ActivismAfternoon InquisitionFeminismSkepticism


Today I am tired. Not like not-enough-sleep tired. Like tired of the world tired. Exhausted from the world. I’m tired of the world being full of stupid assholes who refuse to get it. I’m tired. And I’m angry. And I’m tired of being told that I’m too angry. And I’m angry because I’m tired and I’m angry that I can’t be anything but angry.

Yesterday, Brad Paisley came out with a song about how hard it is to be a white guy in the south where you just can’t help but be the proud embodiment of oppression without every black guy oppressing YOU with the label “racist”. It’s hard, he explains, to show the love of your band without wearing a t-shirt commemorating that time in history when your people stole other people from their homes, shipped them across the sea and bought and sold them and abused them for decades. It’s so fucking hard. Why can’t anyone understand how hard it is not to wear that shirt when you really love that band? It’s the same way people don’t understand that we wear white cloaks and hoods because it’s fashion and we like the camaraderie when out with similarly dressed people… who also like burning things. It’s a white thing. You wouldn’t get it. But it’s not like I’m RACIST. And it’s not fair that you call me that. And it oppresses ME, you know, when you wear a do-rag and a gold chain. So maybe you should think about that, black people. Checkmate. Now, let’s be friends. And LL Cool J thought that was reasonable and bought him a beer at the end of the song.

The song would be fucking laughable if it wasn’t the kind of shit that happens all the time. Every day. And people besides LL Cool J think this message is reasonable. And not just stupid assholes like Brad Paisley. Other stupid assholes, too.

Like this video that Rebecca posted this morning on FB and Twitter:

See? They don’t THINK they’re being racist. They just are. They don’t feel racist. But they are. It’s right there. It’s the same when we talk about sexism and other oppressions.

And what happens when we call it out? We’re told it’s a misunderstanding. We don’t understand. It is explained back to us. When we call it out again, we’re told we’re overreacting. When we call it out again, we’re causing trouble. When we call it out again, we’re really fucking annoying. When we call it out again, we’re asked what we’re trying to accomplish. When we call it out again, we’re pointed to all the times it HASN’T happened. When we call it out again, we’re told to be quiet already. And when we finally get angry, we’re told that we’re not going to get anywhere with THAT attitude, and if we want to calm down, maybe someone will be able to take us seriously. And when we call it out again, we’re accused of just seeing systemic oppression everywhere and maybe it’s time to take a break. And if we call it out again, we’re militant. And if we call it out again, we’re told that no one is going to be bullied into giving us the respect and equal treatment we deserve.

It’s a convenient cycle of dismissiveness. Ignore until you make them angry. Tell them not to be so angry. Demand they show you some respect and that you will not listen until they talk calmly. Dismiss again when calm. Do nothing. No one has to do any work to change anything, and everything stays the same.

I don’t know why today I’m more irritated than usual. It’s not even my period. And I tend to believe that if it’s not my period, then maybe I’m actually legitimately angry.  I’m tired of being told that I shouldn’t be angry as if anger is an irrational emotion. I’m tired of being shown examples of all the times oppression isn’t happening. Yeah, big fucking deal. Look at me, not being raped right now. I should probably stop being all like “rape is a thing that needs addressing.” I’m happy you’re not being turned down for jobs based on your physical appearance. I’m glad you’ve specifically never committed an act of violence targeting a minority. I’m really proud of you that you don’t actually go out of your way to be a huge asshole. But maybe those things alone are not evidence that there isn’t a problem. Maybe there actually is a problem. Maybe even if you don’t want to be, you’re a part of it. Maybe you should consider that. Maybe you should do something. Or maybe you’re right, and I should just try to be less angry and emotional about living in a world where, even where I’m hugely privileged, I’m still not given the respect of a full human being. I’m still less than my husband and my dad and even my son. I should probably be more okay with that.

What are you angry about? Are you angry at all? Is anger bad? Should we all become LL Cool J’s and find common ground, like agreeing that gold chains are as offensive as slavery? Should we keep asking nicely for respect? Should we just move along and accept the system? Is there a quiet way to fix it? Am I being too emotional?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. I was laying in bed last night thinking the same thing. I’m so sick of being angry and having to wonder if my anger is justified. I wake up and I’m confronted with the Brad Paisley song, the Camp Quest fundraiser getting dropped by some BBQ jockey in Oklahoma, and some asshole commenter over at BoingBoing ( that is using semantics to prove that Joe ‘the shit eating dog’ Rogan isn’t actually a misogynist asshole. I’m just going to go home and choke on a vegan pizza (yack). Thank you very much. I hate being angry.

  2. Damn, Elyse, calm down already.
    Nobody likes a scowly Sally!

    Nah, I’d rather get pissed than give up.

