Monthly Archives: January 2013

Post the Ninety-Ninth or On White Atheists and Knowledge Production

I recently reactivated my OkCupid account because my partner is out of town and I get lonely. So far, however, I’ve gotten mostly douchebags messaging me. One in particular bothered me. I messaged this guy because I thought we had a lot in common and might get along well. He replies by saying, “I’m not interested in people who believe in pseudoscience.” I was confused, what did he mean by “pseudoscience.” So I asked him and he replied, “Astrology and tarot cards.” Mind you, this person only knows what I wrote in my profile and so I’m a little bewildered why he would write me off so quickly.

I look at his profile again and written in big bold letters is, “I am an Atheist.”

Of course.

I reply, “Wow. Ok. Well, enjoy your patriarchally assigned designation of what is and isn’t valid.”

He then accuses me of being ignorant and that I should go take an upper level physics course.

That’s the problem I have with atheists, and white atheists in particular. They think that their way of viewing the world is superior to all other ways and that if you do believe differently, you are somehow unintelligent and inferior. Only simpletons would believe in such superstitious nonsense! But the thing is, science and knowledge that is produced by the West has just as much dogma as anything else. It is subject to biases, prejudices and injustices. But white/western atheists would have us believe that they are the only ones who are truly “objective”.

Atheist are quick to dismiss any world view that does not agree with their own and yet

The other reason why it bothers me is because white folks/the West is positioned as the arbiters of knowledge. Knowledge is only considered valid if white folks produced it. From academia to medicine to law, the only knowledge that matters is the kind sanctioned by the white establishment. How many times have we seen studies that say, “Hey! Racism is still a thing!” published by white folks? And of course the the only people who are shocked are other white people.  People of color have been talking about that shit forever, but only until it is approved/stolen by white people does it have any “credibility”.

So when white atheists look down their narrow noses on “superstitious” brown people like myself, I know that a lot of that is couched in the white supremacist ideology that knowledge produced by white people is the only objective and valid kind of knowledge.

Further, the kind of knowledge that black and brown folks have access to is considered inferior. PoC, and particularly WoC, are underrepresented in the sciences and the academy. Either because we don’t have the social capital to be visible or we just can’t afford it, a lot of PoC cannot afford to go to school. But that doesn’t make them less intelligent. They just need to learn from different sources, whether that be from the streets or at the knee of their abuela. The knowledge and knowings of survival and hustle that is produced by poor and working class people of color is undervalued and under appreciated.

The production of knowledge by white institutions have constantly invalidated and erased people of color, women of color, queers of color, etc. And many times, the white establishment has stolen wholesale from communities of color and patented knowledge produced by people of color as their knowledge. This is one of the ways that white supremacy, capitalism and heteropatriarchy hold on to their power. Because the people who produce the knowledge, that says what truths are valid, control the way we think and what we believe.

If we want to create a world that is free from marginalization, than we need to take the production of knowledge into our own hands. We need to realize that there is more than one way to view the world and that just because they are different doesn’t make one inferior over the other. We need to theorizing about our own lives and speaking truths that make sense to us. Most of all, we need to throw away the idea that if you are educated in certain things that you are more objective, more intelligent and more worthy of being listened too. We need to realize that we are all intelligent and creative people.

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Post the Ninety-Eighth or On Family Dinners and Whiteness

Family dinner is something that my community does regularly. The host of family dinner rotates and everyone brings food, booze or cash. They are integral to community building and safety. At these dinners, we talk about everything from radical politics to what art projects we are working on to the escapades of the night before. We share stories about ourselves and connect with each other in authentic, life-saving, world-changing ways.

I’m not sure how we got onto the subject, but at the last family dinner we talked about the problematic nature of transnational adoption and how white folks are just not equipped to raise Black and Brown babies. The main reason for this being that white folks are socialized to be racist by default. They live in a world that privileges them over people of color and they often cannot, or will not, see it. So, they are just not prepared to teach a Black or Brown child about the harsh realities that this world will subject them too. Further, there is nothing to stop a white parent’s subconscious racism from harming their child of color. Case in point, there was an article in a magazine recently that talked about a white dad caring for his Nigerian daughter by combing her hair out with a fork. A motherfucking FORK.

Needless to say, we all agreed that transnational adoption is the wackness.

However.

There was this white Latina there who asked, “But what about all of the Black children in foster care who need parents?” Basically, she was asking why Black folks don’t just take care of their children.

This lead to a shit storm of frustration and trauma. Instead of having a nice pleasant dinner with familia, we had to spend the whole time trying to get her to shut up. She even had the audacity to say, “If you don’t like it, why don’t you do something about it?” As if building community and coming together in solidarity and talking about our experiences wasn’t “doing something”. Because its not like we live in a world that wants to silence and erase us. Its not like speaking our truth to one another is not a revolutionary act. No, according to her, we were just sitting there with our thumbs up our asses griping about the world.

She went on to say that the solution of racism is education and that she, the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, worked hard to get scholarships to go get an advanced degree. She, a teacher who works at a private school, thinks that if we all got our education we would be just fine. She worked hard for what she had and if she could do it, why couldn’t everyone else?

The only thing I could do at this point was laugh because she was so ridiculous.

The thing is, even though she is Latina, she was still hella light skinned. In fact, I didn’t know she was Latina until she told us that she was Mexican. And it was clear by the bullshit she was spewing that she walked through the world being perceived as white.

That’s the thing, just because you are Latin@ doesn’t mean that you don’t have white privilege. White Latin@s are a thing. They exist. And white Latin@s benefit from white supremacy. Their prosperity is often made on the backs of Black and Brown Latin@s. And more often than not, white Latin@s take up space in the ways that Anglos do. They have been socialized to think that they are entitled to all spaces so that when they do enter PoC-centered spaces, they often are the ones fucking up. They are the ones dominating the conversation and what was once a safe space is now a battleground.

So I implore my fellow Latin@s, check yourself.