May these weapons send your enemies to their God…
An Orthodox priest blesses rifles during a ceremony where new recruits receive their weapons at a military unit of the Belarussian Interior Ministry in Minsk, January 27, 2012.
Historically African American women did not have the luxury to be freethinkers because they were constructed as the racialized sexual other. Their bodies were the backdrop to European American notions of individual liberty, humanity, and natural rights. Their labor was the raw material for European American intellectualism. European American freethought traditions were predicated on the enslavement of the racialized sexual other. Within the context of slavery and, later, Jim Crow, women like Stanton, Ernestine Rose, and other first- and second-wave white feminist freethinkers would not have had the license to be secular were it not for the dialectic between the civilized white Western subject and the degraded amoral racialized sexual other. Alice Walker powerfully evokes this theme in her essay, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, which contemplates the contradictions of black female creativity and “genius” within the holocaust-like conditions of slavery.
Black working women were not supposed to be geniuses. In the West, genius and godliness are intimately bound to each other. Black women’s lives were too “cluttered” with the debris of the everyday—the cooking, cleaning, minding, managing, and tending that comes with the earthly terrain of caregiving—to soar to the heavens with geniuses. Small wonder then that the spaces they did find themselves in, that were available to them, became wellsprings for expressions of godliness, both subversive and conforming. That the vast majority of black women were only afforded access to the worlds of work, the family, and church meant that their “genius” would by necessity be a reflection of those worlds. In the turbulence of antebellum America “God” became ordinary black women’s medium for expressing genius, creativity, artistry, mastery, and invention.
Hence, secularism was a dangerous and untenable position because of the way black dehumanization was institutionalized. Where would black women go to be affirmed as persons? The courts, where their rights were not recognized? The Constitution, where their bodies were vessels? The education system, where their culture was demeaned as savage, primitive, and un-Christian? Government, where their bodies were deep profit for some of the nation’s most esteemed legislators and moral philosophers? White churches, where they were debased as Jezebels and amoral children of Ham?
For Latinas coming from Catholic traditions, the ubiquitous image of the pure-as-the-driven-snow, self-sacrificing Virgin Mary is the traditional model for femininity. But the Virgin’s white purity is only validated by the fallen dark whore; the black, Asian, Native American woman or Latina whose body, in the words of bell hooks, is “the sign of sexual experience.” As writer Yasmin Davidds Garrido notes, “It often seemed to me that unless I behaved just like the Virgin Mary I wouldn’t be good enough to win God’s approval. In order to be considered a good girl, I had to be quiet, submissive, and obedient…This is one way Catholicism coerces young girls to mute their voices.”
This is the backdrop against which women of color struggle with religious and secular belief systems. Even as the moral weight of their communities—reinforced by the dominant culture—is placed on them, many continue to seek refuge in faith and faith traditions because they provide a sense of purpose, direction, and meaning. Responding to a survey I conducted on high school aged young women and faith, twelfth grader Vanessa Linares* agreed that African American women and Latinas are packing the pews because many of them “believe that women of color need faith/religion to be moral.” Thus, popular reality shows like the Bad Girls Club and platinum-selling pop artists like wannabe Barbie-doll rapper Nicki Minaj show young women of color that hypersexuality is a quick and dirty form of “validation” for a select few. These women may appear to be flouting conventional sexual mores with “fuck you” alpha-female sexuality, but they are still rigidly bound by them. And, by the same token, the goddess cult that so many women of color flock to is also a cul-de-sac. Goddesses, queens, princesses, and other icons of so-called spiritual authority are by definition floating above the “sorry” muck of mere mortals.
Nonetheless, over the past few years more women of color have stepped up to assume leadership roles in secular, atheist, and humanist organizations. They have done so in a movement that is blithely ignorant of, if not explicitly hostile to, the lived experiences, cultural capital, community context, and social history of people of color in the U.S. In 2011, Kim Veal, president of the Black Non-Believers of Chicago, founded her group after being exasperated with participating in predominantly white groups where she was treated like an “enigma.” Echoing the sentiments of other non-believers of color who have been turned off by the vibe of all-white groups, she says, “this was disenchanting; you don’t know if they are truly interested in getting to know you or are trying to pick the brain of their new token.” Mandisa Thomas started the Black Non-Believers of Atlanta as a safe space for non-believers in the heavily evangelical South. BNOA of Chicago, Atlanta, and my group Black Skeptics Los Angeles have prioritized social justice issues like homophobia in the Black Church, HIV/AIDS prevention, reproductive justice, and homelessness. Veal and Thomas, along with Ayanna Watson of Black Atheists of America, Debbie Goddard and Jamila Bey of African Americans for Humanism, and Bridgette Gaudette of Secular Woman, are part of a new wave of women of color who head atheist organizations."
Love love love Sikivu Hutchison’s post on non-religious women of color and how they navigate the sexism and racism of both the religious and non-religious arenas. For some extra night reading, check out the rest of the post! (via racialicious)
For many Hindu, Muslim and Sikh students, religion is intrinsically tied to ethnic identity. Frequently their immigrant parents use religious activities and organizations as a way to gather with people like themselves and transmit culture to their children.
