Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why Debate Exists About Systemic Racism and Sexism

Language is a fickle beast. It is as slithy and brillig as the toves gyring and gimbling in the wabe. We all perceive words and meanings in a unique way and many people use words in ways that are not even accurate. When this happens often enough and for a long enough period of time, the dictionary definition is forced to change. I speak about language here because I believe it is the key component to the disruption of this conversation regarding racial bias. Not only do words hold different meanings to different people, but certain phrases might elicit interpretations that were never even intended by the original speaker. Compound these issues with the complexity and touchiness of the subject and we are ripe for debates, controversies, anger, and even riots and murder.

The many issues in discussing this topic make it quite nearly impossible to have a valid discussion regarding it and hoping to make any useful steps to coherence, understanding, and unity between the differing camps of thought. In order to have this conversation, we need to begin with definitions. What is racism exactly? Pulling a dictionary definition is only partially useful because many people do not adhere to the dictionary definition and our word-choices are only as good as the ability for others to interpret them. I propose that there is a significant population of people such as myself that view racism as a belief in the inferiority of another race. It is to say that all people of a particular race are inferior as a byproduct of their genes which make them up. Other people believe it is racist merely to mention race in relation to an idea. To some, it is racist to believe that black people often enjoy watermelon and fried chicken more than white people. For me, this is not racism but a potential statistic. I truly do not know the numbers, and for all I know it is a downright lie to begin with, but let's say 90% of black people like watermelon and fried chicken while only 50% of white people do. If these numbers were accurate (which they most assuredly are not) I do not personally believe it is then racist to plan a black gathering and providing these two food items in hopes for it to be well received. Other people would disagree and call this racism. This is why we must define our words.

This disagreement in the meaning of racism will clearly have a distinct effect on whether or not an individual believes in the existence of this concept of "systemic racism." When I, and I presume many others, hear the concept of systemic racism, we hear "the system hates black people and believes they are all inferior and thus treats them unfairly." When other people hear of system racism, they hear, "most everything in our day to day affairs is harder for a black person." Hopefully nobody believes in the first, and with some simple data hopefully everyone can understand the truth of the second. Understanding that it is true, however, is only the first step. Then there is the issue with blame and how to solve the issue which fuels even more debate.

When I hear about racism, I immediately perceive "whites hating blacks." Perhaps it is the "system" that makes be feel this way. Other people simply hear "life is harder for minorities." There is a distinct problem between these two phrases. The first condemns white people while the second is merely the recognition of a statistical fact. Similarly, when talking about sexism, I presume many people hear, "men are pigs and treating women like objects" while others hear, "life is harder for women." Thus, the simple words of racism and sexism will entirely garble the conversation. Because of this, I argue that we ought to do away with them all together and instead focus more on the actual issues at hand. It is useless to say that we have systemic racism or sexism. It is more useful to say that it is more difficult to succeed in life for black people and women. Nobody feels threatened by this. Nobody feels accused. These phrases, for me, elicit merely a question and a desire to solve a problem. I immediately wonder if it is true, how it is true, or why it is true rather than perceiving I am being called a monster for treating people unfairly.

This same issue arises with the phraseology of "white privilege." This phrase easily elicits an "us against them" concept. It focuses on white people as being a problem rather than on the issues surrounding the struggles of black people. The solution may have a lot to do with white people, but if we use such phrases that make white people appear as the problem, we are going to have fewer white people trying to help. Instead, we will get many upset white people for being accused of something even if that is not the intention of the person speaking the white privilege phrase. We must be exceedingly careful with our language if we wish to make a significant impact.

All these things being said, it is easy to see how it might be harder to succeed in life for a black person or a woman. We may have a black president which, to me, indicates that the majority of America is not "racist" any more than the "system" is by my own understanding of the word, but this in no way indicates that life is somehow easier for all of the black populace. Just because one black person makes it big does not mean that all black people have a similar chance or ease of ascension. It will be no more indicative of the easiness of life for a woman if Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2016. These individual accounts are known as anecdotes and they do not help in any way in understanding the overall situation of blacks or women.

