My Savvy Sister Profile of Sikivu Hutchinson


My Savvy Sister of the Week Profile by Editor Te-Erika Patterson

Sikivu Hutchinson is the author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars.   She founded the Women’s Leadership Project (WLP), a South L.A.-based feminist mentoring and social justice advocacy program for high school girls of color. The WLP trains young women to advocate for gender justice in their school-communities around anti-violence, reproductive justice, media representation, undocumented student rights, college access and LGBTQ rights.

MSS: Being Black, feminist and atheist sounds like a triple punch in the
face to the “Miss Manners” generation. Can you remember what it was like to form
these feminist and atheist views?

Sikivu: I grew up in a secular
household, so I had a leg up on skepticism, freethought and intellectual
curiosity. Both my parents were what I would call “activist scholars.” Some of
my earliest memories coming of age in South L.A. in the 70s and 80s were of
going to demonstrations, public forums and meetings on social justice issues
relevant to the black community, particularly around the pervasiveness of police
terrorism and police misconduct during that era. I was also exposed to authors,
intellectuals and historical figures of African descent (many of whom embraced
freethought) very early on, so this became my moral foundation. My parents
ensured that I had literature from black women thinkers and writers. My father
gave me my first anthology (by Mari Evans) on black women writers in high school
and my mother was a nationally esteemed English teacher heavily into forerunning
womanist/feminist writers like Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker and Toni
Morrison. These were my values. Consequently, Christianity, supernaturalism and
belief in God really had no bearing on my sense of ethics, justice, fairness and
identity.

MSS: Outing yourself as an atheist in this society could
be painful and scary. Why is it important to you to share your views on
spirituality or the lack thereof?

Sikivu: My world view as a
non-believer and a humanist goes beyond the question of spirituality. There have
always been black free thinkers and secular humanists who have challenged the
ways in which Western notions of personhood, public morality and Manifest
Destiny-style justice pivot on racial/sexual otherness and the imperialist
dehumanization of people of color. The dominant culture simply doesn’t
acknowledge these traditions as being a legitimate and culturally relevant part
of black intellectual history and social thought. For example, mainstream
discourse fetishizes black religiosity and deifies MLK as a strictly religious
figure and thinker without reference to the humanist underpinnings of black
liberation struggle. So my charge is to bring secular humanist traditions to the
fore and contextualize them in terms of the human rights struggles that people
of African descent are still waging in this so-called era of American
exceptionalism, post-racialism and post-feminism.

MSS: Is Feminism
an anti-man movement? In your eyes, what is it?

Sikivu:
The idea that feminism is “anti-man” is an absurd caricature. In its most
radical humanistic form, feminism is a movement for the recognition of the
absolute human rights of women, their families and communities. It seeks to
break down heterosexist and patriarchal models of masculine and feminine that
straightjacket all genders into binary oppositional roles. Patriarchy and
sexism…More @http://www.mysavvysisters.com/2011/11/my-savvy-sister-of-week-sikivu.html

Comments

  1. Sally Strange, OM says

    Thanks for featuring Sikivu Hutchinson. I bought her most recent book and liked it a lot; I hope to see more from her soon. Anyone who’s concerned with human rights in America should pay attention to what she has to say. You can’t do human rights without asking questions about how race and sex oppression intersect, and how religious traditions support this oppression.

  2. says

    Excellent interview.

    Having only seen shorter clips of Sikivu in a handful of random YouTube videos, I was delighted to read a more in-depth Q&A.

    Belated Greeting:
    Welcome to FTB, folks! Pull up a big, comfy chair and settle in. It’s usually pretty nice here… and I think it just got better.

  3. blackskeptics says

    Absolutely Sally, it’s imperative that the secular movement get on board with these critiques. Thanks so much for commenting and reading our blog!

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