March 29, 2012

An Open Love Letter to Black Atheists, Freethinkers, Skeptics and Generally Awesome Humanoids

This post was inspired by listening to a brief Living After Faith podcast about the Black Atheists after-party at the Reason Rally. These thoughts/feelings have been with me for as long as I can remember and aren’t atheist-specific, but I wanted to get them out of my head and onto the interwebs.

But first of all, about the podcast, they were interviewing rapper Greydon Square who performed at the after-party. I wholeheartedly agree with Greydon’s observation that “Lyrics are powerful. Rhyming is powerful. It’s poetry.”  Well-written lyrics in any form give me chills. Some of the best lyrics I've heard have been through rap. (And shitty-ass lyrics come in many forms too, lol.) I encourage people to not hate on/write off one overall genre of music. Open your mind. Find the artists that speak to you and let yourself get caught up in their flow.

Moving on. The following may seem really kiss-assy, but I don’t mean it that way. These are very real sentiments, so I hope it comes across as such. So here goes. I have immense respect for people of color (black and otherwise) because I am very aware (though I cannot know experientially) that the obstacles many of these people have faced -- and are facing -- are formidable. As a white woman, I presume that there are many privileges that come my way without my even knowing it… probably someone who is not white could quickly point out to me what those things are, and please feel free to in the comments of this post if you care to raise our awareness. (Granted, as a woman in general I have my own obstacles, but am I so crazy-grateful to be living in a reasonably -- I know that’s debatable/subjective -- non-oppressive place and time thanks to the brave women and men who have come before me to promote the causes of feminism.)

I have a general framework that helps me empathize with my fellow human travelers. (Try not to get too hung up on the specifics of the analogy here...  hopefully my overall point will come through.)  Imagine your birth as a starting line. Ideally, each one of us would get to start at the same place. But that’s just not how it is. Due to countless factors such as a person’s geographical location, race, family’s socioeconomic status, genetics and place in history, some people get to begin way ahead of the line, some people way behind. It’s bullshit to look at someone who has only gotten to Point C on the line, and maybe you’re at Point M, and say to them “Just pull yourself up by your bootstraps, bucko!” (Of course, there are some people who are simply not utilizing the resources that are actually readily available to them -- see Frederick Douglass quote, but even then you don’t know all the details about what’s going on with that person, so be very slow to pass judgment.)  That fellow human may have had to start life way behind the starting line. Maybe their Point C is a COLOSSAL ACCOMPLISHMENT because they’ve had to come so far. Maybe your Point M isn’t all that impressive because you got to start at Point L to begin with. THIS is one of the many reasons I respect my beautiful, melanin-enhanced counterparts so much. People in “underdog” races (squirrel moment: I want to research at some point what the hell “race” even means since we’re all just humans… Is it simply a term to help categorize groups into generic buckets?) are often those who unfortunately have entered life, through no fault of their own, way behind the start line. I can’t “get it” experientially, but please know that I see it… that I see you… and that I aim to live my life in a way that helps break down these starting-line disparities for future generations.

With love and respect,
The melanin-impaired, can’t-tan-to-save-my-life-thanks-to-my-Western-European-gentic-mix, Disillusioned Drew

p.s. I went to a small Christian high school in the Chicago suburbs where there was only ONE black person out of all four grades. Crazy, I know, but this is the world I grew up in. She had a great attitude about it though. She made these little business cards that said “Black People Anonymous” (I know that I still have mine somewhere, but couldn’t find it for this post). It said something about the person receiving it having the spirit of a black person even if their skin color did not reflect this. Love it. :-)

“Frederick Douglass didn’t become free ‘til he prayed with his feet”
– Greydon Square, Special Pleading lyrics

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