When it comes to understanding why success does not come as easily for the black person or female as it does for the white person or male, there are a multitude of things to look at. We cannot simply leave it as if racism and sexism are the cause. Given my own use of such words, they are certainly not the cause. Given how some other people use the words, it becomes fairly redundant and meaningless. We could say that life is harder for blacks because people or the system think black people are inferior, but we cannot say that life is harder for blacks because people or the system make it harder for blacks. Well, we could say that, but it is not very useful. With the first, we could devise a plan to educate the people that blacks are not inferior. But with the second, it tells us nothing as to the true cause. It is simply hard because we make it hard. We need to dive deeper into what makes it harder and why these things exist. We need to look at the cause and not the symptoms.

If we know that cancers are causing deaths, we cannot simply say that cancer is the problem and leave it at that. We need to figure out what causes the different cancers. If it turns out that sugar causes one cancer, we could eliminate sugar. We could also dive deeper into determining how sugar causes this cancer and maybe find a way to eliminate that reaction. The same goes for the difficulty for blacks to succeed. Whether or not these following things are true, I am not positive, but I believe they might be. Either way, true or not, they should at least serve as an example. Part of what makes it more difficult for blacks to succeed could be education. The educational facilities in predominantly black neighborhoods might be sub-par. They might be sub-par because the cities might be poor. They might be poor because richer people stay out of them. Richer people might stay out of them because the crime might be too high. The crime might be too high because the education is not good enough and because the people are poor. If these things are true, it is easy to see that the problem is circular and self-sustaining. If each of these things cause each other, there is seemingly no good way out. We cannot simply tell them to get a job so that they are no longer poor so that they can have better educational facilities and get better jobs any more than we can shame a depressed person into being happy.

Apart from my own hypotheticals, there is certainly also the problem of racial perception as I may have just demonstrated. True or not, my perceptions remain. I would not consider these perceptions racist from my own definition, but they are indeed perceptions of a race which others do take to be racism. Again, this is why the word is useless for this discussion and these perceptions is where most of the discussion regarding systemic racism lies. Studies have shown that managers are less likely to call back an applicant with a black-sounding name over candidates with white-sounding names. This study has a limitation given that the scientists applied only to newspaper ads which limits the study to a certain type of person who would post a job in a newspaper at this day and age, but we can run with this anyway and show that it is at least more difficult for black people in this one regard. So it is harder for black people to get a job when the listing is found in a newspaper. This is certainly scientifically true. At least, it is true for two cities in Illinois where the study took place. But we still need to ask ourselves why this is the case even if not for the entire nation and for all jobs which may or may not be the case without bringing in further studies. I believe this discrimination is likely due to perception of likelihoods regarding a race which once again brings us back to the definition of racism. Some will call this racism which elicits a feeling of accusation and is entirely unhelpful in resolving the issue.

If the managers listing ads in the newspapers perceived consciously or unconsciously that, on average, black people are less qualified for the job and thus call white names first, then this should clearly be seen as a bad thing even if it is statistically more advantages to take this sort of shortcut. Despite its truth or myth, we have decided as a country that it is not right to make decisions based upon the averages of a race rather than on the merits of individuals themselves. Men commit the vast majority of murders and rapes and thus it is far more likely that a male applicant would be a murderer or a rapist than a female, but we certainly should not take that to mean that men should be given less precedence over women when choosing applicants to interview. I would be willing to bet that few people actually take this into consideration, but this is exactly what we do when we consider blacks or women to be less likely qualified for a position over a white male. As a culture we have decided it is not only immoral, but illegal, to take such generalities into consideration when judging an applicant. Each individual must stand or fall on his or her own merits, accomplishments, and qualifications. Of course, even these might be more difficult to obtain as a black person or female and thus could still be unfair in the end.

The solution probably does not lie in the arresting of all people who were less willing to give a call to a black or female name. In fact, many of these people might not realize they are discriminating in this way which is a significant problem. I may not know the solution myself but I know that it starts with discussion. Of course, we clearly have a hard time discussing this very topic which is why I will sooner discuss the solution to the difficulties of the discussion. As I have reiterated throughout, I contend that the solution starts with a careful consideration of our word-choices. We must remove any and all hindrances that might prevent honest discourse and give rise to emotions. The discussion is emotionally charged enough without adding in words meant to evoke such emotions.

