May 26, 2010

In which I didn't email because I'm just spiteful like that

Oh wow, look what I've done. I've brought un-cared-for attention to my post regarding atheism & racism in the form of Draw Mohammed Day. You can go look at the comments if you want some text book "IT'S NOT RACIST YOU'RE THE ONE WITH THE RACE PROBLEM AFDEL;;EFA;" (no seriously go look, I'll wait)


it also looks like homeboy (is that better?) in question from that post has popped in and commented still wanting that answer! Now earlier I had a Tumblr poll regarding should I bother because let's face it, we've all had conversations with white people who don't "get it" before and we know how they're going to go. Plus he hadn't answered my question either. With that information in mind, I said "Well keep waiting motherfucker!" or something to that effect before I fell asleep.

Now, I've got shit to do and some literature to go over and paperwork to sign (yes, I know it's 5 in the morning CST) so let's make this quick.

 Aim! Aaaand...

Hi, I'm that Some White Atheist From Town.

Let me start by saying I like your blog, and I think we probably agree more than we disagree.

Hi Tony Youngblood, welcome to my blog. Thanks for taking the time to read I think. And...yeah sure, let's go with that for now. 

Mr Youngblood figures out where to start & gives us a run down of the Twitter conversation for posterity. It's...brief. So up until he wrote that comment apparently he was still waiting (I like to imagine breathlessly) for my response. I kept him, what, a day? Gosh I hope I do a good job. I hope he likes it.

Mr Youngblood is also nice enough to answer my question of "and where the fuck did this come from?" by giving us a history of Draw Mohammed Day. Apparently it stems from that one time with those Norwegian artists thought it'd be fun to draw Mohammed (here we go again) challenging Islam and censorship and all that and they proceeded to get death threats, riots in the streets, chaos like that. Okay, fine I remember that and I will agree that threatening the artists and their families was pretty over the top and awful. And then some other stuff about people allegedly challenging Islam (you remember that South Park episode and the debate around it don't you?)

So all that leads us to Draw Mohammed Day. Wow, it was a much more interesting story than I had anticipated. Thanks, Mr Youngblood. 

Everybody Draw Muhammad Day was created by an artist in response to the death threats of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. It was an intended as a criticism of Islamic radicals who believe that those who criticize Islam should be met with violence. 
Hmm, okay, I'm one of those reasonable godless negroes so... yeah I guess I'll go with that. I mean, it is what atheism does, targeting the whole religion in an attempt to make a broader point--oh hell I sounded bitter there a minute didn't I? I meant to say I genuinely have no qualms.

Alright so that's all well and good. Then we have this:

It is clearly not an attack on any ethnicity. The creators are quite transparent in their intentions; and if you go looking for a hidden agenda, you will be looking for a long time. By calling it “thinly veiled racism,” you are poisoning the well and shutting down dialog. “It’s racist. End of discussion.”

Oh man, I'm sorry for bringing in my racial hang ups into your enlightened discussion, even though I don't recall saying anything but "thinly veiled racism". I didn't even infer "end of discussion"--for instance, I took so long to get back to you just because I don't feel like wasting energy on predictable race conversations whether they take place inside the arena of atheism or not. 

There are good arguments to be had against #DrawMuhammadDay. “It’s racist,” just isn’t one of them. For example, will the inevitable offense of the vast majority of moderate Muslims be worth the message to the radical Islamists? I myself question if the event will do more harm than good, and I elected to not draw a picture. I do, however, support the free speech of those who do decide to draw a picture. That’s not to say I would like all the pictures drawn or that some wouldn’t offend even me. But the right to offend, to parody, and to be irreverent should be universal rights; and religions should not be immune.
Trolol, okay look dude, racism isn't even the only argument I have against this. This only started because you were flabbergasted that this could be perceived as racist, I saw this tweet and invited you to run down how it ISN'T racist because I felt it is, I'm assuming you're going to do that at some point so while I was waiting I wrote the blog entry we're both talking about in defense of why I think the day is racist. That's IT. I haven't even talked about the little "exercise" except for once before now because I thought it was 10 levels of ridiculous and just a wee bit offensive. Implying that I'm somehow trying to censor the conversation is actually kinda typical defensive behavior, but by all means Mr Youngblood, keep talking.

So while I'm reading this I thought, "Oh god this dude's gonna pull 'but there's white Muslims!' isn't he?" Behold MY WONDERS:

Divorcing Islam from race is no more wrong than divorcing Scientology from race. It’s actually quite easy. There are over 1.5 million Muslims in the world on every inhabited continent with major populations in the Middle East, Northern Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Western Africa, Indian subcontinent, Eastern Africa, Russia, China, Balkan Peninsula, and more. The differences in ethnicities amongst these populations is HUGE. To lump them all together into a race you invented called “brown” is a stereotype of the highest caliber. Nevertheless, the majority skin tone range and the history of colonization is beside the point. Why?

Okay, almost. I'll admit saying "but they're all brown!!11" would probably go over someone's head and I'll admit that WAS hyperbole and I was mistaken. So, for lumping everyone who doesn't ID as "brown" (including people who would otherwise be considered white actually), I apologize, I didn't choose my words quite carefully.  I'm not going to touch the country role call there.

