Did Atheists Get Booed At the Inauguration?

This brief Inauguration anecdote from Chris Bodenner writing at The Daily Dish stood out to me:

It’s just one anecdote, but: I stood with mostly African-Americans during the speech and the only time I ever heard booing of Obama, from many directions, was his shout-out to “non-believers.”

Are we non-believers (*gasp*) not liked by everyone?!

If it’s true, though, that’s pretty amazing. Not in a good way, either. On arguably the most historic day in American history for black people, they actually went against Barack Obama — when he dared to include atheists among other Americans.

Among our many goals, we need to work on changing that perception of atheists in the African-American community over the next few years.

  • Kate

    Interesting…Erik also went to the inauguration, and he didn’t mention any booing. I’ll ask him.

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com ollie

    Ok, but I think this is more of a correlation of education level than anything else.

    I think that this attitude will adjust itself when education becomes more equitable.

  • http://blocraison.blogspot.com Paul Fidalgo

    Let’s hope we show more class if one of our own ever makes it to the Oval Office.

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com ollie

    Actually, I consider Obama to be “one of our own” though he takes pains to not advertise it; I see him more or less as a Christian in the same way Einstein was a Jew.

    Notice that he has expressed doubts in public.

    Maybe that is just wishful thinking?

  • SarahH

    Are you implying that black Americans are more anti-atheist or have different reasons for being prejudiced against atheists than white people do?

    I don’t know about the first point – I’d have to see a study by a group like Pew to convince me, personally.

    I don’t think it’s any more or less insulting or frustrating when black people boo atheists than when white people do. I don’t think their reasons are any different. It’s all something that we can hopefully clear up eventually, but we certainly won’t clear it up by singling out groups and saying, “Hey, don’t pick on us because it makes YOU hypocrites!”

  • «bønez_brigade»

    If anyone booed the nonbelievers part of the address, it sure wasn’t noticeable. However, something that _is_ noticeable is some cheering & applause right when Obama mentions restoring science. Check it out.

  • Siamang

    I don’t think it’s any more or less insulting or frustrating when black people boo atheists than when white people do.

    Agreed. My take-away wasn’t that black people booed, it was that non-atheists booed.

    And that’s sad if this is an accurate account.

  • Matthew

    If African-Americans had ever experienced any racism or persecution due to their minority status, I’m sure they wouldn’t have booed Atheists. I’m sure they would instead realize that being in the majority doesn’t make your view “right” and that everyone counts on an equal basis. Cough.

    Oh, and it’s just rude to boo someone for what they believe in. It’s more polite to quietly ridicule it. :)

  • PrimeNumbers

    Blacks who “boo” atheists should go to the back of the bus.

  • Matthew

    I don’t think it’s any more or less insulting or frustrating when black people boo atheists than when white people do. I don’t think their reasons are any different.

    It’s no more or less insulting, but it is more freakin’ stupid. To be part of a minority that has historically (and still today to a degree) been persecuted for being different, but then *themselves* they persecutes others for being different. It’s just mind-boggling!

  • mike c.

    I doesn’t surprise me at all that minorities would boo atheists. People of color can’t change what they are, and they are sometimes persecuted for it. Most people would argue that being an atheist is a choice, and it’s a choice they would consider wrong. We as atheists consider own position the correct one, but we shouldn’t expect anybody to support us based on their own status in society. Education is really the only thing that will help us.

  • http://www.sheeptoshawl.com writerdd

    Actually, I consider Obama to be “one of our own” though he takes pains to not advertise it; I see him more or less as a Christian in the same way Einstein was a Jew.

    I agree. It seems like, from reading is memoir, that he joined the church to become more a part of the black community and so people would accept him more in leadership roles. Yes, he was touched emotionally by some of the sermons, but it didn’t sound like he really had a “conversion” experience to me. I am not sure if he actually believes in God at all. He seems to believe in community and finding a way to belong.

    Obviously there are also political reasons for being very involved in church.

