Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sometimes, even good intentions are clueless

Today, PZ Meyer wrote an awesome post.  In it, he said some things about the atheist movement and issues that have cropped up regarding women, minorities and other groups which are often discriminated against such as the LGBT community where many in those groups have felt left out of this movement, to say the least.
Basically, his message is that if those of us who are actively trying to promote a non-theist community really are serious about opposing the deleterious affects of theism and the theocratic movement in this country or indeed, the world, 
we won’t achieve that by telling women and people of color that they need to adopt our priorities to fit in; we need to recognize that social justice, equality, and fighting economic disparities must also be a significant part of our purpose.
He goes on to say,
Using our white male position of power to tell others that they must adapt to us to fit in actually is an example of the logic of white supremacy, offensive as that sounds…even if we mean well, intent does not override the fact of what we do.

And the beginning of wisdom is to wake up and notice.
The second step is to try and change it.
And then it’s a long, long march afterwards.
I don’t want to try and steal his thunder here (I couldn’t if I tried) so I won’t belabor what he said except to tell you to go and read his post.  It is a wonderful eye-opening look into how a white male (like me) must begin to see himself as he is and how he is wrong before he can truly begin poking at the other guy’s eye.
So, go!  Read it, now!   I’ve even provided another handy link for you!  But I want his post in your mind before you come back here.  I'll wait.

Finished?  Good, read on.
So here’s my own spin on it.
Like PZ, I am a white male.  I grew up in Texas, where white males have a special place in heaven.  I’ve got a college education, a good, senior government job I’ve worked at for over 38 years and a salary to match that privilege.  In short, like PZ, I’ve got absolutely nothing to kick about.  Well, ok, I’ve got this handicap where I don’t quite fit the “P” part of the WASP thing, but, seriously, it’s never really affected me in a major way.  I live in Maryland, if that helps explain it.
Like PZ, it takes effort to stop, take notice and realize that I’m not being deliberately biased or racist - but I am often acting in that “institutionally” biased way PZ was talking about.  I have to stop and realize that there are issues and problems that I’ve never experienced because I’ve never been exposed to them, so I have no clue that they even exist.
That isn’t easy.  As a matter of fact, until he wrote about it, I’d not seriously even looked at it in quite that way before.  Now that I’ve read his post, it’s damn uncomfortable.
I’ve always thought of myself as an inclusive kind of fella, at least once I married a girl from another country and realized that America wasn’t all there is.  But I now see that it has been a journey, and a long one at that.  It isn’t finished, either.
It has just started.
I genuinely like people.  All sorts.  Tall, short, skinny, fat, black, white, brown and whatever other colors there may be, male, female, transgender or bi.  Living in Maryland has helped there, because I’ve been exposed to a lot of folks I’d never have known if I’d stayed in Texas.  It’s been an interesting experience, and I’ve found that most people are just that - people.
...and that’s my problem.
I have this tendency to see other people as just another person and have tried for so long to think of all sorts of folks as “just another human being”, that I’ve overlooked one of the most important things about those “other” people:  by being different, their experiences are different, giving them a different perspective on life and what the problems a secular, humanist and atheistic community should be worried about.
In other words, “it ain’t just about me.”
So, here’s what I’d like for you, my dear readers, to do for me.  If you are one of “those” folks with a different life experience, and you don’t see me talking about or linking to places that talk about things that you know are important in order to make you want to join our efforts in building a secular, humanist centered community, tell me about it!
Please.  Just tell me.  I am all ears, and really want to learn, because if our community doesn’t talk about and work to correct problems that affect you, we can’t expect you to care about ours.  This has to be a two way street, where all of us care about each other and work for the common good.  Together we can be stronger.  Divided, of course, we remain, well, divided and weak.  
If we want you to join us, we have to be willing to join you.
Final note:
Please, understand that I am not trying to limit the definition of “other”, above.  I mean to include women, transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, all ethnic groups, races, nationalities and whatever other definition that helps to separate us into differing segments of humanity, including economic strata.  Every viewpoint is valuable, every opinion counts.
Oh, and if you think this is an important topic, link to it on Facebook or Twitter!

Robert Ahrens
The Cybernetic Atheist

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