The reality of my existence in the United States has led me to develop a multi-layered identity. Indeed, there are many labels that apply to me-single mother, divorcee, atheist, heterosexual-but there are two in particular which inform my worldview the most: my race and my gender. I am not one of those Black Americans who can completely separate from our historical and cultural context and hold no particular sense of affection or kinship for those within my ethnic group. I am not one to pretend that everything is all good in the hood either. I’m very open about the internalized oppression we suffer from-the Colorism, classism and sexism. But through it all I remain who I am. When I look in the mirror every morning, it is the face of the American-born baby of enslaved West Africans that stares back at me. My heritage is undeniable and unchangeable. I’m STILL a Black woman. I’m STILL part of the collective, and because of that I stay ready and willing to unleash my wrath on any who attack the community that loved and nurtured me. However yesterday an event occurred that would test my loyalties to the Black community I belong to by birth and the freethought community I joined by choice.
On Monday July 8th 2013 YouTube atheist Dusty Smith released a video entitled “Black Christians are Uncle Toms”. I’ve watched Dusty’s videos before, so I’m aware of his language and his approach. With that said I was still deeply offended by the video. I may not be a Christian but I’m still Black. I do not take kindly to my history and culture being distorted. Nor do I take kindly to hearing anyone attack the vast majority of Black Americans. Sure I’m an atheist, so when you call Black Christians ‘Uncle Toms’ and mock them for their religious beliefs (which a true freethinker has no business doing anyway, but that’s for another post) you are not talking about me individually. But you ARE talking about my late Mama and Grandma, my sisters, my cousins, my aunts, uncles. You are talking about the community that birthed me, and I cannot stand for that. It’s not in my nature.
My annoyance with this video was further inflamed with the way some fellow Black atheists co-signed it without a second thought. As I listened to the weak rebuttals-which were mostly along the lines of “he’s just telling the truth; someone had to say it”- I was reminded of the discussions I’ve had in the past with my Black Republican friends and their failed attempts at outreach. They would use extremely offensive and inflammatory language to describe Blacks who did not agree with them. Black Democrats and Liberals were all just brainwashed “slaves” who could not think for themselves, refusing to runaway from the “liberal plantation”. They would stereotype and insult their own people that way, then naively claim they had no idea why so many Blacks wanted nothing to do with them and would not come around to their way of thinking. I see the same obtuse attitude among some Black atheists right now. When people choose to take such a flawed approach I have to wonder: what is the actual goal? If you want to be a jerk and confirm all of the worst stereotypes regarding atheists-then congratulations, you’ve succeeded! However if you actually want to raise dialogue between Black atheists and believers and/or get Black Christians to rethink their belief system-the video is a miserable failure.
As those of you who follow my blog know I’m a very passionate individual. Most of the time, I release that fire through my writing. The video on Black Christians and the discussion that followed awakened the beast in me. The girl who stood at the podium of her church at sixteen years old and railed against the passiveness of her congregation, who argued with a friend at twenty over virulently anti-Semitic comments and almost came to blows over it and intimidated Islamphobic Tea Partiers into silence at twenty-nine-that’s me. I’m so inflamed right now, so stay tuned ya’ll. I’m taking my earrings off and smearing my face with Vaseline. It’s time to go IN and go OFF.