Thursday, August 22, 2013

And now for some Atheist Community Blah Blah Blah

Here is a link to JT Eberhard's description of an incident involving Bria Crutchfield and an attendee of the Great Lakes Atheist Convention.

And Jen McCreight’s response to JT.

Sounds to me like someone said some racist shit and Bria Crutchfield got emotional. Some reports even say that she had some tears and said she was sorry at the end of her emotional response.

I don't get why she'd need to be called out on this. I don't see any sign that it was gonna become a regular thing, people saying racist shit at atheist cons and other people getting emotional about it. Seems to me the first response should have been concern and understanding for Bria. If it were to become a regular thing, I'd want to address the people saying the racist shit to find a solution, not the people being most upset by it.

As for the woman who asked the ignorant question and got an earful, I think a-lot can be determined by how she responded to being called out. Was her response regret and remorse or defensiveness? How did she react to seeing that Bria was so upset by her comment? I don't know the answer. I'm not without sympathy for this woman who may have been ignorant in the true sense of the word. My hope is that the emotion may have jolted her into paying more attention to the words that were being spoken not less.
Analogy time; When a woman yells STOP at a man in a parking lot, a man who may have been innocently walking in her direction because maybe that's where his car is, the right response isn't, “Fuck you, I'm just going to my car.” it's “Oh, didn't realize I was scaring someone.” and stopping, and letting her get safely in her car before proceding. Because even though he doesn't assault women he knows that she lives in a world where women are assaulted and he's sensitive to that, just as the woman at this convention should be sensitive to the racism that Bria no doubt deals with daily.

Could Bria have responded better. Maybe. Striving to be calm and composed even in the face of idiocy is a noble goal, we could all be more like Mr. Spock, but I don't think it's my place (or JT's) to call out a woman of color for how she responds to racism (even if it was inadvertent racism). Obviously if Bria had been violent or threatening that would have to be addressed but instead she just responded a bit late, during a different speaker. I think that's quite understandable. I can imagine the emotions building and growing as she sat there and I can relate. I do hear JT saying that the anger was justified but how she dealt with the anger was inappropriate. I think that when we recognize that an emotional response is understandable, we should also be accepting that emotional responses tend not to be calculated and perfectly timed. 

All that said, I like JT. I like him a lot. I think he is wrong here. But, I think he is doing his best to be intellectually consistent and is acting with integrity. I will not demonize JT or cast him as a racist. I don't think that JT's motive is to silence minority voices even as I think his response to Bria may inadvertently have just that effect. 

And now, as many of the bigger names in the atheist movement get drawn into yet another noisy controversy, let me address the divisiveness concern. Woohoo! I've heard it said that infighting is the biggest weakness of the left. I've always thought it was our biggest strength. And with atheism this holds true also. What did we want/expect? A monolithic school of united atheists in lockstep? Lets fight, debate, divide. Our numbers continue to grow. We don't believe in god(s). That's enough unity for me. And we can rally when need be. We can come together in amazing numbers to fight for separation of church and state, just as fundamentalist Christians and Mormons had no trouble putting aside their considerable differences to fight to deny gay people equal rights. As I've said before, we can't slam moderate religious people for not calling out more extreme religious people while we ourselves put aside such self critique so as not to be divisive.

(Should the video of the exchange surface I of course reserve the right to revisit my thoughts on this.)


Liam said...

"I've always thought it was our biggest strength. "

If all the discussion was like this, rational disagreement, then I might agree.

But when its about demonizing people, misrepresenting them, calling them racist, sexist rape apoligist, manginas, or contacting their employers to try to get them fired, and whatnot, when clearly its a matter of disagreement on minor issue. It is no strength, it is not constructive in the least.

Jotun said...

Yes. Yes indeed, Liam. Well put.

KLJ said...

Care to fill in some specifics there Liam? Is someone involved in this behaving as you describe?

Joshua said...

Spot on.

cityzenjane said...

Discourse around gender, race, sexuality, class....means that you might be in danger of having a ACTUAL movement as opposed to a self congratulatory circle-jerk....which is exactly what this "movement" has been for a few years now.

So WELCOME to the big time kids!