Black, atheist, bigoted

Welcome Pharyngulites and Redditors! Thanks for reading! There is another part to this story that I’d appreciate you reading if you wouldn’t mind clicking through.

Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta is a non-crazy freethinkers group in Atlanta, and you should check them out.

One of my daily reads is Hemant Mehta’s blog, Friendly Atheist. This past week, he posted something that is well within my wheelhouse, and did so in a way that I think requires followup. The post itself concerns a black atheist public access show in Atlanta, Georgia which is in the southern United States. The hosts of the show devoted the first third of that particular episode to discussing homosexuality, in a way that embedded my face so firmly in my palm that I had to get it removed surgically before I could write this response.

Fair warning: the following video contains homophobic language, so if you’re particularly sensitive to bigotry you may not want to watch. It also contains considerable amounts of stupidity, so if you’re sensitive to that then you might want to… well quit using the internet I guess:

I am going to try and take these arguments as they come, so you can follow along if you like. The shit hits the fan at about 3:00 in:

3:05 – Black Son: …The homosexual community is co-opting the whole atheist movement.

No, it really isn’t. There are many homosexual groups that work within a religious framework, and try to change the religious organization from within. Successes in, for example, the Anglican church, are testament to the tireless effort of religious gay rights campaigners. The confluence of the gay community and the atheist community that does exist like has two sources. First, anti-gay attitudes lead many gay people to question whether or not the ideas put forth by religious leaders are true, which can lead to questions about the truth of any religious ideas, which can lead to atheism. Second, many atheists are skeptics and humanists. As a result, we look to science and reason as the foundations for our beliefs, rather than appeals to tradition. To claim that gay atheists aren’t really atheists is a claim made without evidence or logic supporting it, and can be dismissed as such.

5:52 – KD: …if you are of African descent, then you also accept the values, customs and traditions of traditional African people.

Yeah… no. Being of African descent doesn’t have anything to do with what ideas you believe, or what values you accept. First off, “traditional” African beliefs include religion, although not usually of the organized variety (rather beliefs that are embedded in culture and lived as part of lifestyle). Lack of belief in a god/gods is a rejection of “traditional” African values, customs and traditions, and yet the hosts still consider themselves black.

6:20 – KD: This is a historical fact

No it isn’t

6:22 – KD: I’m not a bigot

Yes you are.

6:55 – KD: Homosexuality is a byproduct of Western individualism…

Black Son: So you’re saying it’s all about ‘me me me me’…

KD: Yes, it’s same sex relationships, it’s about having a relationship with yourself. That’s not complementary, that’s not balanced.

It was at this point that I felt as though a trillion pairs of eyes were all rolling at the same time. Black Son and KD have arrived at the home turf of every anti-gay bigot out there: homosexuality is a choice. KD, are you saying that the only reason you are attracted to women is because you recognize the importance of “complementary” relationships? Are you attracted to men, but have decided to to sleep with only women because you choose to be heterosexual? Or, have you always been attracted to women and haven’t felt the need to explain why? Because if it’s the latter case, congratulations – you have just illustrated that homosexuality is not a choice you ignorant motherfucker.

7:57 – Black Son: When I talk about God or the deity not making no sense, I come from a scientific point of view, so when you deal with science you’ve got to deal with it all the way, so when the topic of homosexuality comes up, I always bring up the Law of Reproduction.

Interesting fact to note here: there is no such thing as the Law of Reproduction. Black Son has simply wrapped his bigotry in a sciency-sounding phrase and then claimed the win. His argument is that the purpose of a relationship is to produce children. Homosexual sex does not yield children, and therefore homosexual relationships have no purpose. However, he’s not relying on science for this conclusion, he’s deputizing teleology. Teleology is not a scientific position, and it has no evidence to support it. Relationships provide a number of things to humans, children being only one of them. It is conceivable that Black Son has had, or would not object to another man having, a relationship with a woman that isn’t for the purpose of producing children. I doubt he’d get hot and bothered over someone who’s had a hysterectomy getting together with an infertile man. These relationships also violate his fictitious “Law of Reproduction”, and yet escape the criticism. It’s hypocrisy, nothing more.

8:41 – KD: …and this is why we say – if you’re European, if you’re white, that’s their thing. Do what you do.

Ah yes, if you’re gay and you’re black, you’re adopting a European custom. You’re not “really black”, because “real” black people make babies. Hey Black Son and KD, do you know how many black women are raped in the Congo and in South Africa each year at the hands of “African tradition”? Some of those women “reproduce” – are we saying that this is a custom that is acceptable to you, whereas consensual homosexual sex isn’t?

12:00 – KD: European customs are by nature contradictory or in conflict with African customs

This is a load of horseshit. Customs are not inherently geographical – they are historical. The value of those customs is not based on where or when they came from, but rather what effect they have on human beings. The formalization of the scientific method (which these guys claim to adhere to, despite all evidence to the contrary) came out of… drumroll please… Europe. Does that mean that African people can’t use science? Does it mean that white people don’t value community and family? Absolutely not, and you’d have to be an idiot to think otherwise.

