Important Read! A theme study of LGBTQ history in the U.S.

PoC and our achievements have been ignored, demeaned, debased, and erased at all levels throughout US history. It is no different in the queer community. This flag represents the need for the community to recognize our value and worth, just as society at large needs to do. Yesterday.
In response to racial tensions in Philly’s queer community, a new Pride flag was created to honor Queer People of Color.

Yesterday, I talked about my desire to develop a connection to queer heritage, culture, and history in the United States. There are so many people that have contributed to the struggle for the rights that I and millions of others currently enjoy. There are also those people who helped shape our culture and in some cases, help steer the course of US history. Beyond that, there are the places where queers gathered and loved, lived and died, and where they endured great trials and enjoyed amazing successes. Queer history in the US is more than facing down mob violence, defying “the man”, or pushing back against restrictive and prescriptive social norms regarding gender or sexuality. It is also about the quest for love and acceptance (internally and externally) in a harsh and uncaring world, as well as the formation and dissolution of the ties that bind us (whether socially, religiously, or politically). One incredibly important aspect of our history is the recognition among those in our community (and later, by society at large) that the right to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ is our right as well; that our lives have value and that we are an important part of the fabric of this country.

I suspect it is that recognition–that we exist, that our lives matter, that we have value, that we are an essential part of the narrative of United States history–that played a role in the creation by the National Park Service of a multi-part (32 to be exact), peer-reviewed theme study into queer history. Megan Springate, the prime consultant for and editor of the LGBTQ theme study describes it thusly: Continue reading “Important Read! A theme study of LGBTQ history in the U.S.”

Important Read! A theme study of LGBTQ history in the U.S.
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Connecting with queer history

I support the changes to the flag bc for too long, QPoC have been erased from the movement for queer rights.
Philadelphia’s new, more inclusive Pride flag includes brown and black to represent Queer People of Color.

I’m not sure what’s different for me this June than prior ones, but for some reason, I feel the need to connect with and learn more about queer heritage and history in the United States than ever before.  And while I plan on reading more on our history (I’ll be ordering Making History : The Struggle For Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights: 1945-1990: An Oral History with my next paycheck), I’d also like to one day begin exploring historic landmarks or places of importance in the fight for queer rights. After inquiring with several friends on Facebook, I’ve begun compiling a list of places to visit.

Continue reading “Connecting with queer history”

Connecting with queer history

Police Behaving Badly 6.16.17

Across the United States, more than 800,000 people serve as local and state law enforcement officials (LEO). These LEOs are charged with upholding and enforcing the law, maintaining order, and providing general services. To carry out these duties, police officers possess certain powers, granted by the state. If the situation calls for it, police officers can frisk, detain, and arrest civilians, as well as seize property. In addition, depending upon the situation, police officers are empowered to use force to defend themselves or civilians (the amount of force extends along a spectrum from police presence through deadly force). Given the powers that police officers have, it is incumbent upon them to maintain a level of professionalism in the course of their duties and to wield their powers responsibly and ethically. Unfortunately, there are countless examples of cops engaging in a range of irresponsible, unethical, immoral, and/or illegal activities from bribery and unjustified arrests to illegal search and seizure and the use of excessive force. Here are five such examples:

Continue reading “Police Behaving Badly 6.16.17”

Police Behaving Badly 6.16.17

Racism Round-Up 6.10.17

(political cartoon skewering the SCOTUS decision to gut the Voting Rights Act based on the false assumption that racism was not as much a problem today as it was in 50 years ago. The black and white image is an ocean liner at sea labeled ‘Supreme Court’, which overlooks ocean which is meant to represent racism. From the ocean liner, the few examples of racism are incidents of police brutality or the takeover of the Oregon Wildlife Refuge. These examples appear as icebergs in the water, but as with icebergs in the real world, most of their substance is below the surface)

For many People of Color, incidents of racism appear to have increased since the orange-skinned poltroon took office. Emboldened by an administration that is composed of several open white supremacists, members of virulently racist far-right organizations and so-called “lone wolves” are more willing than ever to publicly espouse their hateful rhetoric, and feel much more confident with public displays of racism. The rising public profile of these hate-filled individuals and organizations, as well as the infusion of far-right authoritarianism into the highest office in the land, have led to a shift in our culture–one that is more hostile to People of Color (and other marginalized groups) as the days go by. If it seems like you can’t go 24 hours without hearing of stories  of yet another white person who went on a racist rant, or a  murderous white supremacist who threatened teenaged girls on a train, or teachers handing out “most likely to be a terrorist awards“, then you’re probably right.

