Celebrating Solidarity at Frederick Douglass’s House

Intersectional Humanism

Chocolate City Skeptic's National Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers Outing 2/22/15

February not only marks the celebration of Black History Month but the Annual National Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers, an event founded by Donald Wright, author of The Only Prayer I’ll Ever Pray. The event was conceived as a day to encourage fellowship and solidarity for black non-believers, as well as to encourage community activism and social justice. It is fitting that during this time that we reflect on radical humanist and freethinkers of color who fought for the equality and justice. And so, to celebrate Chocolate City Skeptics decided to visit the estate of one of these figures who once called The District his home: Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass is one of the often celebrated black humanist/secular figures that you often see referenced in the atheist secular community.

We visited Douglass’s beautiful Cedar Hill home, in Anacostia, in the Southeastern part of the city. Douglass purchased this home…

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There are so many things that arouse both ire and skepticism in me. And that doesn’t mean that I am an angry person or an unhappy person but ever since I was an inquisitive child , I was always interested in learning as much truth as possible. And part of me is incensed when I see people who are taken advantage of by people who should know better. But I think what incenses me more are the people who should know better. People who have an obvious talent for memorizing countless things (however untrue) and quoting them accurately at will. People who obviously are inquisitive but when you get right down to it aren’t really invested in truth but in and ideology to the extent that they will reject literal mountains of evidence to the contrary. And if I ever had the chance I would dedicate a documentary to these people called Facepalm: The Movie. Unfortunately it would be much too long to ever be feasible, so I blog.

Sometimes, I think House is the only one who feels my pain. *Sigh*

So why does afrocentrism get my goat? Well I will say that lumping all afrocentrists together is not appropriate all though I’m not a fan of centrism in general, unless the center is truth. The afrocentrism I am referring to is a reactionary black or african centered thought, that uses race to determine what knowledge is valid, that regards other races as inherently untrustworthy, etc. In other words it is white supremacy or white nationalism in black face. I will refer to it from here on out as tofu dashikiism. They also typically share other features in common with white supremacist conservatives like their perspectives on gender roles, using euphemisms such as “complementarity” to describe a woman’s place as brood mare and domestic help. They also usually also share a hatred of birth control (including abortion) and homosexuality. Naturally their hatred of birth control and homosexuality has to do with their desire to out-populate the other groups and the threat they pose to each groups conception of manhood.

If you encounter a tofu dashikiist that seems well read don’t be surprised. Many have impressive libraries until you see what is in them. Half-cocked theories none backed with studies or scientific evidence. And what little is backed with evidence is purposefully distorted to make some erroneous point.

But what creates a tofu dashikiist? Historical racism certainly plays a role. The discrimination against black people in higher education and various institutions has fostered a lot of mistrust among many black people. Past instances of racist or simply immoral/unethical treatment of black people such as the Tuskegee Experiment play a role. But ongoing racism and discrimination, both real and perceived contribute as well. Unfortunately the American education system has failed many people but these failures are more evident in the black community when you look at literacy rates, high school graduation rates, etc. Lack of economic opportunity in many communities contributes to higher incarceration rates and also leads to an endless cycle. This breeds distrust and contempt for many contemporary disciplines and also issues of esteem, as many non-white children learn that their cultures were “primitive”, “uncivilized”, etc. This unfortunate reality leads many to buy into unrealistic idealized images committing the same errors made by the history teachers, historians, and publishers that failed them. The ones that brought us all the myth of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas, which had been “discovered” several times and settled by the time he arrived.

And just like many history teachers, historians, and publishers you will find many tofu dashikiists that lump all the cultures and nations of Africa together. They will take the myriad cultures of Africa and treat them as if they are one identity with a common thread. Many tofu dashikiists go even further as to suggest that prior to colonization there were no wars in Africa, a notion easily refuted by both oral and written history.

Many of them think of themselves as being extremely articulate…but they really sound like… 

And so far what I have written is not even the beginning of my problem with tofu dashikiists. My real issue with tofu dashikiism is how vulnerable it makes many black people to unscientific ideas. In the black community you don’t have to be an tofu dashikiists to find yourself affected or familiar with many of their ideas. And I don’t mean somewhat benign ones like “pork is an unclean animal” (which was borrowed from Islamic beliefs) but downright dangerous ones like unverified “cures” to ailments and illnesses.

There are too many charlatans to name that peddle in an array of foolishness targeted at black people from myths concerning melanin, to overhyping the pineal gland, to raw foodism, etc. And often these charlatans are perceived as heroes, saviors, or so called master teachers because they exploit the mistrust that many black people already have for fields like pharmacology. Some go even further, teaching that black people have hidden supernatural abilities that can supposedly be awakened like  telepathy, levitation, and astral projection. Many of these folks can boast large followings on and off-line. And thanks to the internet, their message spreads as fast as broadband can carry it. However, its time to take these people on and counteract their misinformation. Some groups are already making it their job to promote critical thinking and science like the  National Black Anti-Quackery Task Force, Black Atheist of America’s Science Cubed, and Black Skeptic’s Blog. Please support these organizations and check back here for future blogs addressing these issues and more!

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