Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Race. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2018

Social Justice: The New Religion Of The Left?

Traditional religious belief is dying, especially among younger generations like millennials (AKA Gen Y) and the new generation below them, Gen Z, as I just blogged about. And the Left in particular is jettisoning traditional religion at a phenomenal pace. Between 2007 and 2014, disbelief in god grew among liberals from 10% to 19%, according to PEW. While this is all music to my ears, a growing concern I share with traditionalists is what is going to replace traditional religious beliefs?

In recent years, it seems that an answer is starting to emerge. Traditional religious belief is being replaced by social justice philosophies as religions. Social justice is in a way becoming the new religion of the Left.

Social justice is a broad term generally referring to "a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society." Legitimate social justice is perfectly fine and reasonable, but in recent years "social justice" has morphed into a new ideology based on an obsession with exaggerated perceived "victimhood" and "oppression," where getting the right gender pronouns are as important as actual racism. Today the pejorative "social justice warrior" (or SJW for short) refers to the kind of person for whom social justice is important, but who is gravely mistaken as to what real justice and fairness is, and how it pertains to individuals and society.

For example, an SJW will argue for "equality" but then insist that all differences in equality of outcome are due to racism and/or sexism and not other factors. So the fact that there are more men in physics and engineering, or more male CEOs, they will argue is due to cultural or institutional sexism, and not because more men simply like those professions and strive for those positions. They will insist that we have a 50/50 representation of men to women in all fields that women don't already dominate and that "fairness" means equality of outcome. And any challenge of this as an idea, or as a practicality, will get you tarnished as a sexist who's enabling the patriarchy.

And this is when social justice starts to become a new religion: there's an idea of the way the world works and the way it ought to be regardless of the facts, these ideas are held with dogmatic fervor, and anyone challenging them will be ostracized and effectively accused of heresy, which encourages extreme tribalism, group-think, and ideological purity.

Here are some of the dogmas of modern day social justice philosophy:

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Black Lives Matter: A Brief Critique

In the past few years the Black Lives Matter (or BLM) movement has become a prominent fixture on the issue of police killings, particularly towards African Americans. Here I want to offer a short critique of the movement and it's ideology on some areas where I think criticism is much needed.

First, I want to say that I of course think the lives of black people are just as valuable as any other race, and I'm aware that black lives matter really means black lives matter too. Meaning, that black lives matter in addition to other lives, they are of equal worth and value. The way I see it, the BLM movement should ideally be seen as black people raising their hands in the face of racist mistreatment saying, "Hey, our lives matter too and our worth as individuals should be treated as equal to others."

On that very basic point, I agree. Black lives matter too. But I've noticed that quite a few BLM advocates have to clarify this distinction often enough that it makes me think, why not just change the name of the movement and hashtag to #BLMT or #BlackLivesMatterToo? It's just three extra letters and it would clear up an enormous amount of confusion by people who think the BLM movement is to say that only black lives matter, or that black lives are more important to other lives, and that's not what it stands for.

So that's my first critique. My second critique makes use of an analogy. If there is a population of people affected by two diseases that are killing them, disease A and disease B, and disease A kills 96% of this population, and disease B kills only 4% of this population, and if my life goal was to care for the lives of this population, which disease should I be focused on, disease A or disease B? Obviously, any logical person would say I should focus on disease A since it's killing a far greater percentage of the population. And yet, the BLM movement is a movement focused almost entirely on the 4% of deaths of black Americans attributed the police officers, regardless of the race of the officer. If the BLM movement seeks to promote the lives and worth of black Americans, why not focus primarily on the homicide rate in the black community that overwhelmingly involves black on black homicide? For every black person killed by a police officer in the US, there are about 23 cases of black on black homicide. If it was my life passion to care about black lives, I'd be focused on that, because that's what's killing the vast, vast majority of black people in the US who die by violence. So I think the BLM movement needs to reconsider its priorities.

Thirdly, since the BLM movement has no official membership, anyone taking up a BLM banner and marching in the streets suddenly becomes a representative of BLM. This allows bad actors to tarnish the name of BLM and there seems to be no process by which this can be eliminated. BLM officials need to better distinguish themselves from hooligans who commit violence in their name.

BLM Activists blocking a highway in Baltimore
Fourthly, the BLM leadership, to the extent there is any, doesn't seem interested in weeding out activists in its ranks who make absurd demands or use questionable tactics in raising the group's awareness. Blocking highway traffic is not a good way to make people realize that black lives matter. What if you or your loved one was dying of a heart attack and needed to get to the hospital and couldn't make it in time due to BLM protesters blocking traffic and they died as a result? Rushing the stage at a Bernie Sanders rally and grabbing the microphone before a liberal white crowd and telling everyone that they're proponents of "white supremacist liberalism" is not a good way to make people realize that black lives matter.

In fact, tactics like this will do more to hurt the movement than help it. It will make people think the BLM movement has been hijacked by a bunch of thugs who are going to use violence and intimidation to obtain their ever growing list of demands. The BLM movement needs an serious infusion of critical thinking and analysis among its ranks, and I don't see that happening.

Because of this I can't be a part of BLM. I can't march in their protests. I can stand by and support policies that help the problems many black people disproportionately face, but I cannot be a part of the BLM movement because of its flaws. And no, I'm not a white supremacist or a Nazi sympathizer because of this. You can hate Nazis and white supremacists and still be critical of BLM.

Nuance people, nuance.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Is Donald Trump A Racist?

My answer to this question is that it all depends on what you mean by "racist," obviously. That is the first question anyone should ask when asking this question to themselves or to anyone else.

