• Skepticism So White & Diversity

    The lack of bio-diversity in skeptics’ conventions can be explained by the simple math of demographics; not a deliberate bias or prejudice — now, put down your pitchforks and torches.

    Luciano posted yesterday why he thinks diversity matters for skeptical conventions and conferences. He’s referring to skin color, sex, gender, and sexual orientation diversity.

    In short, his points are that the more diverse the community, the more skeptics will be interested in joining us, and that organizers of skeptic conferences should have some kind of equality quotas, otherwise they might be judged as racists or sexists.

    I disagree with his line of thought, because it’s just identity politics. And we, skeptics, need to get rid of it once and for all, instead of implementing it.

    For starters, it seems like a good thing to have people refusing to engage with the larger skeptic community just because they think it’s too (fe)male/black/white, or whatever the trait. Why would we even want racist and sexist people like that to be part of our community?

    They fit better elsewhere, maybe at venues that actually promote racial prejudice (kidding themselves into thinking that’s morally ok, just because there is no power factor) such as FtB or The Orbit.

    I don’t care about ‘diverse’ voices. I don’t care about skin color, gender, sex or sexual orientation. I want to engage people with great ideas, who appreciate knowledge, regardless of their biological traits. That’s the important thing about the skeptic community — we know better: we understand that an argument is true depending on how much evidence there is to support it; it doesn’t matter who says it. We care about people’s ideas, and that’s the kind of diversity we should be looking for: people with an evidence-based worldview that have engaging and challenging ideas… whatever their skin color or sex is.

    We’ve covered this before: identity politics and giving people different treatment according to their biological traits only breeds more discrimination. The science is in, and ‘affirmative’ action is a lousy way to fight discrimination, because it reinforces it instead. Lower expectations discrimination is still discrimination.

    There’s no more welcoming and diverse-embracing environment that one that doesn’t take into account if you’re a woman, a man, trans, cis, white, black, latino, or whatever. That’s the whole point.

    I don’t care if a skeptic convention has a roster of only-females speakers, or only male speakers, or any other only-one trait speakers. As long as they have great ideas to share, I don’t care. And there’s a good reason for that: because no biological trait translates into specific ideas. (If you still think the regressive leftists and right-wing racists are different, please take pleasure, as I do, in both groups hating my guts just for that last line.) People don’t have an obligation, duty or any other kind of commitment to any kind of idea, just because of their biological traits.

    And I would turn down any conference invitation as a speaker just to fill a race-quota. If my ideas and posts are not engaging enough to get me invited to speak, bad luck, I suck at advocating for an evidence-based worldview. Period. If I do get invited, because of what I think, then great. I don’t want any other kind of factor being considered.

    As a freethinker from a Latin American country it is offensive to be given special treatment due to such background. I’m a skeptic and I just ignore people’s skin color (or sex, or gender, or sexual preference), it is a non-issue for me: I value people for what they have to say, and for their morals, attitudes, and behaviors; and I expect to be held to that same standard, no less and no more. I refuse to be reduced to or defined by my country of origin.

    To sum up: if you judge people by any biological trait, you don’t have a place at our table. If you judge a group of people because of the biological traits of the majority, you don’t belong to the skeptic community. If you think you deserve to be heard by skeptics just because of your biological traits, you are so wrong on so many levels, I think you’ve long past the point of no return.

    Our big fat post hoc ergo propter hoc

    In 2015, the Oscar nominations were hit with the ludicrous accusation that they were all white.

    People with more heart than brain quickly jumped into the offended bandwagon, and accused the Academy of being racist. This has proven such an effective technique that it’s become a cliqué for three years in a row now.

    Unfortunately, things are a little more complicated than that. We already know this.

    The fact that far more white performers get more awards could be explained by a deliberate bias (that no one has bothered to prove, by the way) or by the fact that America has a racist past that has had a lasting effect in blacks and other minority communities, who in turn have been given less chances to follow artistic careers — being too busy not starving to death, getting money for the mortgages, fighting the stem of gangs, repealing Jim Crow laws, and stuff like that.

