Just to find out what others think that may not know ...

 

When I came to this website I was excited to read everyone's point of view - serious and not-so-serious.

 

However, recently part of the discussion on one of the topics left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm not sure I want to come back.

 

Free speak and all that ... but closed minds and racism?

 

http://www.thinkatheist.com/forum/topics/what-if-your-partner-wante...

 

Yes it was an 'odd' discussion but am I the only one who thinks like I do?

 

Hopefully NOT.

Tags: -, Closed, and, casual, hope, minds, not!, racism

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I'm not sure a moderator should deliver such a dressing-down in public, Misty. Much of what you wrote was in the domain of opinion.

Prejudice is an issue virtually all of us deal with well into adulthood (if not all our lives). It just is. We have laws against the most egregious forms of prejudice. The controversy surrounding these laws have become part of our culture and have led to knee-jerk political correctitude. The U.S. fought a civil war based largely on the issue of slavery. The suffrage movements for equal rights for women, gays, minorities and even illegal immigrants have polarized huge cross-sections of our citizenry.

Understanding is not easily achieved through lectures . . . we tend to learn best from experience. This discussion is beneficial to all who participate, no matter their orientation.
Delivering a dressing down in public is EXACTLY what moderators do. That's part of the job description. It isn't my favorite part, not by any means...but it is a necessary one.
We do it when we feel it is appropriate, and we felt it appropriate in this situation for at least one very specific reason. While I respect your opinion, AE, I have to disagree with it and the other mods did as well. I'm totally cool that you have the right to voice your opinion on what mods should or shouldn't do, but at the end of the day, we go with the decision of the collective. Now, there is a huge attempt to keep all of our actions as transparent as possible and that's why I'm telling you this. When this discussion was first posted, the mods gathered in our little super-secret-hidden-lair and I very plainly asked "Should I go say something?"
The consensus by the other mods was that yes I should. You might think that I was chiding or lecturing FN out of personal disagreement
-Which is true. On a personal level, I deeply disagree with her, for the reasons I listed above.
But on a professional level it's my duty to step up and say that someone is toeing the line of acceptable behavior when they take the name of a community website thats intent is to provide a space of free thought and instead use this name in any way that implies we as a whole somehow approve of racism.
There is no opinion in that. That is no gray area of moral ambiguity. That was simply a matter discussed in the moderators room when another member (one admired greatly for his thoughtfulness) pointed out that this was a Think Atheist issue where mods need to make their point known.
Even if we were to remove this rather large variable from the equation, there is still the question of personal opinion, and frankly there I disagree with you on that as well.
Just because I am a mod and/or because the topic is controversial does not mean that I lose my right to voice my opinion on it. As long as I make it very clear when I'm speaking as a mod or speaking from opinion, I've got the right to do both. My opinions as a community member doesn't just stop because I become a mod, or because you say so. Hell, the only reason I am a mod at all is because I feel so very strongly about social issues, and use this as a place to further develop, socialize and learn. If I didn't care I wouldn't mod. Don't ask me to stop caring because I'm a mod.
Sorry, but just because I spend a whole lot of time on TA removing bots, trolls, spam and duplicate videos does not mean that I'm a second class citizen. Just because every fucking time I sit down to join a discussion I actually end up deleting Boobquake ramblings does not mean that when I finally do get a chance to carve out a little 'me' time I'm less entitled to say what I want.
I made it VERY clear where personal interest was at odds with formal objection. In fact I even said "It's pretty anecdotal, so it isn't a structured argument. It's just an experience I'd like to share."
Something else I have an issue with is the idea that prejudice is this area of personal opinion and somehow sacred, just because opinion on it varies so much.
I don't care. Seriously. That sounds way too much like religious dogma to me. NOTHING IS SACRED. As long as you are mature and respectful (which I tried very hard to be) then there are no subjects that should be avoided by any one type of person just because they are scary. Fuck that! If it was only a matter of opinion or differing preference, that's one thing, but she just called another person a bigot and or a racist in public!
Those are some pretty big words. Those are HUGE accusations. The consequences of actually being a racist or bigot are so massive that it's like crying rape or child molestation. You better be DAMN sure that you've got your facts straight when you say something like that, because it is every single person's moral obligation to step up and point out corrections when they see another person being wrongfully accused of such offenses. At least it is to me, and I could not be ok with myself if I didn't grow some balls and defend what I perceive to be as an innocent person being accused of a heinous action. I wouldn't like myself if I could let it slide, and I wouldn't like too many other people that could let it slide, either.
Then there is your argument that "understanding is not easily achieved through lectures." and while I appreciate the tranquility and the gentle nature that the idea expresses, I don't find it conducive to real life or personal experience. Lectures are a fantastic way to educate others. That's why places like universities and delegations have them. It might not work for you, but it does for me and it does for other people, and that's why I chose it as a medium.
I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree.

