I follow a lot of what’s happening in atheist circles, mostly as a consequence of my friends talking about various issues and incidents, but I don’t talk about many of them publicly because they don’t seem consequential enough to do so. This blog isn’t about covering the atheist movement — it isn’t even really about covering any kind of news at all — so I don’t often bother.
But silence isn’t always the right response. Sometimes I have to join the chorus.
My colleague Martin Hughes at Barrier Breaker has for the past week or so been grappling with a popular atheist content creator (who I will not name here because I’ll be damned if I’m going to give him one pixel’s worth of free advertising) who made a pretty racist video — and yes, that’s both Hughes’ assessment and my own — that needed to be addressed. So Hughes did that, and the aforementioned Racist Atheist Content Creator made a response video doubling (tripling?) down, which Hughes also responded to. While this was happening on the larger level, Hughes was practically inundated with some of the vilest comments I have ever read.
I can’t say that this surprises me because I am well aware of that segment of (primarily straight white male) Internet users who thrive on generally being shitty to anyone who espouses any kind of social justice position. (Indeed, I will probably be called a “Social Justice Warrior” for this post. Advance warning: I will find this humorous, not insulting.)
As far as I’m concerned, though, this is more, not less, of a reason to stand up and be counted among those who revile bigotry and demand that it be shouted down in the name of decency and justice.
Like my colleague Matthew Facciani, I believe that racism in the atheist community must be countered in order to make atheism a safe place for people of color.
Like my colleague Kaveh Mousavi, I don’t think we can ignore this kind of bigotry in our community, even from people who don’t offer much of substance to it.
Like my colleague Kathleen Johnson, I think we must denounce those who not only spread this bigotry but incite outrage and harassment in order to benefit financially from it, whether or not they really believe in it.
Like my friend Trav Mamone, I think my fellow white atheists have a responsibility not to center issues of race around us but to recognize where our own experiences differ from those of people of color — and especially to be reasonable in not assuming people of color are “self-victimizing” instead of being the targets of systemic racial bias and inequality. (And perhaps more relevantly, that racism is our problem to address as well if we want a community that strives to be inclusive and welcoming.)
Like The Orbit blogger Chris Hall, I think the problem here is far bigger than one content creator; it’s a systemic issue within atheism as well as within Internet culture and society more generally.
Like The Orbit blogger Niki Massey, I think that an atheism that is indifferent to matters of social justice and inequality is dull and stale and generally useless to the world.
Like The Orbit blogger Greta Christina, I think that nitpicking over usages of “racism” and “sexism” is a red herring that attempts to distract from the underlying issues that are at play when people use them.
And like Hughes himself has said most recently, I want my fellow atheists to know that our community has your back when you want to call out bigotry.
Add my voice to theirs. Add your voice, too. We need more people to shout down the bigotry that still has too much of a place in our community.
And if you’re one of those people who wants to amplify the voices of bigotry? Take a seat already.
Image via Pixabay