Below the jump are a series of excerpts from various articles detailing incidents of racism that I’ve read about recently as well as the occasional thinkpiece offering a perspective on racism or related issues, such as terrorism (be it domestic or foreign). Some may be a few months old. Some may be from yesterday. All are examples of the reality People of Color contend with on a daily  basis.  This harsh and often deadly reality is a direct result of a poison that, having run unchecked for centuries, has permeated all aspects of this country. A poison this country has never honestly grappled with, let alone attempted to overcome. This poison has destroyed lives, impaired our ability to live out our lives free from oppression, and prevented this country from living up to its admirable ideals. This poison, which provided the foundation for the treasonous acts of secession by the Confederate States, is perhaps best summed up by the Vice-President of those States:

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. [Applause.] This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

The above quote, by Alexander H. Stephens, laid bare the justification for the actions of the secessionist states. It is that justification–the Doctrine of White Supremacy–which continues to poison this country.

Continue reading “Racism Round-Up 6.10.17”

Racism Round-Up 6.10.17

Whiny gay Republican is mad he can’t be in Pride Parade

There are some things that  In My Opinion just don’t pair well together.

The first thing that springs to my mind is pineapple on pizza. When I was 16, I was hired on at a pizza buffet restaurant (my first job). One of the more popular pizzas was a simple ham and pineapple pizza (some places call this a Hawaiian Pizza). Nope. None for me then. None for me now.  I’m not interested in shaming anyone for their food choices. All I have to say is that I find pineapple to be deeply unappealing  in smell, taste, and texture…and I like pizza. So I’m not going to marry the two of them, bc to me, that’s not a marriage made in heaven.

Another thing I’ve found I don’t like together–water, juice, or soda with dessert. Now, I’m a finicky person when it comes to desserts. I like ’em simple.  I don’t eat creme brulee, hate pies (yes, I’ve heard all the jokes on that one) and cobblers, and the texture of cheesecake just does not work for me at all.  I like cakes, brownies, and cookies (the occasional bread pudding is ok, but the portion size on most I’ve seen is ginormous and the sweetness level is often off the charts). These are my go-to desserts. But I can only drink them with milk.  I mean, not literally. If I need something to drink, and there’s no milk, I’ll drink water or juice. Anything other than milk though, just doesn’t taste right.

The Republican Party is evil. What does that make their supporters?
(image of elephant representing the GOP. Elephant is filled in with rainbow colors to designate queer Republicans such as the Log Cabin Republicans)

There are some pairings that not only seem like a horrible fit on paper, but just make me shake my head in profound befuddlement. I’m speaking here of LGBT Republicans. That should be an oxymoron.  You’d think they wouldn’t exist, right? After all, the Republican Party has, for decades, opposed efforts to improve the quality of life for QUILTBAG folks. They fought tooth and nail to prevent same-sex marriage from being legalized. They’ve supported so-called conversion therapy, which is a fancy way of saying “torturing kids into being not gay”. They’ve continually made the reality challenged assertions that gay people cannot be parents and held that children raised by gay people are at a disadvantage (in point of fact, aside from individual physiological issues, we can indeed have children and study after study has found children of same-sex couples are not at a disadvantage). Though much of the harsh rhetoric from the GOP about QUILTBAG folks has become muted over the years, there are still Republicans who make comparisons between gay people and pedophiles (as if there’s a connection between sexuality and pedophilia). Then there are the bathroom bills that states across the nation have considered in the last few years.  16 states have considered such legislation and 15 states have bills pending in legislature. These bills would restrict access to multi-user sex-segregated facilities on the basis of gender as determined at birth. Supporters argue legal protections are needed to prevent predatorial men from wearing women’s clothing and assaulting or molesting girls and women in bathrooms. Such bills are an incredible insult to transgender women. They are not predators. They are women who were assigned the incorrect gender at birth. They are using the bathrooms for the same reason cis women use restrooms. Additionally, there are already laws on the books that criminalize molestation and assault, making these bathroom bills all about one thing: discriminating against transgender women and men.

