Black Folk Don’t: Do Atheism?

Don’t let the title and first few minutes throw you – this is a great video discussing historic black freethinkers plus the unique problems facing present day black freethinkers, like the fact that the Church has in the past been the primary breeding ground for political action. Take a look:

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. That conclusion…the “loss of membership” fear. Yup, I definitely see that as a common thread in the dearth of nonbelievers in certain ethno-religious identities.

  2. Well I think sometimes in Atheism, you tend to feel a similar way women do within it, in that it’s dominated by a privileged majority who sometimes just doesn’t get it.

    Having er, “fellowship”, from time to time with people of your gender or race is nice so that you can be around people with the same common experience.

    1. It’s not only that, though. Sikivu Hutchinson has a great post about “white supremacy” in the atheist movement – not that there’s any more racism present in atheism than there is at society at large, but that the priorities of the bulk of the movement (white, straight men) are assumed to be the priorities of EVERYONE in the movement. In the case of women and minorities, that’s not always so. Less privileged groups have things that affect them more often and more severely than concerns about the separation of church and state.

      For example – if it came to the point where I would have to choose between being a part of the atheist movement and the feminist movement, I would choose feminism, hands down. I’ve been a woman my entire life. I’ve been an atheist for about half of it. The crap I deal with as part of being a woman is much worse than the crap I deal with as part of being an atheist, and I would guess that it’s very similar for minorities.

      1. I definitely agree with you that in many community priveleged groups
        1. Push their priorities as the ones that matter most
        2. Belittle an underpriveleged group’s issues as being “not that important”
        3. Knowingly or Unknowingly discriminate against the underpriveleged group

        However, let me say very clearly that racism and sexism are NOT the same issues. They are similar in that they suffer the negative consequences above, but the experiences of sexism vary from the experiences of racism.

        For instance:
        – People of my ethnicity (Indian) can be HORRIBLY SEXIST against women and in fact, many Indian men I know or am related to think feminism is big joke. So just because you’re a minority man, doesn’t make you immune to sexism.
        – I definitely have had white women poo-poo my ethnicity’s issues as not important or be discriminatory against me because of my race. So just because you’re a woman, doesn’t make you immune to racism.

        I think often groups that promote either gender or racial equality can sometimes not realize they’re being sexist (towards women) or racist (towards minorities).

        Frankly I don’t get what it’s like to be a woman, and if you are white, you don’t know what it’s like to be a minority, so it’s bad for either you or I to assume we do!

        The goal is I’ve learned is for those of us talking to someone has less privilege in a certain vector (i.e. Race, Sex, Sexual Orientation, Handicaps, etc.) we have to shut up and LISTEN to that person to ensure that we can work to make everyone equal.

        1. I hope I didn’t give you the impression that I thought that racism and sexism were the same, or had the same effect on everybody. I was just trying to elaborate on what Hutchinson has written about with regard to atheists of color having different priorities than white atheists.

          Of course feminism isn’t immune from racism, and minorities aren’t immune from sexism. That’s why intersectionality is so important. When feminism started as a movement, it focused pretty much exclusively on the concerns of white, middle-class women – leaving poor women and minority women behind. A lot of feminist theory had to be abandoned or revised because of its narrow focus. There are some types of feminists who don’t think that trans* women should be included in the movement, or don’t think that men should be involved in any way at all.

          I think that the atheist movement is experiencing some similar problems. It’s understandable – it’s a relatively new movement. But it won’t survive as an exclusive movement. It needs to be inclusive, just as feminist, civil rights and LGBTQ activists should be inclusive with each other, as their causes generally overlap, as do their proposed solutions.

      2. The reason I say this is that we need to evaluate each issue individually and not assume that just because any one of us is in an underprivileged group, that we automatically understand another underprivileged group’s issues and are immune from discriminating against them.

        For instance when I talk about racial discrimination in many circles, I’ll have white women say something like “oh yeah, white men think they can force their way on all of us” and I have to remind them that white women can be very racist as well and also that minority men can be sexist.

        And why I think this is important to pay attention to is because I’ve seen particularly in my own (Indian) community, sexism really makes life hard for many Indian women. And for an outsider to think that sexism doesn’t exist with our community because we are racially underprivileged is akin to simply ignoring the struggles of the women in a minority community!!!

  3. I vividly recall having lunch with two black women from Atlanta at TAM two years ago. They told me they couldn’t tell any of their relatives they were atheists/humanists/skeptics, or that they were even attending TAM (“we told everyone it was a girls trip to Vegas”), for fear of being disowned or bombarded with xian love/hate and calls to repent. I’ve lost a couple of friends from my believer days when I abandoned my religious beliefs, but I was never in fear of losing my family or community…, I can only imagine.

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