On the Bria Crutchfield outburst at the Great Lakes Atheist Convention.

I wasn’t going to write about the one hiccup at the Great Lakes Atheist Convention, but someone on twitter has convinced me that I need to.  First, I’ll say that the convention was freaking awesome and that the organizers were phenomenal.  It was seriously one of the best-run first-time conferences I’ve ever attended.

The problems all started when, during the Q&A of Mandisa Thomas’s talk, a woman asked her what black people were doing to fight black on black crime.  Was the woman’s question naive?  Yes.  Very.  And the naivety resulted in her asking a question that certainly had racist undertones, even if the woman was not intentionally being racist.  Mandisa handled it well.

But then, during the Q&A of Darrel C. Smith’s talk, Bria Crutchfield stood up and proceeded to give the woman an angry tongue lashing.  This went on for about five minutes (or maybe it just seemed like that long).  While Bria did answer the woman’s question, it was very embarrassing to the woman and trailed off into a number of red herrings such as “I’m here, get over it” as if anybody was suggesting that Bria or black atheists were unwelcome at the conference or silently sneered at by…anybody.

I, and several others wound up leaving the room during Bria’s monologue.  It just seemed so unnecessary to me.  The questioner was ignorant of what would make her question offensive, and this could’ve been solved without Bria embarrassing her (and herself) by usurping another speaker’s Q&A.  The woman merely needed information, not to be screamed at, and certainly not to be screamed at through a long diatribe in the middle of a conference when the floor was not hers.

Anyway, while I believe there’s a place for drawing note to improper things people have done in public, I’m a big advocate of trying to resolve it personally first (after all, for good people usually all they need is to have attention drawn to their blind spots and they will feel sufficient contrition on their own).  I thought (and still think) that Bria had a blind spot there, so rather than immediately write a blog I pulled Bria aside later that day to tell her that I thought she was out of line (in the hopes of helping her to see her blind spot without publicly humiliating her).  It…didn’t go well.

I was just going to leave it there, but then someone on twitter started messaging me.  I thought it was obvious that Bria was out of line, but apparently not.  This convinced me that there may be a bigger overall problem with people thinking that any slight, even if it’s the result of ignorance rather than cruelty, can merit intentionally humiliating or yelling at someone.  I have seen this elsewhere, where a disproportionate response takes place and someone defends it by saying they were justifiably angry, as if every action taken on account of justifiable anger is therefore justified.

Anyway, I need to get Bria out of the way before I move on to the tweets.  When I spoke with Bria, I opened by telling her that I didn’t wish to imply that she’s a bad person, but that I thought she was out of line (I even told her that I have been out of line before and I don’t think I’m a bad person – it happens).  I explained that the woman in the audience didn’t mean offense, and to then take over another speaker’s Q&A to yell at her was probably a disproportionate and unproductive response (at least in terms of helping the woman to feel positively about Bria’s cause and to recognize where she may have misstepped).  Bria responded that she’d heard that I like to criticize other speakers at conferences.  I told Bria that this is news to me, but if I think someone is out of line, of course I let them know.  This is what I would want someone to do to me.

Admittedly, under the surface I was insulted by the suggestion that I was conveying my displeasure to Bria out of some need to feel superior, and not for my stated reason.  But I let it drop.

Bria then told me she was offended to justify her earlier explosion.  I said I didn’t blame her for being offended.  The question was offensive.  But surely, I asked, you don’t think that the offense was intended?  Bria did not answer, which suggested to me she thought it was intended.  I honestly don’t see how anybody could possibly have reached that conclusion.  I can very much relate to Bria’s offense (and the offense taken by others at the question).  I’m offended every time a person suggest that people who have a mental illness need to “toughen up”.  However, I can realize that such admonishments are not the product of a disdain for people with mental illness, but the product of ignorance caused by there not being nearly enough information readily available in our society about this subject.  I can draw the difference between those who are good people, but ignorant, and those who are assholes.  I can also realize that if I yelled at and publicly humiliated each of them, I’d drive good people away from my cause while hamstringing my ability to create another eager voice for it (all while believing they were at fault for insulting me to start out with!).  But pulling them aside and educating them?  Perhaps telling them my own story so they can understand?  That’s doing right by other human beings, it’s placing value on good intent and rewarding it with information, and it’s fulfilling my stated goal: changing minds.

Bria then told me that some people in the audience appreciated what she did.  I’m sure there were many that did.  My argument isn’t that nobody applauded Bria’s behavior, but simply that those who did were wrong to do so.  Bria then told me that “the only people who concern her were the people who agreed with her.”  (She reiterated this later on her facebook page by saying “At the end of the day, ALL that matters in MY life are those who are in MY corner”).  I told Bria that’s a great way to feel like you’re always right, but that dismissing the concerns of those who disagree with you out of hand is a terrible way to be made aware of your own blind spots.

I told Bria I understood that the woman’s question had racist undertones, to which Bria responded “I didn’t say I had a problem with that, I had a problem that she embarrassed Mandisa.”  I lamented that that Mandisa was embarrassed (Mandisa, in my experience, is a wonderful person and a fantastic hugger).  But I pointed out that Bria then embarrassed the woman who asked the question,  the only difference being that Bria had the full intention of doing so.  I asked Bria if she felt that engaging in the same behavior she found distasteful was the best way to advocate for her cause.  Bria responded that she doesn’t care what people think of her.  I told Bria I can appreciate not being bothered when people unfairly think ill of you (I like to think I have that down myself), but asked if that made adopting what Bria had already said to be distasteful behavior acceptable.  What I got next was a series of statements like “That’s how I roll” and “I chew the meat and spit out the bones”, as if those things even remotely addressed the issue of Bria being out of line.

After going down all these routes and making no progress, I asked Bria if she thought that was the best way to change a person’s mind.  Bria said she didn’t care if the woman’s mind was changed.  I then asked Bria, if her intent was not to change the woman’s mind, what she had hoped to accomplish.  Bria responded that she didn’t have to tell me that.  I agreed, but told her that it might help me to understand her position better.  Bria reiterated that she didn’t have to tell me what she had hoped to accomplish.

Anyway, the conversation went on like that.  I never derided Bria (in fact, a couple times I told her that I didn’t think being out of line made her a bad person, even though she made several jabs at my character, with more later that I won’t get into).  But I just want people to know the full context of what happened, and to know that I tried to resolve this personally.  I wouldn’t even have tried to resolve it publicly if not for being convinced that the problem extends beyond Bria.  That’s where my twitter interlocutor comes in:

Questions were answered. Just because you dont like what you are hearing doesnt mean the words were wrong.

As if questions couldn’t be answered without yelling at the woman in a room full of people and making a scene.  I won’t deny that buried deep within her tirade Bria did answer the woman’s question with substance.  However, the implication here is that I took exception to a question being answered, and not to the berating of a person who didn’t know better and doing her best to intentionally cause emotional pain in the process.  That we are hurt does not always justify us hurting others.  That’s why the words “justice” and “revenge” are not synonyms.

She didnt verbally thrash anyone. She said she was insulted by the quesrion, which was insulting.

But she did verbally thrash her.  Bria yelled at her and cursed at her.  Yes, the question was insulting, but to insult was not the woman’s intention.  I’m not a person to say that a verbal smackdown is never warranted – I don’t believe that.  The question is whether or not one is required every time a person insults us  without meaning to, especially a person who would feel horrible and immediately correct themselves if they just had it explained to them, deserves to be humiliated, shouted down, and treated as an enemy.  I don’t believe this is the case.

the man who’s speech was full of ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ suddenly cares about swearing?

Rest in Peace, nuance.  We loved you while you lived.  By this logic, if a person says “Fuck!” when they stub their toe, they must therefore see no issue when someone yells “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” when somebody accidentally steps on their toe.  Is the very simple difference in connotation completely lost on you?  Yes, I used curse words in my talk.  Do you really think that justifies swearing in anger at a person who made a misstep out of naivete?

She was passionate, constructive and onpoint. Stop policing tone when one is insulted in a space she shouldnt have had to worry

The tweeter seems to have a fondness for euphemisms.  In this world a lengthy tirade in the middle of someone else’s Q&A that implies (among other things) that Bria and/or other black atheists are unwelcome, clearly delivered to embarrass someone who made a mistake, is “answering the question”.  Or, by the tweeter’s assessment, it is “passion”.  There are plenty of passionate people whose first instinct in the presence of an ignorant question is to realize that they have been ignorant before and to help cure the ignorance, not to apply social punishments every time a person makes a misstep out of ignorance.  If you treat every person’s mistake as a personal affront and use it to justify purposefully embarrassing them (when the ignorance could’ve been cured without that), it’s not passion, it’s cruelty.

And people also swear when they are hurt and upset.

Yes, they do.  Not all of them stand in the middle of a conference and yell at the person who inadvertently hurt them.  You seem to think my problem is with swear words and not the way they were employed.

Eventually I decided I would rebut the tweeter’s points in a blog post.  I informed her of this and she responded:

Before you do, please take time to consider why answer was more upsetting than question.

Now, I could’ve taken offense to the implied accusation that I was speaking without considering things.  But I realize that the tweeter and I are two people on the same side with a disagreement, and that being insulted unintentionally is not the end of the world or a cause for me to lash out at her.  Fancy that.

Anyway, the reason that Bria’s outburst bothers me more than the woman’s question is intent.  Yes, yes, I know – intent is not magic.  But it’s also not irrelevant.  The questioner clearly intended no offense.  Her only crime was being naive, which is the very problem that the black atheists in attendance were purporting to fight.  If you’re fighting that problem, that people are largely ignorant of the very real problems with racism in the world, you’re necessarily acknowledging that those problems exist, so it can’t be too shocking when they manifest.  Can ignorance still hurt?  Sadly, yes.  We all have hurt others without intending to do so.  But it’s the difference between someone stepping on your foot by mistake and somebody stomping on it on purpose.  While the effect is the same, one person is far more ethically dubious.

Bria sought to embarrass the woman and to hurt her when there was no need, and Bria did it on purposeThat’s why people left the room.  For many we can stomach ignorance and lament when ignorance hurts somebody’s feelings, but we can’t stomach cruelty even if it’s in response to ignorance.  This woman was not an enemy to Bria or to her cause, she just didn’t know better, but Bria still shouted her down in a room full of people.  It seems painfully obvious to me that ignorance is a lesser crime than cruelty, and it certainly doesn’t justify cruelty as a response.  If public humiliation were a proper response to ignorance, college classes would be conducted by professors who did nothing but scream.

The reason I write about this is not to “get back” at the person on twitter or at Bria.  I’m honestly not bothered by them personally in the least.  I certainly harbor no ill will toward the tweeter and I don’t harbor any ill will toward Bria beyond what I normally reserve to people who do things like what she did without remorse.  But this doesn’t seem to be an isolated case.  Lately there’s been a lot of this attitude in the atheist movement, that every misstep out of naivety or ignorance, even if it’s insulting, makes someone a prime target for a shout down in a “public room” – as if humiliation and shame, while sometimes the proper tools, are always the proper tools.  When did we forget that people in the atheist movement are our friends and allies?  When did ignorance, a crime of which we’re all guilty in one way or another, start to be a cause for anger rather than pity?  Our job is to cure ignorance, not to punish people for it.  I can see denouncing people for lacking empathy; I can see denouncing them for being dedicated to staying ignorant.  But to denounce otherwise good people, or even a person at an atheist conference who you don’t know from Adam, for being sympathetic but naive?  I cannot condone that.

In my eyes we’ve become far too eager to treat people as enemies when we disagree, and we’ve become far too eager to take someone’s ignorance of our pet cause as a personal offense.  Perhaps I’ve even been guilty of this at times and, if so, I’m sorry.

The sad thing is that yelling at people publicly, no matter whether it is appropriate or not, can often be viewed by those in your corner as taking a stand (ironically, it doesn’t take much heroism to shout someone down in a crowded room when they’re cowed into silence).  It will almost always pump up the troops, as it were, whether it was the appropriate response or not.  I’m all for pumping up the troops, but if we’re to be good people we must still concern ourselves with whether or not the ways in which we do so are ethically justified – a status that is not achieved by our mere offense or even by our anger, justified though it may be.

Maybe I’m tone-trolling, but I don’t think so.  When people dedicate themselves to staying ignorant or when they are intentionally cruel, sometimes we must employ social tools like shame.  Like I said earlier, I’m the last person to say that a good tongue-lashing is never appropriate.  But there are certainly times when it isn’t, when all it does is create resentment, drive us apart, and obscure our message.  Like Greta Christina says, anger motivates us, but unchecked it can destroy us.  I guess my point is that we need to remain wise in our anger, to let it motivate us without dissolving our focus. Our anger at the injustices in the world must make us more compassionate, not less so.  When we start treating our allies like enemies because they are imperfect, anger has morphed from being a tool into a sickness.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Jasper

    “Maybe I’m tone-trolling, but I don’t think so.”

    As an aside, I find that term to be often misunderstood. Unless it was your intention to anger people, and whip them into a rage, it’s not trolling… but our community can’t seem to tell the difference anymore. Any expression of concern is automatically condemned as trolling.

    • Azkyroth

      “Trolling” has expanded a little beyond the strict definition of “deliberately trying to anger people”; the core element as used seems to be disingenuousness. Tone Trolls are rarely deliberately trying to anger people, so much as either

      1) trying to get them to change their tactics in a way that actually sabotages the interests of their group, either by misdirecting the group as a whole or by causing useful idiots to turn against the interests of the group due to being mislead by the troll’s concerns or
      2) trying to get people to stop expressing themselves in a way that makes the troll personally uncomfortable, couching this in terms of how they’re supposedly harming their own interests rather than coming straight out and saying “please stop making me think hard about problems I otherwise have the luxury of ignoring,” and with reckless disregard for whether acquiescing would harm the interests of the target group.

      It can be difficult to distinguish between the two, and I’m not sure there’s really a meaningful difference. It can also be difficult to distinguish between either of these, and a sincere, well-founded concern that a particular way of expressing oneself really IS harming the interests of one’s group.

  • wfenza

    Sounds like your response was reasonable to me. Has Bria laid out her side anywhere public?

    • JTEberhard

      Not yet. But, if she does, I’ll link it.

  • ccaldwell314

    Granted, there’s not video of this posted yet (that I’ve seen), so we don’t have any real way of determining whether this is “tone-trolling” or not… But I will say this: Members of minority groups (sexual/gender orentation, racial, etc) are used to these kinds of slights – they deal with them daily. They’re also used to being consistently silenced and told to stop being so angry/loud/shrill/whatever. Whether the offense is intentional or not, I would be careful in discounting their anger as uncalled for. Intent is not magical. It is all too easy when coming from a place of privilege (like you or I) to dismiss anger as disproportionate – because we aren’t dealing with what people like Bria deal with on a daily basis.

