Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Racist assholery

The thing is, there aren't any other standards for being called an atheist other than not believing in God. You can be a Libertarian, a Randian cultist, a pseudointellectual, a superstitious Buddhist or woo-woo lover, or even a racist asshole just as much as you can be a famous scientist, serious philosopher, eloquent but alcoholic chain-smoking sexist warmonger, or mercurial and perpetually pissed-off blogger.

Here's the thing. Atheist Rob Sherman was subjected to an inexcusibly vicious anti-atheist verbal tirade by Illinois state representative Monique Davis. But the retard had to reply with this bit of nonsense:
Now that Negroes like Representative Monique Davis have political power, it seems that they have no problem at all with discrimination, just as long as it isn’t them who are being discriminated against.
(Sherman has apparently removed this paragraph from his web site. He's been QFT'd by numerous sources; I'm relying on Hemant Mehta.)

Just using the term "Negro" seems like a bit of a side issue. "Negro" is tone-deaf and grating, but the more important point is that the passage doesn't get even a tiny bit better if we substitute an alternative label such as "African-American".

The problem is that the passage as written asserts that black people — regardless of label — have no problem discriminating. This assertion is facially racist and factually untrue. It attributes a negative characteristic to people on the basis of the color of their skin. The last I checked epidermal melanin does not substantially contribute to one's neurological or cognitive function.

Sherman tries to wriggle out of the charge of racism with the excuse that
They have demanded that I apologize to Rep. Davis for not using a euphemism, such as Black or African-American, when referring to her in the context of her being a member of a group that suffered past discrimination.
The technical term in serious analytic philosophy for this sort of statement is "complete bullshit" (some philosophers might prefer "bollocks").

If Sherman had meant to say, "member of a group that has suffered past discrimination," he should have said... let me think... how about... "member of a group that has suffered past discrimination." The term "Negro", in addition to being archaic and grating, does not mean "member of a group that has suffered past discrimination," it means "black person", and any association with a characteristic associates that characteristic with race, not history.

Sorry, Rob, your problem is obvious:

A pretty clear case of recto-cranial inversion.

[Update: I also just noticed that Sherman digs his hole a little deeper by calling the terms "Black" and "African-American" euphemisms. They are not euphemisms, they are (mostly) descriptive terms, preferred by those being labeled, which we use as a matter of common civilized courtesy. They are not "euphemisms" any more than "atheist" is a euphemism for "god-hating communist devil-worshiper".]


  1. How unfortunate. I can understand the basic frustration with being in a minority (as an atheist) that is openly and blatently discriminated against more than any other at the present time (by some measures) - people feel they have social permission to say atheists aren't citizens or patriots. (Certain racist assholes may think that about other minorities, but they don't generally feel as free to express that publicly). But really, being a racist asshole doesn't exactly make people feel all hugs and bunnies about atheists.

    What is even more unfortunate is, I'm sure some will try and use this to paint all atheists as racist assholes (perhaps mentioning social darwinism for good measure).

  2. I should add that just because you are a member of a discriminated-against minority group does NOT give you license to be an asshole and discriminate against anyone else (in the minority or the majority, for that matter).

  3. I'm sure some will try and use this to paint all atheists as racist assholes

    I'm not too worried about this. I'm mad at Sherman for being racist, not for "betraying" or otherwise harming atheism. The truth has nothing to fear from the deficiencies of its advocates.

  4. I'm not too worried about this.

    But, but, atheism means you worship evolution and that means that you think all inferior species which clearly means jigaboos and kikes must die in order to breed your super race because your a nihilist who french kisses Nietzsche and Ayn Rand in your horribly debauched hedonistic dreams because you have no moral center because you don't believe in god and stuff.

  5. I understand his frustration yet, of course, I object to his comment. I understand the frustration because I am a firm believer in equal rights and equal opportunity. I champion atheist causes not simply because I'm an atheist, but because of the principles of discrimination and Constitutionality. I equally defend other groups' denied rights and who are discriminated against due to race, gender, sexual orientation or thought. Hell, I think the Phelps cult should win their appeal. Anyway, my point is I am frustrated whenever I see a member of another frequently shafted group join in on the shafting of another group, especially when that group often works to defend his/her group from shafting. No doubt this was in Sherman's mind (at least I hope) but it came out all wrong, very, very wrong.

  6. It came out all wrong, but Sherman still doesn't get it, he's still defensive, and he's just digging the hole deeper.

    When your defense starts with, "That's not what I meant," you've already lost, and it's time to just eat shit until the conflict blows over.

  7. But, but, atheism means you worship evolution and that means that you think all inferior species...

    This attitude long predates Sherman.

  8. It's like some kind of philosophical problem.

    What happens when unstoppable dumbfuckery meets immovable assclownishness?

  9. I think I am partially blind.

    I don't really understand what was so horrendeously objectionable about what he said. Was the statement in general or his use of the word 'Negro'?

    Would it have been ok if he had said african-american?

  10. CC: The problem is — as I mention in the post — that Sherman associated a negative characteristic (no problem with discriminating against others) with a person's race. It is false, however, that black people, however you refer to them, do in fact have no problem with discriminating against others, and the statement is not only obviously false, it is obviously insulting on a racial basis.

    This interpretation is not what he says he meant, but this interpretation is required by what he actually said.

    Had his further response been, "Shit! I'm sorry, that was a stupid thing to say," then my outrage would have been more moderate. But that's not how Sherman responded; he continues to be defensive and actually makes more racist comments ("African-American" is a euphemism), so he gets no sympathy from me.

  11. More precisely, it is false that black people in general have no problem with discriminating against others by virtue of their race.

  12. I take your point but strictly speaking he didn't say black people, he said black people like Davis. It can be read two ways. One way he means black people and Davis is merely a example of a black person but I think, given the context he may have meant it the second way meaning 'black people who are like Davis, ie intolerant black people. I grant though that in general adding any term like black does make such statements far less innocent. The statement should be 'Poeple like.....' to be entirely free of bias. In this case though I think the point he was making was that as a black person she is herself a member of a minority that have been discriminated against. Her being black was relevant.

    The use of the word 'Negro' seems bizarre to me. It is not technically a derogatory term but definately carries connotations of rich white people in power talking about 'those poeple'. I suppose I would consider his statements as possibly ill considered or poorly worded as opposed to out-right racist. Still, a few more badly worded statements would definately remove any doubt. As to the euphemisms, I wonder if he just doesn't know what a euphemism really is. He doesn't strike me as the sharpest tool in the box. It was definately an assholic statement, no doubt about that.
    I view it as a statement that could be made by a non-racist who was being verbally clumsy making a point. The point being that black people and women have both been discriminated against. Surely if anyone should understand how unfair and unwarrented such discriminating is, it is a black woman.

    This is what I think might have been the essence of what he was trying (badly) to say.

    'Davis' comments were nothing shory of bigotry. I find it astonishing that a black woman, who in all likelyhood has personally experienced discrimination either racist or sexist or both should be so spectacularly insensitive toward a minority group. This would seem to a type of discrimination she agrees with.'

    I could well be giving him too much benefit of too little doubt here. Most folk seem to be reading it as you suggest it was intended so I am happy to accept I am being over-generous to the guy. If he did indeed mean the statement as you read it, then I agree entirely that he is a racist asshole.


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