12:12 – Black Son: Absolutely

Oh… well, I guess that answers that question.

13:28 – KD: …in that sense they’re not necessarily colonizing each other because they’re cousins. So if Egyptians go to war with people in Ethiopia, that’s not colonialism. That’s one nation calling another nation to get their affairs in order before the Europeans or the Arabs control both of them.

WHAT? At this point we can safely conclude that KD is just making stuff up as he goes along. He’s pretending that pre-colonial African civilzations lived in peace and harmony, only using war as a means of warning each other that external invaders were approaching (it seems like a strongly-worded letter would suffice for this purpose). He also seems to think that European and Arab people are not cousins to African people, once again flying in the face of science.

After the 16-minute mark they veer off into discussions of black nationalism, which is not relevant to this discussion.

I liken watching this clip to taking a bite of a blueberry muffin, except instead of blueberries, it’s got facts sprinkled in there, and instead of dough, the muffin is made of bullshit. KD and Black Son touch on some things that are absolutely true: African social customs are distinct from European because of separate histories; colonialism introduced many European ideas into the African narrative; many gay black people initially leave the church because of the hatred they experience. However, the hosts then link these facts to conclusions that are in no way supported by either evidence or reason – simply backfilling an explanation for their own hatred of gay people.

I have known black pseudo-intellectuals of this stripe before. They engage in the exact same kind of flawed reasoning that religious people do, and couch it in rejecting “European” values. If I was an atheist in Atlanta, I’d be downright embarassed to have these two clowns representing me, and I hope they catch a shitstorm for being that publicly moronic.

Please remember to read the follow-up to this story!

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  1. Dale says

    I was hoping that you would rip this one apart. I felt like I was being hit over the head by a baseball bat listening to it.

  2. Raine says

    A baseball bat? I feel like someone was playing a mean trick on me and then, nope; they’re serious.

    I’m so confused. Where does one have to start to completely ignore logic in order to actually allow themselves to not only say these things out loud, but to record and publish them?

  3. Anonymous says

    OMG. I love the Dave Silverman meme morphed into a black man. Thanks for this great post, and the incidental lulz.

  4. says

    It’s the same syndrome that affects the hosts on the Fox News Channel. When you’re surrounded by an echo chamber and the foundation of your critical thinking is to assume that “they” are lying to you or distorting the truth to serve their own ends, then you can rationalize just about anything.

  5. Alex says

    This guy saying homosexuality is a “European Greco-Roman custom” reminds me of Ahmadinejad saying homosexuality does not exist in Iran. Just because cultures repress certain groups – sometimes violently – doesn’t mean those groups don’t exist.

  6. says

    I watch Ask an Atheist, so I had heard about this through them before Hamet posted this story. At that time, WAENTelevision had been allowing comments on the videos. It seems comments have been removed on some clips and disabled on others, such as the one posted on this blog. This is disappointing. It seems they are censoring instead of facing up to the controversy they started. Disappointing.

  7. says

    It is disappointing. Especially since these two clowns aren’t the only people on the podcast, and this opens up an opportunity for dialogue. Not only that, but if they believe in their ideas they should be prepared to defend them. KD said “the gloves are coming off” a bunch of times – they took the gloves off long enough to take a cheap-shot and then run from the fight.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Kate from Iowa says

    This attitude is absolutely infuriating, and it’s one I have to hear from my mother all the time (although oddly enough, never from my grandmother.) Everything that she doesn’t like x, y or z is the fault of white people, because before we were slaves, there was the sort of “pure land” nonsensense that you occasionally hear pop up going on over in Africa. In fact, when she’s being more Christian than NoI, she actively claims that Eden was Africa. I can think of one or maybe two times she’s said anything even grudgingly acceptable about gay people, and then that’s been followed by some variation of “it’s such a shame” etc, etc.

    Hearing this crap from the religious is one thing. Hearing it from athiests makes me absolutely sick.

  9. says

    It’s nice to rhapsodize about the past, and we certainly like doing it, but it does us a significant disservice to completely reinvent our history. Especially when our history has been revisioned into oblivion already. Why do you think it skipped your grandmother?

    Thanks for the comment!

  10. Will says

    Great article! Really enjoyed it.

    Something I would add is that they are completely wrong about homosexuality being a European thing that spread to Africa through colonialism. In fact, colonialism tried to stomp out much of the traditional same-sex relationships that existed in indigenous cultures throughout Africa. This is well documented in anthropological literature. There’s a tiny bit of information about this on Wikipedia:

  11. says

    That’s right, Will! I remember reading something about that in connection to the ‘Kill The Gays’ bill in Uganda – that laws against homosexuality came during British rule. I didn’t realize the tradition stretched back, rather I assumed it was like it was pretty much everywhere else – tolerated or not commented upon. Then again, Islam was very influential in many African countries, even pre-colonially, so who knows.

  12. Mark says

    Bookmarked. I had heard about this nonsense on The Atheist Experience and you’ve hit the nail on the proverbial head with your analysis.

  13. says

    Well said! And thanks for the laughs along the way! I just about blew a gasket listening to their load of horseshit. They are idiots at best, and bigots at worst, pure and simple, and somewhere in between, truly ignorant of what constitutes a “scientific” basis.