    • wfenza

      I don’t think anyone was suggesting that the anger was disproportional or uncalled for. Just the response to that anger.

      • Origami_Isopod

        I don’t think white people get to decide whether black people’s anger is “disproportionate” or not. Check your privilege.

    • JTEberhard

      What Wes said. I can sympathize with the plights of people, and even understand the motivation for such an outburst, without saying that it was appropriate or fair.

      • ccaldwell314

        So her anger is justified but she should have just bottled it up, despite the slight? If that’s what you’re saying, I would go ahead say that this is just tone-policing.

        ETA: I’m using “anger” as a blanket statement to describe both her anger at the situation and how it manifested itself. If her anger was justified, I don’t see any reason that her response was out of line.

        • baal

          The key is proportionality and consideration of context. Being angry isn’t sufficient justification for all possible actions.

          • ccaldwell314

            Being angry isn’t sufficient justification for acting angry?

          • wfenza

            @ccaldwell314 – Correct, if by “acting angry,” you mean “expressing that anger in a hostile manner.” Is that really in dispute?

          • ccaldwell314

            As I said previously, I wasn’t there so I haven’t seen video to see if it was hostile. But the whole situation reeks of tone policing.

            Anywho, back to work for me. This discussion is going nowhere.

          • baal

            Please note that what I’m asking for is consideration of a range of possible ways of responding in anger (acting angry). Not all angry responses are appropriate.

            Let’s take a different example. A local city has a fair. At the main event for the fair, the mayor thanks one person on the fair committee by name but that person (A) didn’t really do any work. “A” stands up and says thanks. Another committee member (B) did, in fact, do all the work and is royally pissed off at the slight. “B” then takes the mic from “A” and proceeds to yell at the mayor and “A”. Let’s add that “B” is a very strong and big guy. Both the mayor and “A” are afraid of getting physically assaulted (even though, as it turns out “B” didn’t threaten them, he’s just that scary when angry).

            Is “B” out of line or does his anger make it all ok?

          • ccaldwell314

            I don’t think that the analogy is valid, because I’ve not heard of anybody feeling “threatened” by Bria.

            Anywho, back to work for me. This discussion is going nowhere.

          • baal

            I am interested in the argument that all angry responses are acceptable. I clearly think that position is flawed. Were you to explain what is your outer limit to what’s acceptable (I presume violence?) then we could see why we draw the line in a different place. In terms of full disclosure, I’m interested in as good an out come that is possible for all of the parties in the matter. That includes the person who made the initial inflamatory statement, the responder, the 3rd party audience, the organizers, the speakers and JT. Not all have an equal stake and not all are equally injured by what happened.

            The question for me is what range of options were available to each party and what would it have been best for each party to do in the circumstances.

          • Andrew S. Williams

            “All angry responses are acceptable” is a gigantic strawman and pretty much unrelated to the question of whether THIS response is acceptable.

          • baal

            I’m interested in the bigger question as to what the political movement of leftist authoritarians will not countenance. So far all I’m hearing is an intentional refusal to be pinned down as to what you consider extreme. Your movement’s position is currently standing at about Mr. Breivek’s level (in theory). I want to know, where’s the limit for punishing folks you don’t like regardless of context?

            I’m also getting tired of hyper-narrow question drawing. You share that with Scalia and the other SCOTUS right wingers.

          • Andrew S. Williams

            Not really. You’re interested in feeding your own persecution complex via constructing strawmen and completely ignoring the actual topics at hand. The fact that you throw around phrases like “leftist authoritarian” tells me you’re about as interested in rational debate as Sean Hannity.

          • baal

            Thank you for your mind reading and self flagging as one of the leftist authoritarians Andrew S. Williams. Are you a witting tool of the abuse movement or are you hoodwinked into not caring about how your actions impact other people?

            Again, where’s the limit? Stop ducking. I’m dying to see the actual talking point on it. All you and the rest I’ve asked are doing is rampant deflection. Why are you afraid to go there? If I can get absudist on your ass, “Try looking into that place where you dare not look! You’ll find me there, staring out at you!” (Paul-Muad’Dib to Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, from Dune by Frank Herbert).

          • baal

            I’m also looking for where I said I’m being persecuted (though you authoritarians do employ ‘pile on’ as a technique).

          • Andrew S. Williams

            You keep trying to bait me into having this discussion by employing the term “authoritarian”, but all that tells me is you don’t even have the vocabulary necessary to discuss this subject with more than a Fox News level of intelligence. Or– more likely– you’re actually smart but trying to bait me, which is a key indicator of how completely uninterested you are in an actual discussion.

            Moreover, reducing highly complex situations to one-liners and simple “limits” is a fool’s errand– they have to be discussed in the context of the actual incident, which you are clearly not interested in, judging by your construction of unrelated hypotheticals to shoot down people who did try to argue with you. Instead, I suspect your goal is to bait someone into trying to pin down an incredibly complicated area of human behavior and interaction, and then declare “victory” when they fail at doing the impossible. But in other for that to work well, you’re going to have to learn to be more subtle with your strawmen.

            P.S. Throwing around terms like “abuse movement” and the aforementioned “authoritarian” pretty much give away your persecution complex right there. Seriously, dude: subtlety. It’s an art form, practice it.

          • baal


            Again, what’s with the deflecting? If someone is sincerely offended and acting in anger, what you do you think is not ok for them to do? How do you decide? So far as I can tell all you’re looking for is righteous cause and then anything is a-ok after that. It’s a stunted way of analyzing an incident.

            You’re right, I’m not being subtle. You’re wrong (or just freaking nuts) to think it’s a trap! (ohhh ackbar, andrew is paging you). I’ve been entirely transparent as to my ‘end game.’ It’s not easy to cheat people when you’re express as to where you’re going with your argument.

          • baal

            Why are you crying? The man said to the woman he just hit.

            You all have a pretty tight cognition bundle there, pretty impervious. You pile on (calling me a fox news anchor this time) and then say I have a persecution complex. or you know, you all are in fact out to silence me via harsh language and belittling insults.

            It’s a fundamentally abusive way to deal with folks you don’t like.

          • Origami_Isopod

            LOL “leftist authoritarians.” One black woman standing up and chewing out a racist asshole = Scalia or Stalin.

          • baal

            Way to fail at reading isopod (or are you being merely dishonest?). I said that ASW was drawing questions like Scalia. I did not say Bria was like Scalia.

            The only thing I’ve said about Bria wasn’t even about her, it was, How do you know when a social punishment is not acceptable? Where is the limit on decency and when is it a bad idea?

            The shit that ASW is shoveling is meant to silence JT. ASW is not arguing the facts, context or impact. He’s reduced the discussion to say that white men must shut up and if you the white man don’t shut it, he’s going to get the smearing and shaming and insults we’re seeing in spades from ASW and now you. This pile on stack of shit (which suspiciously don’t look like rationalist argument) is exactly what we see from the xtian authoritarians (like rick santorum) and from you all. the difference is that you all are nominally leftist, so leftist authoritarian social punishers you are.

          • Azkyroth

            In this specific case, you’re talking to someone who considers “we ought to lock them in a room full of flavored light sockets” to be threatening, violent rhetoric. So, in all probability, now you have.

          • storm

            According to the social justice warriors of the internet it is.

        • JTEberhard

          You think my suggestion that she should help the woman escape her ignorance rather than verbally beating her down amounts to saying she should “bottle her anger”?

          I’m all for justified anger, but I don’t think justified anger makes every response acceptable.

          • Origami_Isopod

            It is NOT her job to educate stupid clueless white people. Like you, for instance.

        • Cat

          Apparently she should have raged blogged about it cause that seems to be the only acceptable communication within this movement.

        • invivoMark

          I have heard neither Bria’s original outburst nor JT’s subsequent conversation with her, so I must withhold judgment of the validity of JT’s criticism. However, do you think that it is never okay to express one’s disagreement with someone’s approach to conveying a message? Even privately?

          JT may be totally wrong, and Bria’s actions could be totally warranted and right, but I don’t think that means we get to wave away JT’s criticism by simply calling it “tone-policing”.

    • Jasila

      I love it “members of X group are all the same, they all have experience daily with the same types of slights, they’re always being told XYandZ”

      Of course a non-racist wouldn’t generalise like that, also would maybe ask some of us, rather than just talking for all of us like that.

      If you did, you’d find out that we’re not a monolith. That some of us have had that experience, others of us are just whiny aggressive dicks, and we don’t need white saviours like you to come and condescend to us by telling us we’re all precious little snowflakes who could never do anything wrong and are always oppressed by the big mean society. It’s fucking infantalising and gross.

      Let us have our say, let us have our anger but for FSMs sake treat us like goddamn adults, not damaged innocent Magical Negros just waiting for a chance to educate you with our “always justified because oppression” magical pure monolith ‘minority’ opinions. Fuck you.

  • Rob Eikenberry

    The tongue lashing was uncalled for. The lady’s question was off topic and naive however, the level of beratement did not fit the original cause in my opinion. Furthermore, so what if she was offended. The right of free speech trumps the right of being offended. I am offended every day and I do not go around publically humiliating other people. I found this to be another example of Dr. Whaley’s topic of ingroup fighting that needs to stop. This and the debate over the word atheist vs secular is trivial and unproductive at best. At the end of the day we are all non-believers and we are all humans worthy of being treated in the same way we wish to be treated. Other than the two minor bumps, the convention was great.

    • Andrew S. Williams

      I’m sure next time Bria will run her opinion by you to determine whether it’s okay to be offended or not.

      By the way, why is the woman’s question more “protected” by the right to free speech than Bria’s response? The right to express offense is inherently part of the right of free speech.

      • pennyroyal

        it’s how it’s done that’s in discussion

      • Rob Eikenberry

        Who cares if she or anyone else was offended. There is no right to protect people from being offended. The better position to take would have been to dismiss the lady’s question altogether. I personally would not feel obligated to answer a question that was so naive and completely off topic. There were references in Bria’s remarks that implied a bit of racism to everyone in the room that did not expressly come up to her and say hello because she was a minority. It is not my job to make a public service announcement that just because I do not say hello, does not mean I am a racist or fearful of minorities. That is also why I felt it was out of line. That was my main point in this, but thank you for responding in a very condescending tone.

        • cityzenjane

          Not that you’ve been even remotely condescending….

          • Rob Eikenberry

            I try not to be condescending, I am very blunt though.

          • DrVanNostrand

            The condescending tone was because your comment was incredibly stupid. According to you, “free speech” covers assholes asking ignorant, racist questions, but does not cover someone taking the questioner to task for asking an ignorant, racist question. The way you define “free speech” does nothing more than silence minorities when they are abused by bigots. So thanks for being an ignorant fuckstain.

    • Azkyroth

      Fucking hell; free speech isn’t at issue here.

      • Rob Eikenberry

        I had no intentions on making this a free speech issue just to clarify.

      • Rob Eikenberry

        I had no intentions of making it into a free speech issue just to clarify.

        • Azkyroth

          Then why mention it?

          • Rob Eikenberry

            I am perfectly OK with being misspoken. It happens. However, this does not take away from the fact that the outburst was completely unprofessional.

    • ischemgeek

      Freedom of speech =/= freedom from criticism.

      • Rob Eikenberry


  • baal

    “Maybe I’m tone-trolling, but I don’t think so.”
    Thanks JT for fighting the fight on working towards a better outcome for all sides. I’m really tired of the social punishers thinking they have the one-true-solution and consequence of their punishment be damned.

    • storm

      At least there’s one rational person here. Sure, the questions wasn’t the most appropriate thing to ask at an atheist conference, but I fail to see how screaming and cursing are good for anything except making someone look like a raging lunatic.

      • pennyroyal

        no one should be venting at another….
        please, your comment on ‘raging lunatic’ is insulting to people with mental illness. Better to say that extreme anger leads to irrational comments, digressions, and calls to be more civil next time.

      • baal

        I hate to disagree storm but the ‘black on black’ language is more or less definitional of ‘racist.’ There is a bit of a long history of similar language being used to focus the States police power against POC but especially the black community. It’s entirely possible to know that and ask the question (bad intent). It’s also entirely possible to not know that and just be reciting language you have heard and cluelessly hurt people (this is what JT was arguing for).

        The next question down the road is about Bria Crutchfield’s response. Some folks say that any response done in righteous anger is not worthy of discussion and (here I take a step further out) you’re a bad person for even considering angry responses. Full stop.

        I’m somewhere a few stops down the road from there even. There is a radical left wing talking points shop who has decided to go full second amendment (verbally so far but including negligent destroying peoples (including parents with kids)) for social policing of leftist ideas. These folks refuse to allow anyone to question what they are doing and engage in full on silencing of peeps who disagree with them. I don’t know that Bria C.’s public chasiting is from that school of thought or was in fact totally earnest. She’s the only one who knows that. I am more certain that at least some of her defenders here (and JT’s accusers) are from that particular political movement.

        I consider them anti-humanitarian for their lack of consideration of all parties and for skipping discussion of harms for all parties. This sort of justice is retributive and I don’t agree with it. I do not see it leading to good outcomes as it relies on fear and abuse as means to their ends.

  • Cat

    With all do respect JT, and I feel this is one of the ‘edu moments’ it’s not up to you to decide how someone feels at a given situation and it’s not up to you to decide when they should ‘get over it’ that is what I think this is about,

    (EDIT) There is one other point I think you failed to recognize, this was said to someone Bria LOVES, imagine if someone insulted someone you love in public. We can be more tolerant when something is done to us as opposed to someone we care about and want to protect.

    Most importantly it’s not what happened at a con in person that causes the rift, it’s the constant blogging and tweeting about it. You tweeted what happened BEFORE talking to Bria. This blog just brought in the rest us of into it that might not have known a thing about it.

    I was at my local con OCFT, Jamy Ian Swiss delivered a speech, he was clearly upset and I believe rightly so, days before hand PZ and some girl was on twitter telling DJ he was not “atheist enough” and then PZ wrote a blog.

    What happened after Jamy speech? Both PZ and Greta wrote blogs, Jamy ended it saying he would be in the bar and would buy the first round and they could talk. Neither one did, and on top of that neither one addressed the real issue he was referring to in the blog.

    If you ask me what we need is more IN PERSON blow ups and less blogging!

