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Eclectic: I think we are largely in agreement, though I am sorry for being too general. I always kick myself when I realize that I'm treating someone differently for no better reason than an accident of birth - and if a Canadian, such as myself, raised in a liberal society, can have that problem, it's definitely something white men must confront. As such, Greta's thesis seems to hold up with me so far. My main objection is simply style. I don't like it when people say, or imply, that what anyone has to say is unimportant, or even just plain wrong, because we can't trust their motives. Greta appears to dismiss the idea that "the unique personality and culture of women and people of color is the problem" because she feels that it is used by white men to avoid their own biases; ditto for the other two remarks in quotes. Greta is correct in pointing out that white men often suggest these points in order to avoid confronting their own racism or sexism. However, she did not mention this and simply move on to whether their points were valid, partly valid, or rubbish. She instead said: * What we're really saying is, "White male atheists are the real atheists. White male atheists are the ones who count.... And I hope I don't have to explain why we shouldn't be saying that." * That does not address any of the objections. It addresses that white men use them to avoid dealing with their own issues. But if the idea that women and non-whites feel uncomfortable because of their own cultures has *any* truth to it, then she has dismissed it unfairly, and possibly to the detriment of dealing with the issue of diversity in the atheist movement. While I hesitate to put words into Greta's mouth, I think we are also in agreement that dismissing ideas because you distrust the motives of the speaker is, at best, silly. I don't think she meant her rant the way I interpreted it, and I feel a bit silly myself at going on at such length over what was probably unintentional. Essentially I wanted to hear what Greta thinks about those three points in quotes, and felt cheated that she instead attacked the biases of the people suggesting them. I want to know what she thinks about the idea that women/POC have cultural biases that make it challenging for them to feel included. I want to know what she thinks about the idea that women/POC might have particular reasons to not come out as atheists. So I decided it might be a good time to mention the bane of all political discussions: dismissing ideas because you don't like the motives of the speaker. I figure that even if I am horribly wrong in this instance*, it is still a useful point to bear in mind when discussing anything that people are passionate about. *I'm sorry if I am! P.S. Incidentally, Greta, in regards to the rest of your essay: Attaboy! I would be horribly unfair to say that this essay was awful in its entirety: on the whole, it is a wake up call for people to notice - and acknowledge - their own biases.
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Just to elaborate on why dismissing views as inherent bias is a problem: The first white opponents of affirmative action were predominantly racist pricks, and were derided as such. Fair enough. But it became a habit. People got to associate opposition to affirmative action as racism. They ended up dismissing *all* white opposition to affirmative action as racist; affirmative action supporters did not address why the critiques of affirmative action were incorrect. It is now to the point where women who oppose affirmative action for women are themselves "anti-woman", and blacks who oppose affirmative action for African Americans have "turned white". The result? Those who support affirmative action never hear the criticism. Those who oppose affirmative action never hear why their criticism is wrong. How, exactly, is this a good outcome?
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Ugh, you were doing so well until you went into Snarky Harshville. I see this in particular with the atheist community, but it's true for every civil rights campaign on behalf of anyone: people dismissing opposing opinions because those who say them are "other", are outside the movement. Please, not every white man criticizing affirmative action wants white men to remain on top of the heap. Not every man who questions a feminist statistic thinks that rape is okay. And not every theist who thinks the atheist movement is too harsh thinks that atheists should be harassed in the armed forces. To claim that raising dissenting points is an example of "inherent bias"* serves not to address those dissenting points, but to make them go away. Which is a horrible mistake. Because you are right when it comes to the atheist movement being largely filled with white men, and that this is a problem. Your ideas for moving past this are generally good ones. But you entered Snarky Harshville and dismissed criticism of your ideas by white men just because they are white men. Why is this a problem? Because no one who disagrees with you will be convinced your argument is right; they will just be insulted and alienated, and will probably leave the debate. And white men who agree with you hear this little voice in their heads saying, "We will only listen to you if you don't express dissent". Anger can motivate you to debate, but it should never motivate you to kill the debate. *It is also often true, but it says nothing about the validity of the criticisms themselves. P.S. Someone earlier made the point that women in the atheist movement shouldn't only discuss women's issues (ditto for non-whites), and I couldn't agree more. When that happens, it serves as a way for white men not to have to confront those issues as well, and vice versa.
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Feb 19, 2010