Happy 500th Birthday to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade

I find it rather amusing hearing white supremacists like Richard Spencer or David Duke or Jason Kessler talk about how the United States is a white nation and belongs to their people. On occasion, you’ll hear of them saying something to the effect of wanting to kick out all People of Color as part of their dream of a whites only nation. Richard Spencer, for instance, has talked about “peaceful ethnic cleansing” as a way to rid the country of people they find undesirable (i.e. those of us with more melanin than most white folks).  He claims it can be done peacefully, but the smarmy asshole isn’t fooling anyone, because you can’t reasonably expect roughly 41% of the population to be cool about uprooting their lives and going to some other country on some other continent all because a racist hatemonger thinks the country is only for white people. But even if it were possible to peacefully kick people out of this country, there would be a fairly immediate problem: the loss of nearly 41% of the population.  The idea of white supremacists proudly celebrating their success only to see it undercut by the loss of millions of people in all industries brings a very satisfying smile to my face. Along with that smile comes a good chuckle when I think of how this will no longer be the case:

Foreign-born residents not only expanded the U.S. high-tech workforce but helped start new businesses that have generated billions in revenue and hired tens of thousands of workers. Foreign-born entrepreneurs helped start one-fourth of all new U.S. engineering and technology business established between 1995 and 2005, including Google and eBay. In high-tech Silicon Valley, California, more than one-half of business start-ups over that period involved a foreign-born scientist or engineer; one-fourth included an Indian or Chinese immigrant.

Among those companies that are already established, the loss of much of their foreign-born workforce would hurt. Badly. Come to think of it, the U.S. military would take a hit as well, since they actively recruit from communities of color.  Of course, my amusement ends when I think about the number of people who would suffer.  It’s likely the U.S. economy would take a nosedive, with everything from agriculture to the service industry to jobs in STEM fields being hard hit. Not to mention the emotional toll on those white people who were friends or loved ones of the forcibly relocated POC. Ultimately, I am not convinced that forcibly relocating all People of Color is feasible.

To be honest, even if it were, I don’t think there would be sufficient support. Yes, the United States is still a country with white folks in control of the wheel, brakes, accelerator, and even the turn signal (the latter can be seen in the 2016 election when the majority of the population was unsuccessful in preventing the nation from driving off a cliff). Yes, the interests of non-whites are only paid lip-service to (and only at convenient times), And yes, there are far too many racial extremists in this country. Despite all of that, and despite the fact that implicit and explicit racial bias is prevalent in white people of all backgrounds, I do not believe most of the white people in the United States want a whites only nation. Heck, even if a Richard Spencer and Pat Robertson ticket won the presidency in 2020, I don’t think any ethnic cleansing–peaceful or otherwise–would receive widespread support.

There is only one hope for those longing for a whites-only nation. It’s a long shot, and one that’s going to take a few steps, a lot more blood, and someone with Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Victor Von Doom level intellect. That last part is essential, because they’ll need a time machine to travel back to the year 1518 to prevent the events that led to the true birth of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade:

Continue reading “Happy 500th Birthday to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade”

Happy 500th Birthday to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
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Police Behaving Badly 5.30.18

More than 900,000 people serve as sworn local and state law enforcement officials in the United States (the highest number ever). These police officers 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 “simply” 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 examples of police behaving badly:

(against a black and white backdrop of a generic police station, two white, male police officers struggle to subdue a victim. The artistic rendering presents the officers and their victim surrounded by blood, thus implying the use of excessive force on the part of the officers)

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Police Behaving Badly 5.30.18

Reclaiming Slurs

I remember the first time I was ever called a N*gg*r. My father was stationed on Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. I was between 13 and 15 years of age (it was before I had a car, but when I was officially a teenager), so everywhere I wanted to go, I had to bike it. Which was no problem for me. I loved being on my bicycle.  One particular summer day, I decided to do something that, looking back, was pretty uncharacteristic of me. I was just starting to collect comic books (I wouldn’t start seriously doing so until I was 16, when I had a job and a vehicle) and I’d been to one of the local comic book stores a handful of times with my mother. The shop was a good 8-10 miles from the military base, so I thought to ride on up there and use my allowance to buy some comics.  At that age, walking into a comic book store was, for me, like a kid who loves candy walking into a candy shop:  paradise.

For the most part, I took side streets to get there, staying off the main roads bc traffic and well, I didn’t wear a helmet (i know, I know). At that age, I didn’t give much thought to the type of people I might encounter on my ride. Today, I know better.  As I rode through one residential area, I passed a few kids playing outside in their front yard.  There would have been no reason to take note of that, except for something I heard as I rode by. One of the kids, a young girl, said to her father “look dad, a n*gg*r”, as if I were some peculiar creature that she’d only read about in books or saw at the local zoo (by that point in the 20th century, Blacks and other Non-Black PoC were no longer dehumanizingly and humiliatingly put on display in human zoos, which really were a thing for hundreds of years).

