When tofu-dashikiists attack

I recently got 6 comments from a misogynistic black nationalist scumbag, who was attempting to “put me in my place” or “tell me a thing or two” in response primarily to my criticism of Umar Johnson and his plans to develop a residential academy for boys. But Kwame, the scumbag, illustrates exactly what I have said about black patriarchy and racialized misogyny, particularly among many so-called Afrocentrics. In a previous blog I wrote about the similarities between reactionary black nationalists and white supremacists. Among many of the similarities is the way that they both view black women. Because white women are the standard of femininity per white supremacy, black women are not regarded as feminine from the outset. Black women are viewed by white supremacy as masculine because they do not meet the racist standards of western beauty. Black women were also never fully viewed as feminine because of work. Black women as slaves had to work rather than maintain homes and children, leading of various stereotypes of emasculating black women- as work outside the home is viewed as a masculine role. A lot of resentment and tension around black women pursuing higher education, working outside of the home, using public assistance to provide for their families (something men are supposed to do per patriarchy), remains to this day, even when it is evident that racist policies limit the economic opportunities of black people- that impair the economic success of black men. But for these men it isn’t just success that they long to achieve but dominance. They want to dominate their homes and families like the white supremacist patriarchs whose power they covet. Sharing in a similar type of nostalgia to that of their white supremacist counterparts, black nationalists believe in an idealized “Afrikan” past where women served men and “knew their place”. This is why typical so-called Afrocentrics regard black women as race traitors for not submitting to patriarchal authority. They typically will accuse black women who question their agenda as “having the white man’s mind” simply for not being gullible enough to believe everything that they say as gospel. It is clear when I see comments like this:

Comment 2Here is the text re-written below for those that have trouble viewing the image with my comments in red.

“Don’t call yourself part with me [I am pretty sure I covered that when I said, "All skinfolk ain't kinfolk."], you trying to stop a brother from opening a school for Black men [I'm pretty sure I didn't try to stop him, I'm pretty sure I just offered my opinion on why Umar Johnson opening a school was a bad idea.], because they are against, this unnatural bullshit [Except that homosexuality is not, in fact, unnatural.], and they won’t educate our kids to be like you, a cog in the white mans wheel [yawn], I’ll bet you either lesbian or married to a white-man [Actually, neither. Not that being in either category would be a bad thing.], and if you are, stat the fuck outta our business, this is why men are mysoginst, because when you women get educated, you always take on your masters mind [1. it is spelled Misogyny 2. That is not why you are a misogynist. You are a misogynist because you hate women.], and bring this garbage to us, you make me began to hate all you under 40 black feminazis [Because fighting for gender equality is the same as marching on Poland.]

brothers, we need to learn another language [Or you could try mastering English first.], and become a new people, and separate ourselves, not only from these amerikkkan loving, ex-women [See what I mean about Afrocentrics and White Supremacists and how they view black women?] , we’ll call ourselves whatever, and these things, can remain afri-can amerikkkan, or whatever they call themselves, we are not the same, It us e like the Arab or the Jew, and separate ourselves, these women are now foreigners, Philistines, they are less than human to us, the enemy in campment, a roach even.”

 

Notice the dehumanizing language. There can be no true equality found among typical so-called Afrocentrics. They don’t want freedom and equality, they just want to exchange places with white supremacist patriarchs with the power to oppress others. This is clear in the way that Afrocentrics narrowly define manhood, womanhood, and blackness. This is why ideologies such as those expressed by people like Umar Johnson, Tariq Nasheed, and other are so toxic. These men cannot free us!!!! They cannot help us. And they cannot help our community because they are not interested in uplifting all of  us. And their ideology encourages abusive and even violent behavior even if they themselves do not do so explicitly. I am sad to say these are the kind of men that some folks think should be educating black children. I think not.

