MLK day: About more than diversity
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It's a day we celebrate and remember the struggle for civil rights of the black community in America. This fight continues to this day and we must all do our part to educate ourselves and be vigilant in our struggle against oppression. 2020 has stood as a valuable reminder of how we treat minorities in this country. It's not enough to simply celebrate diversity a few times a year and pretend as if the injustices felt by minorities in this country don't occur every day.
This year we have watched as black communities around the country have protested for their right to simply exist. We have seen black men and women be shot and killed not just in the streets but in their own homes. We have seen their murderers be given leniency and grace, while they offered their victims none.
Through out the year, the ACL has joined other organizations in Lubbock to protest the discrimination happening around our country, and some have pushed back. With dissenters asking "Why it is the place of an Atheist organization to protest for Black Lives Matter? This is not inherently an atheist issue and it should not be something we are involved in."
This kind of thinking is exactly why when we look at the atheist community nationally we see a sea of white male commentators. As a movement, we have struggled to serve people from all walks of life, and we need to be honest with ourselves about why.
When we make a commitment to focus entirely on injustices that are exclusively of a religious nature, we are not communicating to black and brown communities that we care and are invested in their struggles. We can not simply "invite" them to be part of a movement has been created by and for a majority white base. We must evaluate what we are doing to actually offer value, and support to these communities who have not traditionally been well served by our activism.
For many minority communities, religion and the church can be a valuable community asset that provides for people in a way the government often fails to do. The church can be the only place for many people to receive any kind of assistance. The church is tied in to the fabric of the community so tightly that is at times inseparable from the culture. And when cultural pride is something you are having to constantly defend from appropriation, it makes lofty debates about philosophy quite removed from the grounded issues the church helps to address. The church can add a lot of value to the community. And with the stakes so high, it makes things like questioning belief, and leaving religion a privilege. A white privilege.
We must not only leave the door open to those in minority communities who question their faith, but we must also be active in supporting them in the struggles which are much more immediate and pressing. Who has time to debate the fallacies of philosophic arguments for god, when the police are breaking down the door of your home and firing on you while you sleep?
We have to start doing our part to actually reach out and be an active participant in helping to solve injustice not just in our own back yard, but in our neighbors as well. We must support black communities in the issues that matter most to them. We should not be satisfied with simply tokenizing those who have been able to question faith despite all the other obstacles and challenges that face them. We need to reach out to those communities, not to proselytize atheism, or to ask them to educate us on what it's like to be irreligious in a black community, but rather to genuinely ask what we can do to support justice for them in the ways that are most meaningful. If we are to be effective allies, we can't settle for order, and hope that our communities become diverse if we leave the door open. We must plan an active role in demanding justice for everyone we share this country with.
The Atheist Community of Lubbock does not only want to create a positive impact on the lives of those who have already begun to question their faith and need a safe space to do so, but we also want to create an impact on our larger community and provide the type of atmosphere in Lubbock and the rest of the country where people from all walks of life feel comfortable to have open debate and conversation. That can not happen if some people in our community are fighting for breathable air, fair housing, equal access to health care and assistance, economic equality and the right to walk down the street in a hoodie without fear of being shot.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere
Martin Luther King Jr.
Author: Tracey Benefield - Executive Director