  3. I angry that there are so many stupid people in the world and that when I come up with solutions to that problem that aren’t just hippy, feel good crap I get called a eugenistic asshole.
    Serenity now!
    Oh, and I too hate being angry. Angry can be good, it can be a motivator, it can lead to passion. It can also gnaw on your compassion and happiness and make you feel like shit.
    Fortunately for you all there is now a solution. Come to my Church of Balance and I’ll make it all good.
    No, I don’t feel like making sense today.

    1. Bjornar,

      Well, stupid people can be funny at times. Creationists for example often give us instances of untended hilarity.

  4. Those two women saying white boys don’t carry burglar tools and they assumed he must be working for the park authority couldn’t have been better if they’d been actors themselves. Stereotypes do the damage, racist, sexist, bigoted cultural influences fuck us all up. That they were black themselves and clearly subject to the same invidious attitudes that permeate society made it all the clearer. Attacking those stereotypes and breaking them down is the way to defeat it, making it clear to people that no matter how not-racist or not-sexist they think they are if they are not actively trying to understand their biases then they will continue to perpetuate this bullshit. Good to see the atheist-sceptic scene (In a few places at least) tackle this given we already accept we need to work to overcome things like confirmation bias you’d think we are in a good position to help defeat it. There’s enough woo in our well worn stereotypes about each other to compete with homeopathy et al. It’s just more painful as it applies to ourselves not those “idiots” over there we can comfortably laugh at and feel superior to.

  5. I’m angry at the dude I encountered on public lands recently who embarked on a series of stupid decisions that ended with me flagging traffic and trying to keep his wife from (understandably) losing her fucking mind while his friends performed CPR and we all waited for the helicopter. So I’m going to mildly threadjack for just a sec with a PSA. I am not a doctor, but I think this advice is fairly standard. If you are a man aged 70-ish or oler who is overweight and has a history of serious heart problems, taking blood thinners and other cardiac meds I couldn’t make out through your wife’s sobs, It is a very, very BAD idea to drive from your sea-level home to over 8000 feet and attempt to ride the bike you never ride (rusty drivetrain and all) on a long uphill run.

  6. It’s an old line, but if you’re not outraged, you’re just not fucking paying attention.

  7. I just found out that somebody whom I totally adore has cancer. It’s odd. In a sense, there is no room for any other emotion than grief. Real “Blot out the Sun” stuff. Yet just a few moments ago I was laughing at some great comments on the other thread.

    But to get on topic, anger is good, I am angry a lot of the time, often at work, anger at stupidity, at pinheaded fools, the sort of thing maureenbrian was talking to Will about on a recent thread. I make comments, I “throw stones”, and sometimes the stones hit the target or resonate with others.of like mind, (to mix a metaphor) some of whom have the power to actually do something.

    Very satisfactory when a “stone” hits the target and there is a yelp, so to speak! At the same time it is not good to let anger eat you up. For this reason I find that ridicule is often a great weapon!

    1. In this connection, JR “the shit eating dog” seems very apt. Thanks, Fivup!
      Back to science, saving lives and other such gamma male activities…

  8. A better question is what aren’t I angry about. But a partial list: sexism, heteronormativity, racism, politics, religious bullshit, being broken and broke because SSDI is fucked…

    Oddly while it is sometimes exhausting, my general state of slow boil helps me navigate the broken. So PIL’s “Anger Is An Energy” is a frequent mantra. I think if it wasn’t for the anger I’d give up, and I’m not ready to do that.

  9. I saw that episode. One of the women had the best response to “Is that your bike?”

    “It will be, just as soon as I can get this lock off.”

    If I recall correctly she was able to get good samaritans to help her steal the bike.

    1. I don’t know if it was the same episode, but I’ve seen that clip. Men actually went out of their way to help her cut the chain and stuff.

  10. These videos purposely introduce more subtle variables to elicit the responses they want. Maybe race does play a factor in it, but watch the video again:

    1. The white guy is older and wearing more form-fitting clothing and has a wider arsenal of tools.
    2. The black KID is much younger and wearing baggy clothing, with the hat tilted to the side, using a pair of simple bolt cutters.

    The white guy looks old enough that he could be working for the park. Given his bag of tools that would be far too unwieldy for a bike thief to want to carry around, and that the bike is chained to a “No Parking Anytime” sign, I would walk past this guy assuming he works for the park and is removing a bike that should not have been chained there. I would not assume that a man in safety glasses with an electric saw removing a bike chained to a “No Parking” sign was a bike thief.

    The black kid however looks like a stupid kid with bolt cutters.

    A fair experiment would have two men the same age dressed in the same manner using the same tools.

    1. “And what happens when we call it out? We’re told it’s a misunderstanding. We don’t understand. It is explained back to us.”