Back then, I knew very little about racism and how pervasive it was.  Nor did I know the history of that slur or how much power it had.  Even still, I knew that the word was an insult directed at me and those like me.  Given the casual way she uttered the word, I suspect she grew up around it, with family and friends using it regularly. Strangely enough, for all that I’ve lived in the Southern United States for most of my life, that instance was one of the few times I’ve heard the slur spoken by a living human (I qualify that bc I’ve heard the word on television and movies before).

I knew enough, however that I hated the word and never used it or any word derivative of it. In fact, for a very long time, I was opposed to anyone using it. Not just myself or any white person (that’s a given), but any Black or Non Black PoC.. To me, the continued use of a word so strongly tied to the subjugation and dehumanization of African-Americans could never not be a reminder of the inferior status many accord us bc of our skin color. I was also frequently befuddled when I heard a Black person use the word (or, more accurately ‘nigga’). I couldn’t understand why any Black person would use a term that was so obviously a degrading term. Perhaps if I’d had many Black friends, I could have asked them.  That was one of the unfortunate aspects of growing up for me–I didn’t grow up steeped in African-American culture. So I didn’t have many Black friends. I suspect things might be different if my parents hadn’t chosen to leave Harlem when I was six months old (though I do understand why they made that choice).

In any case, my strong aversion to the word held fast for many years. That is, until my interest in social justice began to develop; when I first learned about reclaiming slurs. I heard how the LGBTQIA+ community had worked to reclaim ‘queer’ (which I think is one of the more successful efforts to remake a slur) and that ‘b*tch’ was the chosen self-descriptor for many women. Learning about reclaiming slurs made me soften my feelings toward the N-word.  I still don’t like it, and hearing its use (in any form) brings a slight chill down my spine.  But I’m no longer thoroughly opposed to hearing other Black folks use it (it is not, nor will it ever be ok for wyte folks to use it, and even though other PoC have been oppressed in our wyte supremacist society, it’s not cool for them to use either, bc it was never a term used to disempower them).

For all that I can understand the power in reclaiming slurs, I realize there are some who don’t “get” it, so maybe this will help:

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Reclaiming Slurs

Volume 3 of White History Month is here!

From Neil Armstrong and Christopher Columbus, to Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt, the history taught in U.S. public (and I suspect in private) schools focuses overwhelmingly on the white people who have shaped our nations history.  That history has been spun in such a way as to overlook the many horrific acts committed by white people since the founding of this country.  In thinking back to what I learned in public school, the most barbaric event caused by white folks that I learned about was the Civil War. And that was a watered down, “the Civil War wasn’t fought completely over slavery” version (no amount of historical revisionism will change the fact that YES, it was fought over slavery). I recall learning about Christopher Columbus “discovering” this land, but not the rape and murder of Indigenous citizens at the hands of Columbus and his fellow colonists. I remember learning about various United States Presidents, but curiously, the fact that many of the early ones were slave owners was left out of teachings.  I certainly never learned about the racialized history of policing in this country.  In fact, in addition to the history of the United States being presented from an almost exclusively white perspective, it was also told in an overwhelmingly positive one.

When you look back at USAmerican history without the tinted glasses, however, you begin to realize that that history you were taught? It’s not so rosy after all. White people have indeed contributed to the shaping of this nation. They have performed many great deeds and been responsible for many important discoveries and inventions. They’ve also been responsible for some of the most heinous, vicious acts of brutality one can imagine (and some you don’t want to). Given that most people aren’t taught these unsavory aspects of USAmerican history AND given that so many people whine about a lack of a White History Month (bc public schools around the nation teaching a version of history that is biased in favor of white people and the positive contributions they’ve made isn’t enough), I figured what the heck. Let’s give ’em what they asked for. For a third (and probably not final) time:

Continue reading “Volume 3 of White History Month is here!”

Volume 3 of White History Month is here!

There’s a right way and a wrong way to take the piss out of Michael Rapaport

When I first saw the headline at the Root “Black Twitter tells some white dude named Michael Rapaport to keep Janet Jackson’s name out of his mouth“, my first reaction was “Who?”. His name sounded rather familiar, in that “didn’t I see this XXX film recently with a guy who had that last name” kinda way. Thankfully this is the Age of Google, and it only takes a few strokes–keyboard strokes–to find out all there is to know about the dude who swerved out of his lane and into incoming traffic. It turns out Michael Rapaport is an actor. Dun dun duuuuuuun. And a director. A podcast host. A writer. A media personality. Oh, and a comedian. Dude wears a lot of masks. Maybe he’s having a crisis of self, and is trying his hand at a bunch of different things to see what works.  I can’t tell if his offending Tweet was meant to Rapaport the comedian or Rapaport the media personality, but either way, this ass ran headlong into oncoming traffic when he decided to cry Janet and let slip his smug ignorance:

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There’s a right way and a wrong way to take the piss out of Michael Rapaport

Need an antidote for Civil War ignorance?