But you know what? I'm actually glad you brought it up. I'm of a firm mind that public discourse is public discourse, and if you've got an issue with something I've said on an internet forum, then you have a right to question it on an internet forum.
We do agree 100% with one idea, though. I think you voiced it beautifully when you said This discussion is beneficial to all who participate, no matter their orientation." I couldn't agree more. I wasn't telling FN that she couldn't post this. In fact, many times I even said that though I didn't agree with her opinion, I did agree with her right to post it.
I guess as long as we have that as common ground, we always have the foundation for good discussion.
It's also a nice reminder that there are people in the world that won't agree with me, but still manage to disagree in a non abrasive way. :)
Misty,

I had written a lengthier response but decided to discard it in favor of letting our words stand as they are . . . except for one assertion of yours that misrepresents my opinion of prejudice. You said that:

"Something else I have an issue with is the idea that prejudice is this area of personal opinion and somehow sacred, just because opinion on it varies so much."

Your context would seem to be attributing that position to me. That's nowhere near my position.

My position is that prejudice stems from ignorance and insecurity and, therefor, permeates humanity: we all have our ignorances and insecurities. It's not just race, it's almost any imaginable category you can label somebody with.

On many levels it's biased to prefer blonds or thin people or hairy people or smart people or whatever -- but we're free to discriminate in these ways -- as shallow as that might be. A red-headed suitor might feel personal injury if rejected because of the color of his hair but nobody else is going to care a whole lot about the situation.

In the U.S., anti-discrimination laws protect certain people from specific kinds of prejudice. Prejudice that interferes with housing or jobs rise to a level requiring protection. But we can still discriminate against these groups for other reasons not covered by law. For instance, a black person can resolutely deny association with white people. That's their prerogative. Shallow, perhaps, but allowed.

The knee-jerk reactions against prejudice is more of a cultural, politically correct, phenomenon than a human one. Everybody is prejudiced in some way or other. We're granted a lot of latitude to work out those prejudices as long as they don't cross the "legal line". Prejudice is wrong but human. When it crosses over into hate, then we've got problems.
Ok. Fair enough. I misunderstood your previous post.
If your argument isn't "Everyone is prejudiced in their own little ways, so no one else is allowed to make comments on it"
to
"everyone is prejudiced in their own little ways, so it's a delicate matter, but as long as you aren't hating (just not preferring) a certain attribute, then it's ok to talk about it...unless you're a moderator. "
I'm sorry if I'm putting words in your mouth again. You took a long time to type out a very good post and voice very real concerns. I honestly respect that, even if I don't agree with the argument.
I'm happy to let it stand the way things are. You feel like your point has been made. I feel like my point has been made. I don't think anything less of you and hell, I can say I've even learned something from this conversation.
I'd totally fuck Cilian Murphy.
He's ginger, right?

Soo see, Atheist in Exile, you've enriched the world today. You've helped one mod really examine her own thoughts and feelings and come to this conclusion.
It isn't who you prefer that makes you prejudice, it's WHY you prefer the way you do.
If any race of man were less tempting to me because of their features, then that's just a matter of sexuality to me.
BUT......
If black men were less tempting to me because I thought black men weren't as intelligent than their white counterparts, or less technically skilled because of the color of their skin, then it's no longer a preference, it's a widely dis-proven, inaccurate assessment of someone because of their race. That's racism.

Oh. And oh yeah.
I'd totally have sex with at least one ginger man. That means that there is no corner of humanity left that I wouldn't do.

Rowr!
LoL, Misty,

I didn't know who Cillian Murphy is, so I Googled him. He's white! Does "ginger" mean white? Does that mean you're NOT white? I've heard of the word, ginger, used to describe cats and assumed that meant the orange-ish colored cats (like mine). Okay, never mind, I looked it up. Here's what I found:

"This color was named for a spice. This spice is derived from the root of a ginger plant. This color is a shade of Orange, Brown"

In the picture of Cillian that I saw, he didn't have red or ginger (orange/brown) hair. So now I'm at a complete loss about what you're talking about.

As for the nuance I'm trying to convey, concerning prejudice . . .

. . . Prejudice is always wrong in so much as it's unfair to generalize about people. We are all born equally human and that's what really matters. But wrong is a matter of degree. Prejudice can range from superficial and shallow to genocidal and insane. Laws kick in at the level where people need protection.

Part of personal growth and integrity is ridding ourselves of our prejudices. Although virtually everybody harbors, or has harbored, prejudices, we hopefully address them, over time, and exorcise them. Meanwhile, an accusatory stance against the "normal" prejudices of others is hypocritical if you have prejudices of your own. And even if you've exorcised your prejudices, an accusatory stance is still hypocritical because you should understand that people come to terms with prejudice (if at all) in their own way.