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“ALL MY SKINFOLK AIN’T KINFOLK.”: THE NEED TO APPROACH BLACK PATRIARCHAL MALE LEADERSHIP SKEPTICALLY PT. 2

 

If you have been donating to Reverend Deke O’Malley Dr. Umar Johnson, I’m not saying that you have been swindled, BUT something doesn’t add up here. According to Dr. Umar Johnson, he was given until August 21st to raise $5 million to purchase the defunct former HBCU, St. Paul’s College. In his video he pleads and implores his audience to donate so that he can purchase the 135 acres and 31 buildings that was once housed and educated so many. Several blogs and even Black Enterprise’s  Be Smart Blog were so enthusiastic about Johnson’s scant proposal for the purchase of the campus and the opening of his Frederick Douglass & Marcus Garvey RGB International Leadership Academy that none bothered to ask any tough questions. They couldn’t muster the least bit of skepticism. And that is unfortunate because as it turns out today 135 acres of St. Paul’s College and the Student Center were scheduled to be auctioned off today.

 

What are we raising money for again? Cause something in the milk ain't clean.

What are we raising money for again? Cause something in the milk ain’t clean.

And today (unless there were no bids) St. Paul’s College , most of it anyway, has likely been sold. So was Johnson lying when he stated that he was given until August 21st?  Was he lying about trying to purchase the entire campus? Did he only intend part of the $5 million to purchase part of St. Paul’s and intend the rest towards maintenance and the starting of his school? These are questions only Johnson can answer. Maybe another look at the video where he requests donations can give us a clue.

 

 

That’s right ladies and gentleman Dr. Umar Johnson stated:

I am here at the historic St. Paul’s College. This beautiful campus, 135 acres of which I hope to make the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy for African Children… I am hoping that you will help me keep this college in the hands of the African American community…. We need this 135 acres for our children. We have the dormitories. We have the gymnasium. We have the lecture halls. We have the cafeteria. We have the beautiful student center…”

Does he mean this student center?

 

St Paul's college 3

Seriously?

I can’t say for sure what his intentions were or are but I think those of you that have donated have the right to demand to know what will be done with the $100,000 that he has supposedly raised so far. Johnson has demonstrated once again how easy it is for us to be duped by charismatic male leadership especially when they manipulate us via our hopes and or fears. Many of us were swayed when he stated:
“I want this school to be a blueprint, a role model  to every other independent African school in the world. to show them that African children are not the intellectual inferiors of European Americans. “

Looks like we need a better architect.

marcus and frederick

 

Recommended Reading

“ALL MY SKINFOLK AIN’T KINFOLK.”: THE NEED TO APPROACH BLACK PATRIARCHAL MALE LEADERSHIP SKEPTICALLY

 

References

Auction

http://motleys.com/auction/historic-st-pauls-college-lawrenceville-va-founded-1888

http://www.motleys.com/auction/offering-1-3-Lawrenceville-VA-Saint+PaulsCollege-33Buildings-130AC

http://motleys.com/auction/offering-2-3-Lawrenceville-VA-23058SF-5.55-AC-StudentCenter

 

Press

http://diverseeducation.com/article/64725/

http://naturallymoi.com/2014/06/news/black-man-works-to-raise-5m-for-an-all-boys-academy-for-black-boys/

http://www.blackenterprise.com/education/dr-umar-johnson-launches-initiative-to-fund-all-black-boys-academy/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“All my skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.”: The need to approach black patriarchal male leadership skeptically

Charing Ball recently wrote an excellent article for Madame Noire, where she discusses the latest shenanigans of Dr. Umar Johnson, a favorite in many afrocentric/ black nationalist/ Pan-Africanist circles. Johnson is currently seeking donations to buy St. Paul’s College a former HBCU that closed June 30, 2013. Johnson is proposing to buy the property for $5 million dollars and to start the Frederick Douglass Marcus Garvey  RGB International Leadership Academy. Charing Ball aptly lays out many reasons why this is problematic. She discusses his homophobia and his misogyny which can be seen in many of the videos of lectures and interviews he has given online. Throughout his work are bizarre conspiracy theories about homosexuality as plot by white supremacists to destroy or depopulate the black community and a host of other pseudo-scientific views. He is also a misogynist who blames black women for psychologically damaging their sons and making them gay. He is also featured in the Hidden Colors series, directed by fellow pseudo-historian Tariq Nasheed. I shudder to think what hateful men this school would turn out, when its founders ideologies label black women and black gays and lesbians as race traitors or potential enemies of the black community.