After we have chosen our words carefully to frame the situation, we need to be willing to look at any and all causes and for each one to ask why, how, and whether these things are true or not and whether or not they themselves have another underlying cause. If the underlying cause of the discrimination is mere perception, then we may need to change the perception. If the perception is built around truth then we can either build a false perception or else try to somehow change the reality. If it is not perception but merely a byproduct of humans who biologically favor those within their subgroups, then we have an entirely different set of potential solutions. None of these, however, are solved by using emotionally-triggered words that bring up defenses or encourage anger and resentment. This needs to be discussed without the words of racism, privilege, and sexism. I would even argue that we need to nix the word systemic which sounds too much like a conspiracy theory as if someone has designed it all this way from the deep pockets of their evil britches.

Communication is key. Be respectful and inquisitive of the perspective of others and be sure to fully understand the perceived definitions of words that are used. Get clarification of intent and meaning behind the words. Assume nothing. I believe it is far more likely that there is a mere misunderstanding than that your opponent is an outrageous jerk-face with poo for brains bent on the complete destruction of humanity through the hatred of all others unlike themselves. Often, the difference comes down to experience, worldviews, and education. Such things will be overcome with respect rather than with accusations of intolerance and especially not with one of our most shaming offenses of racism or sexism. These words have become ingrained in many of us from our youth that even the perception of being racist is worth jumping through many hoops to avoid. There is a deep fear of such allegations and accusatory remarks will make the conversation impossible.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Decency: The Uprising

In my travels on Facebook posts and surfing the web from site to site and forum to forum, I am noticing a new trend: decency. This may come as a surprise to many people who tend to find mostly trolls or become trolls themselves, but a growing number of people are beginning to realize the uselessness of such tactics and this is rather exciting! People are opening their eyes all around and noticing the baseless fear tactics that people keep using in order to control us. While such fear tactics remain popular and useful for now, this trend is slowly changing and will indeed backfire. People are beginning to respond more to decency than fear and trolling!

When we think of politics, we often imagine two groups of people flinging poo across a fence at each other. Well, I do at least. When we think of campaigning, we often think of an insult-fest where different candidates or groups tell how terrible another candidate is and merely claiming that they promote something great rather than providing any useful information or ideas. This will soon be changing! If more people wake up to the futility of trolling and learn to be respectful of ideas and the people who hold them, we might actually begin to have decent conversations that go beyond our small bubbles and solve some real heavy-hitting problems. Only when we can respect another person's point of view whether they are wrong or right, can we learn how to guide each other into reason and proper perspective. Sometimes we will guide others and sometimes we will be the ones guided so long as we truly respect others. Nobody has everything right and when we are wrong it is difficult to know we are wrong until someone respectfully shows us the data. Insults and even argumentation, however, are a scientifically proven way to solidify someone's ideas. Only respect can break the barrier of a closed mind.

And I am beginning to see this respectful behavior within my own communications with others. There are quite usually some trolls, but I try my absolute darndest to remain polite, kind, civil, and explanatory rather than offensive, crude, and insulting. Often, such people stop responding, but some actually turn a new leaf. I have had many occurrences where such trolls actually apologize for just getting so "fed up" and then they continue the conversation in a polite tone. They, and even many others, will often exclaim how nice it is to have a decent conversation without the poo-flinging. People recognize it, they enjoy it, they promote it, and they represent it. The more we do this with our own conversations and uplift others who do the same, the sooner this uprising will take hold in the greater conversations and begin to influence our political arguments. Can you imagine a world where democrats and republicans actually have a conversation instead of merely pronouncing the evil of the other? I puke a little in my mouth every time I see such fear of "the other" and it is good to know I am not the only one!