And all of that? ↑ ↑

Barely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the disdain, contempt, and outright hate that the Republican Party has exhibited towards queer people over the last few decades. From discriminatory bathroom bills to preventing gay people from adopting children, the Republican Party has long been among the loudest opponents of queer rights. So yeah, it’s somewhat confounding to me that transgender, lesbian, gay, or bisexual Republicans exist.

On an intellectual level, I know they do. I accept that human brains being what they are, indoctrination into political parties occurring the way it does (often at a young age, in  a similar way to indoctrination into religion–i.e. before we develop strong critical thinking skills), and who knows how many cognitive biases and shortcuts converge in queer Republicans.  Emotionally, however, it not only boggles my mind, it’s downright insulting. I find insult in the fact that these people are donating time, money, energy, and other resources into aiding a political party that wants to [at best] keep queers as second class citizens. They don’t want us to have rights like being able to marry, adopt kids, own property, or be free from discrimination in public institutions. They don’t want us in scouting organizations or in positions of religious power.  They don’t want to see us doing something as innocuous as holding hands in public.  In fact, they don’t need to literally say it for it to be true: the Republican Party does not want us to exist.

That fact is lost upon the Gays For Trump, a group of whiny assholes who are mad that Charlotte Pride has denied them entry into the Pride Parade:

Continue reading “Whiny gay Republican is mad he can’t be in Pride Parade”

Whiny gay Republican is mad he can’t be in Pride Parade

Bill Maher’s guide on how to be a human trashfire

Image of one Bill Maher, douchebag extraordinaire, suffering from a self-inflicted case of White Male Entitlement Mentality.

Once upon a time, Bill Maher was cool in my book. I vaguely remember watching  a couple of episodes of his old show Politically Incorrect and while my memories are fuzzy,  I remember being quite entertained. Once he made the move to cable television, I started watching him more often. Hell, I used to dvr his show and watched it near religiously.   I used to appreciate the frankness with which he’d talk about religion, his support for legal marijuana, and his vocal opposition to all things conservative and Republican.  At that time, I knew of no one who was an unabashed critic of religion, so listening to Maher mock and criticize religious beliefs was refreshing, as was his no-holds-barred criticisms of Republicans.

But there was a side–several of them in fact–that I didn’t know about and/or weren’t woke enough to recognize. In 2017, however, I can see them plain as day. In fact, they’re so apparent that I’m not sure why he hasn’t written a ‘How to be a Human Trashfire’ guide. Such a guide would include examples from Maher’s various displays of bigotry over the years and include advice like:

  1. Learn to be a Pro. An ableism pro. One of the beginner steps to mastering ableism is to treat disabled kids with contempt like the time Maher equated developmentally disabled kids with dogs.  More advanced human trashfires know how to engage in multiple forms of bigotry simultaneously, as Maher did last year when he blew up at BLM activist Ashley Williams for crashing a HIllary Clinton fundraiser. And don’t forget–no self-respecting ableist bigot can claim that title if they don’t point to cognitive ability and say “POTUS45 is an asshole bc there is something wrong with his brain”.
  2. With boundless pride, you’ve got to share your sexism and misogyny with the world. Fly your “I hold women in contempt and think anything feminine is inferior to me” flag high. This can be done through an ancient male ritual called “I’m not sexist, but…”  or through the not-so-subtle derision of femininity,  or the use of gendered slurs (for someone who isn’t sexist, Maher has a long history of the word b*tch falling–I guess uncontrollably, since he says he’s not sexist–from his mouth when talking about women) or by “joking” about killing women for it doesn’t matter what the reason is   or if you combine your misogyny with ableism or…(yeah, the list goes on)
  3. Another trait often found in the modern Trashfire Bigot is transphobia. An excellent way to show the transgender community that you are the opposite of an ally–an enemy, for those uncertain–is to grant a platform to a White Supremacist Piece of Shit and not only let him speak his mind unchallenged, but indulge in a bit of transantagonism yourself (yes, I’m talking about that time Bill and Milo the douchebag bonded over their disgust of trans people).
  4. Of all the forms of bigotry he has displayed, one of Bill Maher’s favorites, one he can’t seem to go for too long without gushing over (as if his newborn child) is his anti-Muslim bigotry. From his completely unproven claim that millions of Muslims supported the attacks against Charlie Hebdo  to his smells-like-he-pulled-this-from-his-ass commentary about Muslim men, Maher loves him some Islamophobia. Of course, he doesn’t call it that, bc to him, he’s merely criticizing the religion when he condemns millions of Muslims for the actions of a relative few extremists**.