But another one of the big issues with his proposal is his lack of a business plan. Johnson proposes to purchase the campus for $5 million but there is no discussion of the annual cost of running or maintaining the campus. Or what tuition may cost to families who are daft enough to send their children to be influenced by this man. Not to mention that this would be a pretty ostentatious move for anyone to make, but particularly when they haven’t even opened or operated a school themselves. There is absolutely no indication from his previous endeavors that he is capable of running a food truck, let alone an 11-building 185 acre college campus.  Doesn’t seem to be a good start for a school, the aims of which are to teach students how to be  self-employed and entrepreneurial, does it?

Johnson has also opted for a few of the least transparent ways to fund raise in the digital age utilizing donations from PayPal and snail  mail. The lack of transparency, his dubious credentials, and his hateful views should be more than enough to give one pause. It has been interesting especially to see people I know who are apt to regard church finances skeptically due to a lack of transparency and follow through, expressing enthusiasm over the mere two and a half minute video of Johnson requesting donations. It reminds me of the film When Cotton Comes to Harlem, adapted from the novel by Chester Himes. In it Reverend Deke O’Malley presents himself as a Marcus Garvey like figure, raising funds for a ship line to transport black people in America to Africa. It doesn’t take long before it is revealed that O’Malley is running a scam. The film is pretty entertaining but what it impressed upon me as a child is that not everyone who claims to represent or work towards the betterment of the black community or social justice is doing so. I cannot say with absolutely certainty that this will turn out to be a scam like the one in the film but I think that given the lack of forethought and transparency that it is certainly likely. But, even if Johnson’s plans for the donated funds he is receiving are above board (since I doubt that he will raise the $5 million or be able to maintain the St. Paul’s Campus if he were able to acquire it), there is no way that he can be working to improve the black community while embracing an ideology that casts parts of that community, the same gender loving black men and women, black mothers, etc as race traitors, mentally ill, or otherwise deviant. It is an ideology that he intends to teach to impressionable young children.

The defense of Johnson and reactions to the criticism of Charing Ball is demonstrative of the paranoia and misogyny that seems to be part and parcel of many of these afrocentric/ Pan-Africanist/ black nationalist or what I like to call tofu-dashikiist communities. Merely being a woman questioning the motives or methods of people like Johnson, Tariq Nasheed, and others is enough to get you labeled as a lesbian (as though that is the worst thing you can be) or “negro bed wench”. This is something I have experienced directly on many occasions, including, when I and Kimberly Veal criticized the Hidden Colors series. What does it say about these men, these movements, and their followers, when any question or challenge to their views is met with such vitriol? What does it say that challenges to their world view are not evaluated based on their merits? To me it says that they value ideology above all even the community they are supposed to help.

 

Recommended Reading

http://rhoadestoreality.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/afrocentrism/

http://rhoadestoreality.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/silly-arguments-the-law-of-reproduction/

 

 

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The Lobbying Game

Consider the following statements:

1. “Truly, this earth is a trophy cup for the industrious man. And this rightly so, in the service of natural selection. He who does not possess the force to secure his [space required for life] in this world, and, if necessary, to enlarge it, does not deserve to possess the necessities of life. He must step aside and allow stronger peoples to pass him by.”

2.”Evolution is an explanation. Human beings are a species just like millions of other known species. Although we walk upright, we are nevertheless mammals and primates. Like all social animals humans establish hierarchies. Humans have the same goals as other animals, and that is to eat and not get eaten. “But who is trying to eat you?, “you ask. There are predators all around us and we deal with them every day. This is a dog eat dog world in which we live, and if you’re not able to adapt you be eaten. There is absolutely nothing that goes on in the jungle of the Serengeti that does not happen on Wall Street. Capitalism is just a game of survival. We are products of evolution.  It’s about adapting and passing on our genes. Those that do not play by the predator’s rules will be eaten and will not get the opportunity to pass along their genes. In the concrete jungle words and phrase like “unfair”, “not right”, or immoral in defense of one’s treatment is the language of the conquered, the weak, and of the victim. You are on the bottom of the food chain. Racism in reality is a group’s desperate attempt to keep themselves elevated on the ladder of the human food chain. Again, at the end of the day it is all about survival.”

