Black Skeptics & POCBF Nat’l HIV Testing Day Outreach

“According to the CDC, the rate of new HIV infections last year among young black women aged 13 to 29 was 11 times higher than the rate among young white women and four times higher than the rate among young Hispanic women”

Black Skeptics L.A. and Chicago outreach sites for National HIV Testing Day:

Black Skeptics L.A.
Gardena Healthy Start Clinic
1301 W. 182nd Street
Gardena, CA
Time: 9:00-12:00
info: [email protected]

Black Skeptics Chicago
100 W. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL
Time: 8:30 a.m.
info: [email protected]

Hollywood’s Tea Party

American hustle doll test updated

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Ah the splendor of black music.  What would white supremacist civilization do without it?  Homegrown, soulful, it is the forbidden spice in a thousand scenes of white folk romancing, cutting loose, getting it on and minding the empire’s business. Black dynamism has always been a wellspring for white theft.  For many people of color, going to 21st century movies is a soul-sucking exercise in being trained to see power through white eyes, often with the strategic pomp of a black soundtrack.  Death by trailer, it is the masochistic pleasure of being bludgeoned into mental submission by the narrative of white heroism (in the form of Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and George Clooney), white hetero-normative romance (in the form of faceless anorexic white girls and boys slobbering over and devouring each other) and white domesticity in white picket fence communities.

Generations after psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s 1947 doll test experiment on racial identification (which has been updated several times over the past decade), children’s images of whiteness remain rigidly framed through the lens of humanity, civilization, ingenuity, genius, beauty and morality. When children of color see themselves at all in American film it is as ethnic exotica, sidekicks for the enterprising white boy/girl protagonist or fly-in-the-buttermilk diversity mascots fleshing out a classroom scene. According to a 2012 study by the USC Annenberg School, 76.3% of all speaking characters in American film were white while whites comprise 56% of U.S. ticket buyers. By contrast, Latinos comprise 26% of ticket buyers and 17% of the U.S. population, yet account for only 4.3% of speaking roles in film.

In 2013, the American film industry raked in over 10 billion in profits, plowing over people of color who now comprise the majority of California’s population.  In the new film American Hustle blacks, Latinos and Arabs are the colorful backdrop to the ribald shenanigans of a cunning yet endearing white couple cruising toward redemption and nuclear family-hood in New Jersey. [Read more...]

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...]

Creepy Crackers n’ Shucking Toms

django uncle tom & little eva

By Sikivu Hutchinson

Pity poor Uncle Tom.  When angry white male atheists start trotting him out as a cover for their racist circle jerk you know you’ve got a postmodern moment with a cherry on top.  Although it’s never stopped being open season on black folk in America the Beautiful, the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, its partial smackdown of affirmative action and the happy times for George Zimmerman defense trial signal that the gloves are off again.  So now it seems the wages of whiteness atheist privilege brigade has come full circle from American Atheists’ 2012 naked shackled black slave billboard to Cult of Dusty’s viral “Black Christians=Uncle Toms” You Tube tirade.  According to creepy-cracker-white-man’s-burden-Dusty all black folk who subscribe to Christianity are not only domesticated dupes but neo-slave House Negro Stephens (in reference to Quentin Tarantino’s wet dream of buck-dancing black male cunning) shucking and jiving in our own 21st century version of Django Unchained.  But this racist ignoramus is no latter day John Brown dropping knowledge on us docile backward noble savages cowering under the yoke of dis here Good Book blessed by da Massa’s benevolence.

Conveniently omitted from this and umpteen other white atheist paeans to enlightening the dark hordes of ghetto superstition is any analysis of the white supremacist brutality of exalted secularist icons like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other revolutionary war patriots who built American empire on the backs of slave labor and through the propaganda of democratic citizenship.  Missing from this equation is a takedown of the proto-capitalist engine of black exploitation under slavery, its echoes in 20th century Jim Crow public policy and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration that fuels the criminal wealth gap between whites and people of color.  As Toni Morrison so sagely put it, slavery and freedom existed side by side, for “nothing highlighted freedom if it did not in fact create it, like slavery.  Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities for in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only the not-free…but the not-me.”  Then, as now, freedom, individualism and universal citizenship (the ostensible ideological impetus for the Revolutionary War) were based on white supremacy and racialized notions of nationhood.  In the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 white working class laborers were conferred with citizenship privileges—i.e., the right to bear arms, assemble, hold property and move around freely—entitlements that no black person, slave or free, could ever enjoy.  After the gradual institutionalization of racial slavery in the 1640s the categories slave and black became synonymous as did the categories white and free.  There was no loophole for any enlightened black non-theists that might have been running around.  There was no honorary black slave status (with the advantages of beatings, rapes, lifelong enslavement and dehumanization) granted pesky white atheists and anti-clericalists.  And the very secular American Constitution branded black slaves as 3/5s of a man in order to ensure that slave states had equal representation in Congress.