As with so many other bigots with racist beliefs, Bill Maher’s racism is not focused solely on Muslims. He also has room in his evaporated husk of a heart for some anti-black racism. Unlike his anti-Muslim bigotry, however, Maher’s anti-black racism has traditionally been more restrained. For example, on the face of it, his 2012 comment to Wayne Brady about the latter being a “non-threatening black man”, doesn’t appear racist. It is though, bc it  betrayed a view of black men as violent and dangerous. Such a view, which is ridiculously absurd*, is commonly held today and is one of the main biases at play when police officers shoot and injure/kill black people.  His supportive comments to Bill O’Reilly after the latter engaged in some casual racism regarding Representative Maxine Waters’ hair went a step further.  There’s also his comments about wanting President Obama to act like a “real Black man” by pulling up his shirt to reveal a gun tucked in his pants (the image of a black man with a gun hidden under his shirt and tucked into his pants is shorthand for criminal or thug). It’s one thing to have subconscious racial biases and prejudices. We all do (especially white people). It’s quite another to defend the racism of a virulently racist dirtbag like O’Reilly.And it’s something else to playfully allude to black people as criminals  Now, as if he were tired of hiding, Bill Maher has fully embraced his anti-black racism by doing the thing virtually every white person in this country knows is racist:

Continue reading “Bill Maher’s guide on how to be a human trashfire”

Bill Maher’s guide on how to be a human trashfire

Castlevania on Netflix: I’m sold!

 

Sense8
Sense8 soundtrack cover.

Netflix is really doing a good job wooing in new viewers like myself. Sense8 Season 1 (which I still have to finish) has been great, and I have a Christmas episode and Season 2 to look forward to. Captivating characters. An interesting premise. International locations. And a diverse cast.  Good, solid show.

The Defenders
Promotional image of the Netflix/Marvel original series, Defenders, which debuts later this year. Image contains shots of Mike Colter, Charlie Cox, Kristin Ritter, and Finn Jones as Luke Cage, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and the Culturally Appropriated Iron White Savior Fist.

Then there are the Netflix/Marvel joint original series. Hoo-boy, Daredevil was AMAZEBALLS, and set a standard for the other Netflix/Marvel shows to meet. Jessica Jones, though a completely different tone, and vastly more difficult subject matter, actually surpassed Daredevil’s first season in quality (and Kristin Ritter just works magically as JJ).  Daredevil Season 2 was not as tightly focused as the first, but benefited from the introduction of the Punisher (who’s getting his own series in a few years). I’ve not finished Luke Cage yet, but what I’ve seen has been great. Colter plays him so close to the vest, and I like that. He’s not a stereotypical black character on tv and we desperately need greater diversity in the roles black men play in our entertainment.  I’ve not mustered the wherewithal to watch Captain Cultural Appropriation by way of the White Savior Trope aka Iron Fist, and I’m not completely sure I ever will (they should have cast an Asian actor in the title role, and there are ways to work with the character’s history to avoid the numerous tropes of Asian characters in film and tv). Despite my ambivalence towards Iron Fist, I plan on watching Defenders.

But Netflix hasn’t stopped there. They’re giving me something else to watch and just from the teaser it looks AMAZEBALLS.  With a drop date of July 7, the dark medieval animated series Castlevania (based on the old video game, and written and executive produced by Warren ‘The Authority’ Ellis) has my mouth watering. Take a gander at the teaser:

Continue reading “Castlevania on Netflix: I’m sold!”

Castlevania on Netflix: I’m sold!

Congratulations Taiwan!