  14. NoApologetics says

    the only thing we have in common as atheists is we don’t believe in god(s)

  15. Kate from Iowa says

    I don’t think it did, I think she doesn’t know what to think of me (single and not particularly bothered by it, not a big dater) and wants to see me with somebody, ANYBODY before she dies. All the rest of us have somebody after all. As for the Africa the Fantasyland crap…my parents got a little too into the revised history of black people in the sixties and seventies, and my mother kept it going, putting us into classes and activities as kids geared towards making us understand things “properly” according to her views. There were some useful bits, some factual history that you don’t get in a public school, a lot of information of the 60s civil rights movement that was nice to have, good first-hand accounts…but there was also a whole lot of revisionist bullshit. And some things that sounded like it was just plain made up by the instructor. It was like a little blacker than thou cult. I know my grandmother never supported it, but she never stopped it either. So maybe it didn’t skip her. Maybe she’s just better at keeping it to herself.

    That was a pretty roundabout way to say that, sorry! LOL!

  16. says

    European culture is their cross to bear, eh? But it’s perfectly OK that they’re speaking English, wearing polo shirts, enjoying democracy, etc. I wonder why it is that I keep hearing about homophobia among blacks so much. You’d think blacks would be very sympathetic to gays.

  17. says

    Thanks for your comment.

    I’m not sure where you’ve been hearing about “homophobia among blacks”, but it probably wasn’t anywhere with a black author, because there’s no way a black author would talk about “blacks”. We’re black people (just as they are gay people), and we don’t all share a belief or a perspective.

    That aside, it is rather perplexing to me that my brothers and sisters lack the historical perspective to see our own struggle for civil rights mirrored in the struggles of the LGBT community. There’s a lot of misogyny in the black community too, despite the fact that women face many of the same issues that black people do in general. I guess it’s human nature to have selective vision for one’s self-interest and have it stop there. There are many black people who speak up against homophobia, to wit – the Black Nonbelievers of Atlanta have been condemning the BAA for their nonsense in unambiguous terms.

  18. says

    Also it’s arguable the level to which many black people in the United States are ‘enjoying’ American democracy.

    And to serve another point, this is from Wikipedia: Although the term “democracy” is not often used for civilizations outside of Europe in ancient times there were organizations of government very akin to democracy in some African societies[30] such as the Igbo nation of what is now Nigeria.[31]

    Europe didn’t invent democracy, or at least the case can be made that democracy is not uniquely European. Greek philosophers may have written it down, and their writings may have been rediscovered by Europe during the Medieval period, but it’s not as though the idea of people being represented by their leaders is a concept that sprang to mind in only one culture.

  19. says

    Uh em…that idiot doesn’t speak for me or any of the Black atheists with whom I associate! I’m a Black atheist in Atlanta and co-founder of Black Nonbeliever’s of Atlanta. Whackson’s announcement of himself as the “king of the Black atheists” and what-not is in response to be booted out of BNOA for his racial and homophobic nonsense. Mandi, the other co-founder, puts it nicer: “We severed ties with him.” Don’t put Black people in some group box by saying someone “speaks for us” please.

    BNOA will continue to hold rational nonbelief as its standard. I posted a link to this article on my Facebook to let my friends know about another positive mention of the group. Thank you!

  20. says

    Hey Ben, thanks for your comment

    Sorry if I made it sounds as though BAA legitimately speaks for black atheists in Atlanta – he is claiming that representation but clearly he isn’t. What I meant was that whenever a public figure speaks about a group she/he belongs to, she/he is “speaking for” that group. Members of the group may (and often do) disagree, and we see vigorous discussion as we have now. As a black atheist myself, I am part of this dissent – hence this post. My apologies for the mistake.

    I caught Mandi’s interview on Ask an Atheist, which is also how I learned about BNoA – I hope you get a bump in fame from the backlash to these clowns.

  21. says

    thanks for coming out and tearing that shit apart. im from around baltimore and some people i know espouse that kind of nonsense and i never even know what to say… its just really sad that people would have ability to cast of ignorance in one way, and fervently cling to it in another. like someone above said… it shows that the religious (while the clear leaders in the field) do not have the monopoly on dumb ass bigoted bullshit. thanks for writing that.

  22. smhll says

    That aside, it is rather perplexing to me that my brothers and sisters lack the historical perspective to see our own struggle for civil rights mirrored in the struggles of the LGBT community.

    I have a really close female friend who fought to have a career in the military and be taken seriously there in the early 80s. When “gays in the military” was a hot political topic and she was still in the service, did she want them to be able to get what she had? Not so much.

  23. says

    I don’t think I will ever truly, viscerally understand the “screw you, I got mine” attitude. The way I see it, once you ‘get yours’ (as I would argue I have done in spades), there’s really nothing left to do but to start agitating for others to similarly prosper. The side benefit of course is that life gets better even for those at the top if everyone’s doing at least okay. Especially when you consider the number of super-qualified servicewomen and servicemen who were drummed out for something that had zero relationship to their job performance.

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