Why Divide Atheism Along Racial Lines?
February 24, 2013 was the Day of Solidarity for Black Non-believers. What is it?
“An annual gathering in each city in the United States to promote solidarity amongst blacks in America that choose not to participate or adhere to a lifestyle influenced by religious dogma and irrationality. The gathering will serve to encourage fellowship, a humanistic outlook to assist in eliminating all types of human oppression and exploitation, and preservation of the environment. The gathering will take place each year on the 4th Sunday in February, Black History Month, and will continue until religion is no longer a dominant voice of American consciousness, especially in the black community”~ DoS Facebook page
While I was excited about this event, many of the comments I received from my fellow atheists were a bit negative. The primary complaint was, “We’re all the same race: human. Your actions could serve to cause division among us”.
Dividing according to race doesn’t hurt atheism. Being an atheist just means you don’t believe in gods. So, rest assured that atheism will keep existing regardless of how we might divide up. In fact, with focused outreach, which I will get to later, the end result might be more atheists! That being said, our experiences because of being an atheist are different. Before I get too deep into this, let me address the “race” definition to make sure we’re all on the same page since I have had dozens of people remind me that we’re all human. Most of us hope that someday we’ll all be treated according to the content of our character and not based on skin color, accents, weight, and hairiness. “Black”, “white” etc. are races in as far as phenotypes (observable characteristics or traits). But it doesn’t stop there. At least in the United States, race is also “a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by anatomical, cultural, ethnic, genetic, geographical, historical, linguistic, religious, or social affiliation” (Wikipedia). Classification systems are not always a bad thing and in this case, as long as we as atheists agree that we’re all human, despite RACE, there shouldn’t be a problem. Putting people into racial categories can help us understand cultural norms, history, and the present. I won’t deny for one second that categorizing humans can be used for serious atrocities, but that is not always the case! You must keep that in mind. Categories can help us gain perspective. Atheists ask all the time why blacks are so religious. A great way to figure that out would be to study this group’s “cultural, ethnic, [...] historical, linguistic, religious or social affiliations”!! Imagine that!
So, onward. Why are we dividing atheism along racial line, again? I have LOTS of thoughts on this, today I will give you one of them:
Focused Outreach: Many diversity groups are focused on outreach to a specific community. This is true in all aspects of life, not just for atheism. Why must we divide cancer up between the American Lung Association and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society? They’re all cancer? To focus! Okay, that’s probably a horrible analogy, but it kept popping into my head.
I’ve studied nonprofit management as well as marketing so I know it’s important to not always have a wildly diverse target audience. Focus can be a good thing. What attracts women might not attract men; what attracts children won’t necessarily attract adults. As much as we’d love for it not to be true, what attracts blacks, might not also attract whites. Why do we have Camp Quest? To focus on children. Why do we have the Secular Student Alliance? To focus on high school and college students. Why do we have the Fellowship of Freethought Dallas? To focus on freethinkers in Dallas. Why do we have Black Nonbelievers, Black Atheists of America, African Americans for Humanism, and Black Freethinkers? To focus on black atheists.
Again, many atheists wonder why blacks are so religious. There must be something different about being black that leads to higher religiosity. Hmmm.. so, perhaps in response to this disparity, diversity groups have formed and events like the Day of Solidarity for Black Nonbelievers are promoted as a way to focus outreach on this particular population.
More thoughts on this later.
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