3. “A drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be…The law of survival of the fittest was not made by man, and it cannot be abrogated by man.  We can only, by interfering with it, produce the survival of the unfittest.”

 

The statements are fairly similar, are they? Can you guess who authored them?

Find out who after the jump…

Continue reading

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A response to…”But you should be willing to educate me!!!!”

So, apparently some people had an issue with the tone of my last post. They think I have some obligation to teach people about who I am in a calm and polite tone.  I don’t believe my parents birthed me to justify my existence and explain the conditions of my humanity to other people. I could check with them but I’m sure they’ll say no.

Oh, would you look at that? I’m fresh out.

 

My feelings towards people who think I’m obligated to sit wherever and make them understand or accept my humanity are best expressed by:

“I’ve got to explain myself

To everybody

I do more translating

Than the Gawdamn U.N.

Forget it

I’m sick of it

I’m sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against

The isolation of your self-imposed limitations

Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners

Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches

Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people

Find another connection to the rest of the world

Find something else to make you legitimate

Find some other way to be political and hip

I will not be the bridge to your womanhood

Your manhood

Your human-ness

I’m sick of reminding you not to

Close off too tight for too long

I’m sick of mediating with your worst self

On behalf of your better selves

I am sick

Of having to remind you to breath

Before you suffocate

Your own fool self.

Forget it

Stretch or drown

Evolve or die

The bridge I must be

Is the Bridge to my own power

I must translate

My own fears

Mediate

My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere

But my true self

And then

I will be useful.”
Taken from The Bridge Poem by Donna Kate Ruskin

 

I don’t think people get how exhausting it is to deal with people who refuse to check their privilege but demand you give them answers that they have no interest in hearing in the first place. I don’t think some of you get how exhausting it is to deal with white secularists who think they are entitled to label the black community as especially ignorant, pathological,  or “uncle tom” race traitors (in the case of black Christians) but act offended when I choose to self-identify. So I’m done dealing with people who think they can educate me on my experience:

White Supremacy. Because white people are better qualified to discuss the culture/lived experiences of POCs than POCs.

White Supremacy. Because white people are better qualified to discuss the culture/lived experiences of POCs than POCs.

I don’t care to play the game where people get to act like they are really confused by terms like “privilege” or confused as to how racism can still exist in a country that elected a black president. I’m tired. I’m done. I’m calling bullshit. I will talk about these things on my terms and my terms only. You don’t get to waste my time or energy anymore.

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MY BLACK ATHEIST FAQ

  • 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?
    • 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. 

  • 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.
  •  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.
  • 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.

 

 

Additional Reading:

Bridging the STEM  Divide Youth Conference & White Atheist Hypocrites <<<<Just Added

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?

Billboard Brouhaha

The Lobbying Game << Just Added

Godless Americana

Moral Combat

Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

The New Jim Crow

Clinging to Mammy

The History of White People

 

 

Web/ Podcasts:

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

People of Color Beyond Faith: Radical Humanist Traditions of Communities of Color

People of Color Beyond Faith: Sex, Sexuality, & Gender Politics

FTBCon2: Social Justice and Young Women of Color

BFT Radio: Interfaith, Social Justice, Atheism

BFT Radio: Social Justice Community Activism and the Atheist Community

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

 

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Allyship Fail!

It has come to my attention that the video entitled “Black Men Actors In Dresses! ‘We Men… Aint We?’” has been taken down from youtube.

FYI, Jeremiah Camara, removing a video with a hateful message regarding homophobia and transphobia ≠ “unapologetic” (his words) support for the LGBT community.

Unfortunately, #cpacatheists and your other supporters don’t seem to care about demonstrating their unapologetic support for the LGBT community by not supporting a bigot. But I have learned that when the mainstream movement equates attacking believers with social justice they cannot be depended on to do the right thing.

Where is your “unapologetic” support for the LGBT community, Camara?

“Can’t all fights for equality be basic and foundational?”