    The fact that they are not getting as many prizes in movies and artistic careers may be a symptom of that. Getting them more awards by changing the rules is not only a naïve way to come up with a solution (that won’t solve anything, because that’s not the real problem), but it’s also a way of saying they’re not good enough to win on a leveled playing field —and then it’s not far-fetched for people to start asking who’s the racist now—.

    This flows from the math of demographics, not anyone’s deliberate effort to give a statistically disproportionate amount of prizes to actors with such and such skin color. To hold otherwise, like the #OscarsSoWhite tantrums did, is to indulge in the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

    And the same holds true about the skeptic community: Non-whites are already minorities of the population. Then, within that slice you have a small slice that are atheists/skeptics. But the size of this group is so small and so reviled within the larger minority, that it has never been able to form its own subculture, unlike what the white guys eventually managed to do — they got to the point where they had large enough numbers to form its own subculture (which, by the way, is welcoming of everyone regardless of their skin color).

    Again, this is Demographics 101, not anyone’s attitudes about inclusion. And yet, the leaders of organizations get saddled with the blame as if they could override societal dynamics by just waving a wand. Good luck with that!

    You want to see an increase in the numbers of black, latinos, LGBTQ, women and other minorities that speak in skeptic conferences as a sign that discrimination is over? That’s great. The way to do it is to work towards a society that gives everyone the same rights and opportunities (not results!).

    Demanding results that don’t reflect demographic realities will only help in hiding, even more, those realities and make them harder to recognize, but won’t do anything to change them. That hinders equality, doesn’t achieve it.

    **Update (29/Apr/17)

    After I posted this article, Luciano wrote a reply that is well worth a read. He and Damion bring up the point that growing up in different backgrounds give people different perspectives, that could be brought to the larger atheist/skeptic community. And I agree with them: your thought processes are different if you returned to atheism having grown up in Latin America, United States or the Middle East.

    That is, precisely, the diversity of ideas I could get behind and support. I thought I had made that clearer but, obviously, I didn’t; so I am updating the post to set the record straight.

    In the particular case of ReasonCon, I think they could benefit from having speakers from all kinds of backgrounds — and the HAFree is only one call away; I’m sure some Hispanic American Freethinkers have awesome things to tell and rarely heard of superstitions to talk about. This can only result in more diversity of ideas, which is the kind of diversity we’re all aiming for.

    Last, but not least, I think I owe an apology to Luciano. I focused on human biodiversity because that’s what the regressive left that has forever tainted a good portion of what used to be the larger and actual freethinking community is always focusing on: in lower expectations discrimination; I had lined up a good deal of my thoughts about it and used Luciano’s first post as my cue for wrapping the topic up. Maybe that wasn’t the wisest choice ever.

    In his reply, though, he seems to be under the impression I dismissed the background/career arguments to focus on biodiversity. I actually re-read his first post and I am still of the opinion that, although not entirely, his post related quite heavily to biodiversity. Have you read it? What do you think? Did I miss anything in a grotesquely unspeakable fashion?

    Category: Skepticism and Science


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Activist | Journalist
    • I’m not down with “pressuring conferences that fail to have diversity among their speakers,” as Luciano advocates. Putting together a skeptic or freethought conference is thankless and difficult enough as it is, without having to fret about becoming the target of rage bloggers for failing to recruit from a particular demographic.

      That said, I do think ReasonCon should consider calling up HAFree when putting together their lineup next year. Hispanic American freethinkers are likely to have a somewhat different perspective on secularism than your average American secularist, if only because of the institutional power of the Catholic Church throughout Latin America. Fighting for secularism without the benefit of Madisonian instutions has to be a notably different sort of slog.

      Come to think of it, the annual celebration of “Día Internacional del laicismo y de la libertad de conciencia” doesn’t have an obvious counterpart in the Anglophone world. (At least none that I know of, happy to be wrong about this.) I don’t know how much of this is due to do the conceptual differences between laicismo and secularism, but I’d love to hear a talk about it.