I just got 200 comments and counting on my local atheist group when I posted this:

"On a matter of self reflection as a group I would like to discuss the idea of us calling anyone inferior or superior based on religion, race, gender, sexual orientation - as there all share the same medal of racism.

I realise that XXX may see this as the promotion of political correctness. I don't support political correctness as a means to an end. I do support freedom of speech. And I like the idea that we are free here to discuss opening about our attitudes.

What concerns me is that in the atheist community (on the many forums and you tubes that I've seen) I have observed what looked to me like, arrogance, prejudice, superiority and dismissive attitudes. 

I realise that we all have our own nature - but I do support the idea that we can all try to act on science and reason - and not perpetrate racism or other harmful attitudes based on false beliefs about superiority. And think it important that we become more self aware of these issues and come up with effective methods that deal with it.

Preferably compassionate - based on the principles of Naturalism, rather than regressive aggression against it."

Is this a very contentious issue?

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Goodness I can't remember what the points where - but I do know that when I read them, I totally agreed with what you said, and couldn't have put it better myself - and therefore thought that there was nothing more for me to add.  I thank you for reinforcing some sense - and I hope that sense it was :)

Alice, this is why I would like a "like" button. If everything has been said, I don't want to say it again. As usual, you say things with which I agree and want you to know I agree. However, when I hold another view, or when I want to add something, I want to be able to do that. 
We are close enough in principles, we can have a great time together and continue to maintain our individuality.  

Joan - sounds fab! :)

I have a friend who had an experience as a child in New Zealand - he was punched in the face without warning by a Maori - now he will not approach any Maori's for fear of getting into a fight - he is a big guy now, and quite strong - but still holds this fear.

I was speaking of my friend. I guess you didn't read my whole message?


I disagree, Erin. While you disavow racism as an identity, I see your one sided empathy with your friend's victimization as a symptom of racism. One of the lessons I learned is that even the best intentioned Caucasians harbor unconscious racism.

Your friend identified his trauma by an easily visible common trait of his attackers. They might also have all been religious, or heterosexual, or from single parent families, or heavy video game users, or drinkers, or school dropouts, or drug users, or members of a gang, or victims of racism themselves. In fact there may have been numerous other traits they shared. The victim focused on one trait, and then generalized his anger toward an entire section of humanity.

You, with greater distance, could have thought of the numerous victims who have dark skin color who were similarly attacked by Caucasians, to get a more balanced view. That you didn't think of those victims (who you did not know personally) or you did not take their pain as seriously as your friends, is probably partly because of personal distance. But, if you look at your frame of mind objectively, you'll see racism likely also played a part. Racism can manifest as thoughts we fail to have. We can't easily notice a thought we never had.

Part of my own racism consciousness raising was accepting that I carry unconscious racism, and taking responsibility to look it in the eye, to use reason to uproot baggage I'd picked up growing up. Having done that, even though I recognize that I can be racist, I like myself better now. When someone accuses me of being a racist, I say "Yes, I am, but not intentionally. And I keep working to improve." Everyone has a history. The best we can do is keep working to improve.

in Anthro class once there was a really interesting study that showed that dating or close friendship--as in, having close relations on a daily basis helped get rid of such unconcious racism.

I'm not saying "go out and get yourself a token black friend" but it does stand to say, that groups of people that you section off from yourself as "different" are going to be perceived differently, and having a close friendship with someone who's from that group will likely start to wipe away the unconcious 'other' feeling you may have about them.


I totally agree - we all need a token friend to stem our prejudice.  We're going to have our hands full with all the new friends we're going to need - Mexican, African, Indian, Gay, Lesbian, Mental Illness, Disability, Trans-gender, prostitute, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Democrat, Republican, Skeptic, Scientist, Creationist, Vegan, Paleo, OMG the list just goes on and on, when's it going to end!


Yes! "when's it going to end?!!"

The scar tissue that forms from experiencing personally or to a close friend, such as Erin described, runs very deep. It seems to hide in tiny little corners of the brain and pop out when we are least prepared to deal with it in a calm, reasonable way. The cruelty of such assaults are so senseless and unnecessary, that something very special seems to have to happen to think it through to a new conclusion. I think that is what you are trying to do here, Alice, and you and Ruth have certainly helped me tame my ghosts. 

Joan - I think that it is about recognising the fear/pain and harm caused - and then identifying the judgements that you have made subsequent to this bad experience.

EG - if a women driver nearly runs me over and I call her a stupid female driver!

Then I have my fear for my physical safety - then the belief that women drivers are unsafe - and therefore also stupid.

I have a valid feeling of fear - and a valid harm caused - but is the rest of my assessment valid?  Is it based in logic, reason and rational thought?


Simply wonderful, very logical. I am impressed.

I'm a sexist, racist, misogynist asshole but I have a very sophisticated blanket of civility to cover it so as not to offend people. Hey, at least I have plenty of room for improvement.

I try not to be prejudiced, but being a human I often realize that when I'm angry with another human being my mind races to find something that makes them different from what I am. If a car manages to nearly kill me I might yell or think of something sexist if the driver is a woman, or racist if the driver has another race than I do, for instance.

There is a very thin layer of civility that covers our primate past, to me, to be a human is about understanding that in the basis we are just as much cruel and heartless as that we are caring and loving to one another. If you're not aware of the racist/sexist part of who you are, you are in effect repressing it and since you are not aware of it there is nothing you can do to alter your behavior.

Thanks for this well thought out post Ruth!


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