You need to first define what it is you mean by a racist, and then you need to either show that Donald Trump falls into that category, or doesn't. Here's the thing: I'm not sure I can define all the relevant aspects of exactly what a racist is, even though I can certainly give you examples of racism. I'm not sure I know exactly where that blurry line is where true racism becomes non-racism. That line is on different ends of the spectrum depending on who you talk to.

For example, some people think that if you merely make a joke that makes fun of a race of people — what many would consider a racist joke — just one time, then you're a racist for the rest of your life. Make one racist joke, you're a racist for life.

Other people would say, no, it takes a little bit more than that to be a racist. You have to show a consistent pattern of making racist jokes. Then you're a racist. Other people would go further than that and say, yes, you have to show a consistent pattern of making racist jokes, but it depends on the context. If you're making them in the context of friends that you know very well with no racist intentions and you're just making a joke that you think is funny and everyone in your company is OK with it, then you're not a racist. But if you're doing it in the context where people are not comfortable with it where you have racist intentions, then you're a racist.

OK. Some people would agree with that and then go a little further and say that that doesn't really qualify you as a racist — you actually have to discriminate against people. You actually have to not treat people equally when you're dealing with them in your personal life and also in your professional life, and so some people add that criteria to what is racist.

Some people would go a step further and say everyone has the right to associate with whomever they want to, and doing so isn't necessarily racist — in the same way you're allowed not date people of a certain race if you don't want to and that wouldn't make you racist. So if you choose to only have friends of a certain race then that doesn't make you racist either, they argue.

Other people would say, well if that's OK, if that doesn't make you racist, then what does is having all those things mentioned up until now but in addition to that having a condition where you're actively going out and harming people of other races: You're burning a cross on a black person's lawn, you're bombing a synagogue or a black church, or physically going out of your way to harm people of a different race — that makes you a racist.

Well OK. Look at this whole entire spectrum here and notice how it went from just making a racist joke one time making you a racist, to all the way on the other end of the spectrum where you must actively be going out and harming people of another race physically and not just merely making jokes; you must go out and you must physically attack someone of another race or try to destroy their property. And only that makes you a racist.

Think about that. This is a huge debate here and I'm not sure I know exactly where I land on this spectrum, although I think I'd probably stand somewhere in the middle. The Google definition of a racist is "a person who believes that a particular race is superior to another." That certainly is racism but I think this definition is a little too strict. What if one thinks they're racially superior, but never discriminates against anyone based on race? What if one discriminates against people by their race but doesn't think any race is superior? These questions make defining racism a bit difficult.

But back to the original question: is Donald Trump a racist?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What Does It Mean To Be A Liberal?

Increasingly, I'm beginning to despise political labels like "liberal" because I think they're ceasing to have any meaning. Politics today is far too complicated for these traditional categories to define us much of the time. How many of us are liberal or conservative on every single issue? What if you're liberal on 80 percent of the issues and conservative on the other 20 percent? Are you still a liberal? If so, then at what percentage would you cease being a liberal? 70 percent? 60 percent? Certainly you can't go below 50 percent.

But therein lies my problem. I consider myself a liberal by and large but I disagree with my fellow liberals on several key issues that sometimes become debating points with them. For example, I think European countries should limit their immigration from Muslim majority countries because there are problems with assimilation, radicalization, unemployment, and in some cases, problems with crime. My liberal friend's jaws drop when I say this. They can't believe that I, a self-professed liberal, could ever utter such a thing. I'll give you another example. I think African-American culture contributes to the problems in the African-American community and that it isn't just systemic racism and poverty. Again, when I say this around my liberal friends they can't believe I could say such a thing and they always feel compelled to push back and debate me on it.

A handful of times I've been accused by people of not being a liberal, and instead being a conservative! Oh my! Me? A conservative? How could this be? That's one of the dirtiest words you could call a liberal. I think it's preposterous that I would be considered a conservative. I'm liberal on almost every issue - but I'm not a liberal fundamentalist. I don't take the extreme left position on every issue, and I detest being pressured by the far left to jump on over to their side, while at the same time I can understand that urge. This is exactly where the political labels like "liberal" fail.

So what can we do? Do we create a variety of new terms to describe the growing political micro-genres? What do we call Second Amendment loving liberals? Or pro-choice liberals? Another reason I despise the labeling is because once you call yourself a "liberal" in a conversation you're going to be assumed by your interlocutor to hold every position liberals typically believe, and I hate that. When I'm talking to conservatives and I identify myself as a liberal I often have to clarify that I disagree with liberals on certain issues — like Islam and terrorism — because liberals have a reputation of thinking Islam has nothing to do with terrorism (an absurd idea). And so more recently when I'm asked to identify my political affiliation, in order to try and avoid the assumptions I've been calling myself a "left-leaning independent populist," or that I'm "mostly liberal, but disagree with liberals on certain things." But it isn't as convenient as having a single word represent you.

So as it stands I lack a definitive label that I feel identifies me properly in the political sense and I'm not motivated to try and create the right term. Unlike with the term "atheist" — a label I proudly wear because I know it identifies me and I know how to defend it — the term "liberal" is increasingly becoming something I identify less with, not because I'm becoming a conservative, but because the term is too restrictive.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Make Liberalism Great Again!

Dear Liberals,

We need to talk about some of the problems we have.

