Exposing Your Non-Belief & Why the Decision Can Be Paralyzing

POCBF
On Sunday, December 15th, The People of Color Beyond Faith network will host a Google Hangouts discussion on coming out as a non-believer of color with a diverse panel of African descent atheists. The discussion will be moderated by Donald Wright, founder of Houston Black Non-Believers:

Panelists:

Donald Barbera:
Don Barbera has been in the world of business for more than 25 years and is the author of several books including, “From Here to There: Improving Interpersonal Communications.” Don is a graduate of PittsburgStateUniversity and holds degrees in Journalism, English and Business Administration. With nearly 20 years in the print journalism industry, Don is also an experienced writer and instructor, holding adjunct faculty positions at LangstonUniversity, TulsaJunior College as well as the DeVry Institute of Technology. He has written hundreds of newspaper stories and articles, as well as a book of poetry, “Until It Ropes Like Okra. “Black and Not Baptist,” and “The 80% Solution: Christians Doing The Right Thing.”

Dadland Maye:
CUNY Ph.D. Student, novelist & radical activist who doesn’t hold back a word on subjects of Atheism v Religion, Gender & Sexuality Wars, Race Battlefield, Corporate Political Chicanery & Media Miseducation. Because we won’t agree on many things, that very space of disagreement provides opportunities for our sharing, learning, and growing. Check out DadlandShutUP.com.

Émelyne Museaux:
Co-host of The Em & Evil Show on the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, Author of Children’s & Young Adult Novels, Goddess Beauty and Freelance writer, ghostwriter and copy editor.

Frank Anderson:
President of Black Skeptics Chicago, motivational speaker, civic and social justice activist.

Raina Rhoades:
Ph.D. Student, Neuroscientist, Host of The RSS Feed on the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, social justice activist, and blogger.

Kimberly Veal:
Vice-President of Black Skeptics Group, President and Host of the Black FreeThinkers Radio Network, IT Trainer, civic & social justice activist.

The Souls of Black Boys

Young male scholars

Brandon Bell, molecular biology

Brandon Bell, molecular biology


By Sikivu Hutchinson

“No one ever discussed Trayvon Martin with us in class,” said Sydney, an introspective 9th grader, wistfully. Sydney is a participant in my Young Male Scholars pilot at Gardena High School in South Los Angeles. He and a dozen other 9th and 10th graders are having a spirited discussion about the impact of Martin’s murder on the criminal justice system in Gardena’s college center. According to the school’s college counselor black boys are a “rarity” in the center and our small meeting is the largest number that he has ever seen here. On a campus where black students are the second largest ethnic group next to Latinos, black males are either pounced on by military recruiters or left to fend for themselves, implicitly branded as troublemakers and potential dropouts.

The college counselor’s observation was the impetus for my starting the pilot in collaboration with Brandon Bell, a young, South L.A. community activist alum of King Drew Medical Magnet and Princeton University. In an educational climate where there were only forty eight black male students in the freshman class of internationally prestigious UCLA, the pilot is specifically designed to pipeline black males into college through targeted intervention. But it is also geared toward politicizing young men of color by providing them with the historical consciousness and space to become an activist generation of organizers, scholars and intellectuals.

Our discussion about the political implications of Martin’s murder took place a day before the death of Nelson Mandela. As the world mourns Mandela and president Obama touts an eleventh hour focus on “income inequality” neo-apartheid conditions in American education continue to fester. Last week was bookended by two powerful education reports which indirectly indicted the myth of American exceptionalism. The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed that American students remained static in reading and science and were well below average in math, falling from 29th to 31st in global rankings. The Campaign for College Opportunity’s “The State of Blacks in Higher Education: The Persistent Opportunity Gap” illustrates the devastating impact of California’s anti-affirmative action policy.