(advertisement for an impending slave auction from 1840)
This was the primary cause of the Civil War.

Does someone you know–a family member, a co-worker, or your seventh-grade history teacher–suffer from profound ignorance about the Civil War?

Maybe you know That Guy. You know who he is. He’s the guy who, upon hearing  “the Civil War was fought over slavery“, quickly ducks into a phone booth (good luck finding one) and transforms from Chad Splain (that annoying relative at the holiday dinner table who thinks Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group bc they don’t protest in the “proper” way and who doesn’t realize his white supremacy informed-advice to Blacks on how best to achieve racial justice is neither wanted nor needed) to his alter-ego, the confederate cape wearing, totally not racist White Savior Man:

  • he who can change the course of mighty comment threads by crying “Reverse Racism” bc a Black person called him a cracker
  • he who thinks neither POTUS45, the Muslim ban, or the border wall are racist. And he knows what racism is bc “It’s right there in the dictionary!”
  • and he who engages in a never-ending battle to “educate” people about the true reason the Civil War was fought.

Heck, even if you don’t personally know a supporter/apologist for the Confederacy, you’ve likely bumped into them online (if you’ve not met one of these, be thankful bc the stench of white supremacy lingers) and marveled at how distraught they are about symbols of the Confederacy being removed from public property. These are the people who look at statues of Confederate soldiers and claim on the one hand that the soldiers were heroes fighting against a tyrannical federal government that sought to infringe upon states rights and on the other hand claim that removing the monuments is an attempt to rewrite history (with neither hand even realizing the irony).

If you know someone like those described above, don’t fret. There is hope for correcting the mountain of misconceptions about the Civil War. They can still be saved. The gaps in their knowledge, their misconceptions, and even the lies they believe need only be exposed to the light of truth:

Continue reading “Need an antidote for Civil War ignorance?”

Need an antidote for Civil War ignorance?

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:

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

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

White fuckery never takes a day off, does it?

A little while back, I made a flippant comment on Facebook about white supremacy taking a break for one day. You know, just get off the backs of People of Color for one fucking day. Man, a break like that would be nice. I could go to work and not hear casual  comments that reinforce white supremacy from co-workers or guests. I could  turn on the television and not see KellyAnne Conway spew her white supremacy apologetics (and I could turn on the tv and not worry about which apologist for racism a mainstream media outlet coughcoughCNNcoughcough gives a platform to).  I could turn on NPR on the drive to and from work without hearing the authoritarian fuckstain POS racist POTUS. This day could actually allow myself and other People of Color to exist for 24 hours without the constant reminder that socially, politically, and economically, we are viewed as inferior at best, and unworthy of existence at worst. The idea of having just a brief respite from the onslaught of white fuckery is sooooo appealing.

To be honest though, I wouldn’t really want racism to take 24 hours off. Aside from the damn near impossibility of such a thing ever occurring (though it might make for an interesting sci-fi series–kinda like The Purge–one day, every month, white supremacy takes a vacation, just don’t ask me how in the world that could happen–probably need some magical plot device), knowing that the next day would see a return to the same old, same old shit would be so frustrating that I’m not sure I could enjoy such a day (I imagine others could though).

As I thought about my flippant comment (which was tinged with frustration and a desire for PoC to just catch a break), I realized that 24 hours was being generous. Half a day is generous. 60 minutes is generous.  In fact, racism pervades the United States to such an extent that I imagine not even a minute passes between one example of racism and another. These incidents cover a broad range, from individual acts of microaggressive racial bigotry that act to reinforce white supremacy in subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) ways  to more extreme examples that not only reinforce white supremacy, but directly oppress PoC collectively. In the days since the inauguration of POTUS45, there has been a constant stream of infuriating incidents of racial hatred. These incidents have range from smaller, individual cases of racism that affect an isolated Person of Color (or a handful of PoC) to larger cases that affect mass numbers of PoC.

Now, before I go any further, I want to re-re-re-re-re-re-re-state the definition of racism I am operating under, which fits with the sociological definition (but not the definition many, many, many white folks–including some ostensibly progressive white folks–love to pull out of dictionaries):

Continue reading “White fuckery never takes a day off, does it?”

White fuckery never takes a day off, does it?