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Supporting Civil Rights for Atheists and the Separation of Church and State
Black Atheists: Providing a Platform
It is probably fair to say that most atheists and atheist-related groups have at one time asked, “How do we increase our diversity?”
I asked that exact question and for years did what I thought was the right thing to increase diversity. Then it dawned on me one day, “Duh… why not actually ask black, Latino, women, and other minority atheists what I should be doing?”
So I started doing just that. I put out a Female Freethinkers survey to find out directly from atheist women what they wanted out of a group and what they wanted groups to do to make them more welcoming for women. I talked to black atheists, Latino atheists, Native-American atheists, Indian atheists (not repeating myself: Indian as in from India), etc.
What I heard from the overwhelming majority of them was this: don’t elevate us nonchalantly and tokenize us. Just give us the platform and let us speak and let us do the work to increase atheism within our respective communities and cultures and the broader atheist community. As my friends Debbie Goddard and Alex Jules told me at Skepticon III: “Give us the platform and we’ll go from there!”
That is why we put out a call for black authors to submit articles to the American Atheist magazine. We offered the platform to provide a place for their voice. Their voice for white atheists, sure, but more importantly, their voice for their fellow black Americans who are still stuck in religious communities and afraid to sever the strong cultural attachment to religion within that community, and a voice of courage and inspiration to their fellow black atheists afraid to come out of the closet.
There was one other way I could offer a platform and that was through a podcast I do with my friend Tom Hand. It is not associated with American Atheists: it’s something I do on my own where I can kick the shoes off and be more irreverent than anywhere else.
In the latest podcast we invited Ben Burchall and Mandisa Thomas from the Black Non-Believers of Atlanta onto the podcast to talk about black atheism, the movement, the hurdles, and the future. I really hope you’ll take the time to listen, especially if you are a leader of a local or national group. Ben and Mandisa are quick to point out that they do not speak for all black atheists, but I think it is fair to say that their sentiments and ideas are reflective of the broader black atheist community.
This is not a promotion of my podcast. Ignore all the other episodes: just listen to this one. What matters here are the answers and statements by two leaders in the black atheist community: really listening to their answers and really trying to understand their hopes and concerns for the growing black atheist community.