Last year I published an article entitled, “Ain’t I a skeptic?”. In it I talked about my frustration with the way women’s and minority issues are often dismissed offhand particularly in atheist/secular and skeptical circles, that generally claim to be above such things. All I can say is that nothing has changed. The language of color-blindness and post-racialism continues to dominate in the secular community just as it does within the country at large, despite the growth of systemic inequality and the deaths of innocent young people, due to flawed legal statutes like stand your ground. Earlier this week I published an Open Letter to Dave Silverman about his views on equality and afterward I posted some links on twitter making reference to Silverman and his mistaken notion of equality. This is what happened next:
CaptureWhat is equality without human value? The graphic above demonstrates that we have criminalized the bodies of transpersons  of color at an alarming rate. If we believe the current estimates that place the percentage fo transpersons in the U.S at 0.3%, then you have to admit that our society has implicitly deemed these people as disposable. Multiple interlocking systems of oppression impact LGBT persons of color like inter-generational poverty, racial discrimination, xenophobia, lack of living wage jobs, insufficient education, workplace & housing discrimination, etc. But when you aren’t subject to when you benefit from these forms of discrimination it is difficult to empathize with the oppressed minorities that do not. Remember, our founding fathers were speaking of freedom, liberty, and equality whilst slaves were tending their properties, emptying their chamberpots, building their fortunes and “warming” their beds. So again, we have to rethink what is “basic and foundational”. Where did those ideas come from who were they meant to include? And by extension, who and what do they continue to exclude?

Secular organizations (not necessarily atheist/skeptical communities) of all sorts, many of which even claim to be interested in the struggle for “equality” are benefitting from systems of inequality and injustice or by appropriating the experiences of people of color and other minority groups. One such example is the Human Rights Campaign. It was recently revealed today that HRC has received donations from company that manufacture drones. The very same drones that have killed innocent men, women, and children in the “Middle East”. HRC has been criticized by many groups but particularly by LGBT persons of color for campaigning aggressively for “marriage equality” while failing to address adequately issues that disproportionately impact POCs (ex. issues related to homelessness, poverty, survival sex work, violence towards LGBT persons of color). This from an organization the has human rights in its name! But clearly not in it’s priorities.

This is the point I was making to Dave Silverman  who uses the language of equality and appropriates the experiences of minority groups to condemn religious authorities when it is convenient. Dave Silverman like many atheist celebrities condemns conservative religious political forces who seek to limit the rights or women or say force women to wear a hijab but are silent of the abuse of African immigrants in Israel. They condemn what they view as  the efforts of the religious right to create, in essence a theocracy, but they say nothing of the authoritarian abuse of power against minority groups in the United States via forced sterilization  for example. That is because by and large the women who suffer this type of abuse do not fit conveniently into their narratives, though in actuality western religiousity factors heavily into racial constructions and into the way we view punishment for crime, among other things (as I described in my article “Ain’t I a Skeptic”).

This is why I am growing  very weary with this movement and the way it selectively chooses convenient narratives to blame religious authorities for this or that but has no genuine interest in a broader discussion of human rights. This white paternalism is part and parcel of the white savior industrial complex that ignores abuses in it’s own back yard in favor of more remote and or convenient enemies that it can fit neatly into it’s narratives. Like many organizations which advocated for marriage equality blaming the black community for Prop 8 (despite evidence to the contrary), or blaming Islam exclusively for political extremists and anti-western sentiment, or blaming the black church and it’s “uncle tom house negro” race traitors for the problems of the black community.

I am even also tired  of calls to unify under a single banner or to rally behind this or that group while they continue to ignore minorities and the realities we face, hence the letter to Dave Silverman. But a few days later, I read an article which defended the leadership of many mainstream groups and said that we should stop the “infighting” and be thankful. Here is an excerpt:

So maybe not all atheists agree on the same political ideologies, though I would ask anyone to show that the overwhelming majority is not liberal, leftwing based ideologists, instead of selfish or theocratic ones. If there is one thing all atheists have in common politically it is that we are not the religious right…

Without atheists united in some form of community, the US would be lost overnight to a theocratic right. Ready to overturn whatever secular laws remain in the constitution. While some atheists are worried about definitions, the right is worried about overturning women’s rights, ending marriage equality and enforcing bad economic policies that drive more Americans into poverty.

