- Why do you call yourself a “Black” atheist?
- Short answer: Because I can. I’m allowed to self-identify.
- Long answer: Because I am a member of an oppressed group of people that has its own history, culture, and institutions. Because despite the gains of the civil rights movement my community remains economically and politically disenfranchised and is systematically targeted by unfair practices in the legal/criminal justice systems, education, housing, employment, etc. Because not calling myself black will not do anything to address these problems.
- Also, many of the questions that I’ve been asked or heard asked below…
- Why do you have your own groups? Why aren’t I as a white person welcome?
- Because black atheists have some particular challenges to coming out as atheists. Coming out as an atheist can be particularly isolating for black atheists, as churches play a major role in providing space for social interaction, cultural expression, and political action- also, FRIDAY FISH FRYS (J/K but not entirely) :-)
- Due to the behavior of many mainstream atheists/ atheist orgs, there is a perception that atheism is hostile towards religious believers whether or not they are progressive. The insensitivity, racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia that some atheists/ atheist orgs exhibit along with the very narrow range of issues that secularists tend to focus on, adds to the perception that atheism is a “white male thing”. Having our own groups makes us visible, allowing us to find each other and address issues that are marginalized within the mainstream movement.
- To quote Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson:
“…when people of color are constantly bombarded with bullshit claims from Internet cowards about separatism, reverse discrimination and “self-segregation” when they point to the absence of social justice, anti-racist community organizing, coalition-building and visibility (outside of white suburbs and gentrified urban centers) amongst secular organizations, it merely underscores the burning need for authentic real-time grassroots organizations of color beyond the mainstream atheist power structure.”
- To my knowledge most black atheist groups (with one exception, “The Real Black Atheists”, formerly known as the Black Atheists of Atlanta) don’t exclude white people entirely. Though some white people in general, due to their privilege, are offended by the existence of spaces that do not assume their inclusion.
- What if I go and start a white atheist group?
- Go start one, then I won’t have to guess which group I should avoid.
- But “we’re all Africans”, right?
- You cannot negate the reality of systemic racial inequality by proclaiming “We are all Africans”!
- Why are black people Christians when Christianity was forced on black people through the institution of slavery?
- White people don’t own Christianity.
- The church is a source of social and psychological support via fictive kinship, psychological counseling, the opportunity to express oneself (through song, dance, etc), networking opportunities, childcare, education, etc.
- Churches also provide a number of services particularly in low-income communities of color.
- Please read>>> http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/religion/history2.html
- At one time, conversion to Christianity was once a means of achieving freedom under the law in Virginia. Later the law was changed so that the freedom or enslavement of a person was based on the condition of the mother- this is when slavery became a condition based on racial heritage. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1narr3.html
- The African Methodist Episcopal Church & other black churches were instrumental in the abolitionist movement and in helped educate & house escaped and former slaves, in addition to organizing to fight for political, economic, and social equality. Many black people drew inspiration from the bible and belief in god to resist slavery including Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, etc. Many black scholars and theologians would develop doctrines and theologies which would challenge slavery, racial apartheid, and even capitalistic exploitation based on a different interpretation of the bible.
- Because of racial dichotomies/ hierarchies that were created by white supremacy, blacks were viewed as not only the intellectual or cultural inferiors of whites but the moral inferiors of whites as well. Though slaves who practiced Christianity could no longer be freed as a condition of their conversion, adherence to Christianity along with assimilation conferred a sense of respectability. Black people, who were enslaved or otherwise were viewed as more moral, upstanding, civilized, and acceptable if they were Christian and didn’t disrupt the racial order. Performing this particular type of respectability could mean the difference between employment, safety, housing, etc. because “good” negroes (those who knew their “place”) were not perceived as a great threat to white people. (see http://www.ferris.edu/htmls/news/jimcrow/brute/)
*Note that none of this is said to suggest that the black church should not be criticized at all.
- Aren’t black Christians “uncle toms”, “house negroes”, race traitors, or somehow responsible for holding back the race simply by being Christian?
- What role did the black church play in the Civil Rights movement? Was it a religious movement?
- The answer to this is not exactly straight forward. Though there were many churches and religious people who participated, there were many churches that did not. In fact many churches were against the Civil Rights Movement.
- There were some religious organizations that were instrumental in furthering the movement like the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), headed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but there were also several secular organizations like SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee), The Brotherhood of the Sleeping Car Porters, and The Black Panthers.
- Atheists/humanists like A. Philip Randolph, Paul Robeson, James Forman, and others also played significant roles in the Civil Rights Movement. Many people were reluctant or fearful to be open about their non-belief, political views, and affiliations due to intense surveillance and intimidation by the FBI and other entities.