    I also have trouble believing that anyone after hearing a talking about ‘how the atheist community can learn from the hospitality industry’ talk can solicit a question that woman had I think you gave her too much credit, how can anyone be that ignorant about race issues?

  • Brandon

    See, I’m going to contend that there isn’t an actually “right” answer to the situation (though, personally, from what I’ve read I side with JT and I disapprove of the tone/tactic that Bria adopted).

    If Bria was indeed angry and frustrated with the offensive nature of the question (which it seems she was, and I certainly cannot blame her for it; it was an offensive question), then I can grant her some justification for her response and its tone.

    However, I don’t think we live in a world that has a systemic order or inherent set of fixed values that dictates where one concern gets to universally override another. If JT is concerned about keeping the tone of the discussion to a level where people will be educated and be more encouraged to join progressive causes, then he was/is *also* entirely internally justified in his response; that is, in disapproving of Bria’s tone and desiring/expressing a desire that she abandon that tone in the future.

    As far as I see it, we aren’t left trying to figure out which one was objectively right. Rather, we’re left trying to figure out which set of values and concomitant expressions we agree to adopt and support.

    So, while I don’t blame Bria for her actions, nor do I consider them necessarily invalid, I still agree with JT since I find it less conducive to my goal of winning over more people through education and mutually informative dialogue.

  • http://www.asilee.com Asilee

    I’m still trying to figure out what black-on-black crime have anything to do with an atheist convention. Someone, please fill me in.

    • double-m

      That’s just it. No one would ever ask about white-on-white crime at
      an Atheist conference. If at all, then it would simply be “crime”. It will
      only be racialized if it’s black-on-black or committed by some other
      minority on its members. It basically says that a white person murdering
      a white person is “crime” (i.e. an issue for all of society), but the
      same thing happening within a minority community is an issue for that
      community only. It tells you that the person asking the question doesn’t
      really see you as part of society. Being told openly, as well as between the lines, all the time that you don’t really belong, gets very tiresome.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Assuming that most atheists have a basic understanding of evolution and speciation, I’m lost on why any atheist would even recognize race as an actual thing. I thought we were against intentionally-divisive social concepts based on false information?

      • invivoMark

        Even biologists can’t agree on whether race is a thing – human genetics is pretty wonky, but definitions can be loose enough to satisfy a scientist. It’s still a somewhat medically useful notion, but that’s about it.

        On the other hand, Stormfront, Heritage Foundation, etc. pour a lot of money into convincing people that racism is intellectually justifiable. They’ve even got their own bought-and-paid-for “scientists”, J. Philippe Rushton and Donald I. Templer. Their scientific rigor is abysmal, and they don’t even understand the genetic concepts they purport to study.

        • Jacob Schmidt

          It’s still a somewhat medically useful notion, but that’s about it.

          I’d be very careful with this. Assumptions about racial differences in anatomy have lead to some serious problems in health care for minorities. Off the top of my head, its been thought that black people have a naturally lower lung capacity; this isn’t true, but has lead to doctors declaring dangerously low lung capacities as “healthy” if they fall within the range of “black” lung capacities.

          • invivoMark

            There are at least two cases I know of in which racial distinctions are known to be useful. One is in the rate of metabolism of a particular drug, and the other is in bone marrow transplant compatibility.

            In both cases, of course, race doesn’t tell you anything with 100% certainty. However, there are certain genes that we expect to associate with skin color by chance. For instance, if a gene lies right next to a region of the genome that regulates melanin production in the skin, then that gene will more likely follow the skin color phenotype, because there is a small chance of gene shuffling during meiosis segregating the two alleles.

            Drug metabolism rate is often dependent mostly on the expression of a single CYP450 gene in the liver. That means it can be radically changed by only a single nucleotide polymorphism. It’s entirely feasible that one such polymorphism happens to be extremely common in one race, while almost nonexistent in another.

            Bone marrow transplants are a lot more complicated, since rejection can happen due to many factors. In that case, people with similar geographic origins of recent ancestors will have a significantly higher chance of a successful transplant. It just happens that race is often a first step at approximating recent geographic origin.

          • cityzenjane

            Race is a social construct..but racism is a social REALITY…which impacts actual humans in real time.

            We KNOW we all came from Africa (for the most part) …this however does not erase 500 years of structural and institutional racism which was often supported and expanded by religious institutions.

            History and the present are deeply intertwined. It behooves anyone writing on the topic (not living it) to inform themselves.

          • Jacob Schmidt

            I didn’t say it couldn’t be useful. I said we need to be careful.

      • Shilo Rives

        Saying that technically race isn’t real, therefore it’s a non-issue, is a lame way to get out of addressing the issue. That approach is so denial based.

        • Art_Vandelay

          Who said we shouldn’t recognize that it’s an issue? Just as I don’t think God exists, I think that a belief in God exists and it’s bad for society. Just as I don’t think race is a thing, I think racism is a thing and it’s bad for society. We should address it by rejecting the concept itself and educating people on the absurdity of classifying humans in that manner.

      • Origami_Isopod

        Because social constructs are still real. If you disagree. then throw away all those little pieces of green paper in your wallet. They’re meaningless and therefore worthless… right?

    • Edward Gemmer

      I don’t know, but I support any efforts in the atheist community to talk about crime. I hear a lot of talk about how important social justice is to certain atheists, but the criminal justice system, which I would argue has been the most racist and damaging system to African-American people since the civil rights acts were passed usually gets glossed over with barely a mention at all.

    • Ronja Addams-Moring

      Mandisa posted this additional information as a comment at BlagHag’s:

      “My talk on the day in question was about how the Freethought
      community can learn from the Hospitality Industry… I touched on my organization briefly, and I did not speak on the problems in the Black community that particular day. So for this woman to come out of left field and ask a question that wasn’t related to the subject at hand was not only rude, but it also implied that just because we are an orgainzation that focuses on Blacks that we are supposed to take on such a gigantic problem on our own. It also seemed to imply that I should ONLY be speaking on issues relating to the Black community. She may not have been meaning to come across as insidious or oblivious, but I also don’t think she was paying attention to my presentation, or even cared much about the issue at hand. She certainly did not speak with me afterwards to either clarify, or even offer assistance on such efforts…

      Bria has my full support with this matter. I also think there should have been a better effort to involve the primary organizer of the convention if JT, Mark, and this woman were truly concerned. This obviously didn’t happen, and it is disappointing.”

      Source: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2013/08/on-silencing-anger-to-silence-minority-voices/#comment-102854

  • Edward Gemmer

    Well props to you and her for dealing with stuff to someone’s face and not just lashing out on the internet.

  • invivoMark

    I swear, someone needs to invent a Twitter algorithm that can instantly detect when you’re trying to make a public comment about a contentious issue that ought not be so public. The algorithm would then instantly erase the comment, and a little window would pop up that says, “Chill out. Find a better way to hash out your differences. May we suggest email, or perhaps a conversation over a beer?”

    I feel like this algorithm would save a lot of people a lot of pain.

  • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

    JT let me put my response into context.

    I am a fan of your work. I have found your perspective on issues very illuminating and fresh many times.

    The main point in your assessment of Bria Crutchfield’s “outburst” that I disagree with is that Bria’s intent was to hurt or embarrass person that had asked the “black on black crime” question.

    Seeing that you stated that you left the room during Bria’s “outburst” I assume you did not hear her breakdown into tears at the end. I also assume that you were not present at the beginning of Bria’s talk where she apologized and clarified a few points.

    If you would have witnessed the entirety of the “event” I don’t think you would have seen it as anything other than Bria’s frustration in having to educate people in a place that she hoped was already beyond that. It is often our “allies” that we get the most frustrated with, since for better or worse, we hold them to a higher standard because we hold them in higher regard.

    I don’t disagree that Bria’s choice of venue and volume could have been better chosen. But even given the negative aspects, she remained on point and constructive, much more so than many “Q&A participants” that I have seen in other conferences. Yes, some of her verbiage was harsh, but she did go on to offer constructive suggestions and to actually try to educate.

    As a movement we are very cognizant that we are not going to make progress without “rocking the boat” on occasion. Bria Crutchfield certainly rocked the boat of the Great Lakes Atheist’s first Convention a little bit. But, I for one, think that on balance that rocking was a positive thing.

    • Spokesgay

      If someone stood up at a conference and asked what we were going to do about gay on gay HIV transmission, my reaction would have been similar to Bria’s. And I would not be pleased to have a straight person “correct” me.

      • JTEberhard

        And, had the person who asked the question asked it in more of a “so I can get on board with what you are doing” rather than a deriding fashion, I would’ve pulled you aside and said the same thing.

        • Spokesgay

          That’s the trouble right there. People don’t respond well to being “pulled aside.” You’re not the boss of them.

          • JTEberhard

            Expressing one’s opinion constructively is not imposing oneself as boss of another. It’s doing so privately to avoid embarrassment and humiliation, that’s the point. By your reasoning I can’t express my concerns privately nor I can I express them publicly in a blog, no matter how absent of animosity they are. And, even if I could, it wouldn’t matter because I’m not a part of the minority group in question. How does anybody communicate in your universe?

            You have a real problem with using euphemisms that border on dishonesty, but that are certainly disingenuous, in every argument you make.

          • Parse

            Part of this disagreement may be because of the connotations of ‘pulled aside.’ Personally, I associate it with one person telling another how they should have acted, or what they should have done, or just correcting them quietly.
            Consider the fragment, ‘The aide pulled aside their boss, and told them…’ What’s your first instinct on what the aide is going to say? Or, reverse the roles, ‘The boss pulled aside their aide, and told them…’ Does that change what you think is going to be said?

            I don’t think anybody, Josh included, faults you for speaking with Bria in private. The issue is that, the way you started your explanation – pulling her aside – it, it sounds like you were correcting her, telling her that the proper way to react was to be nice, polite and calm, and not let emotions get into her response. In essence, to either not get angry, or to bottle up her anger.
            Since that isn’t what you meant, could you try explaining this in a different way?

          • JTEberhard

            Ah, you may be right. I think “talked to her in private” is certainly more what I was going after.

          • pennyroyal

            I think one way of dealing with this kind of discussion with someone is to ask them to “help me understand where you are coming from.” Often that opens up whole new points of view that hadn’t even been explored before.

          • Parse

            Something was still bothering me about this. At first, I thought, though you meant ‘talked to her in private’, it still sounds like ‘pulled aside’ in action. You thought she was out of line, you wanted to tell her that. By itself, that’s not always wrong – after all, as a speaker, it’s not like you were some random schlub calling her out – so I’ve been trying to think about what was bothering me.

            Rereading your post in further detail, here’s one sentence that’s the heart of the issue:

            I explained that the woman in the audience didn’t mean offense, and to then take over another speaker’s Q&A to yell at her was probably a disproportionate and unproductive response (at least in terms of helping the woman to feel positively about Bria’s cause and to recognize where she may have misstepped).

            If you had only said the second half – that it was wrong to take over another speaker’s Q&A – I don’t think anybody would have any issues with that. I agree, it was inappropriate. However, that first half – “I explained that the woman in the audience didn’t mean offense” – that’s the issue. You’re minimizing her anger, effectively telling her that she’s overreacting. You’re making the issue her anger, not her action (interrupting another speaker’s Q&A), and what was wrong here was her action, not her anger.

          • pennyroyal

            it’s the responsibility of the Whites in the group to have done their homework on issues and not ask Blacks to represent his/her own race or racial issues. White people need to do their own racial justice work first and not expect Blacks to do it for them.

      • Edward Gemmer

        One thing that is right as rain: racism is a sensitive issue. Talking about can cause emotions such as anger, hate, fear, etc. Too many times we confuse these emotional responses with racism. Racism was the thing that caused this mess in the first place: slavery, Jim Crow, etc. Human beings experience such things as anger, confusion, and ignorance. When we start confusing human emotion with racism, we really aren’t accomplishing anything. Attacking either of these people is literally the laziest possible response to thousands of years of racism. Guess what – black on black crime is an interesting area of study. Guess what – black people don’t like losing their individuality to answer your questions about black people. I really don’t understand why there is some sort of confusion to any of this.

    • JTEberhard

      I did witness her entire outburst and did see her break down into tears. While it’s true that I did not see her talk, I did speak to her after her talk (when I pulled her aside later that day) and didn’t get that impression. Perhaps it will be fixed when I watch her talk later.

      I can empathize with the frustration of having to educate people repeatedly, be it with mental illness or atheism. I also asserted that there was a substantial response beneath the tangents of Bria’s outburst.

      But these things still don’t alter the fact that not every action taken on account of justifiable anger is best or even good. It sounds like you and I both agree that the substance of Bria’s diatribe could have been delivered without humiliating someone who had no ill intent. That’s the crux of the matter.

      And I’m seeing people say that I’m telling people to not be angry. That is not the case. I think people should be angry. I’m simply saying that not everything done on account of that anger is wise or good.

      • Spokesgay

        I just wouldn’t see it as my place to correct Bria or someone similarly situated, just as I wouldn’t expect a straight person to monitor or correct my response. This is one of those situations where it’s not desirable to do so.

        • JTEberhard

          Being gay or straight alters who you find attractive, not your ability to tell if someone is out of line.

          • Spokesgay

            I know that you understand the concept of privilege. This response is baffling, given that.

          • Azkyroth

            The appropriate response to privilege is a rebuttable presumption in favor of the less privileged person’s position on issues to which privilege is relevant (and on the relevance of privilege to an issue), not an absolute blank check. Or does this mean that people are never going to tell me I’m reacting to allistic privilege in a counterproductive way again?

          • invivoMark

            If you think that privilege means you’re neither allowed to have nor to express an opinion, then I don’t think you understand the concept of privilege.

        • baal

          Hi ironic or non-ironically named social authoritarian punisher! I haven’t seen you for a while. Could you describe what response you’d find unacceptable? I’ve been looking for a while now for a rational limit to what’s excusable conduct and you (and the other social punishers) have yet to provide one.

        • John H

          I agree completely with Josh, as he took the care to bound his critique to the particular case in question. Based on JT’s blog post, this was one of those situations where he should have simply shut up and listened.

          It is not universally unacceptable for members of dominant groups to criticize the actions of members of marginalized groups as some have been suggesting (for example, the extreme case suggested above of murder in response to a question should be decried, irrespective of one’s demographic categorization), but when even JT’s presumably-charitable-to-himself description of his conversation sounds imperious and condescending to my ears, I think he was likely wrong. Privilege-blindness is a play to a certain degree here, but it strikes me as something of a red herring in the meta-debate now occurring, as I think the case can and should be made simply that Crutchfield’s response to a racist question was appropriate, and JT’s response to the response was therefore tone-trolling.

      • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

        JT I know you can empathize with Bria’s level of frustration. And I think it is an admirable goal to try to help others communicate more effectively.

        I’m not sure how you would characterize your critique of Bria’s outburst other than: “It would have been better if you weren’t quite so angry.”

        I agree with most of your observations. But you might want to consider: If your objective is to help Bria Crutchfield communicate more effectively, you are failing. You might want take you own advise and try a different tack.

        (OK, I admit that is what you are probably trying to do since, you tried talking to her in person, on twitter and now on a blog post. But you have only changed the medium of the message not the content nor direction. You are one of the people that has shown me that when trying to get your point across, sometimes you have to very radically change the message.)

        • Azkyroth

          It sounds to me like something along the lines of “for the record, that’s a really inappropriate, offensive question with seriously racist undertones. I assume you weren’t bringing them into play intentionally, that you’re acting out of ignorance rather than malice, but you need to know that and think on it.” would have served quite reasonably. Absolutely no need to be apologetic or deferential, but I can’t imagine why five minutes of anything would have been needed. :/

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            I don’t know if the five minutes of her response was “needed” either. “Needed” is a stronger word than I would put on most commentary.

            But as I and JT pointed out she covered other topics and offered constructive suggestions.

            So I did (& do) appreciate Bria sharing her perspective and suggestions. The information was well worth weathering a little boat rocking, for me. As the the aphorism goes: “The well behaved rarely affect change.”

          • Azkyroth

            Okay, maybe so. To me, that sounds absolutely terrifying because I know it would be far more than I could process if I’d slipped up like that. But I wasn’t there, so I’ll defer.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Well, it was certainly the most terrifying event of the conference. But outside of this pastoral context I would not characterize it as remotely terrifying at all.

            If this was the worst bump of the conference, then it was civil and well mannered indeed!

          • Azkyroth

            But outside of this pastoral context I would not characterize it as remotely terrifying at all.

            I assume you’re allistic and don’t have PTSD-like symptoms from being actually bullied extensively, so probably not.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Your assumptions are correct on both accounts.
            Obviously, I can only comment on my own emotions and reactions.

        • JTEberhard

          “I’m not sure how you would characterize your critique of Bria’s outburst
          other than: “It would have been better if you weren’t quite so angry.””

          I would characterize it in “Your actions were inappropriate” for all the reasons I listed: usurping another person’s Q&A, needlessly humiliating a person who didn’t intentionally cause offense, etc. I have said repeatedly that I don’t mind anger – hell, I’m angry about a lot things. I think anger, like I said, is necessary and beneficial, but that it can also move us to do bad and counterproductive things. Anger isn’t the issue, and I’ve been clear about that. What we do with it is.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Then, perhaps, you should grasp more fully the concept of “when we are angry we often do not make the best choices.”

            You and I are agreeing on almost the entirety of this event. To me an explanation of “Bria was angry” is sufficient. It explains what happened without having to presuppose a malicious intent on anyone’s part. (As I don’t think that the “Black on Black crime” questioner had any malicious intent either.)

            The question of “Was Bria’s response disproportional to the perceived slight” is, as this sort of question often is, immaterial if the assumption is the response was triggered by anger. The definition of anger is largely “a disproportionate response”.

            And no, an explanation is not the same thing as an excuse. I am not arguing that this was the “best possible way to educate on these particular points”. I am only saying I can understand why it happened and on balance it was a positive moment.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Hmm, so in further consideration, is the point you are trying to make to Bria: “You need to work on focusing your anger more constructively.”

            In retrospect that looks to be the point you are trying to make. I think that is a task that all of us need to work on. It is certainly a personality trait that I could improve on. It is also a suggestion that I, often, respond negatively to. It is a point that is hard to make to even the people we know best in our lives.

          • Psychotic Atheist

            So if Bria had shot the questioner you would have been fine with that? Or is there some actions, driven by anger, that you would condemn or at least mildly criticize?

            Anger does not come close to the definition of ‘disproportionate response’. Nor does it entirely justify it, though it can make it understandable. Take domestic abuse as a prime example of anger and disproportionate responses.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Well, since Bria did not shoot the questioner nor domestically abuse her, I feel that this comment is mostly disingenuous.

            I never even stated that anger justified anything.

            The worst very characterization you can put on this is that Bria embarrassed the questioner. I have no standing anywhere to say whether this embarrassment was “justified” or if it was “proportional”. That was the point I was trying to make.

            And since this particular “action driven by anger” did not rise to my own rather extensively defined list of things that I would condemn (thank you very much) I will not.

            (Personally, I thought my writings already “mildly criticized” her. An action that I am feeling more pompous about as time goes on.)

          • Psychotic Atheist

            I was criticizing your characterisation of asking if Bria’s response was proportionate as ‘immaterial’. No it is not immaterial, as there are certainly some responses which cannot be justified by saying ‘but I was angry’. I fail to see how that is disingenuous.

            Unlike you, I don’t know how the questioner felt. If it was me, and depending on the content and level of anger, I’d cry, throw up, go catatonic and not go out in public unnecessarily for weeks at best while cursing incessant voices repeating and magnifying the words spoken by the angry person.

            Hmm, I suppose this is an example of Bria’s privilege over me.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            I see it as immaterial since “proportionate” can only be judged by the person having the emotion. We outside can only judge whether the response is worthy of condemnation or criticism.

            Azkyroth has pointed out to me that I am not quite specific enough in my verbiage. Obviously, I can only offer characterizations of how I would react to a specific situation.

            Well, it’s mostly an example of how we cannot map our responses onto others. Which goes for You, I, Bria and the original questioner.

          • Psychotic Atheist

            Again, if Bria had shot the questioner, I would have no difficulty in judging her response as disproportionate. Are you saying you couldn’t do so?

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            In your previous message you pointed out to me that my response to a situation can be radically different from yours.

            I’m saying that I don’t have to judge something as “disproportionate” to condemn it or criticize it. Is this not the point you are trying to make? At certain levels of response it doesn’t matter if the person thinks they are justified, or that in their mind the response is proportionate.

            Some responses are unacceptable, period.

            Too me it seems that many are willing to give the original questioner wide discretion on their level of response. But then they considerably narrow this window when it comes to Bria’s reaction. This I find curious.

          • Psychotic Atheist

            As long as we then agree that its disproportionality is not immaterial if the response was triggered by anger, I think we’re good.
            Some people will look upon raising one’s voice in certain contexts to berate someone as being inappropriate. And it certainly isn’t racist, mansplaining or otherwise worthy of censure to disagree with the appropriateness of a reaction and to state this.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            We can agree that many responses that are triggered by anger are unacceptable.

            Trying to measure “disproportionality” is pointless for the very simple observation most people believe their reaction is appropriate regardless how extreme it is.

            Trying to gauge another person’s state of mind by your own reaction to a given situation, as you have pointed out to me, is often very inaccurate.

            Yes, some people find all kinds of different things inappropriate or uncomfortable.

            What is obvious to me is that it is pointless tell someone that their anger, pain or embarrassment is wrong or disproportionate. Because these are things that we can only gauge for ourselves. Psychotic Atheist, your stated reactions to some situations sound completely disproportionate to me. But that is a completely useless observation because they are proportionate to you.

            It most certainly can be racist, mansplaining, or allistic to minimize a person’s reaction to a given situation.

          • Psychotic Atheist

            First, nobody is trying to measure disproportionality.

            Neither is anybody trying to guage another person’s state of mind.

            Actions are being judged, not feelings.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Actions are being judged, not feelings.

            OK, now we are on the same page!

          • Origami_Isopod

            You come by your handle honestly, I see.

          • Psychotic Atheist

            Yes, I’m psychotic.


          • cityzenjane

            So….consider this. Black people are surrounded by white people all the time. I find most are well aware that some of us are simply ignorant even well intentioned, some of us don’t care enough to acquaint ourselves in the most shallow way with issues which matter to people of color, some of us are quite treacherous … You do NOT need to explain to people of color that among white people there are well intentioned people with racist preconceptions… that is completely patronizing.


      • pennyroyal

        the trolls of the world think their anger and frustration is justified, too. I’m not saying, let’s be a cool as Dr. Spock. I agree that we need to learn to use anger constructively.
        See Harriet Lerner’s The Dance of Anger for ways to deal with our anger. Often it can be anger at ourselves for not being able to make things better. And once we are aware of that, we can deal with it better.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I had to look her up. She was apparently one of the women that sits and listens to Pat Robertson’s inanity on the 700 Club everyday? That’s enough to make you angry for the rest of your life.

    • pennyroyal

      “apparently” ??
      did anyone ask her what was behind her question?
      how many of us have asked a stupid or obtuse question in a Q+A? I certainly have. Why does everything have to be so hair-trigger??

      • Origami_Isopod

        Keep on stannin’ for the Nice White Lady.

  • Heina Dadabhoy

    I read “On the Bria Crutchfield outburst at the Great Lakes Atheist Convention.” and expected to see a piece about someone having an “outburst.” Instead, I read a piece about someone making a loaded, baiting, racist statement under the guise of a “question.” If memory serves me right with regards to the demographics of atheist cons, she made the statement into a room and general context that, I presume, was populated by a majority-white audience.

    Bria Crutchfield was responding to something horrendous, and people chose to walk away instead of listen and be educated?

    Also, how do you know that the woman in question was naive/ignorant? And, if so, isn’t the lack of initiative to be more aware of racial issues one of the biggest problems with the way in which white people approach them in the first place?

    • JTEberhard

      Her tone was one that suggested a “I want to know so I can get on board” attitude. I also know because I pulled her aside to speak to her as well.

      It wasn’t a loaded question. You are simply wrong. It was naive, nothing more, and obviously so.

      You also seem convinced that people chose to walk away out of an aversion to education and not because much of Bria’s tirade dissolved into tangents that made little sense and because she was making a scene. That’s not the case at all.

      • Heina Dadabhoy

        If you honestly think that including the phrase “black-on-black crime” doesn’t make a question loaded, then you needed to hear what Bria had to say more than you know.

        A simple web search using the engine of your choice would have yielded the fact that the phrase is an inherently loaded one.

        A cool visual: http://www.upworthy.com/5-black-crime-myths-which-ones-did-you-believe


        • Edward Gemmer

          From one of those links:

          ” Hence the countless inner-city anti-violence groups that focus on creating opportunity for young, disadvantaged African-Americans, through education, mentoring, and community programs. Blacks care intensely about the violence that happens in their communities. After all, they have to live with it.”
          Apparently, asking about what black people think about black on black crime is racist. Saying what black people think about black on black crime means you are an authority to show other people are racist.

        • Origami_Isopod

          What, you expect JT to have any cluefulness about oppressions he himself doesn’t experience?

      • Heina Dadabhoy

        Also, according to Mandisa, you weren’t there for the Q&A, so how do you know what the question-asker’s tone was like?

        • JTEberhard

          See above. I was in the lobby. Perhaps that put me out of earshot to sufficiently hear the tone and I misheard, but is Mandisa (or you) saying that it wasn’t the case?

          Video was taken, and I’m more than happy to let the video speak for itself once it’s released – especially having taken the time to talk to the woman who asked the question (which I suspect nobody else did).

          • Heina Dadabhoy

            You’re obviously free to act as you see fit, but not everyone is interested in giving so much credit to someone who uses Fox News phrasing in asking a question utterly irrelevant to the matter at hand.

          • baal

            Part of the problem is that as much as 40% of the population lives in the fox news phrasing bubble even if they are otherwise decent people. I’ve met a number who are not allowed (such as ‘submissive wives’ in conservative churches) to leave the bubble. It corrodes your ability to parse properly or to even have internalized enough ‘normal’ language to talk to people outside of the bubble.

            I think we need to reach out to those people instead of leaving them as quivering piles of tears (or equivalent). At the very least, they need to be asked additional questions to determine their culpability.

      • Andrew S. Williams

        Heina’s right on this one. It’s an extremely loaded question, and even if the woman’s question was naive, you don’t get to be the arbiter of whether Bria’s outrage was justified or not.

        It sounds like you’re completely ignorant of your privilege, and moreover, that you don’t care about what emotional background may have driven Bria to tears, that she should have held her tongue over racism because it was naive as opposed to malicious. I guess the questioner’s feelings are more important than Bria’s? Why?

        P.S. You talked to the woman afterward, and she said that her question was a result of ignorance rather than malicious racism? How odd! But that’s okay, I’m sure she’s telling the truth, because it’s not like people would ever lie or fudge their own motivations when confronted with something like that.

        • Jesse Cooper

          Hanlon’s Razor. Never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity or ignorance. The question was out of line. No one’s disputing that. What’s being disputed is Bria’s right to take the floor from Mandisa and humiliate the woman. If the racism was due to naivete, as Hanlon’s Razor leads us to assume, Bria had no right to do that. She could have corrected the woman without going to the lengths she went to.

          • Robert Haynes

            Hanlon’s corollary: sufficient stupidity is indistinguishable from Malice. It doesn’t matter what the women’s motivation was, we can never know for certain. Her actions (asking a racially loaded question) caused harm.

          • Edward Gemmer

            Who was harmed?

          • Lea Tapp

            Are you claiming that you have no idea how microaggressions from supposed allies and chilly climate cause harm? Or is it that you are unclear how racism harms people?

          • Edward Gemmer

            I know that the criminal justice system charges and imprisons people of color at a rate far exceeding white people. This legalized slavery has a huge impact on the ability for families of color to work and raise children. Thus, there has been a cycle of poverty that has been hard to escape, which helps explains why people of color also have much higher rates of poverty than white people. But asking questions? No, I don’t see how asking questions about this is harming people.

          • Andrew S. Williams

            Um, of course she had the right to respond to racism, even stupid racism, with anger. WTF?

            Moreover, Hanlon’s Razor is not actually a particularly good axiom. For one, it ignores the fact that most stupidity is a result of not caring enough to educate yourself, which is its own kind of passive-aggressive malice.

          • Origami_Isopod

            Intent: It’s fucking magic!

            Nah. No matter what the white woman’s intent was, she was still perpetuating racism.

        • Edward Gemmer

          Yet another endless parade of ignoring real issues that affect people so we can focus on what wording was used and whether some human response was correct or not.

          • Andrew S. Williams

            Phew, glad to see that ignorant racism isn’t a real issue. What a relief!