I think it's more important now than ever that we figure out and address the problems within much of liberal thinking today. I say this because if we don't it could be the downfall of liberalism that enables people on the Right to continue having their political and social victories. And we don't want that. So we have to get real with one another and talk among ourselves about the problems within liberalism and the way liberals behave, because there are plenty. And don't you try and deny that there are problems in liberal thought today. Thinking like that is exactly part of the problem. You must first acknowledge that there are problems with how liberals think and behave, and force yourself to be open minded. OK. So how do we do this? Well, I don't pretend to have all the answers, but here are some important things we can do to correct what I see as an influx of too many irrational ideas and behaviors threatening the progress of liberalism.

Know that there is a difference between liberals and liberalism. Liberals are people who in one way, shape, or form, have liberal views on various issues. The way they behave in relation to their views can take on a variety of forms, from informed and respectful to down right nasty and fascistic. Liberalism is the general philosophy of liberal views that liberal people hold, and it too comes in a spectrum that can take on a variety of forms. As such, "liberalism" acts more like an umbrella term that can cover many ideas some liberals will disagree with. So when listening to the criticism of the Left, keep that in mind. You can maintain your liberalism while disagreeing with the tactics used by some liberals and with ideas that exist under the umbrella of "liberalism." We don't all have to always agree. So don't feel the need to always defend everything liberals do and every idea liberals have when a conservative is criticizing them.

We need to divorce ourselves from identity politics. When we focus too much on gender, race, sexuality, and other identifying labels, we tend to alienate those that are outside those labels while implying that everyone inside the label thinks alike. I've heard many liberals aghast at how Trump could win 30 percent of the Latino vote given his stance on immigration and what he said about Mexicans. But I like to kindly remind them that Latinos are not a monolith. I know several Latinos who are OK with a border wall and are OK with deporting at least the criminal illegal aliens. And liberals are also too obsessed with the idea of merely having a woman president. Yes, I'd love to have a female president, but it has to be the right female president. It can't just be any woman. Hillary was a terribly flawed candidate but many too many liberals overlooked this and were drawn to her primarily because she could make history as the first female US president. But that didn't work because not everyone is obsessed with merely getting a female president. And when she lost I heard many liberals blaming sexism as the main reason (or the only reason) why she lost — as if her hypocrisy and scandals meant nothing and it was only her gender that caused her to lose. This is the kind of close mindedness that results when you give into identity politics and all you see is a person's gender. Stop thinking people vote based on their gender or race or sexual identity and focus on the issues that transcend these labels.

People who think different from you should be allowed to speak openly. I agree with some of the criticisms of the Left that many liberals are increasingly becoming authoritarian in their tactics such that unless you agree with them and hold the most liberal positions on every issue, you are denied the right to speak and organize, especially on university campuses, and are labeled a bigot, a racist, a sexist, or a xenophobe. Respect the freedom of speech you claim to support. We liberals need to respect diversity of opinion, in additional to racial and gender diversity. Liberals need to begin actually engaging people with opposing views and debate them with reasoned arguments, not try to prevent them from speaking. The Left is giving up on intellectual argument because they feel they've won the culture war and don't have to debate anymore. Bad ideas will inevitably develop and will flourish under a system where free and open criticism is shunned, and that's exactly what the Left is allowing more and more.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sam Harris On Racism And Police Brutality Asks A Tough Question

I just listened to Sam Harris's recent podcast with Brown University professor Glenn C. Loury on racism and police brutality. You can listen to that below if you haven't already. One interesting question Harris asks Loury is that given how African-Americans are about 13% of the total US population, yet in 2013 accounted for 52% of all Murders and nonnegligent manslaughter arrests, 56% of robbery arrests, 31% of rape arrests, and 33.9 % of aggravated assault arrests, and were less than 25% of those killed by the police according to The Guardian as of today in 2016 (and 26% for all of 2015), what should the number and percentage of African-Americans killed by the police be?

Now Harris didn't use these same exact statistics but they are in line with his point that African-Americans are over-represented in criminal arrests. It seems to me that African-Americans are under-represented in the percentage of them being killed by police when you factor in their arrest rates. In other words, we should expect at least 40 or 50% of those killed by the police to be African-American, not 25%. Is this true? What other relevant factors am I leaving out? It's an interesting question that I'm sure many on the left will find challenging. Professor Loury in the podcast said he didn't know the answer to that question, but it's worth an answer.

P.S. I still think Chris Rock got it right more than a decade ago when he made his video How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police. It's worth another watch in light of this increased focus on police brutality and killings.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Conservatives Have A Point

Growing up in the inner city, the culture that surrounded me in my adolescent years despised intelligence. Ignorance was celebrated as a virtue; it was something to be commended, something to aspire to. I remember back in school dumbing myself down in order to fit in with my peers by pretending to be stupid and not knowing the answers to the questions my teachers asked, when in fact I really did. Thinking back on this reminds me of the conservatives who say that the problems of the inner city, and the black community in particular, are due to culture and not racism. For a while I dismissed that argument, but I've changed my mind. I think conservatives do have a point on this.

Now let me first set the record straight. I am technically a liberal, although I'm beginning to hate labels more and more, especially when it comes to politics. I am a liberal—but—I definitely don't think liberals have all the right answers. They are not 100 percent right on 100 percent of the issues. That's far from the case. We must divorce ourselves from the increasingly tribal mentalities on the political spectrum. We must be willing to listen to the other side, and seek out the best criticism of our own political identifications. And we must put reason and evidence first and foremost over and above everything else, especially when it disagrees with our politics.

