This week the American Humanist Association (AHA) launched its Latino affinity group, the Latinx Humanist Alliance (LHA) which, according to one of its founding members and co-chairs, Luciano González, is here to “fight for Latinx humanists all over the country and beyond”.
In the past few years, I’ve grown increasingly wary of identity-based groups, for they are usually more intended for gratuitous victimhood rather than actually helping the communities in whose name they act. There is, obviously, a case to be made for the existence of such groups, however — namely, that minority communities such as the Black community, the LGBTQ one, and the Latino one, each face unique challenges that broader humanist populations may not face, rendering these kinds of groups a valid strategy to address said challenges. Having said that, I think there are better ways to face those differing problems, but I’m not an AHA member and they are entitled to put in place the approaches they feel more in tune with. Hence, the Latinx ‘Humanist’ Alliance.
Now, I do happen to be part of the Secular Latino Alliance, so, through our inner channels and social media, we got word of the creation of the LHA a day or two before it was made public. My skepticism kicked right off the bat, for the name made it readily suspicious.
For some time now, Luciano has supported the use of “Latinx“ because he sees that as an inclusive way to treat people whose gender identity/pronouns he’s unaware of — to his credit, though, he’s not interested in forcing anyone else to use the word or bullying, mocking or judging anyone who thinks the whole thing is silly. I still find it silly, for instance, for gender-neutral language is just an expression of linguistic prescriptivism (the idea that language and words have the power to shape reality), which just amounts to magical thinking. Changing words will not change reality or make discrimination go away, just like casting spells won’t do it either. It’s good to know Luciano doesn’t advocate forcing people to use these word games lest they are called bigots; it’s too bad some people out there actually do think like that, and I’m not entirely sure they will share Luciano’s commitment to not compel other people’s speech.
Suspicious as I was, I clicked on the LHA webpage link and tried reading its about page, which is intended to make sure everyone understands the LHA is all about “social justice”. They use the term in every single paragraph, and it’s hard to get anything else out of it.
So I asked Luciano a set of questions to understand where they were coming from. I asked what they meant by social justice, what’s their take on free speech, if they think people can be racist against whites, if women can be sexist, what would they do if someone with a clear anti-Latino bias was invited to speak to their local college, and what would the LHA do if a Humanist Conference could only afford a number of speakers and the ones with the best ideas happened to be white and male.
Luciano, again to his credit, answered most of the questions in a really sensible fashion. He stuck to his guns on the “Latinx” issue and he stated he didn’t think this was a hill worth dying on, and I tend to agree on that count… as long as no one is compelled to use it — if the LHA wants to glorify magical thinking in their name, that’s their business. Again, I don’t think this is necessarily a deal breaker, although it is grounds to call into question any links to the skeptic community.
Luciano had tagged the other co-chair, some Juhem Navarro-Rivera, of the LHA so I jumped on the opportunity to ask him the same set of questions. Ohh, boy, was I in for a ride!
According to Navarro-Rivera, “social justice” just means “a world where a person’s race, wealth, gender, or birthplace does not determine whether they can live with dignity“. This, he said, was the definition he gave at the 2018 Secular Social Justice Conference. (Yes, there’s such a thing, which is weird, for I can’t even remember any secular, atheist or —either actual or self-proclaimed— skeptic conference in the last half decade that was free of this snowflakery posturing — even Mythcon has had them on stage two years in a row, so it’s incredible they need their own Outragefest when all the conferences for the past five years have wasted time, money and energy on that. But I digress…)
Navarro-Rivera’s definition of “social justice”, though, was at odds with the rest of his answers. For instance, Mr. Navarro-Rivera insists that racism is “a system that benefits white people“. Ohh, yeah, I’ll go tell all those white Jews who benefitted from the Holoc… ohh, wait! As I said, I have grown increasingly wary of identity-based groups and claims, and that has come with an ever decreasing tolerance for semantics games and assholes moving the goalposts in the name of minorities and historically oppressed groups. “Racism“, as defined by dictionaries, in common usage, and what was meant by the person who coined the word means discriminating against an individual or a group of people or several groups of people based on their skin color. You can be racist against anyone as long as they have any skin color, white being one of such colors. I won’t be baited into a red herring about definitions. If you can’t even speak English with words meaning what regular people understand by them, how can you do any kind of effective activism? My educated guess is this kind of people couldn’t care less about their nominal activism, and this has nothing to do with regular racism or even systemic racism either; otherwise, they wouldn’t be bending over backwards about what racism means, and they would just add the qualifier word “systemic” beforehand and be done with it — it really sucks for them that that way doesn’t provide a good enough cover to excuse and justify racism against whites, claiming they can’t be on the receiving end. I’m sorry I digress once again.