Growing up, I never thought much about marriage. I don’t recall having any crushes on anyone in elementary or middle school (though I’ve got pretty huge gaps in my memory the further back in time I think about). In high school, I dated one girl. She stands out in ways that my other memories do not for three reasons: we were supposed to go to junior prom together (I think that was the event) and that fell apart, her name was a variation on mon cherie, and my parents did not care for her much. During the relatively short time we dated, I think we kissed a few times, and nothing more. I never imagined myself with her, or any other woman. In fact, I wasn’t terribly interested in dating her. Or any woman. I was playing the do-it-for-survival hetero show. But that’s the show we gay people often put on so that we doing get harassed, discriminated against, evicted, abused, beaten, disowned, or killed by fragile heterosexuals who feel the need to violently reinforce gender boundaries.

This would have been back in 1992-1993, and I was juuuuuuuust starting to explore chat rooms on America Online (gods! That annoying dial-up sound!), and learn what I was. I knew no gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, intersex, or pansexual people. Hell, I didn’t have the language to describe who I was. I knew I was looking at guys around my age (and slightly older, such as some of the senior class boys at my school). I knew I felt certain physiological stirrings when I stared at one of them for too long. Of course staring happened rarely bc even though I didn’t yet know I was gay, I knew even then that it’s “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” (may that homophobic, heterosexist phrase die a fiery death). I couldn’t face the almost certain humiliation and torment from my peers that would result if I was seen staring at a guy.  And if it got back to my parents? I’d already been caught trying to shoplift a PlayGIRL (a companion adult magazine to Playboy, that features men) by my mother and that was a horrifying experience for me. So I didn’t want anyone to even suspect that I was different.  So I didn’t even think about having a boyfriend, didn’t have any clue what sex was (hetero or homo), and certainly had no thoughts on marriage other than the standard “this is what you do when you grow up”. But in my head, there was no image of the person I thought I’d marry. No ideal. No placeholder. Nothing. It was a formless, shapeless void.

Of course, even after I came out of the closet to the world (which took a few years), I still never thought about marrying anyone.  By this time (my early 20s), though still a pretty green gay, I knew enough to know that gay people were the spawn of Satan*, we were responsible for AIDS**, we were immoral monsters***, and our existence (an affront to god) threatened the fabric of society****. I also knew that gay people didn’t get married. We weren’t allowed to. I could never dream of something that was forbidden to me. Too young to yet articulate my thoughts on marriage rights, I pretty much accepted that my lot in life was to never be partnered to someone.

Then came the historic ruling in Massachusetts, when same-sex marriage first became legal in the United States.  I vaguely recall hearing about this at the time (I paid virtually no attention to the news back then), but still, that was some other state. I lived in Florida, and down here I thought, “we’ll see legalized weed before legal same-sex marriage” (I’d have lost that bet). So imagine my surprise when the US Supreme Court took up the issue of marriage equality in 2015.  Imagine my further surprise when I awoke on June 26, 2015 to learn that same-sex marriage (and I’m getting goosebumps just typing this) was legal in all 50 states in the US. I was elated. I remember wondering where and when further pro-marriage equality rulings might occur.  Today, Taiwan added their name to the list of countries that voted in favor of broadening the legal definition of marriage. Their highest court has ruled that Taiwan’s Civil Code (which define marriage as between a man and a woman) is unconstitutional:

Continue reading “Congratulations Taiwan!”

Congratulations Taiwan!

Sam Harris is racist

I woke up yesterday to distressing, though not completely unsurprising news: author, intellectual heavyweight, and [supposed] skeptic Sam Harris had interviewed Charles Murray.  Yes, that Charles Murray who, along with Richard J Herrnstein, co-authored The Bell Curve, a controversial-because-it-is-a-racist-pile-of-trash 1994 book. The Bell Curve reintroduced the concept of scientific (or intellectual) racism into modern USAmerican discourse and stayed on the New York Times’ bestseller’ list for 15 weeks, selling roughly 300,000 copies. It clearly struck a familiar and racist chord with people–especially its likely target audience:  white people (many of whom felt they finally had a scientific basis for their racist beliefs).  Of course, for all that it has a history reaching back to at least the 1800s, scientific racism is little more than repurposed white supremacist ideology with a touch of “science” (air quotes because it’s really that cheap knock-off of the real thing, pseudoscience). Murray’s book, which was an attempt to fuse alternative scientific facts with racist ideology, has been thoroughly debunked multiple times (such as here, here, and here), and criticized for its questionable science and its faulty logic, as well as its sources. Additionally, there’s one other liiiiiiiiiiiitle thing the book has been criticized for: its financial backers, the Pioneer Group. A far-right organization of so-called “race realists”, the Pioneer Group is a white supremacist organization with Neo-Nazi ties that backs studies on race, intelligence, and eugenics with the ultimate aim of racial betterment of white folks (which, unfortunately doesn’t mean ‘seeking to redeem white folks in the eyes of PoC after centuries of genocide, slavery, rape, forced assimilation, and imperialism’ and likely means something more like  ‘making the country great for white people again by getting rid of all them colored folks forcibly or through…well, there is no “or” ‘).