Racial slavery was driven by economic conditions and the proto-capitalist rise of American empire.  It provided an insurance policy against white working class resistance against the white aristocracy (from Jefferson the rapist slaver to the Koch brothers) by giving poor white folk access to the wages of whiteness. [Read more...]

Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels NOW AVAILABLE

Godless_cover (2) 

Over the past several years, the Right has spun the fantasy of colorblind, post-racial, post-feminist American exceptionalism. This Orwellian narrative anchors the most blistering conservative assault on secularism, civil rights, and public education in the post-Vietnam War era. It is no accident that this assault has occurred in an era in which whites have over twenty times the wealth of African Americans. For many communities of color, victimized by a rabidly Religious Right, neo-liberal agenda, the American dream has never been more of a nightmare than it is now. Godless Americana is a radical humanist analysis of this climate. It provides a vision of secular social justice that challenges Eurocentric traditions of race, gender, and class-neutral secularism. For a small but growing number of non-believers of color, humanism and secularism are inextricably linked to the broader struggle against white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, capitalism, economic injustice, and global imperialism. Godless Americana critiques these titanic rifts and the role white Christian nationalism plays in the demonization of urban communities of color.

 
Godless Americana is a MUST READ!” Kimberly Veal, Black Non-Believers of Chicago (GOODREADS REVIEW)

 

 “Hutchinson notes that being an atheist is not enough to affect any real change. One can be an atheist in isolation simply by not believing in God. Becoming a humanist, by contrast, entails working for social justice. For blacks to make atheism relevant to the larger African American community they cannot simply emphasize science and critical thinking but must instead help feed people, train them for jobs, and offer assistance to prisoners trying to reenter society, among other issues.” Chris Cameron, University of North Carolina
 
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Professional basketball player Jason Collins comes out

by Frederick Sparks

“I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.”

Jason-CollinsIn case you hadn’t heard, NBA journeyman center Jason Collins has declared to the world that he is a gay man.   Collins entered the NBA twelve years ago, along with his twin Jarron, after the two played collegiate basketball at Stanford.  He is being hailed as the first out active male athlete in a major professional team sport in the U.S. (though some may argue that late baseball player Glenn Burke was the first).

Collins says he was inspired to come out after his former college roommate, current Massachusetts congressman Joe Kennedy, marched in a Boston gay pride parade:

I’m seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn’t even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I’d been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, “Me, too.”

The reaction across the twitter verse and blogsphere, with some exceptions, has been positive, with Kobe Bryant and other current and former players and coaches offering support.  ESPN analyst Chris Broussard, apparently troubled by Collins’ reference to his Christian upbringing and respect for Jesus Christ and how that fits into a viewpoint of tolerance and acceptance,  stated (on a sports show) that Jason couldn’t be a Christian and an “active” homosexual at the same time.  Also, some seem to believe that the fact that Jason’s twin Jarron is not gay means that homosexuality is a choice.

Collins is a free agent (meaning not under contract with any team), having done stints this season with both the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.  Now the question moves to whether his coming out will affect the decision making of team owners who would otherwise be interested in adding Collins to their rosters.   Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, who works for an openly gay team President, felt the need to point out that he is a Christian man with a sense of right and wrong before saying that Collins would be welcome on his team “if he had game. If he could help this team”.

Beyond the reaction of people in the sports world, what intrigues (and annoys) me is the reaction of commentators who wonder why this is a big deal and throw out inane chestnuts about how straight people don’t announce that they are straight.  This is the blind spot of social privilege..not recognize that straight people quite often announce their sexuality in many ways (wearing wedding rings, referring to wives and husbands) that go unnoticed because it is the expected norm.  It also smacks of the sentiment that the problem is not with bias, but with discussing bias, and with discussing issues of identity that are related to bias.