On the ongoing problems in America's inner cities with rising crime and stagnant poverty I think that it is undeniably true that culture is at least a part of the problem. You see, what conservatives typically do is they blame all the problems in the inner city on culture, and what liberals typically do is they blame all the problems in the inner city on racism. But as I see it, both of them are partially right. Yes — racism, the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws, the predatory lending practices of banks, and many other discriminatory policies have left a negative imprint on African Americans. And yes it is also true that many racist policies have hurt Latino Americans and to a lesser degree some Asian Americans. But that isn't the full answer of why these groups still struggle with poverty, violent crime, and high unemployment and incarceration rates. Culture matters. When you have a culture that nurtures and embraces ignorance as if it was a virtue, treats women like pieces of shit, and thinks that resorting to violence in order to solve your problems is acceptable, what the fuck do you think is going to happen? Do you think a culture like that is going to create brilliant thinkers, scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs peacefully coexisting in safe, clean neighborhoods? No! You're going to create a culture full of high school dropouts, thugs, criminals, single mothers and absentee fathers, and low skilled wage earners who stay in poverty generation after generation via perpetual bad decision making.

Now you might argue that the legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, and other racist policies helped create this culture that celebrates apathy and ignorance as virtues. Fine. I'd agree with you. But that's not in any way a refutation that culture is an important reason why so many minorities in the inner cities across America are committing crimes at much higher rates than the rest of the country and continue to be in poverty generation after generation.

We must cultivate a culture that celebrates and nurtures science and philosophy and reason and facts and the thirst for knowledge and truth. We must also cultivate a culture where we seek to minimize unnecessary suffering, and where we care about the well being of others. It is imperative that we do this in order to resolve the negative issues plaguing inner city minority communities for generations. I want being smart to be cool again. Make that something kids want to aspire to. I want this stupid culture of ignorance to go away once and for all and to be mocked and humiliated into extinction, in much the same way I think should happen to religion. That won't be easy, but it can happen. Here's how:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Atheist Intersectionality: The Many Hats We Wear

I was just recently thinking about atheist intersectionality: how atheism intersects with my gender, race, place of origins, my politics, ethics, economic philosophy, and views on sexuality. Additionally, the question of whether my atheism should affect my views on these things is an open question. I was inspired by intersectional feminism, which a lot of people, mostly feminists, like talk about. The idea of applying intersectionality itself to other things is a wonderful philosophical venture and one I want to explore here.

We all 'wear many hats' so to speak, and some of these hats are more important to us than others for various reasons. Atheism is very important to me in how I identify myself overall, but depending on the situation, other hats I wear are more important. I want to explore the relationships between these various identities I have with atheism. So let me start by listing some of the many hats I wear as part of my identity. In no particular order:

Atheist: I am an atheist in that I do not believe any gods exist. An atheist is someone who lacks a belief in any gods existing. This is what I like to call bare minimum atheism. It is the minimum requirement for one to properly be called an atheist as I define it. One can go further and declare they know god doesn't exist, but it isn't necessary. I've been an atheist or agnostic all of my life, and I wear the identity proudly, although I'm not always wearing it on my sleeve. You could technically classify me as a moderate atheist on this scale.

Anti-theist: Not only am I an atheist, I go a step further and say I'm an anti-theist. An anti-theist is an atheist who opposes religious belief. Not all atheists are anti-theists. Most atheists are more or less indifferent to religion. I was inspired by the New Atheism movement to oppose religious belief and dedicate myself to decreasing religiosity in the world and increasing secularism and atheism. It is an extremely important motivating factor in my life.

Determinist: I am a determinist in the sense that I reject the notion of libertarian free will and I think that everything in the universe that happens is inevitable given the initial conditions in the big bang. In this view if you were to rewind the universe back to the big bang and play it again, you'd get the same exact results and events every time you did so, ad infinitum. This you can say is part of my metaphysical worldview.

Epiphenominalist: I am an epiphenominalist in that I think whatever the mind is, it is ultimately caused or explained by something going on in the brain. Understanding the brain will most likely unlock the mystery of consciousness, although it is certainly possible a full understanding of the brain will not resolve the hard problem of consciousness. As an epiphenominalist, I reject substance dualism in the sense of dualistic interactionism.

Eternalist: I am an eternalist whose ontology includes all moments of time existing at different areas of spacetime. In this metaphysical worldview the universe is basically a block that is composed of all of spacetime laid out.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Has Political Correctness Gone Too Far? Yes

This weekend I'll be hosting a debate on political correctness and on whether it has gone too far — which is gotten me in a fix because as the host I'm expected to me impartial. I make it no secret that I think modern PC has gone too far. Political Correctness is defined as:

the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

Let's look at a few examples of where I think it has:

  • Debating/Open Dialogue: Recently, when a debate over campus sexual assault was organized at Brown University, some women on the campus feared such a dialogue would enable trigger warnings and under the university's guide were given a safe space room to retreat to equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as reported by the New York Times.
  • Clapping: As reported by ListVerseThe National Union of Students Women’s Campaign, a feminist college student group in Britain, announced in March 2015 that they would ban clapping at their future conferences held at UK colleges. The feminist group claimed that the act of clapping could “trigger some people’s anxiety,” and therefore should be banned from all of their conferences. Instead, the feminist students instructed those who attend conferences to use jazz hands—to wave their hands silently in the air—when they wished to display approval.
  • Cultural appropriation: As reported by ListVerseTrouble began for a band called Shokazoba when they were scheduled to play a Halloween concert at Hampshire College in Massachusetts. Shokazoba plays a genre of music called Afrobeat, which is a fusion of funk and jazz music with African rhythms. However, this style proved to be the band’s undoing because of one problem. The band’s members are mostly white.
  • Microaggressions: As reported by The College Fix: The University of California's president recently declared some staples of small talk to be inherently racist or sexist. Saying “America is the land of opportunity,” “There is only one race, the human race” and “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” are among a long list of alleged microaggressions faculty leaders of the University of California system have been instructed not to say. Other sayings deemed unacceptable include:
    • “Everyone can succeed in this society, if they work hard enough.”
    • “Where are you from or where were you born?”
    • “Affirmative action is racist.”
    • “When I look at you, I don’t see color.”
  • Due process: Under pressure from the Obama administration, some universities have abandoned due process in favor of a guilty until proven innocent attitude in sexual assault cases. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, colleges that refuse to curtail the due process of the accused may lose federal funding. Through an interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act universities will be strongly discouraged from questioning or cross examining the accuser. 
  • Feminism: Critics of modern day third wave feminism, like Christina Hoff Summers, who challenge popularly believed statistics like that 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted on campus, or that women earn 77 cents on the dollar to men, make “trigger warnings” by their very presence on college campuses and are banned or protested against from speaking.