Let's keep going:

Criticizing a religion is about criticizing ideas, not criticizing people. I have many problems with the dictates in the Koran and the Bible. That doesn’t mean I denigrate Christians and Muslims. “I believe your religion is wrong because. . .” is a categorically different statement than “I believe your ethnicity is inferior because. . .” 
Please don't use "denigrate" (you're smart, break the word down and guess why I wouldn't want you to use it--go on, it's obvious)  because it renders your whole point ironic, and I understand the differences between criticizing a religion and criticizing a whole people thanks a bunch. Then while he's warming around to his point  Mr Youngblood tells us about his room mate or something or other, I've been in this situation a few times myself, so on and so forth.

I find it rather disappointing that you equate the struggle for freedom of speech with garbage. Tell that to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former Muslim who had to go into hiding because she open criticized the position of women and homosexuals in Islamic societies. Tell that to Theo van Gogh who was killed by an extremist for making a film about violence against women in some Islamic societies. Tell that to any person living under a dictatorship or a country run by religious law.
Alright, another moment where I think I misspoke or something. I said, "And I think I saw about three drawings total, most of which amounted to "yay freedom of speech!" or some garbage like that." I didn't mean free speech is garbage and looking at that phrasing I can see how you would get that. What I meant is, I'm a veteran of the Free Speech Clearly Only Works One Way wars in which "but I have freedom of speech!!1" doesn't translate to "I have freedom to criticize you too". It's a long story and I tried to sum it up in one sentence I figured my blog crowd would understand where I'm coming from.

What is the difference between criticizing a religion in picture or in words? If there is no difference, then your own criticism of Islam is equally oppressive. 
Sure, I guess, since I figure it's time we agreed on something (that's what you said earlier, isn't it?). I've only really criticized Islam from the arena of women's rights & at times LGBT so... yeah let's go with that for now. 

Why not use my real name? I don’t mind. “Some White Atheist From Town” is a weasel word. It poisons the well by implying the fact that I’m white means my argument is flawed.
Just a little. But I didn't use your real name because I only know you barely from Twitter, Nyarlathotep knows if Tony Youngblood is your real name. I refer(ed) to you as White Atheist From Town because it's a line from the movie Thinner that always makes me laugh. Don't feel too bad, I've done that to everyone at some point. 

And no, I wasn't intending to publicly humiliate you, that was a joke. 

Shock? I actually said it boggled my mind that some of my Twitter friends misinterpreted the event as racist. It didn’t shock me at all. I’m not sure where you got that word – certainly not from my statement. Nor did it boggle my mind that some folks were calling it racist, just that some of my Twitter friends were who should know better.
Again, jokes. It's what I do. I guess it's a good thing you provided the actual Twitter conversation so we don't misrepresent your words. I'm curious as to who these friends are your chastising because they should have known better though.

Here comes my favorite (and the final) paragraph:

One person’s obvious is another person’s oblivious. Is it obvious that drawing a picture of a religious figure is racist? It is to you apparently. Not to me. But my mind can be changed.
No, I guess it wouldn't be obvious to you would it Mr Youngblood? Damn I'm sorry, that was another joke.

When I read your Twitter posts and your blog, I experienced the uncomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance; and quite often cognitive dissonance is a sign that some self-examination is overdue.
That's called privilege checking in my circles, feel free to do it any time. Or do I have to convince you that privilege exists too?

I have no shame or loss of pride in admitting I am wrong. I have done it many times in the past and am quite willing to do it again. But you need to convince me first. Through reason, logic, evidence, and a good argument, you have the power to change my mind.
Then by the power of Greyskull I will use these newfound mind control powers for good!

But you didn’t even try. You threw up your hands in preemptive exasperation. You gave up without even trying.

Yeah, I totally did give up. I gave up the moment I saw your initial tweet but against my better judgment I went with it anyway. You know why I gave up? How can I put this. Because I wasn't intending to change your mind. That's not my job. Didn't I say as much in my last entry? I didn't feel like anything I said would "convince" you and so far it hasn't, so I'm not exactly about to go out of my way when I thought I'd already mentioned why I felt this was racist anyway. I didn't actually write it for you, but I figured since you read it (I think) you'd think about it. You could say, "Augh but your argument was weak, try again!" but it doesn't seem to matter, it's always MY racial hang ups (lol I'm black, no shit I have racial hang ups) or MY problem. 

Okay, sure, maybe I am touchy and panicky, maybe I hit gears. Maybe I've seen & talked about entirely too much Islamophobia (have you heard of it? Break the word down, I can't do all the work here) that despite your claim of the rainbow diversity of Islam, always seems to be tied into hate and racism. So when I see something like this I jump. Maybe my irrational darkie brain just can't handle being spooked by what I perceive as injustice.

But with all that said, now I guess the last question is, who wasted their time here more, me or you Mr Youngblood? Probably you because I do this all the time.

And let's end on this line regarding my super distrust of atheist communities because I need to go listen to the Clash before I break something:

Wow. I can’t really say I’m insulted or offended by this, but I am a deeply saddened.

That's too bad. Well, if it makes you feel better, I am sad too. Let's hug! ...Or let's not, that's cool too.

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