          • Edward Gemmer

            No, just people who ignore ignorant racism in favor of judging people based on nothing. Whatever makes you feel better dude. By all means, please continue with how questions at atheist conferences are destroying black people.

          • Karmakin

            Just to add on to that, the proper response is probably about how to rectify poor economic conditions for African-Americans, especially males. Sees like that was lost in all of this.

          • Origami_Isopod

            And of course you’re the judge of what “real issues” are.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      I agree with Heina here. I see your point that you don’t want an environment where people are afraid to ask questions because they might step in some minefield they didn’t know about, but you have to really stretch to assume that question was asked in good faith rather than intended as a gotcha.

      It’s still possible to handle these questions in a bad way that makes bystanders not familiar with the issue (such as JT, apparently) think you were flipping out over an innocent question. This is basically falling into a troll trap. I also get that we expect more of the speakers than the attendees and that’s perfectly reasonable.

      But you are a speaker, JT. You really should have taken more effort to understand where she was coming from before you wrote this. You are probably seeing this as the equivalent of someone asking “if humans came from moneys, why are there still monkeys?” but this question was far more loaded.

  • Eric Kanary

    Mine and JT’s circles must not overlap very much at all. The only place I see ignorance and missteps used to shame people is in LoL.

  • Besomyka

    People who ask racist off-topic questions should be publicly embarrassed on the spot so that no one else witnessing the event can get the wrong idea about whether or not the premises of the question are anywhere CLOSE to fair game.

    It’s bad enough that someone THOUGHT that question, but that they voiced it in a situation that demanded an answer from someone targeted by that racism a step beyond.

    Telling the offended person to take it down a notch is misguided, JT. Even if the person asking the question didn’t INTEND offense, there are people out there that would and you’re giving them the social cover needed to just ‘ask the question’.

    The question was out of bounds. Don’t make it worse.

    • baal

      “It’s bad enough that someone THOUGHT that question”
      Hrm. I’m in general support for hate crime legislation but thought policing is something I leave to the christian authoritarians.

      • Heina Dadabhoy

        The OP didn’t say to legislate anyone’s thoughts.

        • baal

          And I didn’t either.

          • Heina Dadabhoy

            You did suggest that saying that someone had a bad thought was “thought policing.”

          • baal

            Right, I did. I did not say it was legislation. “Thought policing” can be done with out legislating.

      • johnradke

        If that’s thought policing, then so is criticizing anyone for anything.

      • Azkyroth

        I’m torn. On the one hand, I want to point out that I read such sensible comments from you a week ago and this is just heartbreaking. On the other, I don’t recall responding well to this sort of pseudo-mentoring when I had this much to learn. On yet another hand, was I ever this deliberate about it?

        Why do I have so many hands lying around? O.o

        • baal

          I can square this circle for you (I think). I willingly identify as a sexual minority of relative class, race and education privilege who moved a lot (and was repeatedly discriminated against on that basis). I’ve decided that I’m a hedonist (seek pleasure) and a humanist philosophically. I’m also a systematist or structuralist (how things are set up tends to determine outcome – this is why you’ll see me rail against the racist us justice system for example).

          My politics are actually quite extreme and are very socialist. I think we need to radically restructure society so that wealth tends to distribute rather than pool. I’m more or less agnostic on the mechanism by which that’s accomplished.

          Aside from the leftist authoritarian assholes, incidents like the one in the OP tend not to get analyzed for the harms and duties of all the parties involved and then have folks argue over the best route forward for everyone. I call this the standard humanist model. It’s criticized for being ineffectual or at least ‘too nice to the racists.’ I disagree with this criticism as humanists rarely have any power to carry out their preferred outcomes and the harms from being too nice are really harms from systemic defects being used to tar the humanists (even as the humanist point out the very same harms).

          So, you hate all my replies that call for consideration of context and love the ones that point out the harms. For me, I’m using the same framework (semi-scientific bottom up! and non-ideological) for both.

          Just to get meta for a minute, I don’t feel like I need to be reserved in my condemnation of the leftist social authoritarians. They have decided that using abuse (intentional harm regardless or negligent of impact) is acceptable so long as you fit certain criteria and all other factors to decision making are out the window. I cannot ascribe to that view. I, in fact, hate that view and in my mind, the folks who hold that view are in the same boat as the nut-job right wingers who want to control everyone else’s sexuality and bodies.

      • Besomyka

        Oh, I didn’t think that having an opinion on something was the same thing as policing. Wait, are you thought policing me? This is all so confusing.

        I find the existence of the ‘black on black crime’ thought troubling because – if you read much of the politics surrounding the issues being questioned – that phrase is a far right, racist, dog whistle. It’s something Bill O or Pat Robison would say while JAQing off, and it’s a compelling sign that the person in question has internalised that part of societies ongoing racism.

        She may not even realise it, but the speaker could tell.

        It seems pretty clear that the speaker heard the same whistle, and I don’t think Atheist and Humanist conventions should be turned into Fox News opinion segments.

        • baal

          Think of all parties and analyize duties, harms and ranges of option = fox news?

          You all don’t engage in smear campaigns much do you?

          Do you think I’ll suddenly see the right side of things if you use extreme rhetoric against me? Really, this is the exact lack of proportion we hit the christians with time and time again.

  • gworroll

    I see a problem here:

    “I thought it was obvious that Bria was out of line, but apparently not. This convinced me that there may be a bigger overall problem with people thinking that any slight, even if it’s the result of ignorance rather than cruelty, can merit intentionally humiliating or yelling at someone. ”

    So, you get criticism for how you viewed this situation. This convinced you that they were wrong? Did you spend any time considering the possibility that you were wrong?

    • storm

      You didn’t do too well in reading comprehension did you?

  • Heina Dadabhoy

    I know I’ve already commented, but I feel that it’s important to include some information that JT left out of this post: according to Mandisa herself, JT was not present for the Q&A that sparked off this issue in the first place.

    • JTEberhard

      I was in the lobby listening.

    • JTEberhard

      Perhaps that put me out of earshot to hear the proper tone, but when the video is released we’ll get to see. :)

  • Rational_Feminist

    This all seems to be that you find her response disproportionate. Goody for you!

    While not at the conference…hard to believe that the original questions were neutral. That is just giving way too much credit where it is undeserved.

  • Andrew S. Williams

    The very fact that the question included the phrase “black on black crime” means it was unavoidably racist, particularly since I’m sure that’s not what the questioner was actually referring to. “Black on black crime” could refer to any sort of crime– it could as easily cover white-collar crime and fraud as physical assault or gun violence. I’m guessing the question may have been trying to address urban violence, so referring to it as “black on black crime”? Yes. Racist. “Black on black crime” is not a special subcategory all its own.

    Moreover, your “naive vs malicious” distinction ignores the idea of apathetic ignorance– ignorance which, while not necessarily malicious, comes about because the person doesn’t actually care enough to educate themselves. The VAST majority of human ignorance falls in this area. But it’s not Bria’s responsibility to calmly educate every ignorant racist in the world– it’s everyone’s responsibility to educate themselves.

    The woman who asked a dumb racist question in a public forum does not particularly deserve to be protected from a smackdown– but protecting her feelings is, judging by your post, more important to you than addressing the very real causes of Bria’s outrage.

    • storm

      Black on black crime is used to describe crime committed by blacks against other blacks. It may not be a specially defined category, but the phrase is used. How the fuck is that racist? Would you say the same about white on white crime?

      • Andrew S. Williams

        “Black on black crime” is a meaningless and pointless category– unless you’re trying to be racist. Same with white on white crime. Are you trying to address urban gang violence? White-collar crime? Gun violence? All of those are actual crimes and actual problems, and happen across all races. “Black on black crime” is a meaningless thing to have a discussion about, and is little more than a right-wing dog whistle (except it’s so blatantly racist it can’t really even be considered a dog whistle).

      • anneymarie

        I love how you act like “white-on-white crime” is a thing when it’s only used in the media to contrast the (racist) narrative of the SCARY DANGER of black-on-black crime (e.g. “White on White crime more prevalent than Black on Black,” “What about our serious white-on-white crime problem in Alabama”). Most people commit crimes against the people nearest to them, in their neighborhoods, at their jobs, at home, et cetera. In our racist country, that means people commit crimes against people of the same races as themselves. Unless they’re committing hate crimes, then it’s mostly anti-black.

      • Origami_Isopod

        Is your last name “Front,” by any chance?

  • Aaron Wilkerson

    I was not there. Bria is somebody I consider a friend. That said, I take the notion of friendship rather seriously and don’t consider those who would pat me on the back and allow me to be less than the best possible me a “friend”. A friend let’s you know when you can do better. I would expect Bria to do that for me, and I will do it for her.

    With that in mind, I feel JT does make a valid point, and I applaud him for that. Where I see JT making the biggest misstep is in giving the woman who asked that loaded question too much benefit of the doubt. I don’t feel we should assume she meant nothing by it, and Bria, as a bisexual, BLACK, atheist woman might just be more sensitive to the insensitivities, expected entitlements, and naivety of those belonging to more privileged groups.

    As a person of color, Bria has undoubtedly heard far too many people ask that particular question and fully understands the nuance it carries. The fact that it was of so little contextual pertinence makes it that much more suspect.

    That doesn’t justify her reaction. It does however, mean we can soften our condemnation.

    What I feel JT should do is emphasize that we, as individuals, are responsible for controlling our behavior REGARDLESS of the intentions of anybody else. I can assure you that by giving that woman the benefit of the doubt, JT opens up the question of his fully comprehending the issue, even if he does also acknowledge that the question was racist and loaded. Excusing the woman who asked it from intentionally, consciously comprehending that she’d done something wrong is just unnecessary. Bria’s could/should have handled it differently even if that woman fully intended to be a racist ass. And that’s what we who care about Bria as a person and desire to see her live to her full potential need to tell her.

    But, also, as her friends, we should be more in tune to her reality. Yes, she could have handled it differently. She should have. But would I have? I understand the desires and urges Bria was experiencing at that moment, and I cannot condemn her for being human. I can only hope she learns to react differently next time, so she can be a better human. Even if that woman had nefarious motivations. Because Bria is better than that.

    • JTEberhard

      Well put. Nowhere in my post do I go after Bria’s worth as a person, just at her response. I’m not interested in deriding Bria in public, but I don’t think criticizing somebody’s behavior, in the hopes of them getting better, is a slight at them.

      After all, plenty of people are doing the same for me right now. Whether or not I agree, I don’t take their critiques as affronts to me.

      Unless they’re flat out saying I’m a bad person who hates black people, minorities, doesn’t care about justice, etc. In which case, meh. :P

      • wfenza

        “I don’t think criticizing somebody’s behavior, in the hopes of them getting better, is a slight at them.”

        This may be why you’re getting some of the pushback you are. Criticism isn’t necessarily a slight, but offering unsolicited advice is not generally a kind or welcome thing to do. Offering advice, especially on a topic where privilege-blinders may be in operation, implies that you know better, and you ought to have some evidence to back that up if you’re going to make that statement.

        I think you had a right to offer your criticism, but that’s because Bria’s outburst was in public, at an atheist conference – something in which you have a personal stake. However, I don’t think you had a right to offer criticism “for her own good.” If you’re implying that you offered your unsolicited and unwanted advice to benefit her somehow (rather than to benefit the community), that’s where I get off the bus.

        • Fred

          Criticism: something you can only ask other people for. If it’s offered voluntarily, Fuck Em.

    • Heina Dadabhoy

      I wonder what makes you the final arbiter of what is a good reaction and what makes a “better human [sic].”

      • Jesse Cooper

        Nothing does. He’s stating his opinion and what he hopes will happen. Which, last time I checked, he’s entitled, and should be welcome, to do.

      • baal

        I’d be happier with the Bria defenders (which seems to have identical overlap with the folks giving JT shit) if you could spare a few sentences to talk about the context and each of the parties to the event rather than a one sided one person analysis. I’m not even saying (and haven’t!) that I would disagree with the final analysis but that it’s not enough to give the limited analysis I’ve seen from your side. What about the meeting organizers? the other presenters? the observing audience? the woman who made the original racist question? The after thoughts of Bria even?

        Where is the contextual analysis of harms and responsibilities (varies by role right?)?

  • pennyroyal

    I wasn’t there but publicly shaming someone in front of a whole group is not necessary. If we’re speaking in public, we need to be able to deal with unfortunate comments without outbursts. We’re rational people, that’s how we think of ourselves but we need to be able to recall ourselves and other to rational, civilized discourse.
    There is something called a ‘caring confrontation’ we can do where we may rebut what they say or ask the person to reconsider her comments in light of other thinking. The aim is to respect everyone’s right to speak and learn from others.

    • Origami_Isopod

      Some people don’t deserve respect or caring. That includes assholes who get up in public and make racist comments.

  • Danielle A. S. Barr

    It seems to me that we keep dividing ourselves (one of the points Bria was trying to make I believe). However we are all on the same freeking side. It isn’t gay vs straight and I have no opinion on the issues because I happen to be straight. It isn’t black vs white vs hispanic vs anything else. Everyone is so used to these lines that when we go to conferences offending questions are taken as they are in the outside world. But we should be better than that. We as a whole should be willing to give the benefit of the doubt. No, I didn’t agree with the question, but I also did not think she meant it as a slight to anyone. The only reasonable way to answer that question would be to ask her “What are you doing on white on white crime?” and she would have understood. As someone who studies how people communicate with each other I can also say Bria’s way of sharing how she felt was not the most effective, even if I did agree with the message of it. And it did cause more hurt as I believe I saw the questioner with a very puffy face later. We need to stop encouraging and creating new breaks between us. If we do they will only last longer and weaken us as a community.

    • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

      “We need to stop encouraging and creating new breaks between us.”

      This is a very easy thing to say, but as you can see, in practice a difficult thing to do.

      Who is supposed to back down from their anger? Which “side” is the one that gets the short stick?

      Bria was trying to educate people how to do that. But some are criticizing her for not doing it “gently” enough even when she was frustrated to the point of tears.

      Appealing to “right” and “wrong” doesn’t work since both “sides” think they are right.

      You either try to educate people to a point where there is a consensus, which is the “messy” process we are in now on a few different fronts. Or you try to convince one “side” to take one for the team (in this contingency I always vote for the side with the biggest comfort zone to get the short stick).

      So, if you have any “tricks” or “shortcuts” down either of these roads please let me know!

      • cityzenjane

        Having all the difficult discussions we are having over the last few years is not a sign of deterioration – but health, expansion and learning. It is not always pretty – it is usually painful – but dealing with this well..getting ourselves through it together BY LISTENING —- is the ONLY way to a much larger movement not dominated by the usual small cadre of popularizers and youtube sensations.