Friday, April 8, 2016

When Liberalism Shoots Itself In The Foot

I feel the need to write more about politics given that this is an election year and I've always been a political person. I want to gravitate towards writing about higher level phenomena like politic and economics, and discussing the issues and the philosophies around them.

I've been thinking for some time now about the negative, and perhaps, unintended consequences of political correctness that some on the left don't seem to acknowledge. One of the problems with political correctness is that it sometimes forces you to deny reality—to deny facts, in the name of not offending people. There are some facts about this world that are inconvenient to the liberal agenda. But facts shouldn't conform to political ideology. Rather, ideology should conform to the facts.

I think political correctness when gone too far can sometimes hurt the liberal agenda by shooting itself in the foot. Let's look at two examples.

Take the issue of the treatment of women in Islam. You have feminists in Western countries who will challenge every aspect of the patriarchy, and every perceived threat of male dominance to the status and treatment of women, yet on the issue of Islam and how women are treated in cultures dominated by that religion, the criticism almost disappears. Instead, the idea goes, since most Muslims are brown, and since the Western colonial powers have historically done bad things to brown people, criticizing Islamic culture for its treatment of women exemplifies this legacy Western colonial dominance, and so we must be respectful of not criticizing the treatment of women is Islamic cultures too harshly—or at all—thereby enabling the mistreatment of hundreds of millions of women to persist. This is a case of political correctness hurting the liberal agenda.

Or, take the dicey issue of race. Political correctness has made talking about race and racism more difficult. The social justice warriors of our day want to effectively shut down anyone who disagrees with their "facts" or who violates their preapproved accepted terminology on how to "properly" talk about race. If someone accidentally "misspeaks" and uses the wrong word, they are labeled a racist and must either step down, be fired, boycotted, or shamed into apology or hiding. What this ends up doing is making many people terrified to talk about race publicly. But racism still exists and not talking about race doesn't make racism go away. We have to talk about race in order to address the causes and solution to racism, and if everyone's terrified to talk about race because they're afraid of accidentally offending someone and being labelled a racist, then no one talks about race except for those perhaps on the far left, and actual racists. This will alienate people in the middle who might have important input to the discussion but who don't agree with the most liberal positions of the far left agenda, and who don't want to get associated with the actual racism of the far right. And so hugely important issues about race might never get discussed and addressed. This is a case of political correctness hurting the liberal agenda. It's 1984 with a liberal Big Brother.

I understand the need for some level of political correctness. I don't want to live in a world where everyone is openly racist and sexist like it was sixty years ago. I abhor actual racism and sexism. But political correctness gone too far shoots liberalism in the foot—and I still consider myself a liberal, by and large. We have to be able to be real with one another when talking about the tough problems we deal with as a society. For example, if you suggest that black culture is partly to blame for the systemic problems in many black communities, should that automatically disqualify you from the conversation? No. If you say that the Islamic religion and much of the culture based on it has sexist elements and is a large part of the problem with how women are treated in Islamic cultures, should you automatically be labeled a Islamophobe who's upholding the racist colonial dominance of an oppressed people? No. We need to be able to discuss about these things without the PC police shutting down the conversation before it even starts.

This is by the way, not an argument against liberalism, but an argument about how liberalism should change, because too much political correctness is hurting it. This is enabling a backlash that is empowering the rise of the far right. And I don't want to see that happening.

Unintended consequences.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Why Interracial Marriage Is Wrong

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

There you have it folks. At the trial of Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple living in Virginia who were charged with violating the state's racial integrity law, this was the "logic" cited in the case by the judge. If there ever was a clearer example of why we need secularism, this is it.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Is·lam·o·pho·bi·a — Some Thoughts

I felt like I'm long over due for a blog post about Islamophobia. It's is nooo secret on this blog that I am deeply critical of Islam. I think that Islam is the most dangerous religion in the world today and the greatest religious threat to liberalism and Western Values. This can be thought of two different ways. The first way is that I think the ideology and morality within Islam is more violent than most religions. As far as I can tell, only the Old Testament rivals the Koran in brutality. The second is that I think Muslims today are committing more violence in the name of their religion than any other religion's adherents. And I think this is due, in large part, because the principles of Islam are more violent than most other religions.

When you compare Islam and Christianity for example, when you put the two of them side by side and compare their moral values, I will be totally honest with you, I think Christianity starts looking pretty damn good compared to Islam. (And anyone who knows me or who's read this blog knows I'm not at all a Christian sympathizer). Just about everything bad that Christianity has, Islam also has, and then Islam just adds more bad shit on top of that. And it is in no way "Islamophobic" or "racist" to say say this, or point it out.