Anyway, so much for “a world where a person’s race does not determine whether they can live with dignity“, huh? This is pretty much the kind of intellectual dishonesty and bigotry I feared when I first read the words “Latinx Humanist Alliance”, and Navarro-Rivera filled the pigeonhole perfectly.
For instance, on the free speech account, Navarro-Rivera said, “[I am] Not very concerned about a few college kids protesting people with well known talking points, well-paid media gigs and books” and went on to mention other social issues not directly related to free speech. Very Dave Rubiny if you ask me: only caring about the censorship they dislike. Sounds to me he’s not all that concerned about a “world where a person’s wealth or birthplace determines whether they can live with dignity”. And the fact he white-washed mobs of students, that oftentimes also include teachers and administrators, portraying them as just kids protesting is quite telling — data shows this is an increasingly serious issue, and turns out it is about principle: if you are not against censorship in colleges —whoever is on the receiving end—, how do expect your brand new “Latinx ‘Humanist’ Alliance” to be given a platform? Free speech is not only about people getting to talk, but it is also about the audience being exposed to different ideas.
In regards to the “Latinx” question, Navarro-Rivera stayed classy: “well, we’re not just straight Latino dudes in the Alliance. We’re a bit more diverse than that“. No shit, Sherlock; color me surprised. I wonder why no one has needed such a clarification in the Secular Latino Alliance, where men and women all share and build together. Is Navarro-Rivera suggesting girls can’t take a hint? (Oops, did I just pose one of those awkward questions about whether a member of a minority group can discriminate against a historically discriminated group?)
To top it off, Navarro-Rivera had really praising words for ‘scholars’ in grievance studies departments: “[I] Have many friends who are professors in such fields, excellent scholars“. Okay, that one was on me: I should have done my homework better to know that Navarro-Rivera is considered a leading ‘scholar’ at the “intersection of race, religion, and politics“; he also happens to have a blog in the bully network.
That was it. I don’t need bigots “fighting” in my name, tokenizing my culture and race to advance their victimohood agenda. I can very well fight for my rights and liberties on my own (not in vain I have co-founded three atheist organizations in Colombia), and even if I couldn’t, my side is not with chauvinists, and my fights are against prejudice, so it’d be antithetical to resort to it —whether against privileged individuals or not, that’s irrelevant to the point—. Funnily enough, the AHA tweeted saying the LHA created a direct pipeline for Latino humanists to get more readily involved with the greater organization. No, it doesn’t: by definition, actual humanists don’t come together through anti-humanism, however fashionable it may be.
So I thought about sending this post the AHA way, letting them know they had made a huge mistake. Juhem-Navarro has the most colorful opinion about Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris just because they’re white, and the AHA has just concluded the congressional briefings on international religious freedom in which they collaborated with Richard Dawkins’ CFI, so it was kind of good timing to let them know, right? Turns out, the joke’s on me: Navarro-Rivera just made it to the AHA Board of Directors, and they have committed to the intersectionality religion (or at the very least, they pay lip service to it), so I’m guessing they would be largely undiverted by his attitudes towards Harris and Dawkins in particular and whites in general.
Well, there goes the umpteenth supposedly ‘humanist’ organization that turns to increasingly reactionary tactics and unevidenced claims. It’s a thing, actually: our humanist, modern, liberal institutions of yesteryear are all now more than ever valuing people not by the content of their character but by their biological traits, assigning them to a respective cultural box and giving rights and taking away rights from people depending on what box they’re in. This isn’t the first organization to go regressive, and, quite certainly, won’t be the last.
Too bad. Latino humanists could have really used a hand in Trump‘s America.