The Campaign for College Opportunity report concluded “that gaps between Blacks and other ethnic groups in college-going and attainment have remained virtually unchanged for more than a decade, and in some cases, have worsened.” Despite claims of increased college opportunities for millennials, “A smaller share of today’s California Black young adult population holds postsecondary degrees than that of Blacks between the ages of 35 and 64.” Put bluntly, in an era in which affirmative action has been viciously discredited and all but gutted by both the Right and neo-liberal “left”, young African Americans are less educated than older African Americans. African American students attend community and for-profit colleges in higher numbers than other groups and have the highest student loan debt and default rates. In addition, black youth still have the lowest graduation rates in California.

In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the class of 2017 (this year’s 9th graders) will be required to have college prep classes in order to graduate. They must earn a C or better to do so. They will have to achieve this feat despite the Obama administration’s Race to the Top emphasis on high stakes tests that narrow the curriculum, undermine critical thinking and force teachers to be glorified proctors. Nationwide, black students are the least prepared for college, have the lowest enrollment in honors and college prep classes and the highest drop-out or push-out rates. The LAUSD requirement is set against the backdrop of deepening unemployment, prison pipelining and black male homicide rates. According to the Education Trust, “If current trends continue only one in twenty African American students will go on to a four year college or university.” The forty eight black males in UCLA’s freshman class are swimming in a sea of over 5000 new students. Enraged by these stats, black male UCLA students recently released an activist video critique which went viral. But despite renewed attention to racial disparities in college access there is no federal, state or local policy or call to action that specifically addresses the fact that young African American male high school students are routinely dismissed as not being college material.

As the Martin case demonstrated yet again, the dominant culture does not associate young black men and boys with tenderness, caring, sensitivity, and compassion, much less intellectualism. Since white supremacist culture can never see black youth as victims they can only be predators and aggressors. The visceral fear that adults have of so-called black male criminality is one of the primary reasons why black boys are suspended and expelled at higher rates for lesser offenses than are white students.

Like white kids, youth of color are trained to see explicit acts of individual prejudice as the only standard for racism rather than institutional racism and white supremacy. So when Brandon and I discussed how mass incarceration was devastating our school-communities some of the boys in the group said that “bad environments” and “bad choices” simply lead black youth to commit more crime. But after examining disproportionate crack cocaine use amongst white males and unpacking how legacy admissions policies allow mediocre white students like George W. Bush get into Ivy Leagues the students’ consciousness began to shift. Not seeing themselves in the curriculum, public education socializes them to believe that disproportionate numbers of their brothers and sisters are in prison due to bad choices while college is the reward for the elite few who make good ones. Teaching them to see the connection between the racial politics of college access and the invisibility of Martin’s murder in their high school curriculum is a step toward defying this criminal mis-education.

People of Color Beyond Faith Roundtable: Debunking Postracialism

On Sunday, November 24th the People of Color Beyond Faith network will host a live roundtable discussion on the myth of postracialism, racism and “diversity” in the secular/atheist/freethought movement, social justice, and intersectional issues amongst non-believers of color. Where: Google Chat/Youtube Time: 11am PST (1pm CST/2pm EST) Moderator: Sikivu Hutchinson Panelists: Kimberly Veal, Black Freethinkers & Black Skeptics Chicago Donald Wright, Houston Black Non-Believers Raina Roades: Black Freethinkers – The RSS Feed & Rhoades to Reality

Report Reveals LGBT People of Color Are Most Disadvantaged Workers

 

Word to straight white cis delusional postracialists:

From the Feminist News:

LGBT people of color are the most disadvantaged workers in the US, according to a new report released last week by the Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress, Freedom to Work, Human Rights Campaign, and the National Black Justice Coalition.

The report, entitled A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color, details how LGBT people of color, who live at the intersections of various marginalized identities in the US, face unique barriers to employment and education. Inequality, lack of workplace protections, and violence and discrimination in schools all contribute to high rates of poverty and unemployment for many LGBT workers of color.

