Do you feel the Black atheist experience is different from non-Black atheists? If so, how?
Black nonbelievers share a lot in common with our non-Black counterparts such as the potential loss of family, loss of social structure, and fear of rejection. These are common themes in the communities of non-believers, humanists and atheists alike. That’s a very strong common bond. With that however, we can’t escape some of the realities of being Black in America regardless of belief in the gods. Race and culture are intertwined for many of us in the black community. It helps shape the narrative of the Black experience. For a growing number of African Americans who dare to personally rewrite that narrative, the Dallas–Fort Worth Coalition of Reason and the Fellowship of Freethought are providing a channel for those Black nonbelievers to meet, network, and discuss issues specific to their communities.
Although a wonderful ideal, we don’t live in a utopian post-racial America and just because “we don’t believe,” does not mean that we behave as equals, have the same points of view, or have shared common daily experiences. I still get followed in stores. I still get stopped by police when driving the wrong car in the wrong neighborhood with the wrong-colored (or non-colored) woman. We’d be naïve to believe that these experiences don’t shape us – worse still, it would be arrogant to believe that the secular community is immune to the diathesis of privilege.
Motives for Black atheists are also very different from the larger movement. As the overall secular movement still struggles to find a balance between academia and activism, many groups of Black and Latino atheists are working to implement immediate calls to action that have relevance to people’s lives now. Black nonbelievers tend to be motivated to action based on the realities of their lives, suffering in their neighborhoods, the common plight of the poor – which is disproportionately Black and Latino.
For me and other Black nonbelievers like me, it’s about turning Humanism from something we read about in books, into something that we do together.