It has become a thing now to label all people critical of Islam Islamophobic, or even racist. The racist accusation is obviously nonsense. Islam is a religion and a religion is not a race. There are Muslims of every color around the world. The Islamophobic accusation though, has a racist implication to it. There is, it seems, an implicit assumption that "Islamophobic" can mean the same thing as anti-Asian, or anti-Middle Eastern, or even anti-Muslim. These are often conflated, but they are not the same.

Let's look at a few definitions of Islamophobia. Wikipedia says, "Anti-Islamic sentiment or Islamophobia is a term for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam, Muslims, or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim." According to UC Berkely's Center for Race & Gender, a 1991 Runnymede Trust Report defined Islamophobia as "unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims." These are two interesting definitions. Wiki's definition focuses more on the religion of Islam, and CR&G's definition focuses more on the followers of Islam. Therein lies an important distinction. Now, I'm not going to fuss over definitions here — that's not the point. The points I want to focus on regard the problems I see with the term Islamophobia and its usage.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day Blog Post 2014

It's time for another mandatory Thanksgiving Day blog. Holy shit what happened to 2014? It's true what they say, as you get older time seems to fly by faster. When you're a kid, 5 years is a lifetime. When you're in your 30s it doesn't seem that long. I remember being a teenager back in 1999 hanging out with my friends talking about bands that had started in the 80s, like Metallica, Slayer and even the Beastie Boys. Back in 1999, the 80s seemed like ancient history, but it was really only 10 years prior. Now when I think of ten years ago, it just doesn't seem like it was that long ago. I have fresh memories of 2004. I can't believe that 1999 is as long ago from 2014 as 1984 was to 1999. Man time flies, but it doesn't flow.

I want to comment on the recent events in Ferguson Missouri. I don't have any personal views on the case because I wasn't there and I cannot say for sure what really happened. But I can say that it is very apparent that we have a system that treats minorities differently than white people. I also want to say that protest is important. Regardless of what your politics are, if you do not protest and make yourself heard, you cannot expect change to happen. Protest is a fundamental right. There would be no Civil Rights "Movement" if there were no protests. Civil disobedience is a necessary condition for bringing about change. I'm a little bit ashamed that I've never taken place in a protest, being how political I am. I would have considered going out in the streets to protest the Ferguson decision, but I'm recovering from surgery I had earlier this month and I can't really move without pain. I've actually been home for 6 weeks.

Which brings me to what I'm thankful for this year.

I'm thankful for modern medical technology. We take it for granted that we can go to a hospital and get treated for an ailment or a disease that decades ago would have killed us or left us in a debilitating condition for the rest of our lives. I thank the professionals, the doctors, and scientists who advance our technology and knowledge in the medical field. I owe them big time.

Friday, January 31, 2014

I'd Be Scared To Be A Republican

The republicans are losing the American public on almost every front. They're clinging desperately to outdated morality from bygone eras in the wide-eyed hopes that they will one day become the cultural and political paradigms again. But here's a news flash: we are never going back to those "puritan" times that republicans fantasize about. Ever. The momentum of the culture is rapidly swinging against their favor and it's hopelessly naive to not recognize this. Younger Americans are even changing their mind on socialism, with almost half of 18-29 year olds viewing it favorably, according to a new Pew survey. So if you're a staunchly conservative republican who supports "traditional marriage," unfettered capitalism, and you're against contraception, abortion and secularism, your demographic is shriveling up like an old man with shrinkage.

If I were a conservative or a republican, I'd be really scared of these trends. The big money spent to brainwash the masses via the likes of Fox News and World Net Daily will only go so far. It seems that the only way the republican agenda will be able to survive this massive cultural paradigm shift away from their values will be through the support of a handful of wealthy donors like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson. But as the republican base of older, rural, white Americans begins to die off, all that big money spending will increasingly become less and less effective. And republicans know this. So what we've seen in response are increasingly unfair tactics employed by the republicans to try and win elections. Jerrymandering is a prime example, but eventually none of it will be enough. When generation Y and X are in power, liberal values will be the norm, and those who are in support of conservative values will be all but shut out. They will be left to certain rural districts of the country and could disappear from the radar altogether as this century marches onward. What we'd see would be the death of the far right, replaced by a moderate conservative wing, resembling something like today's libertarian party e.g. liberal social values coupled with conservative economic policies.

As a liberal, I of course see this all as something immensely positive, especially after surviving the hellish ordeal of the Bush years. But I cannot imagine what it must be like to be a republican today - that is to say, a republican who isn't insulated in the bubble and who thinks that the party is doing just fine and that any day now we'll just start repealing all the liberal advances society has made thus far. To be a republican who lives in reality must be a scary thing.

That said, the future looks good for liberalism, at least in the West, but we've still got plenty of struggle ahead.

Monday, October 21, 2013

What Came First The Atheist Or The Skeptic?

We all wear many hats in life, and carry many identities. For some of us, our race is the most important factor in our identity. Some people are black first and then an American or a Christian, or they're Latino first and then a woman. For other people, religion is first and foremost. So they might see themselves as a Muslim first, and then an American, or a Jehovah's Witness first, and then an Australian. Still others identify strongly with their gender. So for them, they might see themselves as a woman first, then a mother or a Latina. And others put nation identity first. So they might see themselves as an American first, or French first, and then male or female. And then there are those who see their occupation first. So they might see themselves as a chef first, then an Argentinian, or as a musician first, and then British.