The decency is growing, it is rising, and it will eventually take over the mainstream. How long it takes is up to each of us and our diligence to uplift it, practice it, and grow it. Be a part of the decency uprising. Engage in the daring conversations with honest and fresh outlooks while being fully respectful toward the trolls either to their demise or to their rebirth into a civil human being. Every conversation shapes the culture around us and we all have the opportunity to make trolling a thing of the past and the hallmark of the biggest of fools of humanity and of uneducated children. Let us reason together and leave the fiery darts of the tongue behind. We do have an impact in our culture. Let us impact it toward the beneficial benevolence of decency.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Memorial Day Facade


As memorial day approaches, I am reminded of the extreme militant patriotism of a people of predominantly Christian persuasion. Before I continue on that line, however, I would like to stress first and foremost that I am not an anti-war proponent. Of course I do not like wars, but I see them as a necessary evil much like exercise and politeness to fools. This does not mean I approve of all wars we have been in but I can at least appreciate the men and women who have served to protect our rights and freedom. In the end, it only takes one group of militants who would rather kill the infidel than to discuss differences over tea in order to require that we engage in a war to protect ourselves. Of course, many wars are not particularly that simple and many continue for far different reasons, but that is not what I wish to discuss in writing this.

What I find shocking and awing is the number of professed Christians who are pro-war despite its apparent necessity. Many Christians do not merely think of war as a necessary evil, but quite often as a first response to any non-Christian party. My own experiences leads me to believe that the common Christian perspective of international relations begins and ends with, "I say we just nuke 'em!" After all, that is just what Jesus would have done, right? Jesus was a pacifist--a pacifist even to his own death. Jesus was a pacifist even to the point of healing the man whose ear a disciple had cut off as he was intent on arresting Jesus and turning him over to torment and death on a cross. Jesus said that he who lives by the sword shall die by the sword and he overturned death penalties for sins in order to uplift forgiveness instead. Nobody gets more pacifist than Jesus according to what we read of him in the synaptic gospels. The only thing we could possibly take as a call to arms from the mouth of Jesus is when he said to sell your cloak to buy a sword in Luke 22. Of course, he was being entirely metaphoric as is demonstrated in two ways.

The first obvious clue to the metaphoric nature of the sword-purchasing is that the disciples immediately pointed at two swords in response and Jesus said it was enough. It appears rather strange to go from encouraging everyone to buy one at the expense of their own cloaks to suddenly believing two swords would suffice. If the two swords were enough, then clearly Jesus would have realized that they had no need of selling anything to begin with. The second clue that Jesus meant this entirely metaphorically is in the very fact that he told his followers not to attack. Of course, we could also simply note the incongruence of his own words if he did not mean this metaphorically since Jesus always spoke of non-violence, turning the other cheek, and forgiving others. It is harder to take his three years of teaching non-violence to be metaphoric instead of his one obviously metaphoric account here. We can look yet further at his early loyal followers who also were entirely non-violent even to their own horrendous deaths. Clearly, Jesus was a pacifist and his originally followers understood him this way.

Anyone thinking that Jesus could have promoted any kind of military behavior of his followers is simply fooling themselves. It is not in the book that Christians so claim to love. Violence comes only from God directly in the Bible and he pours in on extra thick in the book of Revelation. This extreme violence on God's behalf smiting the infidel so immensely that blood rose up to horses' bridles for some 156 miles is certainly a bit strange given the teachings of Jesus, but hey, who are we to question God, right? Somehow, this kind of grotesque display of power has become the hallmark of many Christians. They look forward to the spilling of the blood of the infidel.

This is nothing new, of course. Christians have always hated rival religions and atheists. Well, only after the initial teachings of Jesus had become corrupt as he prophesied would occur, of course. Since Jesus specifically stated that we ought not call any man teacher or father, this corruption clearly had already occurred as early as 67AD when the second Pope was named. The first is supposedly Peter but I believe he was likely crowned post-mortem. Jesus claimed that we all had the same teacher and father and thus we had no need for such acknowledgements of mere man and thus the papacy is clearly not within the parameters of Jesus' teachings. Jesus recognized that using a man to be the means by which we understood God's will was a very dangerous thing as he later experienced via his own crucifixion and as we soon saw within the Roman Catholic Church. He who controls the will of God controls every believer in said God and holds the power to smite with the threat of Godly retribution for disobedience.

The Roman Catholic Church had a series of some 15 crusades over the course of 567 years starting from 718AD. This is the church that modern day protestants have come out of and decided to mimic while holding to their core doctrines and the same organization that modern day Catholics still represent. Clearly we have not come too far away from the murderous intents of the original faith-corruptors. Christians today have more zeal for our military than most any non-Christian. They are the most war-approving and military condoning over any atheist group I know. All in the name of love, I suppose. You might expect that people would one day realize that the Roman Catholic Church is nothing to mimic in their murderous crusades and extreme torments of the infidels. Instead, they suppose they may have had a few hiccups in the past, but they were probably right all along about the infallibility and authority of the Bible that they compiled and the deity of Jesus himself.

