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Guys, wrong scapegoat!

January 24, 2009

I have seen certain comments in reaction to certain events where black people seem to…uhh…stick out? And not in a good way. So whether it’s black people supposedly booing the inclusion of nonbelievers in the inauguration (or, even if it wasn’t that rude, some black Christians aren’t happy at least.) or black people overwhelmingly voting in California to ban gay marriage, people will comment about how the experience should have precluded those things. Let’s see some examples:

If African-Americans had ever experienced any racism or persecution due to their minority status, I’m sure they wouldn’t have booed Atheists. I’m sure they would instead realize that being in the majority doesn’t make your view “right” and that everyone counts on an equal basis. Cough.

Oh, and it’s just rude to boo someone for what they believe in. It’s more polite to quietly ridicule it. )

I love smiley faces too! Theres actually another one in this series but it has inappropriate language

I love smiley faces too! There's actually another one in this series but it has inappropriate language

There’s a smiley there, and you know, smileys totally disarm me, but within there’s a message that cannot be disarmed. See, there’s this idea that blacks should somehow…know better…than to ally with some of the causes that the community ends up allying with. [also, just to let you know if you haven’t figured it out: this article is massive generalization — I’m not literally saying all people in a group. I’d hope you all could figure that out without a note ;)] And you know, for a certain point, I agree. I have to take a stance against inequality precisely because of my position. And even though I was at what could be a central junction for supporting something like prop 8 (black and Mormon? ZOMG), both of these group inclusions turned me away because I know that politics of limitation and marginalization come to bite you in the butt. You will be next soon.

Anyway, getting to the comments, the problem is even though it might seem natural to think that these groups wouldn’t play with fire, the real truth isn’t so. But why don’t gays and atheists get the support of the black community as a whole, when all of these groups tend to work together in a liberal coalition?

There are some attempts at such an answer on Friendly Atheist as well:

…People of color can’t change what they are, and they are sometimes persecuted for it. Most people would argue that being an atheist is a choice, and it’s a choice they would consider wrong. We as atheists consider own position the correct one, but we shouldn’t expect anybody to support us based on their own status in society. Education is really the only thing that will help us.

And I think that the choice argument is a bit of a copout in any case. But this post will get too long if I elaborate. Needless to say, I don’t think that genuine faith, genuine faithlessness, and sexual orientation are chosen.

I think we really need to look at the potential pathologies…what might cause the black community to think these ways on these issues?

Obviously, the model of “blacks face discrimination + blacks appreciate civil rights = black support civil rights for all and disapprove of discrimination for any” doesn’t work. Why not?

The above comment addresses the first point (about discrimination)…and suggests that blacks may think there is something intrinsically different about their discrimination vs. other groups (e.g., choice vs. not choice, or even what is readily seen vs. what can be hidden). But I want to address the second point: what civil rights are appreciated?

Aren’t civil rights civil rights? Gay rights = atheist rights = black civil rights? This is where the disagreement is, I think. It never made sense to me before, because I do sympathize with all of these, but throughout the inauguration, with all the stuff about Reverend Wright, I came to a nuanced understanding of how this “Black community” thing works.

The black church is central. And when you look at civil rights for blacks, the church is central. Martin Luther King Jr. was a doctor, but of philosophy (with bachelors in socio and divinity), not medicine or law. So, I came to think: what if the black community views rights in the context of religion? It seems to make sense. My uncles, aunts, etc. (who are Baptists, Evangelicals, etc.,), all claim to be very liberal, but they spew out the most socially conservative stuff I have ever heard in my life! In the name of Jesus Christ! And this makes me understand why we have such unfortunate statistics in terms of who supports whom.

The problem is we have the wrong scapegoat. Now, it’s not necessarily that some inordinately high amount of blacks hate gays or atheists or whatever, but that an inordinately high amount of very active conservatively religious people do (with blacks just being disproportionately religious). And this was old news [generalization alert].

I would like to apologize on behalf of the black community, but everyone knows I don’t speak for anyone for myself.

Yeah, dont think I have much clout with these guys yet.

Yeah, don't think I have much clout with these guys yet.

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