      Yeah, the white guy also admitted to stealing the bike. So they’re probably not just giving benefit of the doubt to the guy because he has better fitting clothes.

    2. Did you miss the part where they explain that it took an hour of escalating tools to get to the electric saw? Or that they had the exact same bag of tools? Or that, as Elyse mentioned, he admitted to stealing the bike?

    3. After watching the video, they had the same tools, and were about the same age. Their clothes weren’t that much different. Even if the African American’s clothes looked baggy on him, I don’t think that would account for such a vast difference in response.

    4. A couple years ago (right around the time Henry Louis Gates was arrested for “breaking into” his OWN house, which is another matter) it surfaced that a black student was stopped by campus police for using tools to liberate his OWN bike from a lock… sigh. You do have to wonder what, if anything, would have happened to white men in the same situation.

  11. The older I get the more my anger has turned into chronic irritation interspersed with bouts of resignation and only occasional flare-ups of real anger. What I hope to never be however is indifferent or afraid to speak out. I am somewhat irritated at this moment; and who knows, I might even become angry later, as I anticipate listening to a song I know I’ll hate.

  12. I say we take off and nuke the place from orbit. GRUMP GRUMP GRUMP.

    Thank you Elyse for making me laugh and rage at the same time. I wish I knew for sure I would do better than the passers-by in the video.

  13. Obviously the people who confronted him and were told he was stealing the bike should have done something, but I fully understand why most people walked right past him. He’s removing a bike chained to a NO PARKING ANYTIME sign.

    The black guy does look MUCH younger and he is dressed like a punk. If you dress like a punk people are going to treat you like a punk.

    I’m not saying race had NO factor in the discrepancy of reactions, but I also think age and dress played a huge part in it.

    1. Dressed like a punk? Looks more dangerous because he looks younger?
      No. No he’s not, and no he doesn’t.

    2. A) That’s a pretty standard no parking sign for CARS (and yes, at 1:25 you’ll notice that there are cars in the area of the park). B) Nah, I don’t see it. They both are dressed pretty casually and similarly:

      Could you please enumerate the exact differences that make one young man look “dressed like a punk” as opposed to the other? Is it a red t-shirt instead of a blue? Does the sideways baseball cap denote more “punk” than a more backwards one? The smaller, slighter frame means “MUCH” younger? Does that also mean “punkier” too? I thought young and large would be more threatening…was I wrong? I mean, imagine if he was taller and brawnier than those concerned citizens would surely have mistaken him for a park employee like the other non-uniformed individual! Is it baggier jeans? YES! THAT MUST BE IT! If only young black males didn’t wear slightly baggier jeans (not hanging off his ass, baggy…just a wee bit baggier). Where’s my Nobel goddamn Prize? IT was SOOOO EASY!

      Or, I dunno, maybe brush up on Own Race BIas:

      1. The white guy’s shirt goes to his waist while the black guy’s shirt goes down to his thighs. Both the shirt and jeans on the white guy are much more form-fitting whereas everything on the black guy looks a size too big. The white guy does look older. The black guy looks like a teenager. The white guy looks old enough to be a full-time employee of the park whereas the black guy looks like a kid.

        I wonder how the video would go if they had a white guy dressed like a punk doing this, versus a black guy (same age) doing this but dressed very professionally (like a polo and not-baggy khaki shorts).

        Again, I’m not saying that race played no role in this. I’m just saying that there are other factors present that a reasonable person could subconsciously draw from that would make them react more harshly to the black kid, without relying on race.

        1. You’re also not typically allowed to chain bikes to street signs, making it all the more reasonable that someone would be called to remove it. A re-do of the experiment should have the bike in a bike rack.

          1. I get that you’re trying really hard to parse this to appear reasonable, but frankly, I see that you’re anomaly-hunting against what appears to be part of the experiment. The differences is in dress denote what in many neighborhoods black kids and white kids might choose to wear. That difference itself shows how people might unconsciously hold biases since I don’t see what’s so “punk” about baggy clothing. What I’m hearing here is “punk” = “black”, and maybe you should check into that bias.

            Yeah, make both guys wear uniforms and most people ignore this PERIOD. But that’s not what the visual experiment was getting at. You see, your continual explanations that the guy looks older, maybe like a park employee, less-criminal-ly looks pretty biased. Whereas I see both as normal kids, the white one a burlier kid, but a kid nonetheless. Would I admit to seeing color? Probably…that’s the societal bias imprinted on us. But neither looks “professional” or like a parks employee.

            In the end, my posting of the ‘Own Race Bias’, and the position held by such organizations as the Innocence Project makes a re-do of this specific experiment pointless. The bias is pretty ingrained in our society and well established by studies that young, black men are likelier to be suspected of criminality. Additional testing on ABC News “What Would You Do?” because you imagine that somehow there would be a major shift in these figures is irrelevant.

