Excerpt from Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars

New Humanism Blog Excerpt from Moral Combat


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Comment by Alice on March 19, 2011 at 9:41pm

Hi Sikavu,


Thanks for your reply.  I appreciate you took the time. 


I can see how due to the lower status of African Americans historically with the dominant culture offering freedom from slavery through conversion to christianity – that this was indeed a wondrous offer at the time.  I can see then how the church became important in AA culture. 


I feel shocked and grieved that you describe the position of black women being reviled by the dominant culture.  I find it abhorrent.  I was born in 1976 in England, and my personal impression of Black American women, is one of strength and courage.  I know that these are also stereotypes – but I wonder if my impression reflects a broader impression and also portrayal of AA women in the media.  I think Opera and others have a world presence that gives AA woman a great and revered status.  Although again, we can see that Opera has some belief in spiritual things – I’m not sure of her beliefs, but would suspect she was christian. – and from memory I think she has talked about God looking out for us.


This is a complex issue with many contributing factors.  It’s great that you are pioneering this subject – for other black women who might need that support to express their own honest beliefs about the world – without having to submit to the christian faith to gain respect and recognition.


I do wonder with America though – that it is a hard place for many – it seems dominated christian men.  I think all minority groups would struggle with the American dream – and the idea that you can do and have it all – because without support, most minority groups can’t do it all – and that’s a fact.


I wonder if my learning more about this topic might help any to promote awareness or understanding for positive outcomes.  Understanding the causal web of all things - I am a strong supporter of spreading the word about important issues that are often overlooked and neglected by those in power.


There are quite a few internet groups now who have more leverage with governments due to the instant access of internet to gaining signatures or just spreading information generally that causes people to question decisions that are made.


Please keep me in touch with your progress and steps forward as you go.  I'm interested in knowing how you go and what you can achieve with your writting.  I think book writting is a great way to go, to have a say in the world and get your message out there.


Alice :)

Comment by Shutch on March 19, 2011 at 6:29pm

Hi Alice:

Thanks for writing.  On the question of black women and their commitment to the church; I've written about how culturally and socially ingrained religion is to Afr-Am communities because of the gender hierarchies and conventions of both the dominant culture and Afr-Am culture.  As caregivers and "moral" providers, black women are practically required to be religious (or at least appear to tacitly agree to religious culture) as part of the association between proper femininity and religiously defined morality.  Because of the reviled position of black women in the dominant culture, being Christian has played an especially important role in conferring women of African descent with moral legitimacy/femininity.  So, no, AA women don't primarily "turn to the church" to try to reform "wayward" male relatives.  For some the church is a means of personal and cultural sustenance/support.  I grew up in a secular household but was raised in a community where it was presumed that one was religious.  Because there are so few of us, it has been isolating to be an "out" black female atheist.  But over the past two years I have met more folk who are willing to be out about their identities in person. 


Comment by Alice on March 11, 2011 at 7:37am
This was a really interesting extract.  It seems that to be black and a woman, and an atheist put's you in a very small category - and quite isolated and vulnerable to persecution.  How have you handled your self in this nexus?
I am fortunately to have not suffered too much discrimination in my life - being white and growing up in England.  But when travelling in India with my then boyfriend, I was devastated for 3 months to be totally ignored in public - whilst everyone - all males - address my boyfriend only and it was as if I didn't exist - or was part of his luggage.
Since moving to Australia also, I've found that discrimination against women is much higher than in the UK - and the segregation between men and women is greater.
My now husband (god knows how I ended up with him! LOL) who is a white male from South Africa - seems to me quite oblivious and ignorant of how it feels to be oppressed or unjustly treated.  He does seem to have compassion - but to my eyes, seems more patronising than empathising with others is such a situation.  This is one topic we have to almost avoid for fear of needing a divorce.  In the end, I just think he just doesn't get it - and perhaps never will - unless he is put into such a situation himself and has the experience - although in the world we live in today, I'm not sure he will ever get such an opportunity.
I lived in low socio economic area's when I was growing up and when to school with mainly immigrant kids - mostly from Pakistan, but also from India, West Indies and Eastern Europe.  I felt quite safe growing up in this area - it was my home - and there wasn't much violence - but it turns out that some of the London bombing people where from a house on the same road as my middle school.  I probably knew and went to school with their relatives.
I just read an interesting book - really because I was annoyed that I'd bought it and didn't want to waste my money - but I thought it was going to be about the history of non-violence in the past 10,000 years, but it turned out to be a theological book about a re reading of the bible.  Once I'd got through the fantasy start - it was actually quite interesting.  It seems to say that Jesus was a non-violent anarchist, who was all for resisting the domination society - namely the Romans of the time.  Many of his followers were servants and slaves - and he would preach to them about how to resist.  Not surprisingly they crucified him.
It seems that humans naturally fall into domination structures of oppression where some get everything and the majority have to work hard day in day out for a pittance.  It's disgusting really.
I'm all for social justice - but it is such a challenging area - and where to start?  I wonder if there could be a society that was more fair for justice and equality for all?  Or whether the type of society we have is more natural to human nature?  What are your thoughts?
I've often thought about African American culture and their relationship with the Church.  I've seen some of the preaching where they ask for money to be sent to save our souls.  I find this quite disturbing.  But I suppose if people are living a 'good christian life' then they are in a better position than if they are getting mixed up with the wrong crowd.  I say that, because this may be the case with some people - I think many older women turn to the church when they really are at the end of their tether with what to do about wayward sons and grandsons.  This is a very stereotypical perspective - so I would be interested to hear if this is indeed the case, or if it's quite different in your reality.
Alice : )



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