So as we approach this Memorial Day, let us watch as the fundamentalist Christians show over-exuberant support and respect for our troops who lived by the sword and thus died by it according to their pacifist leader and let us ponder how Christians can continue to twist the words so sharply from the one they claim to love, serve, and adore: he who represents love, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. While we are scratching our heads in bewilderment at the fallen state of the once useful teachings of Jesus, let us also remember that indeed we cannot talk our way out of being mauled by a rabid bear and that many people have indeed died in support of our freedoms.

Even if any and all wars had some other underlying purposes, the men and women who gave their lives were likely motivated by the political rhetoric of freedom and peace. I give special respect to those who fought against the power-hungry Christians who held deep beliefs in the righteousness of slavery and fought for the freedoms of all mankind despite color. And while not particularly military, I give thanks to those who stood up against the crazed and blood-thirsty religious majority for the sake of reason and peace and found their livelihoods destroyed for promoting freedom of slaves and advocacy of women. I throw out even more respect for those who have died on the front-lines of today's fight for justice against oppressive rulers and extremist religions.

I give a heart-felt thank you to all who have lost their lives in promotion of peace, love, equality, and freedom for all mankind no matter their race, sex, nationality, religion or location.

Special thanks to Avijit Roy and those murdered at Charlie Hebdo. You gave your lives for a good cause and I hope the world becomes a better place because of it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Christianity Terrifies Atheists Because it Reminds Them of Death

I recently read a study which, I believe, improperly concluded that Christians are "terrified" of atheists because they reminded Christians of the grave.
Here: http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/study-people-dont-like-atheists-because-they-serve-as-a-grim-reminder-of-deaths-finality/
And here: http://www.vice.com/read/atheism-terrifies-people-because-it-makes-us-think-about-death-511?utm_Source=vicetwitterus

Christians are supposedly afraid of death or afraid that there is no afterlife and so atheists, by their very nature of denying the existence of God, remind them of this possibility and its likelihood. From personal experience, I find this conclusion ridiculous and further I find the conclusion non sequitur from the data gathered. It seems about as foolish as concluding that Christianity terrifies atheists for the similar reason of death due to the hell that awaits them though they do not truly believe it exists.

Now, my own anecdotal story is certainly not a scientific study and it is highly likely that, as a Christian, I did not represent the rest of Christendom. In fact, I know that I did not fit much of Christendom with my personal way of living my faith. However, I did live within many flavors of Christian bubbles and I still drank from the many bowls Kool-Aid they did so I have a decent insight into the mindsets of my old peers. My observances as an insider, my own understanding from diligent studying of the Bible, and my own logical understanding of the faith leads me to a vastly different conclusion than a fear of death leading to the terror of atheists. The study, as I understood it, concluded this fear simply due to Christians thinking more about death when discussing atheists or becoming more distrustful of atheists when thinking about death. To me, this is about as obvious as saying that people think of clouds when discussing the sky which proves people are afraid of the clouds (non sequitur), or demonstrating that Jews become more distrustful of Nazis when contemplating their own demise (which is understandable without arguing that they fear death and so hate Germans). Perhaps the articles merely did not explain the study's results well enough, but it seemed entirely unenlightening to me and the conclusion did not appear to follow from the data at all.

First and foremost, back when I was a Christian, I looked forward to meeting with atheists so that I might show them the love of God and convert them. I did not fear any one particular atheist. I mostly feared atheistic movements trying to change policy, rule our nation, and "corrupt" the minds of would-be followers of God. My lack of fear of the single atheist flies in the face of the concept that atheism alone scared me due to the reminder of death. As a Christian, I truly believed in the afterlife and no mere consideration of an atheist was about to rid me of this malformed idea. When was the last time a Christian seemed to be open to the idea that even just "maybe" God did not exist? I was positive. I was sure. Without a shadow of a doubt, I knew that God existed. Atheism did not scare me with death. Further, I subscribed to Pascal's wager: if I am right then I gain everything while if I am wrong then I lose nothing. Death was not to be feared if I was wrong since I would be none the wiser in the end. And yet, it had every potential to be the most perfect event in the history of my life (or death).

