For communities of color, social justice is more than just a cool buzz phrase to trot out in comfortable online forums and confabs. Nationwide, communities of color are reeling from the structural impact of economic depression, historic assaults on public education and deepening residential segregation. On Saturday, February 1st feminist commentators and activists from the POC freethought/humanist/atheist community will discuss the relevance of these issues in communities of color and the prospects for organizing and coalition-building within a humanist context. The panel is sponsored by Secular Woman.
Time: 1PM EST
Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers & Black Skeptics & Raina Roades, Black Freethinkers & Roades to Reality blog
Georgina Capetillo, Howard U
Heina Dadabhoy, Skepchick
Noa Jones, Loudish blog
By Sikivu Hutchinson
“This is the worst I’ve seen it in a long time,” Cecil McLinn, the principal of Duke Ellington Continuation School in South Los Angeles, told me recently after one of our students missed a week of school because she didn’t have shoes. A highly-regarded administrator and longtime advocate in South L.A., McGlinn has been on the frontlines of progressive education for several decades. As the economic depression in our community deepens he’s had to fill out more housing relief forms and aid vouchers for students who struggle just to make it to school every day. Activist administrators like McGlinn know that their schools fill vital resource gaps in social welfare, health care and economic aid assistance for poor and working class families. Because of racial disparities in wealth, schools are especially important as social welfare centers and safe zones for black and Latino children. In L.A. County, black children comprise fifty per cent of the homeless youth population and thirty per cent of foster care youth. Foster care youth are disproportionately more likely to be incarcerated, drop out of school and experience teen pregnancy. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 45% of black youth in the U.S. and 35% of Latino youth, versus 12% of white youth, live in communities of “concentrated poverty”.
Duke Ellington is located at the edge of Westmont, a predominantly black and Latino high poverty community. Westmont was recently the subject of an extensive L.A. Times report, cited as having one of the highest homicide rates in a city where violent crime is purportedly decreasing. Latino and African American males between 17 and 25 are the main victims of murder-violence in the neighborhood. The majority of the businesses in the immediate community offer minimum to sub minimum wage non-unionized retail jobs with no benefits. Nonetheless, a recent L.A. City Council proposal to boost the minimum wage to $15 (potentially the highest in the nation) would only target hotel workers. Most of these workers commute long distances to wealthier neighborhoods on the Westside and downtown Los Angeles.
Some liberal and progressive pundits are fond of trotting out the term income inequality to support their thesis that class immobility represents the deepest divide in American society. Echoing Barack Obama’s Middle America-appeasing claim that income inequality is just as much about class as it is about race, these pundits assiduously avoid the role institutional racism and white supremacy play in economic injustice. In the shadow of the 2016 presidential election, the catch-all “income inequality” has become the national bromide du jour. As his term aiding and abetting the Wall Street robber barons draws to a close, President Obama has belatedly homed in on income inequality in an effort to deflect from slumping poll numbers and mounting left/liberal disillusion. But lost in the political rhetoric from the White House and mainstream media is any true Continue reading “Airbrushing Race out of “Income Inequality””
By Sikivu Hutchinson
A thriving brand of secular tourism can now be definitively filed under the category “stuff white people like”: Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta has sponsored a crowd-funding campaign for a white male former pastor named Ryan Bell who—in a bit of brilliant PR stagecraft—“decided to…give atheism a try” for a year. As a result of his “experiment” Bell was fired from two Christian schools. Currently the campaign has far exceeded its $5,000 goal, generating over $16,000 from 700 plus donors in one day. Bell joins a jam-packed, largely white, mostly Christian cottage industry of religious leaders who are capitalizing off of untapped reserves of atheist dollars, adulation and publicity by jumping onto the “maverick ex-pastor” bandwagon.
But the campaign for Bell is just one of the more egregious examples of the backward race/gender/ableist politics of organized atheism. The meteoric rise and fall of ex-pastor Teresa MacBain—who, touting false credentials, scored a high profile job with the Harvard Humanist Center—was another example of privileged white atheist overzealousness and affirmative action. It is highly doubtful that MacBain would have been considered much less hired for this elite post without a thorough vetting of her credentials if she’d been a woman of color. In addition to the automatic privilege and preferential treatment accorded white women (of all class and professional backgrounds), MacBain benefited from the kind of white atheist cronyism that keeps the leadership and management structures of the major non-believer organizations (i.e., American Atheists, American Humanist Association, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Richard Dawkins Foundation, etc.) predominantly white. Time and again, when it comes to hiring and promotion in the elite fields of academia and corporate America in particular, African American job-seekers typically must have more education and experience than white applicants. In studiesconducted by Princeton University researchers, white job seekers with criminal records were slightly more likely to be called back for and/or offered entry-level jobs than African American job seekers with no criminal record. According to lead researcher Devah Pager, “Even whites with criminal records received more favorable treatment (17%) than blacks without criminal records (14%). The rank ordering of (these) groups…is painfully revealing of employer preferences: race continues to play a dominant role in shaping employment opportunities, equal to or greater than the impact of a criminal record.”
As people of color with the highest unemployment, foreclosure and criminalization rates in the nation, we should all be so “blessed” to have atheist fairy god-people swooping in to save us from insolvency, ostracism and career marginalization. Continue reading “Stuff White People Like: Secular Tourists”