This does not mean we need to respect neo-Nazi skinheads or the KKK. Once our prejudices take over and we cross into harmful or hateful attitudes, then the rest of us need to stand up and condemn that level of prejudice.

It's not easy to describe the nuance of prejudice I believe in. I hope that helps clarify things.
Well, Michel, I dropped my reply on this matter once, now I'll dredge it back up for you.

I was under the misapprehension that moderators here exercise restraint. That they step in to cite the rule violated and firmly demand that further violations cease. This should normally only require a sentence or two. When a long-winded opinion piece is wielded instead, that is overkill. We should only be expected to comply with published site rules, not moderator opinions. After all, we're freethinkers here.

I agree that moderators are also members. I don't suggest they should keep their opinions to themselves. If they want to act as members and share their opinions, then by all means, they should do so. But when they invoke their moderator status within their opinion piece (as Misty did), they are no longer acting as members. That is intimidation that tends to cut off responses for obvious reasons.

In FancyNancy's case, I don't even know what rule she violated. Misty didn't cite a single rule violation. I doubt there was any premeditation to her use of "Think Racist". I agree that this can raise flags with the moderator team but they should have examined her post to determine if she had any intent to usurp the Think Atheist name. I certainly don't see any indication that it was anything more than careless or insensitive on her part. But to me, the real question is: does it violate any rule?

FancyNancy indicted (unsuccessfully) Ava as a racist by linking to her comment in a previous discussion thread. I felt this was unfortunate for Ava but couldn't tell if that was FancyNancy's intent. Ostensibly, she was simply citing the example of racism as she saw it. Did this violate some rule? I don't know.

And finally, as I've been trying to assert all along: prejudice is human. Hateful or harmful prejudice is deservedly repugnant to most of us. But we have been trained to be politically correct and avoid any hint of prejudice whatsoever. This hypersensitivity to prejudice, to me, is hypocrisy. Like the pot calling the kettle black. What difference does it make if your bias is for thin people, hair color, intelligence, education, height or skin color or whatever? As long as that bias does not infringe on the rights of others, it's a mere "normal" prejudice that will hopefully be overcome with a few life lessons.

I think FancyNancy was guilty, at most, of a knee-jerk reaction that our culture has conditioned her to have. Unless I'm missing something, Misty's response was out of proportion and should not have combined commentary/opinion (beyond citing the rules violated) while also invoking her moderator status. If moderators, acting as moderators, want to lecture violators, that should be done in private email. Public brow beatings are unnecessary.

But that assumes moderators want to exercise restraint. I had previously (a few months ago) been given the impression that moderators here do indeed want to exercise restraint. But I guess they (3 or 4 of them) weren't speaking for all moderators or for Morgan Matthew. You guys can certainly exercise your powers any way you want. But as moderators you control the ambiance of this site. Heavy-handedness is distasteful and, in my opinion, does not flatter the moderation team or Think Atheist itself.
Yes, Adriana, FancyNancy was not taking the big picture into view. However, her conclusion was not unusual. She expressed the lesson we're all taught.

The benefits of anti-discrimination laws are unquestionable. Just look at their effects. There's no denying the benefit to minorities that our justice system has wrought.

But we've been dancing around one of the drawbacks: the fear of seeming politically incorrect. Political correctitude necessarily denies differences. That's no way to accommodate our differences.
Atheist Exile has a good point. There should be a clear concise line between moderating and opining especially when it's necessary as in this case to do the moderating in public. As an opinion piece I agree almost 100% with Misty's post she did a great job summing up some of my feelings about this thread in general but I too feel it went a little far in terms of a post by a moderator trying to do her job of moderating. A two post solution would have indeed been better.
Thanks for your feedback, Becca. And thanks, Atheist Exile, also. I think you all raise a valid point and we're going to discuss this further. There should be a line drawn somewhere, although I'm not sure where exactly.
I like Misty. I hope I haven't given the impression that I have some problem with her. I've always distinguished between criticizing actions and criticizing people. Disagreement does not, in any way, invalidate anybody.
Michel,

I actually thought that things had gotten out of hand because we were dealing with a sensitive and little-understood problem: prejudice. That's why I tossed away my commentary about Misty. When you joined our dialog, I figured my commentary might prove useful after all, and hauled it back out.

I, for one, have sent a lot of members here from Atheist Nexus. I told them that this site is moderated professionally -- much better than Atheist Nexus. I was proud of how they exercised restraint and used patience where it might do some good. I've seen (elsewhere) moderators form cliques and ruin an otherwise great atmosphere. I just don't want that to happen here.
And please continue to hold us accountable, AE. We really do want people to feel comfortable voicing their opinions. Of course, if those opinions are slanderous or hateful, we're going to step in. But we really appreciate input from all our members and want to retain our reputation for friendliness!

Thanks again for all your thoughtful comments and posts!

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