“Contrary to popular stereotypes, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population, making it critical to address the unique obstacles they face,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. “Bias and prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression intersect to the detriment of LGBT workers of color.”

According to the report, LGBT youth of color often face multiple forms of harassment at school, have fewer support systems, and are at greater risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline [see PDF]. At work, LGBT people of color experience higher rates of discrimination and are less likely to have adequate mentors. Discriminatory immigration and tax laws as well as unequal job benefits, including lack of appropriate forms of family leave, also disadvantage LGBT workers of color… More @http://www.americanprogress.org/press/release/2013/11/14/79395/release-lgbt-workers-of-color-are-among-the-most-disadvantaged-in-the-american-workforce/

In Cold Blood: The Murder of Renisha McBride

Renisha McBride

By Sikivu Hutchinson

A white family grieves in outrage after their teenage daughter has been gunned down by a black homeowner in an African American neighborhood. In this parallel universe the killer walks free, enjoying the benefit of being viewed as having defended his home from a violent intruder, while the big city D.A. decides whether or not to charge him.

It is no revelation to many black women in neo-apartheid Americana that being white and female pays deep dividends in everyday life.  Among these dividends is the ability to be seen as an innocent victim under dire circumstances and to have the weight of the American criminal justice system behind you upholding that perception.  Another is the advantage of secure access to elite suburban enclaves without fear of criminalization. Stranded in the early morning hours after a car crash in a predominantly white suburb outside of Detroit, nineteen year-old Renisha McBride had no such benefits.  A recent high school graduate, McBride had just gotten a job at the Ford Motor Company when she was brutally shot in the face by a white male resident after seeking help from the crash. Her family described her as warm and loving. As of this writing her killer has not been apprehended nor charged.

McBride’s killing is part of a long legacy of black female murder victims who have been devalued in a misogynist apartheid system of state-sanctioned violence that thrives on the urban/suburban racial divide. In 2010, seven year-old Aiyanna Jones was murdered by a Detroit police officer in her own home during a botched police raid. In 1999, a homeless fifty four year-old 5 feet tall black woman named Margaret Mitchell was killed by LAPD officers in an affluent Los Angeles retail district after a dispute over a shopping cart. The officers in the Mitchell case were not charged. The officer in the Jones case was recently granted a retrial after the jury in his initial involuntary manslaughter trial deadlocked.  Civil rights activists and community protestors have compared McBride’s killing to that of Trayvon Martin, Emmet Till, Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo, globally known black male lynching victims whose white killers never saw jail time.  But the problem with these comparisons is that they unintentionally minimize lesser known black female victims of white supremacist violence such as Mitchell, Jones, Eulia Love, Eleanor Bumpurs, Alesia Thomas and Mitrice Richardson. Although the circumstances of these women’s deaths were quite different, the lack of sustained national and global attention (relative to black men who have been murdered under similar circumstances) unites them.   National civil rights activists and feminist organizations must ask themselves why these names have not become as prominent or high profile in national activism.  Mainstream civil rights organizations have long had a sexist, patriarchal blind spot when it comes to critical consciousness about the specific gendered and racialized ways in which black women are demonized, sexualized and criminalized in the U.S.  Historically, much of the language around black civil rights uplift has been oriented toward redeeming black men and pathologized black masculinity.  In K-12 education, students are typically taught about American history in general and the modern civil rights movement in particular as though they were merely a procession of events spearheaded by Great white men, a few exceptional men of color and Rosa Parks.  From MLK to the Black Panthers, black women’s self-determination was never part of the mainstream civil rights’ social justice calculus or platform.  Thus redressing the epidemic of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in African American communities has never been a major part of African American civil rights organizing.  Nor has the skyrocketing number of black women in prison and the ways in which this regime has led to the exponential increase of black children that are homeless or in foster care. [Read more...]

