• On ‘Black Atheists’ groups and the likes

    Jack has a great post over at Atheist Revolution about ‘black atheists’ groups.

    There are some things there I agree with, and others I strongly disagree. First, the things I agree with:

    • Racism isn’t over.
    • Society has a racism problem.

    Now, let’s go over the claims I disagree with. Jack states:

    Some people insist that both of these groups [only white and only black atheist groups] are inherently racist and that they are racist to an equivalent degree. This argument is often based on dictionary definitions of racism while ignoring context and denying oppression and sometimes even racism by Whites toward Blacks.

    I would say they’re both inherently racist, but they’re not racist to an equivalent degree, not by a long stretch, namely context and historical oppression. But they’re both racists, that is true to an extent, and if we care about society having a racism problem, I would argue you don’t fight racism with (positive?) racism, but rather with equality.

    Racism is a principle problem, not a degree one.

    Jack goes on:

    We have both a historical and contemporary basis for being wary of Whites only groups. One need not go back very far in our history to find plentiful examples of institutional racism along these lines.

    That is partially true… and partially false: there’s always been reasons to be wary of any group that discriminates on the basis of skin color, it just happens that historical examples we have at hand are White-only groups carrying it out, but the problem is not that they’re white (for that matter, which color is anecdotal) but discrimination and oppression emanating due to, precisely, such meaningless distinctions. Historically, it could have gone the other way around (Blacks oppressing Whites) and, had it been that way, we would be facing the same problem.

    Back at Atheist Revolution:

    Those of us who recognize that racism continues to be problematic today will have trouble denying that it might make sense for members of an oppressed group to come together in mutual support. We recognize that members of the Black Atheists group have something important in common that isn’t true for members of the White Atheists group: they face negative attitudes from others because of their race. That is, they are far more likely to experience race-based discrimination, prejudice, and even oppression than their White counterparts. Atheists of all races often benefit from coming together because of the oppression we face for being atheists; Black atheists are subjected to an additional source of oppression, one from which they cannot hide.

    Yes, it might make sense for members of an oppressed group to come together in mutual support, but you needn’t have the same skin color. If you don’t like how the skin-color discrimination works (whether out of principle, like me, or because you have been abused on such grounds, or both) you don’t go on and take part in a group which notices your skin color in order to let you in or reject you. White only groups should be countered by diverse and diversity-friendly groups. Why not groups that take no issue with skin color but with having being discriminated against? “Atheists against racism”, “Atheists against all kind of biological traits discrimination” are much more inclusive proposals.

    “Black Atheist Groups” (or whatever the ethnicity is) have an added problem: what about other people? For example, Latino Atheists that have been or might be discriminated by white people — they won’t make it into whites only groups, but they’re not black so they won’t be fit either for black atheists groups. Isn’t this furthering racism?

    Jack said so himself: “The racism I have encountered has certainly not been limited to that coming from non-Hispanic White people. I have known Blacks who hated Asians for being Asian, Hispanic Whites who hated Blacks for being Black, and so on.

    I wonder how does one reconcile that with what he wrote a few lines after: “That they would seek support from those who shared similar experiences does not surprise me in the least, especially given how much self-segregation we all seem to be doing these days“. Right on the money: you don’t need to be black in order to share a experience of discrimination, you just need to have been discriminated against. It makes a hell of a lot more sense “Discriminated Atheists” —because of their similar experiences— or even the “Ethnically Discriminated Atheists”, to make it more accurate and address racism upfront.

    Science have answers

    You might have noticed I avoided using the term “race”; that’s because it’s an outdated term — there’s only one race: the human race.

    But the concept of race is not only obsolete, it is unscientific as well — thanks to paleoanthropology and genetic science, we now know there’s no genetic uniformity among ‘blacks’, among ‘yellows’, neither among ‘whites’; that means populations differ in many things within even if they have more or less the same skin color. There is a continuum in human variability, so there are no airtight groups corresponding to a matching skin color. It’s a spectrum of tonalities, if you like.

    Having a group of ‘black’ or ‘white’ people is as nonsensical as it gets. In the end, it’s an arbitrary, subjective and pretty much discriminatory decision.

    Why don’t we let the antiscience folks be the ones guided by such a feudal concept?

    So what now?

    Nothing. I’m just stating my opinion and why I think using the same principle as the racists is a bad move, but anyone who wants to create or be a part of an only-blacks (or whatever) atheists group is entitled to do so — I know I won’t, but I wouldn’t dream of telling others what they can or can’t do, even if I think they’re making a mistake.

    (Image: Josh Sinn via photopin cc)

    Category: AtheismPhilosophySkepticism and Science

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    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Activist | Journalist

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    • I appreciate the post, including the areas of disagreement.

      As for your point about race being unscientific, I think it may depend on the science. Those of us in the social sciences continue to study racial and ethnic identification quite a bit because these things influence how people perceive themselves and how others treat them.

      • Thank you. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the remaining areas of disagreement 🙂

    • Only someone who’s NEVER attended meetup groups with an African American (or any other racial minority) focus would make the BASELESS claim that non-blacks aren’t welcome. ASK the WHITE members of Black Nonbelievers (Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit) if they’re excluded or overlooked. ASK the predominantly white groups we collaborate with if we practice exclusion. Also, we are members of MANY predominantly white groups.

      When the secular community EVOLVES and become more welcoming and accepting of EVERYONE, expect minorities to continue to provide its own safe spaces.

      • Good to know that.

        But the name is still misleading. You could improve that.

        #FriendlyTip

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