Tonight, Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, founder of Black Skeptics Group and Women’s Leadership Project, hosted the first People of Color Beyond Faith Webcast. The discussion focused primarily on dismantling notions of post-racialism in the secular, skeptical, and atheist communities. Joining the discussion were Kimberly Veal, founder of Black Freethinkers and Director of Development for Black Skeptics Group; Donald Wright, founder of Houston Area Black-Nonbelievers; and myself. Among the specific issues that were addressed were the infamous billboards used to denounce the Pennsylvania legislatures “Year of the Bible”; the use (or misuse) of the popular slogan “We are all Africans”; and the way that the carving out of safe spaces for minority groups is often perceived as “reverse racism” or “self segregation”. It is an entertaining and informative discussion, if you can get past our initial technical difficulties (I can assure you that we are in the process of resolving them.).
If you take anything from this, I hope that you will understand that racial issues cannot be resolved with slogans and color-blindness. Despite the election of Barack Obama, an African American, as President, political and socioeconomic inequality remain persistent in our society. And the groups that bear these political and socioeconomic burden are disproportionately black and brown. Though religiosity is higher among these groups, religion is not the main factor that drives these inequalities and churches and faith based institutions are often the only organizations that attempt to address the needs of these communities at all. So it isn’t productive to appropriate the cultural and historic experiences of people of color (about which there are already many misconceptions) when it is convenient for you and ignore the ongoing discrimination and injustices they face. And let me tell you that turning around and pronouncing “We are all Africans” will not resolve the situation. If you can find me an MOC that avoided being stopped and frisked by pronouncing that to a police officer, I’d love to hear about it.
Empty pronouncements won’t do! Insensitive billboards will not do! And empty statements on diversity will not do! If the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, and others have taught us anything, it is that there are lives at stake. And the last thing those whose lives are at risk need to hear is someone calling them an “Uncle Tom” or ignorant simply for believing in god. Interfaith cooperation around matters of social justice is not simply a nice or neighborly thing to do- it is imperative for communities of color! And debunking post-racialism in the secular community and society at large is a necessary component.
I hope you will join us for future webcasts and for #pocbeyondchat on Twitter (Thursdays @ 8 EST, with the exception of Thanksgiving).