Sisterhood Ain’t Powerful: White Women’s Rights

white guilt white privilege

By Sikivu Hutchinson

When reality TV fixture Omarosa Manigault claimed on the Bethenny Frankel show that white women could “walk around” being mediocre and still get rewarded with opportunities—while Black women had to be exceptional—the predominantly white female studio audience gasped, outraged by her “heresy”.  Omarosa’s baggage as a tabloid lightening rod notwithstanding, her charge resonated deeply with many Black women. As a Black female Ph.D., much of my professional life has involved navigating and pushing back against a very specific, insidious brand of white female racism and paternalism. In the workplace and academia, this brand has consisted of the delicate nuances of power masquerading as benevolence, the kind that grins in one’s face, understanding, sympathetic, worshipping at the cult of the legendarily “strong” Negress; appropriating blackness and using it as a weapon when real world decisions about hiring, promotion, and visibility are at stake.  Over the years this display has come in various guises.  The white master’s thesis advisor who said my writing was not “graduate school caliber”, then “retracted” her statement two years later when my thesis was given a departmental award.  The white dissertation advisor who vehemently opposed my being given a “with distinction” commendation after my successful dissertation defense.  The under-qualified white career bureaucrat/manager, armed with an undergraduate degree, who lied about my job performance on my annual evaluation.  The white MIA coworker who breezed into the office whenever she felt like it, never published anything, never ran a consistent program yet got a promotion and wound up supervising me.  The white British “I feel your pain” department chair at a prestigious private arts college who hired me to teach two token semesters of Women of Color in the U.S. classes then stood idly by while students of color were academically marginalized and shut out of financial aid.

In her article “Job Discrimination Lives On,” Margaret Kimberly writes “Even at the supervisory level apartheid is the order of the day. Black men and women are rarely hired to supervise white people. Black men supervise black men, black women supervise black women, and white men are in positions to manage everyone else.”  The majority of my supervisorial “gatekeepers” have been white women.  And since its inception, white women have been the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action. Yet there are very few white feminist political commentators, activists, academics or pundits who vigorously champion affirmative action or make it an explicit focus of their public advocacy.  According to the U.S. Labor Department “Six million women workers are in higher occupational classifications today than they would have been without affirmative action policies.”  Of course, this isn’t counting the “unofficial” legacy of white affirmative action which undergirds generations of white wealth accumulation, white residential segregation and white upward mobility in higher education.  When Tea Party fascists to “moderate” whites, and even some “liberal” ones, savage affirmative action and lazy shiftless pathological Blacks the “unearned” advantages white women reap are never part of the diatribe. [Read more...]

Save the Women’s Leadership Project

WLP scholarship winners

WLP scholarship winners

WLP is in jeopardy of being discontinued at the end of this year due to the expiration of its L.A. County funding and the lack of prioritization of grassroots work with girls of color.

Using a feminist humanist curriculum, WLP trains young women of color high school students to do peer education outreach on violence prevention, reproductive justice, HIV/AIDS education, LGBTQ equality, undocumented youth advocacy and sexual assault awareness. The majority of our students are first generation (first in the family) college students and the WLP college prep curriculum sends girls of color to four year colleges and universities at above average rates. For example, the four-year college going rate at partner school Gardena High School is approximately 20%.  WLP’s four year rate is over 90% and it is the only program for girls of color in the Los Angeles Unified school district that explicitly addresses the relationship between organized religion, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and heterosexism.

Further, at 8.7% of L.A. County’s population, African American youth and adults are 40% of its prison population, with more and more Black girls being pipelined into prisons.

If you care about quality programming around violence prevention, college preparation, feminist-humanist leadership development, undocumented youth advocacy and creating safe spaces for LGBTQ students please support the WLP by making a donation today and spreading the word.

WLP in the classroom

WLP in the classroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blacks in STEM Seminar

Devin Waller, planetary geologist

Devin Waller, planetary geologist

Brandon Bell, molecular biology

Brandon Bell, molecular biology

Who fits the stereotype of scientific or mathematical genius? Traditionally, racial and gender stereotypes influence who “conforms” to mainstream society’s image of scientific proficiency and intellectualism. Although one of the most well known contemporary scientists in the world is African American physicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, the dominant culture still portrays science and math as disciplines that only straight white and Asian males can master.