And so, I feared atheism mostly as a larger movement. On an individual level I might only have feared if the person did not merely disbelieve but rather subscribed to activism of his or her position and actively spoke against Christianity. Again, not because of the fear of death, but because of the fear of Satan gaining ground. Within the Christian circle and from the very words of the Bible itself, atheism is an evil to contend with. "The fool hath said in his heart there is no God" is a theme throughout the book. Atheists are constantly seen trying to legalize "immoral" acts such as adultery and even the "terrible debauchery" of homosexual relations. They were out to destroy all things holy with their lies, their cheating, their stealing, murdering, raping, and so on. The Bible is quite quick to place the unbelieving into a category of evil. People who actively denied God and laughed in his face were understood to be the most evil of all kinds of people which is exactly what professed and proud atheists do.

In the Christian circle, atheists are not believed when they say they do not believe in God. It is understood that they merely deny God and deny the truth residing in their hearts. Saying there is no God is merely a fool talking and denying what he knows to be true by looking around. He denies due to the lustful nature of his eye. He wants abominable sex and money and so he claims that there is no God to remain willfully ignorant and unashamed in his actions. This is the view of many Christians. Christians also fear the repercussions of a sinful country and they expect God might very well punish the nation for its deeds. We saw what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah and now the atheists want to bring back the very sins that wreaked havoc on these two cities into the God-Blessed country of the United States of America. In the Christian's eye, this is nothing to be toyed with. They are not simply hating atheists and homosexuals, they fear the wrath of their God for tolerating it. They must, therefore, take a stand and fear what the atheist desires to do.

And so, I contend that the findings of these articles are mere conjecture and false conclusions from data that could have been expected without a study being done at all. The premise behind the conclusion is about as incomprehensible as the Christian concluding that atheists know God exists and actively choose to deny him. It is saying that Christians know that God does not exist and yet they actively choose to delude themselves such that mentioning death brings about their cognitive dissonance. I am sure some Christians indeed delude themselves, but those who are most active and seemingly "fearful" of the atheists are likely to be those who take their faith more seriously. Those less zealous for their faith tend to be those who are more accepting of atheistic principles and thus are not those who show themselves to be terrified. Then again, such non-zealous Christians are likely the majority and might very well be the ones who lie to themselves about their true beliefs. The data may then have a decent correlation of the not-so-zealous Christians and their particular fear of death, but it is to say little of the zealous Christians who are actively trying to stop atheism and their "evil" humanist ways. To improve upon the data set, I would study activists of Christianity versus ho-hum Christians and better distinguish between a fear of atheism itself and a fear of what they represent and their goals they strive to achieve.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Selfless

What's in a self that could pose a value
Except for those things perceived?
We play many parts to flaunt false ways
To alter of us what's believed

I can pour out my heart in majestic words
Or at least within my own eyes
Yet zero's its worth in poetless lands
So instead I present forth some lies

"A man should be manly" presents a thought
Yet redundant and obvious frill
We know what it means though this way I'm not--
Minds more than blood would I spill.

Open and sharing, worried and caring
I'd impart all my thoughts for your ears
But rather what's valued's a jersey for sport
Or a gun and a large case of beer

By standards of men, one I am not
Yet one I assuredly am
So I hide away feelings and insecure thoughts
To promote much more of my sham

Even now writing I consider its worth
My mind begins racing in pain
Drivel and spit is what it emits
And sharing would surely be vain

The value to others melds with my thoughts
My own writing is garbage and bunk
The words now infuse a trigger of self
For my heart is equated with junk

Cry for me, woe, is now what I read
Yet this is by no means intended
I give up myself to be what you want
And you know not what you have befriended

I mustn't be me for no value exists
Unless others of me take delight
It's a risk to be sure and one I abhor
For from me I could never take flight

Much better it seems to be more than me
And delude even me what is true
Yet every denial and grasp of a lie
Makes me ever so deeper a blue

This poem, complete, shows I lack decent skill
I'm inclined to hate it with might
And yet it is me, whether I like it or not
The composer of poetry shite!