        These discussions are inevitable and suppressing the feelings and expressions which are also inevitable…will kill any chance of being a real movement.

      • Danielle A. S. Barr

        “Appealing to “right” and “wrong” doesn’t work since both “sides” think they are right.”

        That is because both sides are right. Bria was completely right to say something, the way that she did it was not the most effective way. That doesn’t make her wrong or her opinion invalid.

        “You either try to educate people to a point where there is a consensus,
        which is the “messy” process we are in now on a few different fronts.” There was not an argument. Someone asked a stupid question. It should have been treated as a stupid question.

        “So, if you have any “tricks” or “shortcuts” down either of these roads please let me know!” How about we stop acknowledging terms like “black on black crime” as being a term that even make sense. Politicians throw it out every couple years. I heard it in the last presidential election. Language that breaks people into groups weakens our stance because now someone has tried to break an already small group into smaller sub groups.

        ” Or you try to convince one “side” to take one for the team” Where exactly did I do this? I didn’t. I said specifically there were more effective ways for Bria to make her point. I stand by this. I didnt say the point shouldnt have been made, or that she should have done nothing.

        • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

          “Or you try to convince one “side” to take one for the team”
          Where exactly did I do this?

          You did not do this and I did not mean to infer that you did. I was just trying to point out that there are only two ways to “stop encouraging and creating new breaks”.

          I said specifically there were more effective ways for Bria to make her point.

          Well, to get pedantic, there are always more effective ways. Within the context of where we were I don’t think her expression merits any sort of censure. I feel that her level of “intensity” did not rise to that of a “Hitch Slap”.

          • Danielle A. S. Barr

            The only way imo to “stop encouraging and creating new breaks” is to stop acknowledging them as valid. Skin color does not matter, that is what the person who asked the question needed to be reminded of.

            “I don’t think her expression merits any sort of censure. I feel that her
            level of “intensity” did not rise to that of a “Hitch Slap” She interrupted another speaker’s. Not even the speaker that had been questioned. And from what I observed she made the individual who made a mistake feel attacked enough to cry which pushed someone away from her (Bria) as an individual and could have gotten the woman to not listen to her point. If Bria’s point didn’t get through than the entire message she was trying to send could have been lost.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            She interrupted another speaker’s

            Not exactly true. She offered an answer to a question that was asked during Darrell Smith’s Q&A. I would not categorize this as an interruption.

            And from what I observed she made the individual who made a mistake feel attacked enough to cry…

            This may be true, I did not notice. But even if true, this is not, in and of itself, enough to classify Bria’s answer as unacceptable. Making people cry is certainly not something we should shoot for when trying to educate them, but it can happen with even gentler stimulus.

          • Danielle A. S. Barr

            “enough to classify Bria’s answer as unacceptable.” I did not say it was unacceptable. I said she could be more effective. I decide the same thing about my own communication, even when what I had done was correct. Personally I am sick to death of the us vs them mentality a lot of people have. As I said above we are all on the same side, that gets forgotten a lot.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Well, in the atheist movement we are all on the same side of one issue. Some members have this as their only or highest priority. Others do not.

            It is not surprising that there is friction between people that hold differing views on things beside atheism.

            It is sad the level pettiness or hatred that some go to when expressing their disagreement.

          • Danielle A. S. Barr

            We have tons of differences, the religious (Christians) do not. We need to stop giving credence to the differences that are infantile. I said she could have done things “better” because I really hope that if someone thought that about a message I had they would say something. I understand her responding the way she did, I certainly don’t blame her for it. And honestly I can’t say I would have reacted any differently if I had been in her position.

            I don’t think J.T. was feeling hatred and we cant really censure a blogger for blogging. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he is trying to help.

        • Origami_Isopod

          Both sides ARE NOT right.

          And, honestly, I welcome a divide between myself and atheists/skeptics who are fucking clueless about racism and white privilege, just as much as I welcome a divide between myself and atheists/skeptics who are fucking clueless about sexism/misogyny and male privilege.

          • Danielle A. S. Barr

            Which sides exactly are you speaking about? J.T. makes a valid point. Not to mention he is a blogger, this is what he does. No one should be surprised a BLOGGER BLOGGED. Where exactly did I say the woman’s question was valid, oh wait, I didn’t.

            “And, honestly, I welcome a divide between myself and atheists/skeptics
            who are fucking clueless about racism and white privilege, just as much
            as I welcome a divide between myself and atheists/skeptics who are
            fucking clueless about sexism/misogyny and male privilege.” Oh great because our movement definitely isn’t about educating people and trying to help them be better.

    • Origami_Isopod

      It’s not your place as a white woman to tell a black woman how to respond to racism.

      • Danielle A. S. Barr

        First of all I don’t think the person asking the question was being purposely racist. Second of all, I didn’t tell her how to respond. She would have gotten her point across better doing it differently. Lastly the whole idea that anyone has a “place” is insulting and backwards and you just helped it forwards, good job.

        • rmjohnston

          First of all, the question was blatantly racist bullshit based on well debunked nonsense and anyone who had made the slightest effort to educate herself before asking the question would not have asked it even if it had been on topic, which it wasn’t. That it was so clearly off-topic marks it as presumably deliberately racist; there was just no other reason to ask the question other than to be a racist piece of shit.

          Furthermore, no one told you what your place is; you were merely told what your place isn’t, and it is certainly not your place to tell a black woman how to respond to clearly racist bullshit being flung her way. You are not entitled to lecture others from a position of ignorance.

          • Danielle A. S. Barr

            It was ignorant, and she should have been called on it. But the question she asked is one that is on the news being asked every single time there is an election. I don’t know why she asked it but it is directly Representative of language that is thrown around publicly all the time.

            Why not? I didn’t say she should have done anything. I didn’t say her message was wrong. I said her message could have been more effective. She could have helped someone understand why what they said was wrong and gained help for her position. You are adding credence to the argument that black people are different from white people.

  • Sean Sherman

    I’m with you on the nuance of punishments fitting crimes. I understand that there’s a difference between ignorance and malice. Like you, I’m interested in promoting good feelings and fellowship in our community though I’m not as outgoing. Where we disagree is that you assign a lot of intent to Bria that I don’t think was there. Someone else hinted at this already that the outburst was not intentional and ended in an emotional meltdown.

    The problem is that this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it’s part of a pattern of mistreatment. It’s less like toe-stepping and more like someone slapping someone 19 times, and the 20th time the person decks them. The final slap in this case, the meme that black people are inherently violent/criminal (what the lady’s question logically reduces to), was a particularly hard one(I can hardly think of more harmful memes) even though I admit the lady seemed totally clueless and unself-aware about that.

    I agree that the solution to ignorance is education, though I have a hard time seeing how the responsibility for that lies with the small percentage of black atheists. I blame myself for not going up to the lady and at least trying to educate her even though I am super-introverted it is necessary for us to stop the 19 slights and slaps that lead to these blowups. I know for example if I asked a slut-shaming question to Rachel I would have been educated by others on the spot. Collectively, us white atheists failed the question lady (and our black atheist friends) by leaving her ignorant and not immediately dealing with it. Currently our community generally gets an ‘F’ at this in my book.

    I consider Bria one of my very best friends in the MI atheist community. She’s known as one of the most friendly, warm, and understanding people in the state, so I regret others might not have seen as much of that in this moment.

    • Beth Clarkson

      It’s less like toe-stepping and more like someone slapping someone 19 times, and the 20th time the person decks them.

      Sounds more like decking the 20th person who stepped on your toes. Given that this occurred in the Q&A portion of a conference session, it seems inappropriate to me for another member of the audience to step up to the mike and deliver a diatribe against the questioner. If you can’t ask ignorant questions in that scenario, when is it appropriate?

  • vermontster

    Well JT, you’ve lost yourself a reader. Manplaining to minorities how they should handle things that affect them is not helpful. As a fellow sufferer of mental illness I thought you would get this. She undoubtedly has a lot more experience hearing the racist dog-whistles and coded speech than you do, so your tone policing is way out of line. I’m frankly baffled at your insistence on “civil discourse” based on your fiery tone towards theists, creationists, ect.

  • Kengi

    Seriously JT?

    You don’t blog about racism, and that’s OK, I guess. If racism isn’t an important issue to you, then it certainly wouldn’t be a common topic for you

    But, in this nation where racism is not only still alive and well, but making a resurgence, what gets your ire up enough to post about racism? Yeah, a black woman who was just too mean to someone spouting a common racist dog whistle.

    Yeah, that’s worthy of a good rant.

    Kind of reminds me of how you don’t post about the rampant misogyny in our nation and, indeed, subgroup. Unless, of course, a feminist is just a little too mean to a misogynist.

    Are you honestly surprised that Crutchfield became curt with you, offering any response to get you to go away after you continued to badger her? Personally I would have said “Fuck off you racist asshole!” at a much earlier point in your badgering.

    Is this how you want to be known for your position on racism? That it’s OK for someone to spout racist dog whistles since they are one your potential allies, but FSM forbid if a black woman is mean to someone propagating racist views!

    If you actually had a significant body of work fighting racism (and supporting feminism, for that matter,) perhaps you would have the slightest bit of credibility on these issues. Instead, I’ll just assume you aren’t racist because you even let some of “them” use your bathroom.

  • Justin Griffith

    I’m scratching my head at this one too. I really like Jen McCreight, and her writing has had a direct affect on me. I saw her post before this one.

    She openly said this:

    >>” I started to read feminist blogs and I disagreed with a lot, if not most, of what they were saying. It was incredibly tempting to spew forth my uneducated opinion, and that desire did not come from wanting someone to calmly explain it to me – it came from thinking I was right and they were wrong. I’m sure I did that occasionally because no one is perfect, but you know what I ultimately decided to do? I shut up and listened. I read more and more and attempted to educate myself before partaking in any discussions. And now after a lot of time and work and thought, I understand.”<<

    She's saying that she used to feel like you do now, or worse. Except you're a piece of shit right now. She can easily reference a very recent moment in time where she didn't 'understand', but because you're like that, you're a piece of shit. This lack of a learning curve or sympathy for newcomers is beyond offputting. It's hypocritical.

    I know what you were getting at with this post. It's clear that you personally wouldn't have asked that way, and you understand how it could come off.

    FYI – you're wasting your time on them. You're a reply away from being marked as the next WotW. You're an apostate. No worries. These are people who don't really believe the shit that they say. All of your so-called 'friends' publicly shitting all over you are also still hanging around and linking to the known / admitted issuer of violent threats and PTSD triggers.

    "It's okay when they do it…"

    Don't feel too bad. I thought they were my friends and allies too. Let me know if you want to talk.

    • Kengi

      Why don’t you just go back to giggling with your buddies about kicking women in the crotch.

      • Justin Griffith

        Because I never did that.

        Why don’t you go back to giggling with your buddy that sent violent threats, PTSD triggers, to an active duty soldier?

        • Kengi

          Edit: Removed because I felt bad about sinking as low as Justin Griffith.

          • Justin Griffith

            Edit: what? (psst: our edits/removals are showing).

  • anneymarie

    I’d really like to know why you’re so sure that the questioner was totally naive and willing to learn and yet also totally convinced that Ms. Crutchfield was trying to berate and embarrass said questioner. Why assume pure motives for one and not the other?

    How would you react if you were at a conference and someone in the audience asked you specifically an “innocent” question about how YOU were fixing the “fact” that all of us depressed people are just losers who need to get over it and the only response you got after was another atheist at the conference with no diagnosis telling you weren’t allowed to express any emotion about it and you should just recite facts at the person because they just wanted to learn? Would you really believe that person’s question was honest or feel welcomed by that other atheist?

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    If Mandisa Thomas didn’t want other panelists jumping in during QA, wouldn’t it have been better to let her handle this? Why speak up on her behalf? She’s perfectly capable of handling herself.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    I’ve gone over this a few times and I think my main problem, JT, is that you seems to be trying to have this two ways. If the problem that she interrupted someone else’s Q & A, Kanye-West style, or that you think she treated the questioner badly? You seem to be doing both, then when people say that her treatment of the question was reasonable, you fall back on the idea that your problem is just that it was bad form to interrupt someone else’s Q & A. If you look at what you wrote though, most of it would apply just as much if Mandisa had said it. You seem to be trying to back into something more defensible, but if you really want to defend what you said, you have to own it first.

    • Psychotic Atheist

      Are you saying those problems are mutually exclusive, or that it is only possible to have one problem with something?

      • Ace_of_Sevens

        They aren’t mutually exclusive, but they are different and JT is conflating them. JT has repeatedly summarized his argument as “Usurping another speaker’s Q&A to verbally berate someone is bad form,” and complaining that people are reacting by saying “JT, why are you trying to silence minorities?” (quoted from JT’s Facebook), but he was definitely saying a lot more than that.

        He said things such as “However, the implication here is that I took exception to a question being answered, and not to the berating of a person who didn’t know better and doing her best to intentionally cause emotional pain in the process. That we are hurt does not always justify us hurting others.” That isn’t a complaint that she hijacked someone’s Q & A, that’s a complaint about how she deals with perceived racism. That is what people are referring to when they object.

        Taking the most innocuous part of what you said and using it to argue that your whole statement was inoffensive and people are freaking out about nothing is intellectually dishonest. It’s like when a religious right figure says that Christianity teaches that we should love one another and they can’t see why anyone would object to that. JT knows this is wrong when other people do it, so why is he doing it?

        • Psychotic Atheist

          I simply do not see any ‘conflation’ of the two problems, and though you just had the opportunity to demonstrate it, I’m afraid you failed.

          I don’t have much difficulty telling with JT is talking about taking issue with the context and when its the content he’s referencing. I don’t find taking issue with both those things, and expressing them separately worthy of rebuke.

          • Ace_of_Sevens

            You may not have any problem telling he difference, but JT apparently does. He said

            “Usurping another speaker’s Q&A to verbally berate someone is bad form”.
            “JT, why are you trying to silence minorities?”

            *head desk*

            People who said this were clearly not responding to that part of his article and it’s disingenuous to pretend they were.

          • Psychotic Atheist

            You are still not being sufficiently clear. How is saying ‘Usurping another speaker’s Q&A to verbally berate someone is bad form’ (where was this, on his facebook? I haven’t seen any such quotes, but I don’t use the medium much) evidence that he is having difficulty discriminating between the problems he has with the situation?