While we are busy infighting claiming, “no one speaks for me”, the right is speaking and gathering followers. If we continue to run around unorganized, they will overtake this nation…

These are the groups who put the weight on their shoulders to make sure the theocratic right do not overtake the US and anyone who believes in upholding the secular history of this nation and the further secularization that rebuilds the wall that separates church and state that the right has spent decades taking apart. We should be thanking these groups and individuals in this fight, not chastising them for being “the face” of atheism as many have…

You can get behind the groups you like and ignore the ones you don’t. You never have to state that any particular person speaks for you, but you can allow those people to speak and make your world better, and if you disagree, then speak up. Ignoring it and simply saying it is not a movement means you will let others speak for you. Silence is an action, the action of inaction.

The community is forming whether you like it or not, you can either get on board and help in this struggle or you can simply opt out and watch change happen one way or the other and do nothing to help or stop it. The good news is, while some sit back and criticize the work of these community activists, these activists don’t stop working. They do the dirty work even when some in their own community refuse to thank them.

*The emphasis is mine btw

Dan Arel asserts that most atheists are “leftwing based ideologists” and that we are not the “selfish” religious right, though many atheists are socially liberal on issues like gay marriage, access to birth control, and mainstream feminist principles which center largely on economic issues (i.e. equal pay),  I don’t think that means that they are leftwing or liberal on other issues of importance. A great deal of atheist support the reduction of the social safety net and have been by and large silent on immigration, violence against LGBT persons, healthcare, ongoing racial disparities, and even on the “enforc[ement] of bad economic policies that drive more Americans into poverty”.

In the next paragraph he uses an appeal to emotion to attempt to scare the reader into believing that somehow if  we don’t subordinate our views/voices to those at the helms of the greater movement that the “right” will overtake our nation. IF that is the case where was the outrage at the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act? Where is the effort from the atheist/ non-believing community to counter discriminatory voting laws that would disenfranchise racial and ethnic minorities, the elderly, and college students? What weight have they taken upon their shoulders? Last time I checked, the only way to rebuild that wall between church and state is through the ballot.

Remember: “Silence is an action, the action of inaction.” Or something like that, right?

While Arel says we can” get behind the groups you like and ignore the ones you don’t”  why is it that many in leadership continue promoting this agenda that polices what labels we use and dictates to us which battles are “basic and foundational” rather than allowing us to determine that for ourselves. And between this and some of the “work” some of them do, I’m not sure that there is much to thank them for.

Open Letter to Dave Silverman…

I recently read an article about where a reporter sought clarification on some statements Dave Silverman made concerning his views on the secular movement in a previous piece published in  The Tablet, written by Rachel Silberstein. Here is Silverman’s statement from the Silberstein article:

Some call themselves secular humanists, and many call themselves Jews,” says Silverman, a term he argues is particularly damaging to the cause. When atheists call themselves Jews, it implies theism, he says, which “makes atheists look small and negates a learning opportunity.”

When asked for clarification on the previous statement by Roy Speckhardt, Silverman stated:

“Some fight the battle to get humanism (or some other label) better recognized, but this battle is counterproductive, as there are very few people who know what humanism is — as opposed to atheism — and fighting that fight completely distracts from the equality fight, which is far more important. The humanism battle is nuanced; the atheism battle is basic and foundational.”

I take issue with these statements as a Black atheist who also identifies as a secular humanist. So I want to speak directly to Dave Silverman for a moment. Here goes:

Dear Dave Silverman,

I understand that you take some issue with the diversity of labels that are used within the secular movement. Somehow I am not surprised but i think you are missing a few things:
1. That people have the right to define themselves and label themselves as they wish.
2. That secularists and atheists have the right to decide which battles are worthy of their time.
3. Actually you and “new atheists” of your ilk make the movement smaller because it is the antagonism and narrow scope of  that this movement exemplifies that makes many of people loathe to identify themselves as atheists.