Leaving Jesus: Women of Color Beyond Faith

Mandisa Thomas

By Sikivu Hutchinson

The 24-hour prayer sessions are the true test of a warrior for Jesus.  They require Herculean stamina, the patience of Job, the rigor of elite marathon runners hitting the wall in a fiery sweat pit at high altitude, primed for God’s finish line. In many small storefront Pentecostal churches these “pray-a-thons” are women’s spaces; hubs of music, food, caregiving, and intense witnessing.  My student Stacy Castro* is a bass player in her Pentecostal church’s band.  She is also the pastor’s daughter and a regular participant in the pray-a-thons, a mainstay in some evangelical congregations. Much of her weekends are focused on church activities. And though she is an intelligent gifted speaker, up until her participation in the Women’s Leadership Project she thought little about pursuing college and wanted to go to cosmetology school.  Stacy’s aspirations are not atypical of students at Washington Prep High School in South Los Angeles.  In a community that is dominated by churches of every stripe only a small minority go on to four year colleges and universities.

Over the past decade, Pentecostal congregations have burgeoned in urban communities nationwide, as Pentecostalism has exploded amongst American Latinos disgruntled by rigid Catholic hierarchies, alienating racial politics, and sexual abuse scandals.  The gendered appeal of Pentecostalism is highlighted in a 2008 American Religious Identification Survey which concludes that, “Latino religious polarization may be influenced by a gender effect, as in the general U.S. population, with men moving toward no religion and women toward more conservative religious traditions and practices. Two traditions at opposite poles of the religious spectrum exhibit the largest gender imbalance: the None population is heavily male (61%) while the Pentecostal is heavily female (58%). Italics added.”[i]

In my book, Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, I argued that the literature on secularism and gender does not capture the experiences of women of color negotiating racism, sexism, and poverty in historically religious communities.  The relative dearth of secular humanist and freethought traditions amongst women of color cannot be separated from the broader context of white supremacy, gender politics, and racial segregation.  Harlem Renaissance-era writers Nella Larsen and Zora Neale Hurston are generally acknowledged as pioneering twentieth century black women freethinkers.  Yet what few women’s freethought histories there are celebrate the political influence of prominent nineteenth century white women non-believers, [Read more...]

Annual Pastors Conference: All White Christians Invited

By Frederick Sparks

But oh no, it isn’t racist. The groups sponsoring the event, the Christian Identity Ministries, (whose website states: “Our true countenance is not one of hate, but one of love. Yes, we believe that the Europeans and their descendants are the chosen people of God. We believe this, not because we think that the white race is superior, but because there is overwhelming proof in support of this belief. “) and the Church of God’s Chosen, merely didn’t have sufficient facilities to accommodate non-whites.  The organizers also pointed out that they’ve never been invited to NAACP meetings and mosques and synagogues and stuff….so there!   What’s the problem?

The closing day of the event will include a “Sacred Christian Cross Lighting Ceremony”, to symbolize an “opposition to tyranny.”  While there will be KKK members in attendance, this lighting ceremony is absolutely not  a “cross burning” long associated with Klan activity.

Return of the Welfare Queens: Feminism, Secularism, Anti-Racism

By Sikivu Hutchinson

The percentage of white feminists who are concerned about racism is still a minority of the movement, and even within this minority those who are personally sensitive and completely serious about formulating an activist challenge to racism are fewer still.  Barbara Smith, Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology

In the American imagination, Black women are the poster children for disreputable irresponsible motherhood and Latina “illegals” a close second.  From birth to adolescence every girl of color must navigate a political climate in which Ronald Reagan’s racist welfare queen caricature casts long shadows.  Ending its noble boycott of covering black women, the L.A. Times recently served up some red meat for welfare queen watchers.  The front page featured an extensive profile of 27 year-old Natalie Cole, a jobless unmarried unskilled black mother with four kids.  Entitled “Caught in the Cycle of Poverty” the article trots out an expert from Harvard who sagely proclaims that “poverty is bad for kids”; offering no further analysis on how the richest most militarized nation on the planet pimps out its children.  Instead, we are regaled with Cole’s hot mess of personal failure and pathology.  Coming from a long line of young single mothers, by the time she was 17 she was raising two children.  She can’t be bothered to do a résumé or use birth control to avoid having a fifth child.  The prayer “God in heaven, hear my prayer keep me in thy loving care” is taped to her bedroom wall.  Needless to say she will not be getting her Oxygen, TLC or Lifetime reality show any time soon.