Despite being a book beloved by many a white supremacist piece of shit, Charles Murray’s book–what with its faux science, unsupported and hastily drawn conclusions, sources of a…questionable nature, and its backing by fans of the guy who penned POTUS45’s favorite “alone time” book, Mein Kamf–the only use for The Bell Curve is kindling.

So we’ve got a white supremacist organization with Nazi ties (wonder if they know Nazi punching bag Richard Spencer) that provided the financial backing for Murray and Herrnstein to write a piece of racist trashfire material that sought to provide a scientific foundation for the belief that white people are the best, smartest, coolest kids on the block and all the rest of us suck bc we have too much melanin. Although widely discredited by the scientific community (including the notion that the full spectrum of human cognitive abilities can be measured by one’s intelligence quotient), the idea of scientific racism still managed to seep into the public consciousness. Furor over the book died down in time, but the central theme of the book never disappeared and unfortunately, intellectual racism is once again seeing a resurgence. Nicole Hemmer of U.S. News & World Report writes:

Intellectual racism, in its cultural and pseudoscientific guises, is having a bit of a renaissance of late. At least, it’s receiving more attention than at any time since the debut of “The Bell Curve,” the 1994 book by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray about race and IQ. Murray himself is back in the news, triggering protests as he tours college campuses. Andrew Sullivan, who published excerpts of Murray’s work as editor of The New Republic, recently went out of his way to make a case against the persistence of racism and for black pathology at the end of a much-read piece about Hillary Clinton. Within the last year, white nationalist sites like VDARE, American Renaissance and Radix have become part of the political landscape.

I’ve written elsewhere about the trap of intellectualized racism, which cuts against the common assumption that racism is rooted in ignorance and provincialism, that it can only be crude and passe. Thus when Richard Spencer, the face of the alt-right, shows up in a natty suit, he is treated as an unusual curiosity. When Charles Murray shows up brandishing a Ph.D. and some regression tables, he is treated as a sober-minded scholar.

Yes to all of this. Bigots like Spencer and Murray–in an effort to be seen (and thus treated) as respectable–have rejected the pointy white sheets and the jackboots worn by their racist predecessors. Similarly, instead of spending their free time lynching PoC or using them as gator bait (all with the ultimate purpose of instilling  terror in communities of color), many of today’s white supremacists put forth an air of respectability by repackaging their beliefs (and themselves) in an attempt to make them more palatable for the masses (doesn’t “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, oxymoron though it may sound, seem so much kinder, than mass murder?).  I suspect this is one reason why the odious ideas presented by these ethically challenged, morally bankrupt, evil human beings are gaining traction in the mainstream. As before, with the release of The Bell Curve, the dead and beaten horse that is intellectual racism allows people to justify their racist beliefs as scientific (nevermind the lack of science behind them).  And in the current political climate–one which saw the rise to the presidency of a morally repellent, authoritarian leaning, hater of the US Constitution, Mein Kamf loving misogynistic bully–there seems to be a great deal of interest in listening to and coddling the views of people who would like to see those like me six feet under or cast out from the place of my birth simply bc they think this country belongs only to white people. I’m talking about people like Richard Spencer, Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopolous, Raymond Wolters, and yes, Charles Murray.

So when I hear that a prominent, well-respected (why?) member of the atheist community has conducted an interview with a man who is, and has long been known to be, a white supremacist*, my spider-sense goes off. From what I know of Sam Harris, he is something of an intellectual. I know he has a few degrees (one in philosophy and another in neuroscience, I believe). I know he’s written a few books that had a positive effect on some and a lackluster “meh” effect on others. Basically, I know he has some degree of higher education and knows how do research on a subject or person. And it’s that knowledge that rules out the first theory I have about why he conducted this interview: that he did not know who he [Murray] was or was not familiar with his views. I have a hard time accepting the idea that Sam Harris knew very little about Charles Murray and The Bell Curve, and thought “I need to clear some things up, so I can better understand his position. I should interview him.” No. When you can easily search for Murray and find his Wikipedia page, his entry at AEI, his well deserved page on the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s site, and more, there is no need to talk to the man to find out his beliefs.