At 12% of the U.S. population, African Americans are severely under-represented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “The percentage of African-Americans earning STEM degrees has fallen during the last decade.  In 2009, they received just 7 percent of all STEM bachelor’s degrees, 4 percent of master’s degrees, and 2 percent of PhDs.”  Indeed, “in a typical year, 13 African-Americans and 20 Latinos of either sex receive Ph.D.’s in physics.”  This disparity is informed by the egregiously low number of black students taking college preparation, honors and Advanced Placement classes and tests.  For African American students, the absence of quality college prep instruction at the middle and high school levels is often one of the most significant roadblocks to college access.  For example, at Gardena High School in South Los Angeles African American students are 27% of the population but only 4% are enrolled in AP classes.

In a recent New York Times article entitled “Why are There Still So Few Women in Science?” Author Eileen Pollack reflected on attending a Yale University event where five female physics majors talked about their academic challenges.  She noted that one “young black woman told me she did her undergraduate work at a historically black college, then entered a master’s program designed to help minority students develop the research skills and one-on-one mentoring relationships that would help them make the transition to a Ph.D. program. Her first year at Yale was rough, but her mentors helped her through.”

Finding mentors, navigating the complexities of subject requirements and keeping afloat academically are a natural part of being in college.  But these challenges are often even more daunting for African American students in STEM departments where there are few African American faculty and administrators.  For many black students, the absence of tenured black STEM professors exacerbates the racist and sexist low expectations that they confront in the classroom and on campus.

On Thursday, November 14th at Gardena High, Black Skeptics Los Angeles and the Women’s Leadership Project will sponsor a seminar that examines these issues with a panel of talented young Black STEM professionals from South Los Angeles.  Seminar participants will discuss college preparation, admission, mentoring, retention, confronting discrimination and their path to graduation:

Brandon Bell is a 2007 graduate of King-Drew Medical Magnet (in South L.A.) and a 2011 graduate of Princeton University where he majored in molecular biology. He’s the founder of an activist organization called Wisdom From The Field and has dedicated himself to the empowerment of his community.

Garaudy Etienne graduated from New Jersey’s West Orange High School in 2007. He is currently an aerospace engineer at Northrop Grumman. He received his B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in 2011.

Dr. Paul Robinson is an associate professor of Geographic Information Systems at Drew University and the Geffen School of Medicine.  He received a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Southern California (2001), a Masters in geography from the University of South Florida (1993) and Bachelors in geography from Virginia Tech (1989).

Devin Waller is Exhibit Project Manager at the California Science Center.  She received her B.S. in astrophysics from UCLA and her M.S. in Geological Sciences from Arizona State University.

Secular Woman of the Year

SW_Award_2013_Woman_of_the_Year (2)

I’m honored to be recognized as the Secular Woman of the Year by Secular Woman, a feminist gender justice organization dedicated to “amplifying the voice, presence, and influence of non-religious women”. Writer Ian Cromwell was named “Secular Man of the Year”, Soraya Chemaly was named “Secular Activist of the Year” and Stephanie Zvan’s blog Almost Diamonds was recognized as “Blog of the Year”. Renee Perry and Mary Ellen Sikes were also recognized for their advocacy.

Writing about the urgency of male feminist activism on his blog, Ian argues that: “There is an important dual role that male anti-misogynists (a.k.a. feminists) can play in this fight: first, we can exploit the amplification of our voices that our male privilege (however unintentionally-gained it may have been) affords us to put women and their voices front and centre in discussions where they might otherwise be absent, and secondly we can speak to the ways in which patriarchy harms men and boys. We have a part, beyond simply listening and absorbing, to play in the struggle for equality.” 