The article was especially timely, tragic, and enraging because I recently found out that one of my most inquisitive students is pregnant at 16.  Several of my Women’s Leadership Project alums, who worked their asses off to become the first in their families to go to college, speak of friends that have had children shortly after graduating from high school.  As budding feminists they are overly familiar with the “validation” pregnancy supposedly provides working class young women of color inundated with media propaganda that hyper-sexualizes black and Latina bodies and demonizes abortion.

In this South Los Angeles school-community only a small fraction of the student body goes on to college and many youth are in foster care, often having to raise themselves.  Small evangelical store front churches grossly outnumber living wage job centers, God and Jesus are touted as some of the biggest “cultural” influences, and high teen pregnancy rates are a symptom of the expendability of “other people’s children” (to quote education activist Lisa Delpit).  Thirty years ago scoring a living wage job with benefits was still a possibility for a South L.A. teenager with only a high school diploma.  Now, having a college degree is the bare minimum for getting a decent paying job.  However the regime of mass incarceration has made the barriers to college-going even higher for youth of color.  One in six black men has been incarcerated and in some instances whites with criminal records elicit more favorable responses from employers than do black or Latino applicants with no records.  Mainstream media focus on the staggering unemployment rates of men of color has eclipsed attention to the economic downturn’s equally devastating impact on black women.  Deepening segregation, diminishing job prospects due to the gutting of public sector employment (23% of black women are employed in public sector jobs) and mental health crises have pushed more women of color into the church pews, or, alternative spirituality, with a vengeance. [Read more...]

Shift in Black American opinion on gay marriage?

By Frederick Sparks

After President Obama expressed personal support for marriage equality, pundits wasted no time pondering the effects on the upcoming presidential election, including whether or not the president’s “evolved” position would alienate African-Americans, the President’s most loyal voting bloc.

And indeed there has been negative reaction from the black clergy.   Maryland based anti-gay preacher Harry Jackson stated “Obama laid down the gauntlet on black leaders..the question we are being forced to address is ‘are you going to be black or be godly.’” (Being godly of course means being homophobic)   And a group of African-American pastors, the Coalition of African-American Pastors (CAAP),  led by Memphis based “Reverend Doctor” William Owens soundly condemned the president’s statement, with Owens asserting that there was no doubt that the president would lose black votes:   “Absolutely it will and especially among the black churches where the conviction against same-sex marriage is so strong…”I think many black Christians feel somewhat betrayed by the president on this – this is something that black churches have always stood firmly against.”

Yet there are suggestions that the views of these “leaders” may be increasingly disconnected from the masses.   Polling conduct by Public Policy Polling on a Maryland referendum that would keep the states marriage equality law in place showed a dramatic swing in opinion among black voters; in March 56% were opposed to the new law, now  (following Obama’s statement) 55% are in favor of marriage equality.  This also tracks an ABC News/Washington Post Poll showing 59% of African-Americans nationwide in support of marriage equality.  While other polls of African-Americans on the gay marriage issue have yielded mixed results,  presidential election polling so far has shown no real shift in African-American support away from President Obama.

Following the President’s statements, Black entertainers and athletes have also expressed support for gay marriage or made gay positive statements, including music mogul Jay-Z and Heisman winner and No. 2 NFL draft pick Robert Griffin III.  For better or worse, entertainers and athletes hold sway in influencing public opinion.  

Perusing the website of this Coalition of African-American Pastors, one sees that the group’s mission is the breaking down of church/state separation, and opposing marriage equality and reproductive rights.  No mention of the myriad of important issues that contribute to continued African-American economic and social disadvantage.  This is a prime example of the increasingly irrelevant and out of touch yet stubbornly entrenched phenomenon of blowhard black religious leadership that finds itself increasingly opposed to progressive social change and largely impotent or uninterested when it comes to real issues of social justice.