Richard Dawkins Isn't Funny

[Content Note: Racism; slavery.]

Richard Dawkins has mastered the art of obliquely referencing in really outrageous ways topics that have been in the news, apparently in order to stir up reactions. Here is his latest, riding on recent conversations about the Confederate flag:

screen cap of tweet authored by Richard Dawkins reading: 'If South'd won Civil War? Slaves would've soon been freed anyway, South would now be banana republic, & North the greatest civilisation ever'

When called out for the dubious accuracy of this statement, Dawkins claimed that he was just offering an alternate-history novel idea in 140 characters, and chided those who responded for their "vitriol" and incivility.

I'm going to be honest that a part of me doesn't want to respond to Dawkins' outrageous tweets anymore. I now genuinely believe him to be a professional troll who is engaging in the internet equivalent of poking at us with a stick until he can get a reaction. Every word wasted on him at this point feels like giving in to his demands for attention.

But this isn't occurring in a vacuum. This narrative, whether admittedly "fictional" or not, that slaves "would've been freed" (eventually! somehow! by 2015, definitely!) by white people, through the kindness of those who oppressed them, feeds into the same modern cultural choice to obscure the work that marginalized communities perform in order to improve things for themselves right now.

These messages are constant and harmful and not anywhere even remotely funny. Dawkins' immense privilege allows him to joke about slavery and how the oppression of black Americans totes would have ended on its own somehow someway through the inevitable efforts of somebody, while ignoring all the oppression that is happening right now, today, and which many white people are blissfully choosing to ignore.

That isn't okay, it's not helpful, and in fact it's downright harmful.

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