortable discriminating against others with less power to fight back. Whether you hear from those people or not, they’re facing the same or greater risk.
When you tell white men to shut up about real oppression, you’re telling everyone else who faces similar oppression that you deny the validity of their experience. If you say it’s not oppression for a white man to be pressured into prayer as a condition of schooling or employment, what are you going to say to the black atheist who only has the local Catholic school as a reasonable school choice or the rural latina whose single local choice for decently paid employment is a company where her boss expects everyone to pray at the daily employee huddle? How can they expect you to take them seriously if you won’t do the same for the people everyone defers to?
Look, I understand that it’s frustrating to watch groups spend their time and money disproportionally on comfortable people. I know it’s hard to see good programs go unfunded and unsung, particularly while watching proponents of easier work get so much praise.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t make Dear Muslima or “first world problems” right or helpful. It’s time to drop “You’re not oppressed” too. We can do better.