  • Steve Willy
    • Roger Peritone

      At least, unlike xians, atheists are trying to fight that kind of shit.

      It’s obvious from at least here, that racism is something atheists don’t generally go for, unlike your portrayal of them:

      How’s about you have a gander at some xian compatriots of yours and see if you still fell like playing holier-than-thou?

      Ex 1): http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/2013/07/17/league-of-the-south-divorces-gop/

      Ex 2): From the writer of “The Irrational Atheist”

      For that matter, how many atheist conferences has that happened in? Can you cite more than one, Sherlock? You should if after all, “this is the kind of crap we should expect to see at an atheist’s conference”!

      • Steve Willy

        Wow, Roger, you have really opened my eyes. You make some powerful points, except … let’s put the Hitchens-Dawkins Kool-Aid down for a while and look at reality: Kalaam Cosmological Argument, the Argument from Reason, Fine Tuning of Universal Constants, irreducible biological complexity, the argument from morality…. Your entire world view lies shattered at your feet. If you truly honor the gods of reason and critical thinking half as much as you claim, you would plant your face firmly into your hand, step away from the device, find a quiet place, and rethink your life.
        Indeed, why are you even bothering to comment at all? No atheistic position can be taken seriously until two threshold questions can coherently be answered. 1. Why is the atheist even engaging in the debate. On atheism, there is no objective basis for even ascertaining truth; there is no immaterial aspect to consciousness and all mental states are material. Therefore, everyone who ever lived and ever will live could be wrong about a thing. By what standard would that ever be ascertained on atheism? Also if atheism is true, there is no objective meaning to existence and no objective standard by which the ‘rational’ world view of atheism is more desirable, morally or otherwise, to the ‘irrational’ beliefs of religion. Ridding the world of the scourge of religion, so that humanity can ‘progress’ or outgrow it, is not a legitimate response to this because on atheism, there is no reason to expect humanity to progress or grow. We are a historical accident that should fully expect to be destroyed by the next asteriod, pandemic, or fascist atheist with a nuke. In short, if atheism is correct, there is no benefit, either on an individual or societal level, to knowing this or to spreading such ‘knowledge.’
        2. Related to this, why is the atheist debater even alive to participate. If there is no heaven, no hell, no afterlife at all, only an incredibly window of blind pitiless indifference, then the agony of struggling to exist, seeing loved ones die, and then dying yourself can never be outweighed by any benefit to existing. As rude as it way sound (and I AM NOT advocating suicide) the atheist should have a coherent explanation for why they chose to continue existing. Failure to adequately address these threshold questions should result in summary rejection of the neckbeard’s position.

        In the end, we all know you can’t answer these questions because yours is a petty, trivial, localized, earth bound philosophy, unworthy of the universe.

        Finally, is there a basement dwelling troll left in the multiverse who doesn’t drag themselves out of the primordial ooze and logged onto this site in order to announce our collective atheism towards Thor, that gardens can be beautiful without fairies (a powerful rebuttal to fairy apologetics, by the way, but it leaves a lot unanswered about the Gardener), and that we cling to Bronze Age skymen due to our fear of the dark? Let me translate that to neckbeard: you are unoriginal, you are wrong, and you are an ass.

        • Roger Peritone

          Do a simple google search for those terms…all that crap’s been shot down already.

          As has all the brainless twaddle of “On atheism, there is no objective basis for even ascertaining truth; “? Try mathematics. Where do you people get the idea that you need some imaginary being to tell you what “truth” is? Especially given the instances in the bible where god told people to lie? Ex) he told the “prophet” Samuel to lie to Saul about why he was going to Davids’ family.

          I comment for the same reason that people oppose religion everywhere, that I know of anyway…the harm it does. To education, to people’s civil rights and to future generations (particularly when you clowns believe that there’s no need to take care of the planet since “the rapture” is coming)

          Before you accuse me of being “unoriginal” try coming up with some stuff that hasn’t been refuted a thousand times on sites like this one.

    • Azkyroth

      Not this shit again.

  • http://narcissisticclaptrap.blogspot.com/ narcissistic.claptrap

    I’m probably repeating something that has already been said, but this was a classic “shut up and listen” moment. Please, please, take some time to educate yourself about a) why anger and contempt are completely justified reactions for a woman of color to a racist question in a public forum and b) why it is utterly insulting to Crutchfield for you to have lectured her on what sort of reaction she was supposed to have, and what tone of voice she should have used. Your behavior was a universe away from that of an “ally”. This whole post demonstrates how thoroughly you do not get it.

  • 1nomo

    Thanks JT for being a part of our event. Thanks for your kind words. Hope we cross paths again. Excuse me for dragging you into my back yard for our last supper of swill for the weekend. I had to daydream this there. Please excuse me for quoting Ken Ham but to all the people who have commented on your blog I have to ask, “were you there”. I hugged and kissed Bria after the event and she and I will talk. She overreacted. If she and I can’t reach common ground mentally she should when we cross paths again act like she doesn’t know me and I will return the favor. I’ll now seek out and hug and kiss the perpetrator of the question, She is a good woman with a good heart who asked a naïve question and I ask so what? We all make mistakes, we have to realize we are all related and we all have to move forward together. I regularly overlook intelligent people who ask stupid questions all the time. I am used to educated people telling me I am ignorant and I excuse their confusion. I’m an uncultured rube but I ask why no one questions the fact 5 million people starve and die in Africa every year. Someone tell me why 15 million people die of starvation and a lack of clean drinking water every single year on this planet. I am concerned about rich on poor crime.

    • Origami_Isopod

      Christ, you’re a condescending asshole.

  • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

    Thank goodness a white man was there to explain to the black woman how things should be done.

  • Ronja Addams-Moring

    JT, you maybe could be convincing if you had not left your post chock-full of dead giveaways, like “intentionally/intended/intent”, “as if anybody was suggesting”, “I honestly don’t see how anybody could possibly”, “in the hopes of helping her to see her blind spot”, “a wonderful person and a fantastic hugger”, “outburst”, “distasteful behavior”, “were wrong to do so”, “out of line”, “[statement A], but [statement B that negates statement A]“, “merely “, “surely”, “even remotely”, “I like to think I have that down myself”, “I never”, “I”, “I”, “I”, “my”, “my”, “my”, “me”, “me”, “me”, etc. etc.

    If you do not want to be taken for a self-centered, judgmental, condescending closet racist+sexist, don’t write like one, OK?

    • Origami_Isopod

      Remember, it’s all about JT!!

  • ahermit

    I can draw the difference between those who are good people, but
    ignorant, and those who are assholes. I can also realize that if I
    yelled at and publicly humiliated each of them, I’d drive good people
    away from my cause while hamstringing my ability to create another eager
    voice for it (all while believing they were at fault for insulting me
    to start out with!). But pulling them aside and educating them?
    Perhaps telling them my own story so they can understand?
    That’s doing right by other human beings, it’s placing value on good
    intent and rewarding it with information, and it’s fulfilling my stated
    goal: changing minds.

    Well that’s a noble sentiment, and for the most part I prefer a softer approach. But I also know from personal experience that sometimes it takes a little humiliation for the understanding and mind-changing to really take hold. Pissed me off at the time when it’s happened to me, but in retrospect a little rhetorical smack in the head was good for me. Sometimes it was others getting the smack and that was valuable too, whether it helped them or not it woke me up. I hope there’s a little less sexism/racism/other-ism in me as a result and that’s a good thing.

    And it was never my intent to be racist/sexist/other-ist. I was oblivious, not malicious. I’m not sure that made me less deserving of the smackdown.

  • http://natehevens.wordpress.com/ Nathan Hevenstone

    God-fucking-damnit, JT.


    Dude… you really need to step back and do some fucking learning… about a whole ton of stuff. This is 101-level bullshit, JT. 101-level. We’re supposed to already know this stuff.

    • baal

      I’m still waiting for someone to provide a method for knowing what’s the limit on acceptable expressions of anger or if there is no limit. If it’s the later, I’m hoping to attend something where one of you no limits types is presenting so I can go totally nuts and have you defend my righteous anger that disrupts your event.

      • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle
        • baal

          First off, you’re still not helping me find the metaphorical limit of what’s acceptable. You are now like person #10 who asserts that any and all actions done is anger are not subject to review for harms analysis.

          As you say, “… as this sort of question often is, immaterial if …”.

          I fully and emphatically disagree. If you want to claim a moral high road or even just be ethical, you need to consider how your actions impact your targets and bystanders (and yourself for that matter).

          My contention is that it’s offensive and immoral for folks like Nathan Hevenstone (though he is far from alone) to drop the shit bucket on JT for his role in the event he’s blogged about absent an analysis of the harms and duties to all parties. The only theory I’m seeing out of you all is that 1) all actions in anger are acceptable and 2) it is a moral duty to give JT and others piles of shit for not agreeing fulsomely with 1).

          I argue explicitly that the rules of public conduct have to have the same floor for everyone or you’re lowering the standard to nil for everyone. I don’t want to have to experience one person after another having angry outbursts at all places in my public life. I also strongly suspect that if that’s that acceptable social rule, those with the largest population representation or loudest voices win at the end of the day by means of their shear ability to stand tall and hurl shit. That is a nightmare future and nothing you’ve said tells me you care about it.

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            Where in that response tree did I posit anything close to:

            “who asserts that any and all actions done is anger are not subject to review for harms analysis.”

            Several messages down in that thread I say:

            “Some responses are unacceptable, period.”

            I emphatically agree that “that the rules of public conduct have to have the same floor for everyone”.

            It is my contention, at the end of that referenced thread, that this is what JT specifically did not do.

          • baal

            “Some responses are unacceptable, period.”
            Excellent! Which ones?

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            That would be a quite extensive list.

            Are you, perhaps, looking for a specific answer to a specific situation?

          • baal

            I’m looking for rules of general applicability or what elements change the generally applicable rules to specific circumstances.

            I saw (and probably cannot find) one person suggest arson would be acceptable and a few imply physical violence is ok if you’re angry enough (but so long as it’s not so bad as the beaten person doesn’t die within the next 3 days). I think I saw you take the most limited view. Your view included some words (maybe word-actions like incitement to violence or legally actionable words) were out of bounds but you were alone in that.

            hrm, since you’ll still want to make it all about Bria I’ll provide the same question from the other end of it. I don’t have first hand facts so I’ll claim to base them on what i’ve read in this page (including comments).
            Bria raised her voice (had strong anger?) and chewed out someone who used words that are known racist dog whistles. The apparent racist had strong emotional response which included either crying or at least a puffy face consistent with crying. We have at least 2 witnesses from the stage who thought Bria was within social norms. We don’t have anyone speaking to audience reaction (though you represent that you were there, I don’t know if you took a moment to scan the crowd or the folks near the appearent racist). You have clearly said you found Bria’s words/actions accepable. We don’t have the view of the organisers. Given that fact set, what additional action, words or behaviour from Bria would have tilted this case into JT was right to talk with Bria after the fact? (note, i’m leaving off Tweets and blogs, that’s a different question)

          • http://schlosnagle.com Steve Schlosnagle

            I’m looking for rules of general applicability or what elements change the generally applicable rules to specific circumstances.

            This does not especially make the list any less extensive.

            As a gross generalization and over simplification I would say that: “Of the responses that rise to a level that I would find unacceptable, there are very few elements, outside the given action, that would change the applicability of the salient rule.”

            I’m not sure if this is at all useful. But given the generality of question that is the most specific answer I am comfortable giving.

          • http://natehevens.wordpress.com/ Nathan Hevenstone

            You’re… joking, right?

            This isn’t hard.

            The reason I “dropped the shit bucket” (and you can drop the tone-trolling, thanks) on JT is because, as I said, this is 101-level shit. If you’re going to be a fucking ally of minorities, then don’t fucking tone-troll them. That’s a clear avenue to not helping. You are being a bad ally.

            And for the record, that asker’s question was racist as hell, and Bria had every right to be pissed off. And guess what?

            Mandisa, the woman who gave the speech, supports Bria; she does not agree with JT.

            JT would do well to remember that intent is not magic. Sure, maybe the asker’s intention was, indeed, completely harmless, and she asked out of a genuine sense of curiosity. That does not change the harmful, racist nature of the question. Bria’s anger was justified. JT is just. Plain. Wrong.

          • baal

            And I’m still not even talking about Bria. You all are so busy assuming your conclusions that you can’t even be clear as to defining where the limit is on behaviour or to even accept the idea that you can still choose from a range of responses when you are angry.

      • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

        What limit?

        It’s a scale, dumbass. The more asininely stupid your bigotry is, the more anger is justified in responding to you. Meaning, yes, there will become a point in which setting the goddamn country on fire could be not only an acceptable, but fairly moderate response.

  • smhll

    I have a simplified way to explain the reactions that look to a not-marginalized-in-the-same-way person as overreactions.

    The person with the strong reaction is essentially saying “I can’t hear certain comments without hearing the sneering hatred that has accompanied those words on many occasions when I’ve heard those words before.”

    (People who are not the target of the same hostile aggressions and micro-aggressions CAN hear the words with out the baggage or the grief because of not being targeted.)

    • anneymarie

      It’s like seeing someone get their foot get stepped on and lecturing them on reacting more calmly because your foot feels just fine.

  • ischemgeek

    Her question was the racism equivalent of “Why can’t we just teach both sides and let the kids decide which they agree with?” regarding creationism in the classroom, and every bit as charged, JT. You would fly off the handle at someone asking that question, no matter how politely they phrased it, because you recognize it as a creationist ploy and attempt to wrongly paint those who want religion out of the science classroom as unreasonable zealots. Is it so hard to imagine that Bria flew off the handle because this question is a racist ploy to attempt to paint black people as violent thugs who don’t care about the law?

    And for the record, as a fellow white person, I have never seen anyone employ that particular question if they didn’t have a racist axe to grind. That you aren’t aware that the question is a racist dogwhistle doesn’t mean it isn’t one, and your ignorance does not mean that Bria’s anger wasn’t justified.

  • Teleen

    White person here. I feel like this entire post could be entitled “Derailing For Dummies BINGO” or alternatively, the one my friend suggested, “Not Getting It: A Clue, I Have None.”

    It’s ironic that in calling out Bria for her justifiably angry reaction to a bigoted, ignorant question, you’ve shown yourself to be far more ignorantly racist than the person who asked the original question could ever hope to be.

    Rule number one: White people telling persons of color that they should handle racism differently is a form of silencing. PoC have been silenced by white people for centuries, often with violence, and it is NOT okay for you to tell someone how they should have handled a hurtful, racist situation, especially not with you being white and them being black. Historical context, please get some.