            Also, you should see the follow-up part 2 where the bike thief is an attractive young woman.


          2. What I don’t want is for people to think that these are somehow scientific studies. It’s a TV show designed to get ratings, and a segment where people treat the white and black guy the same, or maybe are more incline to approach the black guy more often, but do so politely, does not make for exciting viewing, hence there are additional variables that are subtlety added to elicit the responses that they knew they wanted to get all along. A true experiment would remove all variables besides race.

            Also, the show is called “What Would You Do?” so when I watch these segments I think about what I would do in the situation. I would probably walk past the white guy but politely ask the black kid what he was up to as I have my personal bias against people who dress in baggy clothes or otherwise dressed slovenly. Whatever their real ages are, the white guy also looks to be in his early 20s and I would have a bias against age as I would personally see it unlikely that a man of that age would be going around stealing bikes in broad daylight, whereas it would seem like something a stupid 16-year-old would do.

            The point is that there are other biases out there that are affecting how this is playing out. I’m sure race is one of these biases, but there are others. The producers of this show know this and exploit them purposely to elicit the reaction that they want.

  14. I know WHAT you are saying, but you seem to be ignoring the critique of your claims. Of course there are a whole SLEW of biases at work in ANY situation, but don’t be condescending about this not being a scientific study There are ACTUAL scientific studies that bear out how significant the racial component of this bias is, and I linked some earlier. Asking for a TV show to add more rigor to somehow assuage your preconception that race apparently isn’t as big a deal as you imagine it to be, well that’s just patently absurd. Bill Nye didn’t show all the error bars in his static electricity experiment! I CAST DOUBT UPON ITS VERACITY!

    “Also the show is called ‘What Would You Do?'” … correct me if I’m wrong, but right now you’re trying to attribute, or conflate, what YOU would do to cast doubt on what others’ motivations might be? That’s hardly scientific as well.

    As I’ve repeatedly suggested, and it seems I have to spell it out, you seem to have your own racial bias as to what looks “young” and “punk”. What you deem “slovenly” itself appears to be racially motivated because faded, dirty jeans (baggy or otherwise) and a backwards or sideways baseball cap isn’t exactly neat and tidy for anyone … in fact, George F. Will would have called that “slovenly” from his conservative vantage point. Since it’s apparent that your own in-group doesn’t seem to wear baggier jeans, regardless of how clean they are, baggy jeans = “punk”. Never mind how style of dress can also be tied to racial perception. Oh if only the white guy dressed like a rap star and the black guy wore an Armani suit!

    The age thing, oh boy, seriously? So, if it was a black man in his 20s in that same situation, you think people would provide less scrutiny? Why does the NYPD continue to stop and frisk young black men from between 14 to 24? Mein gott! They should only be focusing on the teenage “punks”! There is NO perception in America that a 20-year-old black man could commit a petty crime! None whatsoever!! I’m so glad that you only see age and not race, but, I mean, I have to take your word for it ex-post-facto I guess.

    So, despite the fact that real science does continue to demonstrate racial bias as a powerful motivating factor in eyewitness accounts, despite the fact that even this tv segment, at the very end, demonstrated what would mitigate these factors or turn them on their head by showing what would happen if the young black man explained himself as not being a thief, despite the range of data that already exists regarding this issue, you’re not convinced that racial bias is a large factor because the teevee show didn’t do all the legwork that’s already been demonstrated over time. Yes, the producers had an agenda to demonstrate what is still a difficult issue for people to grasp: racial bias is a far larger issue than people give it credit, and you yourself appear to be demonstrating that by anomaly hunting for the sake of providing your own narrative this agenda needed to be pushed.

    1. I’m still sitting here shocked that anyone is arguing that this isn’t a real enough situation because it didn’t occur in a properly controlled laboratory setting. And that maybe people are just afraid of baggy pants. Which is why our jails are full of baggy pants wearers… who, by coincidence alone, happen to be grossly disproportionately black (as well as otherwise non-white.) It’s probably the pants.

      Actually, since I started wearing skinny jeans, I haven’t been accused of committing a crime even once.

      1. Elyse: Speaking of which, you should get the next shipment in a couple of days. A semi load. about 275 bikes. They’re all premium, you should be able to get $4-500 each for them at UT. New they’d be about a grand each. I can let you have them for $150 each, shipping included. Call it 40K for the lot.

        Skinny jeans? Huh! It’s amazing what a middle-aged white guy wearing a “borrowed” security guard shirt and a plumber’s crack can get away with. And no way it should take so long to cut a chain. About 10 seconds with a good pair of bolt cutters, less than a minute for a Kryptonite with a good hacksaw. These rich suburban high school kids just make it so easy.!

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