Perhaps then, he decided to interview the racist woo peddler in order to give said beliefs a proper thrashing and demonstrate to a new audience what Dr. Stephen Gould demonstrated back in the 90s? This is certainly a valid approach, but unfortunately, it’s not one that he took, as evidenced by the apology Harris offers to Murray at the start of the podcast. Apparently, in the world according to the great Sam Harris (he who peels back the layers and reveals the truths *they* don’t want you to hear), this poor, poor fellow was viciously maligned by politically correct critics (I gotta say–great job completely ignoring the work of all the people who have rebutted Murray’s work over they years, including Dr. Gould). It’s pretty much downhill from there as you can see from the blog AngryWhiteMen where the author criticizes pretty much everything about Harris’ podcast, from Harris’ refusal to critically examine Murray’s beliefs to his failure to acknowledge the effect of scientific racism on social policy:

And then there’s the effect The Bell Curve has had, and will continue to have, on social policy. As Claudia S. Fischer et al pointed out in their 1996 rebuttal Inequality By Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth, the upshot of Murray and Herrnstein’s book was that “intelligence largely determined how well people did in life.” “The rich were rich mostly because they were smart, the poor were poor mostly because they were dumb, and middle Americans were middling mostly because they were of middling intelligence.” And, as we have already seen, their view on race and IQ is that blacks and Latinos “were by nature not as intelligent as whites; that is why they did less well economically, and that is why little can or should be done about racial inequality.”

In other words, no amount of affirmative action can raise the standard of living for black and Latino Americans, since they are mainly being held back by genetics. In addition, with lower than average IQs come other social consequences: violent crime, petty theft, out-of-wedlock births, and so on.

Is Harris aware of the impact applied scientific racism could have on the lives of those who are not white males? Does he care? If he is aware and does care, it is not apparent because he fails to offer a substantial rebuttal to Murray’s views. Thus, listeners are left with the impression that there is nothing unreasonable about them. The piece concludes by listing Harris’ failings as a host, a skeptic, and in my eyes, a decent human being:

And all of these points — unwillingness to engage with critics, connections to white supremacists, consequences for poor and non-white Americans — would have been worth bringing up in Harris’ conversation with Murray. As an interviewer, he should have done more than toss softballs and whitewash Murray’s record. As a skeptic, he should have been more willing to examine Murray’s beliefs. His unwillingness to do so will only bolster racist pseudoscience and toss more red meat to Murray’s white nationalist fans.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that Sam Harris did not conduct this interview with noted White Supremacist Piece of Shit Charles Murray to debunk his pseudoscientific beliefs. No, as it turns out, the interview was conducted because…well, I don’t want to try my hand at mindreading. I’ll leave the attempts at alt-science to people like Murray. I can’t speak to what Harris’ intent was with this piece. But I can talk about the impact of the piece, and its implications. That impact? Those implications? They say nothing good, and everything bad about Sam Harris. Consider the following:

  •  Harris chose to conduct this interview–an interview which sees the resurrection of the beaten horse that is scientific racism–at a time when our country is simmering in a toxic social and political stew. A stew in which racism is bubbling right on the surface, ready to explode. In several cases, that racism has bubbled above the surface and boiled over, as in the various clashes between  alt-righters white supremacists like Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopolous or the numerous incidents of law enforcement officers executing African-Americans leading to protest marches by Black Lives Matter activists. What message is sent when a leading figure in the secular/atheist movement plays host to a white supremacist without criticizing said views?  Among other things, it legitimizes Murray’s views.
  • He titled the episode ‘Forbidden Knowledge’. With a title like that, shouldn’t the listeners have knowledge imparted to them by the end of the episode? And not just knowledge, but useful, evidence based knowledge? I would think so. But the interview was with a man for whom evidence appears to be his personal Kryptonite.* His work has already been discredited several times over and the faux science behind it laid bare.  The impact here is ironic, given the title of the podcast. Rather than knowledge being imparted and peoples’ awareness raised, thanks to Harris’ softballing of Murray, misinformation, distortion, and outright lies are treated as legitimate and scientific in nature.
  • the financial backers of The Bell Curve, as well as some of the sources have strong Neo-Nazi ties. It should go without saying that if your backers or the source of your information are Nazi, you really ought to reexamine your work. From top down. Failure to do so allows Nazism one more foothold out of the sewer it belongs in. And we all know what happens when Nazism gains too much of a foothold.
  • Remember the connection between Murray and eugenics? Murray’s idea, that white people are genetically superior to People of Color paired with “race betterment” sounds uncomfortably close to a “Master Race”.
  • The impact of scientific racism on political issues such as immigration and government assistance programs would be huge. If our lot in life is determined (largely or in whole) by genetics, then nothing can be done to improve our quality of life. So why should government assistance programs exist? And why worry about racial inequality if our genes determine our place in the US caste system?

Consider too:

  • Sam Harris is advocate of racial profiling at airports  to root out terrorists (though he’s yet to give a non-appearance based reliable method for rooting out terrorists)
  • Sam Harris’ denigration of identity politics. Given that he considers himself an intellectual (he may even consider himself a Bright person), I can’t imagine he’d reject or denigrate an idea without first learning what the idea is (it’s not controversial to assume a leading figure is intellectually honest, is it?). So surely he is aware that identity politics is a form of political activism focused on uplifiting and liberating the various identity groups that are oppressed in society (groups like women, queer people, PoC, disabled people, etc). Further to that, surely he knows that identity politics is key to marginalized groups achieving liberation and equality. That can only be done by focusing on each group and finding out what they need to improve their quality of life.

When you take into account those considerations, as well as Harris’ whitewashing of  The Bell Curve, his refusal to critically examine Murray’s beliefs, and his lack of acknowledgment of the social costs of intellectually racist beliefs used in support  of legislation, a very unflattering image of Sam Harris begins to emerge.

I wish that image had been of a man who–recognizing the social power he has, the platform he possesses, and how far his influence reaches–had acted in a responsible manner to eviscerate racism. Publicly. Loudly. Without hesitation. I wish Harris understood that racism benefits all white people, bc in oppressing People of Color, it grants unfair advantages (privileges) to white people.  Those unfair advantages enable white people to make their way through life with fewer obstacles than if they had higher levels of melanin. Racism continues to exist because–collectively–white people have done next to nothing to tear down that system of oppression.

No, the image of Sam Harris is not a good one. What he did here was irresponsible. More to the point, it was also immoral, bc not only did he not work to tear down racism, he actively worked to shore up its foundations by lending credence to Murrays woo-filled beliefs, failing (or refusing) to critically examine Murray’s views, and raising the profile of a white supremacist and presenting his ideas to people who–already primed to trust and respect their host–might well be sympathetic to the views of a racist extremist whom the host treats cordially. By giving Murray a platform and challenging him in no substantial way, Harris may as well have told his listeners “treat what this man says as the truth”.

That’s a reinforcement of white supremacy.

And that is racism.

Which makes Sam Harris a racist.

 

*I’m not quibbling over the difference between white supremacist and white nationalist, bc both believe in the innate superiority of white people. White nationalists claim they just want a nation-state all to themselves and don’t have a problem with PoC, they just don’t want them in “their country”.  I don’t believe that claim. But more to the point, they believe they are genetically and intellectually superior to PoC, which is the same belief held by white supremacists. At the end of the day, maybe white nationalists don’t want to re-enslave African-Americans or continue the genocide of Indigenous people, but they are only a few steps removed from those who do. And they all play on team evil.

 

Oh, would you look at that, another prominent figure in the atheist movement wants to throw his lot in with Murray.

Sam Harris is racist

Guys, all women deserve to be treated with respect and decency.

There’s something rotten in the world.

Something that is responsible for everything from one on one fisticuffs up to and including global conflict.

Something that is responsible for atrocities in every city, every town, every country the world over.

Something whose toxicity has inflicted innumerable examples of physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse upon roughly half the population of the planet

Men.
Yeah, us.

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Guys, all women deserve to be treated with respect and decency.