- Shouldn’t churches/ religious communities that serve black communities be held responsible for (insert list of “black pathologies” here)?
- Short answer: No. The black church cannot be held responsible for conditions that is did not create in the first place.
- Links of Interests:
- You seem to defend the black church a lot. Are you sure you are an atheist?
- I just refuse to attack the black church wholesale. There are many toxic religious influences in the black community, namely the prosperity gospel and many mega-churches.
- Though some black churches are extremely opposed to gays rights, reproductive rights, etc, there are many churches/ religious groups who are leading the way in progressive social justice activism (ex. Moral Mondays).
- Why can black people use the word “nigger” but as a white person I can’t?
- Short answer: Because you can’t.
- Long answer: Because that word is a tool of white supremacy and the systematic dehumanization of black people. Although some black people have appropriated it and decided to use it as a term of endearment or in other ways, that does not entitle a member of the privileged group to use it. The real question is why would you as a non-black person want to use that word? What do you get from using that word?
- Isn’t it racist to tell one someone they can’t (or in this case really shouldn’t) do something cause they aren’t black?
- Not when the “something” is telling a person from a privileged group not to use dehumanizing language against members of an oppressed group. Call me when black people start create a system or racial apartheid where white people are systematically disenfranchised.
- What is “white privilege”?
- White privilege is a set of tangible and sometimes intangible privileges or benefits that white people (or obstensibly white people) receive just by virtue of being white. Examples of areas where whites are privileged include differences in sentencing and conviction rates, obtaining employment and job security, securing home and business loans, interests rates (even with similar credit scores/histories), etc.
- For more information on white privilege (That is if you aren’t feigning interest) Google or Bing that shit!
- But I was born poor/grew up around black people/(insert other claim that doesn’t debunk that fact of racial privilege here), so how can you say that I benefit from white privilege? Also, look at all the exceptional black people who are successful that I can name.
- Short answer: So what?
- Poor white or lower class white people still benefit from white privilege for example, research has demonstrated that white people with felony convictions fare as well or better than black people without a criminal record. This is just one example of the reality of racial discrimination which gives an unfair advantage to white people.
- FYI, pointing out FEW “exceptional” black people is not a sufficient counter argument in discussions of SYSTEMIC racial inequality. The key word is systemic and that doesn’t mean that no black person can achieve. It simply means that their are significant barriers to achievement for most.
- What are your thoughts on “black on black” crime?
- I think that anyone who uses that terms needs to get a damn clue.
- It would probably be easier to accept what you are saying if you weren’t so angry/bitter. Could you please change your tone?
- My tone isn’t the problem, it is merely an excuse for you to ignore my arguments/ my lived experiences.
- You don’t get to determine how I should feel about these matters.
- And you don’t get to use my tone or emotional state to minimize my experiences.
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Six Reasons Why There Aren’t More Blacks in the Atheist Community << Just added
Black, Atheist & Hiding
I’m a Black Unicorn Baby: I am a Black Woman Atheist!
What Not to Say to Radical Atheist-Humanists of Color
Black Atheists and The Failure of Black Academia
Freethought Giant: A. Philip Randolph and the March on Washington
The Black Church
God in America: The Black Church
Black Women are Among Country’s most Religious Groups
Why Did So Many Black women Die?: Jonestown at 35?
Black Woman on the Atheist Tip
We Only Do Diversity When Want To: Atheist Silence on the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-Believers
Welfare Queens, Feminism, Secularism, Anti-Racism
Open Letter to Dave Silverman
“Can’t All Fights for Equality be Basic and Foundational?”
Why I Need Spaces for POCs
Ain’t I a Skeptic?
The Lobbying Game << Just Added
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America
The New Jim Crow
Clinging to Mammy
The History of White People
Big Think: Nell Irvin Painter, Author of The History of White People
Exposing your non-belief & Why the decision can be paralyzing
People of Color Beyond Faith Roundtable Discussion
People of Color Beyond Faith Roundtable: Debunking Post-Racialism
People of Color Beyond Faith: Religious Oppression and Women of Color
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People of Color Beyond Faith: Sex, Sexuality, & Gender Politics
FTBCon2: Social Justice and Young Women of Color
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BFT Radio: Freethought History- A Conversation with Norm Allen
BFT Radio: Freethought History- A Conversation with Dr. Chris Cameron
BFT Radio: A Conversation on Godless Americana with Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson
BFT Radio: Atheists of Color FAQ & Comments