    Rule number two: Policing someone’s tone and saying that they’re “damaging their cause” is gross on pretty much every level. As a bisexual woman, I don’t want allies who tell me I should be nicer as a feminist or LGBT activist. I don’t speak for all bisexual women, but I have a right to say if I feel that someone is a good ally for me personally. To me, a good ally listens when a marginalized person is speaking and doesn’t try to police their reaction to ANY given situation (so long as said reaction is non-violent, which this one was). The entire tone of your post seems to be that Bria should have expressed her very justifiable anger in another way. Who gave you the right to make that judgment? If you have privilege, you do not have the right to “call out” a member of an oppressed group when they behave in a way of which you do not approve while responding to something that is objectively offensive. It’s infantilizing to the person in question and disrespects their basic humanity.

    Rule number three: A marginalized person has zero obligation to be nice to someone who’s being a racist (or other bigot), whether the intent to be racist/bigoted was there or not. Intent is not magical.

    Rule number four: Nowhere in your post did you mention if the person who asked the ignorant question apologized for being ignorantly racist. However, to be honest, an apology or lack of one really isn’t relevant here. When someone hurts another person, the wronged party is under no obligation to forgive them.

    Rule number five: It is not the job of marginalized people to educate others, especially not to kowtow to so-called “allies.” Just as I don’t speak for all bisexuals or all women, Bria doesn’t speak for all black people, nor is it her responsibility to play nice with someone who hasn’t bothered to educate themselves on why a truly ignorant, racist question should not be asked, especially since again, Bria is not the elected leader of all black people everywhere.

    And that’s where you really crapped the bed in this situation. You had no right to to “call Bria out” for her reaction. Not to mention that by doing so, you’ve made it clear that you side with the woman who asked the racist question. You’ve made it clear that, in your mind, her right to ask said ignorant question supersedes Bria’s right to react to it (except in ways that you deem “appropriate,” that is).

    You don’t have the right to tell someone they were out of line when a question that basically puts it on a member of a marginalized group to solve the problems of their community is asked. Not every marginalized person is an activist, nor should they be *expected* to be. Bria is a human being who had a human reaction to being hurt. You’ve acknowledged the hurt, but dismissed the reaction to that hurt because you didn’t feel it was “appropriate.”

    Furthermore, you didn’t listen to Bria. Your reaction to the statements she made in your conversation says that you heard but didn’t bother to really listen to what she had to say regarding changing that woman’s mind. Again, it’s not on her to “win someone to the cause.” A true ally will be one regardless. A true ally listens when a member of a marginalized group speaks out about the bad behavior of the member of a privileged group.

    A true ally listens, full stop.

    The woman in question hurt Bria with her ignorance and deserved to be shamed for that ignorance. Personally, I applaud Bria for standing up and saying her piece. It takes courage to speak out when someone is ignorant and hurts one with their ignorance, especially when said ignorant person get backup with misguided posts like this one.

    As someone else said, you seem far more concerned with Bria’s reaction rather than what caused that reaction in the first place. You have shown no real regard for Bria’s feelings. Yes, you admit she was wronged, but still have the gall to say that she should have channeled her anger at that wrong differently. You’re as bad (if not worse) than the person who asked the racist question in the first place. Your high-handed comment about being “wise in our anger” is just that – high handed and filled with privilege. Worse still, you actually seem to feel that the ignorant racist is the one who was wronged here, something that is as mind-boggling as it is disgusting.

    That woman asked a question that was incredibly demeaning, but because she didn’t mean for it to be (and I would love to know how you know exactly what she was thinking when she came to ask it), she should be given a pass and shouldn’t have been shamed in front of a room full of people. She’s the one who didn’t care enough to educate herself and hurt someone as a result. If she’d been driving without having actually learned to drive and run someone over, would you be angry at the person she ran over for cursing her out?

    I have to wonder, if Bria hadn’t spoken up, would you have gone to the ignorant woman in question privately and called her out for asking a stupid, racist question? Would you have policed her for behaving like an ass as much as you’re policing Bria? Would it even have occurred to you to say something about what a horrifically awful question that was to ask and how that person should keep her ignorant mouth closed until she’s educated herself a LOT more? From what you’ve posted here, I sincerely doubt it.

    As a side note, you said that you and a lot of others walked out of Bria’s “rant,” but then here in the comments you say that you heard the whole thing – which is it?

    I also have to say that walking out when a person of color is calling someone out for saying something racist instead of standing up with her says a lot about you as a person. But then, you already said a lot by telling the world in a public forum that you thought that Bria was in the wrong for what she did.

    To be absolutely clear: I believe that you are in the wrong in this situation and I am calling you out for it.

  • The Father Teresa

    This is why black folks need black groups.

  • doubtthat

    Whoa. Are you really that naive?

    That question is dogwhistiling, plain and simple. Let Lee Atwater explain it to you:

    You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

    I find it more or less impossible that someone minimally aware of American politics could miss such an obvious form of dogwhistling. You are the one out of line, Mr. Eberhard.

    You may as well just say, “I know the person called you ‘boy,’ but that doesn’t sound like they intentionally meant to insult that black man. Can’t you see your anger is out of line?”

    In contemporary politics, asking a black person what they’re going to do about “black crime” is an obvious attempt at minimizing and dismissing grievances of the African American community. That’s a tactic that comes DIRECTLY from the Limbaugh-Hannity-Drudge Race Baiting Playbook, and your attempt to exonerate the questioner is pathetic. She was either completely ignorant of the meaning of her words, which isn’t an excuse, or she was intentionally parroting a malicious form of right wing bullshit. A five minute tongue lashing seems pretty tame.

  • eccles11

    The “you are tone trolling” shtick is almost always used as an excuse for bad behaviour. It is a thought terminating cliche and should be examined carefully when someone uses it. The science of psychology shows that this kind of bad behaviour is nothing but detrimental to argumentation and discourse.

    • Origami_Isopod

      The whole “tone trolling is an excuse for bad behavior” shtick is almost always used as an excuse for the bad behavior of dominant groups that hide behind the screen of “civility.”

  • moblues

    So, you should take great pains to not embarrass someone who is at best ignorant and off topic in front of other people and, right? But it’s good form to pull aside a black woman and tell her how to handle herself in front of white people? I’m sure it’s the first time she’s heard that, good job at educating someone.
    It’s bad form to expess anger when answering a personally offensive question off the cuff with a substantive argument, but good form to spread your shock and horror at the unladylike (in your estimation) behavior well beyong the initial audience?
    Nope, never heard such profound wisdom in all my days.You, fine sir, are well on the way to becoming the master of intersectionality! Maybe we could find you a hat or something.

  • TimothyFlowers

    For some reason I’m imaging JT addressing an ACT-UP meeting and making these arguments against a proposed action…

  • Guest

    Here is Australia, if you suggest that non-black people should in any way attempt to solve the problems of black people, then you are accused of being racist. They believe that black people should solve all of their own problems.

    That’s today.

    Tomorrow you are accused of being racist for not doing everything to help black people solve their problems.

    • Origami_Isopod

      Andrew Bolt, is that you?

  • Kevin Solway

    Here in Australia, if you suggest that non-black people should in any way attempt to solve the problems of black people, then you are accused of being racist. They believe that black people should solve all of their own problems.

    That’s today.

    Tomorrow you are accused of being racist for not doing*everything to help black people solve their problems.

    • Origami_Isopod

      Oh, it’s you.

  • Jesus Christ

    Feminism is a denial of truth. We objectify by our very nature, and there is nothing wrong with that. Something is not true just because you want it to be. No true skeptic could call themselves a feminist — especially when it’s full of people who call those who disagree rapists and call for them to be castrated (check out the comments of nearly every feminist blog for proof).

    • Jasper


      It basically comes down to the is/ought problem. For instance, it’s true that women are the ones who bear the children (currently).. but that doesn’t mean that they ought to be regulated to that duty necessarily.

      Feminism is the next step beyond understanding the differences between men and women, and seeking to balance/correct, because the goal is to ensure that anyone, regardless of whichever set of equipment they were born with, are still people. That’st he point.

      • Jesus Christ

        I never said they ought to be regulated to that duty, but to pretend that the desire for sex isn’t natural as many feminists do is going against human nature. Everyone classifies and has an idea of what they want (not many of either sex is sexually attracted to someone who’s 300 lbs if they’re being honest).

        • Jasper

          “I never said they ought to be regulated to that duty”

          I never said you did. I was giving an example between an “is” and an “ought”.

          “but to pretend that the desire for sex isn’t natural as many feminists do is going against human nature”

          Strangely, I’ve literally never heard anything like this from any feminist, ever. I wouldn’t doubt that you may be able to dig an example up, but that’d be little other than the fallacy “hasty generalization”.

          “Everyone classifies and has an idea of what they want (not many of either sex is sexually attracted to someone who’s 300 lbs if they’re being honest).”

          Uh, okay. And?

          • Jesus Christ

            My point is that people do see someone they want to have sex with as an object to some extent. If that wasn’t true, then people wouldn’t care about the person’s weight, appearance, etc.

          • Jasper

            … okay. I’m not sure what that has to do with feminism being a “denial of reality”.

            The feminists I’m aware of are concerned almost entirely with working to ensure that women aren’t held back in society because they’re women… suffering from prejudices (intentional or not), etc… which requires a study and understanding of the differences between men and women to even start to propose solutions.

            … I’m not sure what sexual attraction has to do with anything.

          • Jesus Christ

            They’re definitely not held back anymore when more women have jobs and go to college than men.

          • Jasper

            That’s debatable, particularly when the level of job, the type of degree are taken into account, and how far they can get when dealing with sexism in the workplace… but we don’t really care about nuance, do we?

          • Jesus Christ

            the only place where there’s a major difference is in the upper class, and that’s such a tiny fraction of society that it doesn’t really matter. Only a greedy person would want to become as rich as Bill Gates.

        • Origami_Isopod

          Consent is a difficult topic for you, I see.

          • Jesus Christ

            Wrong. Consent is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that desires don’t exist.

        • doubtthat

          Could you provide one example of a “feminist” denying that humans desire sex?

    • doubtthat

      “We objectify by our very nature?”

      As Jasper pointed out, you’re indulging in the Naturalistic Fallacy. Perhaps there is a human instinct to objectify others for purposes of sex (I’ll not that you haven’t offered proof of that, but I’ll assume it’s true for the following argument), but that doesn’t mean we are incapable of controlling such an urge.

      We shit by our very nature, but surely you would expect a person to avoid dropping trow and letting loose on the dinner table. We covet by our very nature, but there are still laws against stealing stuff.

      The argument you’ve presented is so insanely insulting to men that I find it odd you’re upset with feminists for the dim view of the Y-chromosome you believe they hold. I think that whether or not I find a woman attractive, I am more than capable of respecting her boundaries. That you seem to believe your evolutionary heritage has left you incapable of such acts of basic decency makes you the misandrist. You view men as barely more capable than the other Great Apes.

  • Ronja Addams-Moring

    JT, it seems to me that the most important information that you omitted from the beginning of this post was that you began your criticism of Bria publicly on Twitter immediately, *during* the time slot for Darrell Smith’s presentation. If the time stamps are correct, you did NOT begin your criticism by “pulling Bria aside later that day” to discuss things privately. And the Twitter exchange that convinced you that you “need to” write about Bria’s “outburst” was a) initiated by you and b) consisted of one other person (a white woman) whom you could not convince that you were right.

    In light of this, to me your reaction starts to look something like this: First a black woman does not accept that I Am Right. Then a white woman does not accept that I Am Right, either. The horror! There must be a bigger overall problem! The whole Internet Needs To Know!

    Lying by omission is still lying. For shame, JT! For real, undiluted shame! I hope you are capable of that, and will act accordingly.


    Great Lakes Atheists Convention 2013 Schedule:
    “8/17 … 1:45-2:30 Darrell Smith” (conference time zone was EDT) http://glaconvention.com/?page_id=279

    JT Eberhard ‏@jteberhard 17 Aug (9:09 PM EEST = 2:09 PM EDT): Ok, the way
    to resolve questions of personal offense is not to call someone out during a Q&A. #GLAconvention https://twitter.com/jteberhard/status/368796799403687936 (the first response to this tweet came 19 Aug 12:30 AM EEST = 5:30 PM EDT and a
    conversation followed)

    JT Eberhard ‏@jteberhard 17 Aug (9:10 PM EEST = 2:10 PM EDT): Bria Crutchfield co-opting the Q&A of another person’s talk to give her own monologue. #BadForm #GLAconvention https://twitter.com/jteberhard/status/368797045802278912

    JT Eberhard ‏@jteberhard 17 Aug (9:11 PM EEST = 2:11 PM EDT): Well, there goes the good vibe this conference had going. #GLAconvention #Awkward https://twitter.com/jteberhard/status/368797260194123778

    • Jesus Christ

      Women are not always right. It’s not his fault that he couldn’t convince the irrational.

      • Ronja Addams-Moring

        Way to miss my points.

        1) JT lied to us all, by omitting the information that he did in fact not begin his criticism privately. Now it may be just me, but I seriously dislike being lied to. That’s a pretty sure way to lose my respect. YMMV.

        2) That two women disagree with him somehow would indicate a “bigger overall problem” and that JT therefore “needed to” write a blog post of thousands of words sounds to me illogical at best. It also sounds like JT is exaggerating the importance of his opinions. Again, YYMV.

        • Jesus Christ

          I don’t see how mentioning the incident on Twitter means that he lied.

          • Ronja Addams-Moring

            What JT claimed (quoted from his OP above): “…while I believe there’s a place for drawing note to improper
            things people have done in public, I’m a big advocate of trying to
            resolve it personally first… so rather than immediately write a blog I
            pulled Bria aside later that day… then someone on twitter started messaging me…”

            That^ is a very clever way of not lying by commission (which most people AFAIK take exception to). Instead, JT built the text so that the reader easily *assumes* that he did not express *any* criticism publicly before he spoke to Bria in person, and that “someone” (other than JT) was the initiator of the Twitter conversation. But neither of these things are true. JT tweeted thrice before he spoke to Bria, and it was one of those tweets that the person on Twitter answered, which lead to the messaging.

            Misleading the reader with half-truths and omissions is a form of lying.

  • Jesus Christ

    It’s disappointing how many atheists fall for emotional appeals. Tears from a woman and the white knights come running.

  • Jesus Christ

    If you want to be shouted down by women, join Atheism+ Of course gullible men will disarm themselves.

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