Secular Woman, which is led by feminist activist Kim Rippere and powered by wonderful members like Monette Richards and Nicole Harris, recently launched a campaign aimed at reducing abortion stigma called Shameless, provides resources for secular women, and supports the work of humanist youth programs like our South L.A.-based Women’s Leadership Project for girls of color.


http://secularwoman.org/sw_awards_2013

 

 

 

 

Disposable Children: Whiteness, Heterosexism & the Murder of Lawrence King

lawrenceking-12

By Sikivu Hutchinson

It isn’t until the end of the new HBO documentary film Valentine Road, the gut-wrenching chronicle of the 2008 classroom murder of 15 year-old Lawrence King, a homeless gay youth of color, that the viewer learns the significance of the film’s name.  Valentine Road is the location of King’s Oxnard, California grave, the final resting place of a caring, intelligent child whose death became a lightning rod for a racist homophobic heterosexist nation ill-equipped to see much less affirm King’s personhood.  Place is a central character in this film, which dubiously frames King and white working class “boy next door” murderer Brandon McInerney as bookends in an American tragedy set in multicultural Oxnard.  The film opens with a collage of the moments leading up to King’s execution in a classroom at E.O. Green Middle School.  We are treated to the sterile interior of the school, the gray tyranny of the computer lab where King was shot at point blank range, the blood-soaked floor that cradled King’s head after the slaying.  Throughout the film King is represented in still photos, in the blurred fleeting footage of a campus security camera, in whimsical stylized animation that attempts to capture King’s transition from Larry to Letisha/Latonya (which friends say was her preferred identity before her death).  The recollections of schoolmates, teachers, social workers and a foster parent touch on her fragility and kind-heartedness, yet in many of these testimonies her emerging identity is reduced to the “ungainly” performance of “cross-dressing”, crudely applied makeup, and awkward high heel boots.  It is clear that King’s “inappropriate” gender expression was construed by the school as an embarrassment, a behavior problem that school administrators sought to contain with vapid compliance memos which downplayed the culture of structural violence against LGBTQ youth.

While King’s narrative plays out in fragments, the narrative of 14 year-old McInerney is vividly nuanced. The product of a violent home, McInerney’s drug-addicted mother and homicidal gun-toting father appear as deeply flawed yet loving.  When he is cross-examined after the murder by a police detective he is treated with dignity, respect, and sensitivity.  When his case is taken up by two “juvenile justice” advocate attorneys enraged that he may be tried as an adult, the female half of the duo expresses her devotion and undying love for his so-called beautiful spirit.

In this regard Valentine Road ably, perhaps inadvertently, captures how the criminalization of people of color shapes American presumptions of white innocence.  Despite McInerney’s apparent fondness for Nazi paraphernalia and use of racial slurs to refer to black classmates, prosecutors dropped a hate crime charge against him.  His defense team trotted out the repugnant “gay panic” defense (which was prohibited for use in criminal trials under a 2006 California law named after Gwen Araujo, a transgender teen who was brutally murdered in 2002) egregiously portraying McInerney as a victim of King’s unrelenting sexual harassment. Unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the jury in McInerney’s first trial deadlocked.  Some of the jurors voted for voluntary manslaughter and others for first-degree or second-degree murder.  After the mistrial, the filmmakers shot telling footage of white female jurors expressing sympathy for McInerney over pastries in a spacious suburban kitchen.  In their minds King was clearly the aggressor; the dark sexual predator whose moral deviance sent the troubled young white boy into a (justifiably) murderous tailspin.  Indeed, at least one of the jurors mailed prosecutors Religious Right propaganda excoriating the “abomination” of King’s sexuality and the injustice of “poor Brandon’s” plight. And in a show of motherly solidarity, the white female jurors even display “justice for Brandon” slogans.

In order for white hetero-normativity and heterosexism to flourish, violent masculinity must be fiercely protected by white women.  [Read more...]