And yet, faced with Christian normalcy and feeling the normal childhood yearning to fit in with peers, many students were embarrassed to be associated with their own families and ethnic communities. Some avoided learning about their home religions.
“I remember at Christmastime having to lie about what my parents got me,” said Priti, a Hindu student. Her parents “wouldn’t get me too much, because they really didn’t have the concept of” Christmas. Priti felt that describing the small gifts she received would emphasize her differentness from her Christian peers.
Priti also described how “on many occasions, when we would celebrate Christian holidays [in class], I definitely get the feeling that I was not a part of that celebration. … There wasn’t one solitary event, but a string of events for many years that made me feel that I was not part of this group.”
Over time, this exclusion caused many students to feel self-conscious and even ashamed of coming from a faith tradition that was not perceived as “normal” by their teachers and classmates.
These feelings often had long-term ramifications — not only in diminished self-esteem, but also in the loss of knowledge about rituals and traditions, of aptitude with the home language, and even of connections with family.
But Christian normalcy, like religious dominance in many countries, is only one facet of religious oppression, which is not about theology so much as power. A religion becomes oppressive when its followers use it to subordinate the beliefs of others, to marginalize, exclude and deny privileges and access to people of other faiths.
The Indian Americans in my study shared stories of being targeted for discrimination and mockery because of their religions. One young Muslim reported that his homeroom teacher would often duck when he entered the classroom, saying, “You don’t have a bomb in that backpack, do you?” The rest of the class had a good laugh, and this student felt compelled to laugh along throughout the school year.
Harpreet, a male Sikh who wears a turban, recalled his high school’s annual tradition of hosting a Christmas Dinner for the homeless, where students dressed up as different characters.
His teacher asked Harpreet to dress up as Jafar, the villain from the Disney film Aladdin, he said, “because I had a turban.” The teacher treated Harpreet’s turban as something cartoonish, ignoring its religious significance to Sikhs and conflating it with an Arab cultural emblem.
Other students were told they were “going to hell” or that they and their families needed to “be saved.” When teachers overheard comments like these and did not intervene, many students took their silence as an endorsement of religious discrimination.
Consider the voice of a 13-year-old Hindu girl from Ohio:
“I hate skipping school to celebrate Diwali. After we celebrate, I still have to do all the in-class assignments and the homework for the next day. Now I tell my parents I’d rather just go to school.”
“Making up” for religious observances is a burden Christian students do not carry. This reality can make it difficult for some non-Christian students to stay on equal footing with Christian peers, socially and academically.
Another Hindu student, Nikhil, faced a different kind of academic challenge.
Since elementary school, Nikhil had experienced being teased for “praying to cows” and being “reincarnated from a dog.” Like many Indian Americans, he developed the habit of keeping his home life separate from his school life.
When his public school’s National Honor Society chapter decided to visit different churches to learn about religious diversity, Nikhil offered to share his religious life with his NHS peers.
“I told them that we should go to one of the Hindu services,” Nikhil said, “and the NHS faculty sponsor said, ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’” When his offer was rejected, Nikhil decided he would stop attending Christian services with the honor society. As a result, he was dismissed from the NHS for “inadequate participation.”
Nikhil feared academic retribution if he did anything about the expulsion. “[The NHS advisor] was also my English teacher,” he said, “and I was afraid … it would reflect on my grade, so I never said anything.”
When I interviewed him more than a decade later, Nikhil’s voice still quivered with emotion as he recalled feeling “very, very mad. I was graduating in the top five of my class. Everybody around me had the honor stole on except for me – and the only reason was because I refused to go to church.”
— Khyati Joshi, ‘Because I had a Turban’
This was the cartoon published in a popular nz newspaper today, after a 80:40 vote in favor of gay marriage being legalized. *gets popcorn*
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Remember: rainbows are a way for god to remind us he’s flooded the earth before…he could do it again.
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When America takes 1 million lives in Iraq for oil:
When Serbs rape Muslim women in Kosovo/Bosnia:
When Russians kill 200,000 Chechens in bombings:
When Jews kick out Palestinians and take their land:
When American drones kill entire family in Afghanistan/Pakistan:
When Israel kills 10,000 Lebanese civilians due to 2 missing soldiers:
When Muslims retaliate and show you how you treat us:
It seems like the word “Terrorism” is only reserved for Muslims.
Spread this message and let the world know…
Muslims are not terrorists! Terrorism has no religion!
Hindu Prayer Interrupted In Senate By Christians
Huh, they don’t like it so much when it’s not a christian prayer.
This is awful.
In which a reporter travels to “Muslim Bosnia” (said for dramatic effect).
Has a guide named “Elvis,” discovers a bunch of totally average white teenagers who drink, party, listen to rock and roll and attend prayers one day on the weekend. A few religious extremists in the rural north who suffer from paranoia.
Just like America.
Rinse and repeat.
Dr. Frances Cress-Welsing, author of The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Color and founder of the Cress-Welsing Institute of Psychiatry and Social Research