How we identify ourselves depends on what identities we feel are most important to us. I've always hated the idea of being identified too strongly with what I do for a living because I've never really had a job that I liked a whole lot. In a city like New York, all too often you are what you do. When you meet someone new one of the first questions that you'll be asked is what you do for a living. When I would give my answer I'd feel like that person was immediately coming to conclusions about me based on what I did. I've worked in the IT industry for the past several years and I've had to deal with quite a few people thinking that I must be a computer geek who sits home and plays video games for hours on end. I happen not to be much of a gamer at all, and I'm not even much of a computer geek either.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Funny Irony About Life

Isn't it funny how atheists tend to be more interested in religion than most religious people are? I mean, almost every atheist's blog (mine included) is plastered with rants and raves about this god and that god and this religion and that religion. The very people who disbelieve all these things tend to be the most obsessed with them.

Oh what would life be with out irony?

But the reason why atheists tend to be obsessed with religion is the same reason why black people tend to focus on race relations, and women tend to focus on gender relations, and gay people tend to focus on sexuality: You tend to focus on what you're passionate for and what you're against. So black people are focused on racism and racial equality; women are focused on sexism and gender equality; gay people are focused on oppression of homosexuals and equal rights for the GLBT community.

Atheists tend to be passionate about secularism and defending their worldview from hostile and ill-conceived attacks from those who are religious. One way to fight for secularism, besides being active in the political arena (and voting!), is to promote a healthy naturalistic worldview as the rational alternative that makes the best sense of the evidence against stereotypes and misunderstandings.

Less religious people will mean more secularism. Period.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Secularism & The City: Dispatches From The Wall Of Separation

I've been wanting to write a bit more about secularism recently because debates with theists always seem to come down to the roles between religion and government. At any given time I may be engaged in 1 or more simultaneous debates with different theists on various websites, forums and blogs. I was on a Christian website recently and found myself in a debate with a fairly conservative Christian Baptist over the separation of church and state. Our disagreements fell along familiar lines where we felt religion's place in public society should be. And I have to say that once again I had all of my stereotypes confirmed: people who are devoutly religious, almost always think that it is perfectly alright to impose their religiously based morals onto other people.

So let me address some of our disagreements and outline some of my views on secularism because in practical terms, the debate over church and state has serious real world impacts, and is not to be taken jokingly.

Freedom of religion

I think I speak for most atheists when I say that a secular society should protect the rights of those of religious faith to believe what they want without undue persecution and for them to have the right to be open about it. But those of religious faith must realize that freedom of religion cannot exist unless there also exists the freedom from religion. I don't have the right to prevent you from worshiping your chosen deity in your private life, and you don't have the right to impose your religious morals on me in my private life.

Now where this gets complicated is in government. Your right to freely practice your religion must encounter some reasonable restrictions if you're employed by the government. This means that as a public school teacher you cannot lead prayer services while on the job, and as an elected official who crafts public policy, you cannot pass legislation that is favorable to any one religion, or religion in general. This is where I notice that many devoutly religious Christians favor a bias for their religion. For example, some Christians will say that it is OK for a Christian teacher to lead a Christian prayer service in a public school, but they're adamantly opposed to the idea of a Muslim school teacher praising Islam in the classroom and leading Muslim prayers. They'll also support the 10 Commandments perched on government property, but would also adamantly oppose the 5 Pillars of Islam on government property. Clear religious bias and religious discrimination against others. If your religious views force you to adopt a stance where you're for openly discriminating against other religions, while favoring yours, then my main thesis as an atheist that religion is divisive and harmful to society is vindicated.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Malcolm X: The Intellectual

I have been meaning to write a blog about Malcolm X for quite sometime but I just never got around to it. If you know me or have read my blog at some length, you will know that my heroes in life are intellectuals. I had always knew about Malcolm X growing up, but never knew the details about him until the last few years. Malcolm X is often dismissed by many as a loud, angry, militant black Muslim, and that is also how I understood him for so many years. When I began reading about him, and watched his speeches and debates and the documentaries about him, I began to see the human being behind the facade. I have to admit I was quite impressed with his agility with words considering he was largely self educated in prison, and his polemic nature. Malcolm X was a true intellectual, and for that reason he has my utmost respect.

Now it may come as a shock to some who have read my philosophy on religion, particularly Islam, why a polemic black Muslim like Malcolm X could have gained my respect. But Malcolm X was different. He was no Lewis Farrakhan, or a Khalid Abdul Muhammad, rather he is up on the pillars of black intellectuals along with Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin. Malcolm X didn't spend his time preaching radical Islam, he spent his time largely speaking out against the institutionalized racism against black people all over the world at the hands of their white oppressors. It was civil rights, not religion, that was the issue of his day.

Now some have called Malcolm X a racist. I see Malcolm X as a black man coming to gripes with the nature of his reality, within the confines of a culture that at that time, saw him as less than a human, and not guaranteed any of the rights that all Americans were told that they have and should enjoy. He reacted as only one could imagine, given his life experiences. He experienced racism throughout his life, his father was killed by the Ku Klux Klan, his family house burned down by them too. He experienced just about every form of racism you could throw at a person that it is no wonder that Malcolm X was as pugnacious as he was.

One of the characteristics that Malcolm X had that made him different, was his moral character. After he left the Nation Of Islam, he began to expose the corruption he saw within its ranks, particularly of its leader Elijah Muhammad, who Malcolm accused of having eight children with six of his teenage secretaries. These allegations later turned out to be true. Other corruptions Malcolm exposed of the NOI involved the mishandling of funds to buy expensive jewelry and clothes. It seemed that Malcolm was uncorruptible in his ways and lived according to the philosophy he preached. He was never involved in any sexual misdoings; he never committed any violence towards others. He certainly did professed using violence as a means of self defense, but few of us will argue against this on moral terms.