And now, by narrowly defining the notion of equality and that ignores the lived realities of many Americans, I think you are inflicting further damage. Reading your statements this month offended me, as this month marks Black History Month. I was also offended because these words were uttered during a time in our country where it seems that open season has been declared on Black children. This is a time when the gains made during the civil rights movement are being eroded, when incarceration rates of Black and Latino communities are increasing at alarming rates, and overall systemic inequality seem to be growing. The fact that your notion of equality focuses narrowly on how much room you have to insult theists via billboards and television appearances is troubling to me and counterproductive. And it only further demonstrates how pervasive white supremacy is in this movement. The atheist movement often uses the language of post-racialism and color-blindness to avoid dealing with diversity in any substantive way. But none of this should surprise me since the only time that you are apt to consider this struggle is when you can appropriate it to insult religious adherence to the bible.

While it is certainly true that religious believers have a considerable amount of privilege in our country (as well as throughout the world) to frame the conversation in terms of equality is insensitive to all of the many minority groups that continue to struggle to have their humanity recognized.  It is disrespectful to the memory of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, and  the countless other men, women, and children who have lost their lives.  It is disrespectful to the lived experiences of men, women, and children who are discriminated against in employment, housing, education, and the criminal justice system.

I wish equality for atheists was all there was left to fight for! I wish that STEM education and issues of church separation were the only battles left to fight. But I don’t have that luxury. I don’t have the level of privilege that would allow me to believe in that. I cannot be that oblivious.

That is why I could not disagree with you more on the issues of humanism. We need humanism more than ever, lives are depending on it. We need movements that recognize the value Black, Latino, and LGBT lives. We don’t need movements that appropriate our stories when it is convenient but are unwilling to stand up for us when it is inconvenient.

Applause for DOMA but on VRA...

Applause for DOMA but silence on VRA…

We don’t need movements that minimize the meaning of equality at a time where systemic inequality is growing. The battle against systemic inequality is “basic and foundational” and emphasizing radical humanist values with an emphasis on intersectionality could mean all the difference. Atheism only emphasizes non-belief in deities- humanism emphasizes the value of HUMAN LIFE.

Children like this are growing up in a world that does not value their lives or their safety. Our children are not afforded the presumption of innocence.

Children like this are growing up in a world that does not value their lives or their safety. Our children are not afforded the presumption of innocence. Our children aren’t innocent until proven guilty. Our children are perceived as threats.

I want to challenge you to rethink about what equality means and about which struggles are “basic and foundational” as homelessness and hunger rise and funding for social safety nets like  SNAP are cut. Think about it as incarceration rates for Black and Latino communities rise independent of crime rates, as public schools close in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, as people struggle to sustain themselves on inadequate wages, etc.

James Baldwin once said, “If the concept of God has any validity or any use, it can only be to make us larger, freer, and more loving. If God cannot do this, then it is time we got rid of Him.”

I say if the atheist movement cannot make us larger, freer, and more loving, I have no use for it. If it doesn’t value my life and the lives of other socioeconomic minorities, then it isn’t for me. I hope you will take this moment as a learning opportunity.

Sincerely,

Raina

Resources:

The Murder of Jordan Dunn

The Murder of Renisha McBride

Black unemployment is twice that of white unemployment

Portland Public Schools strike preparation: Low-income students could face crisis if schools close

Hunger Through My Lens

#DangerousBlackKids

Are We Black, Proud and Socialist?

Rhoades to Reality:

I am definitely looking forward to reading this.

Originally posted on Infidel Books:

why did so many black women
White Nights, Black Paradise: A Novel

By Sikivu Hutchinson

“Ain’t no white sky daddy gonna save you. Are we Black, proud and socialist? What are we?”

Why did a powerful white man utter these words and why did hundreds of black people, the majority of them black women, follow him to their deaths?

In 1978, Peoples Temple, a multiracial apostolic socialist church once at the forefront of liberal San Francisco politics, self-destructed in a Guyana jungle settlement called Jonestown. Founded by the Reverend Jim Jones, a white Indiana-born misfit and self-proclaimed Marxist, the church became the focal point of social justice activism and racial solidarity for a diverse cross-section of political radicals, religious seekers and disenfranchised folk. Jones was the object of mass adulation and idolatry, cloaking a white savior mentality in a militantly blacker-than-thou charismatic public image. For many of his black female followers, he was Father and God—one…

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