Towards the end of Malcolm X's life he softened up a bit on his views towards white people. In early 1964 he made the Hajj, the pilgrimage required by all able-bodied Muslims to make to Mecca. There he saw Muslims of all races coming together to celebrate their common humanity and to worship. It was this sight, that Malcolm later spoke of that encouraged him to review some of his opinions on racial attitudes. I am glad that Malcolm made this transition, just a year before he would die, for it bettered his legacy. But what frustrates me, is the idea that a black man from the U.S. would have to travel so far away to foreign lands, and within the Islamic tradition, in order to have to see people of different races come together in unity. What shame this makes me feel for the culture of the United States of America at that time, preaching freedom on the one hand, while turning on the fire hose with the other. Although I proudly affirm the core principles of our secular democracy, the history of American racism and prejudice written in blood sometimes makes my stomach turn.

Whether Malcolm X was assassinated by members of the NOI or whether it was part of a larger conspiracy I am not qualified to say. It would have been interesting to see how Malcolm's views changed with the times had he lived. He died right as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was beginning to be implemented and he never lived to see what became of it. Prior to this legislation it can be argued that most previous attempts to enact civil rights for black people were abysmal failures are were never really implemented. Because of this Malcolm X had little faith that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would produce better conditions for his people, and I don't blame him.

Even though Malcolm X was a Muslim and held views that I disagree with, that doesn't mean that I as a pugnacious atheist cannot see him as a human being, struggling for the universal recognition of humanity for him and for his people. His fight was not with atheism, it was for the dignity of black people against white racism, oppression and colonialism, and for this I would fight with him. I deeply sympathize with him and I get brought almost to tears when I think of what he had to go through. He certainly was an interesting human being and sadly died too soon.

Malcolm X    (May 19, 1925 - February 21, 1965)

Malcolm X At The Oxford Debates:

PBS Documentary Malcolm X: Make It Plain:

Malcolm X Interview At UC Berkeley:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Race Matters: Are Africans Less Intelligent?

Recently, I've been debating the relationship between race, intelligence and behavior with a friend. The debate revolves around the idea that there is a direct correlation between race and intelligence. My friend asserts that black people are genetically inferior, and are therefore incapable of the more complex thinking patterns that other races are capable of and are more prone to violent behavior. He cites various anecdotes in his life and history showing no advanced black or African civilizations as his evidence of the genetic inferiority of black African people.

Now we both are not ignorant to the controversy that shrouds conversations on such sensitive topics. But then again, I've never been a stranger to controversy. I actually relish in the idea of talking about the most taboo of topics with people such as religion, politics and yes, race also.

Now I acknowledge, along with my friend, that here in the U.S., there are definitely problems in the black community involving violence, poverty, educational gaps, income gaps, and family relations. I assert to my friend that these problems in the black community are cultural problems, and that there is no scientific evidence that shows that the brains of black people are incapable of the complex neurological transactions that other races have, and if there was, I would love to hear a reference. Now while I am still waiting on this promised reference, I am being accused of following the example of, and being a puppet of, the liberal media, which over and over again asserts no difference in intelligence among the races.

I don't particularly like being called a puppet of the liberal media, because I definitely have my criticisms of it, and I've even accused this same friend that he too is a puppet of the liberal media, because he's sympathetic toward Islam in that he thinks Islam is a religion of peace. I want to take a moment here to put into words why I think culture is to blame for the problems in the African American community.

Monday, May 31, 2010

What's my title?

I think one annoying thing about blogging is trying to find an appropriate title for every blog. Sometime I just cant think of one that suites the blog's content or I come up with the title first and then in the blog I end up migrating away from the topic in the title.

One thing I regret is not blogging before and throwing away my all journals. I should have wrote them online so they'd be up today. I also should have written more about my life growing up and my experiences instead of just about all my anger and fears. I guess that's what was on my mind.

I like to read memoirs of people about their times growing up and of the experiences during the times and places they take a place in. I like of those movies that take place years ago. I grew up in the 1990s and should have documented more of my experiences. I witnessed a dramatic demographic shift in my neighborhood from being mostly white Irish/Polish to turning Puerto Rican, then Ecuadorian, Peruvian and Asian. The Irish kids that I knew growing up started leaving one by one during the 90s. Many of them moved out to Long Island. I remember hearing their parents complain about how the schools here were terrible and talks of moving to nicer (i.e. whiter) areas were frequent as the immigrant population began moving in from Asia and Latin America. There were Puerto Ricans here as long as I can remember, but even they too started moving out of the neighborhood to the suburbs.

I used to think that Queens was getting bad. Now 20 years later that couldn't be further from the truth. White people are moving back into the area as the gentrification has spread from Manhattan. Crime keeps dropping and quality of life keeps rising. I hardly ever worry about crime anymore. I wonder if all those Irish kids who moved out of the neighborhood years ago wish they were back where they grew up. There are benefits to living close to the city. One is not having a car. Another is being able to walk to the supermarket and stores for what you need. The most important benefit is being close to the entertainment of the big city and not having to live in a dinky boring suburb.

Seeing all the positive changes to my area has made me realize what a great asset I have right over my head. I don't think anyone realized it back in the 90s when people were still worried about crime and were thinking of moving out of the city. I'm surprised that my mom didn't move out somewhere else. She grew up in the suburbs and moved to the city, which is the opposite of what most people do.


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