  • Becky Robinson

    I was just reading an old study by Milton Rokeach on race relations and religious belief (done in the 60′s) that found that people tended to favor those who had the most shared beliefs as them over those who were the same race. If a believer was given a choice to spend time with a believer of a different race or a non-believer of their race, they heavily favored the believer. This held true in both the North and South

    Obviously, not much has changed. . . shared belief trumps shared ethnicity.

  • rocko

    I was one of those lucky enough to be on the lawn of the capitol building during the inauguration. When he mentioned non-believers the only sounds i heard were a few words of relief and joy that they were included. “Yes!”,”wow!”, ect. The only time I did hear anything negative was when Republicans had been boo’d and then Rick Warren was announced. Just as a few of us started to boo a few blacks in the crowd turned around and angrily shushed us.

  • http://surrethang.blogspot.com Mike z

    PrimeNumbers said:
    Blacks who “boo” atheists should go to the back of the bus.

    I get what you’re trying to say, but it’s probably the wrong way to say it.

  • Richard Wade

    Standing in a crowd of “mostly” but not entirely African Americans and hearing some “booing from many directions” in your vicinity is hardly a way of measuring the opinion of an ethnic group on the issue of non-believers, or the opinion of the general population on the issue of non-believers. Let’s not jump to conclusions.

    Do the bigotries inherent in religion trump the sense of camaraderie that one oppressed minority might feel for another? Perhaps, but that is so individual that it should not be presented as characteristic of an entire group, lest you fall into the very same pattern of prejudice to which you might be objecting.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    This discussion is disturbing to me. Please reread the post, everyone. It never says anywhere that black people were booing atheists at the inauguration. Anywhere. The author tried to imply that black people were, but he didn’t say it, because he merely heard a few boos during Obama’s speech (and says that he was standing near African Americans –wow, well, I was there too, and everyone was standing near African Americans, because a substantial portion of the crowd was African American). Please stop speculating about reasons that black people may or may not have booed a mention of nonbelievers because you don’t even know that it happened except that extremely flimsy anecdote!

    Or at least accept my anecdotal evidence on the same level as you accept his. I’m a resident of Washington, DC, and I was on the Mall during the inauguration. A substantial portion of the crowd was African American. I didn’t hear a single boo when Obama mentioned nonbelievers. I heard tons of cheers, because people were cheering the entire phrase Obama was saying, his endorsement of religious pluralism in the United States.

    Any discussion of race (such as the one above) where people talk about African Americans (or anyone else, including whites) like some kind of monolithic group where everyone has the same opinions and attitudes and holds them for the same reasons is extremely disturbing to me. Look at what Hemant wrote:

    If it’s true, though, that’s pretty amazing. Not in a good way, either. On arguably the most historic day in American history for black people, they actually went against Barack Obama — when he dared to include atheists among other Americans.

    What the hell does that mean? “They” went against Barack Obama on their historic day? Because some black people (out of a crowd of hundreds of thousands) may have booed when Obama mentioned nonbelievers? And suddenly this stands in for the opinions and attitudes of millions of black people in the United States?

    That’s quite an offensive thing to say.

  • Mark

    Denial is not a river in Egypt. We are hated.

    And whether it was the African Americans booing or not is really beside the point, but I’ll say this anyway: keep in mind that Proposition 8 in California (oppression not of atheists, but of gays) was passed with a huge amount of support from African American congregations. Just because they are African American, doesn’t mean they are wonderful to everybody.

  • Mark

    We should all study the passage of Proposition 8 in California, NOT because of race or which races voted which ways, but because it teaches us that a non-popular group can be blindsided by legislation that unexpectedly passes and takes away their rights. Atheists are next on the agenda after gays.

  • http://www.noonespecial.ca/cacophony Tao Jones

    My take-away wasn’t that black people booed, it was that non-atheists booed.

    I’d even take it one step further — a few individuals booed.

  • brandon

    I was there and I didn’t hear any booing

  • Jason Davis

    I was there, and what Rocko said is mostly true. When “non-believers” was announced, I heard a few surprised, but in a positive way, mentions, and the only booing occurred when either President Bush or Rick Warren were mentioned. Lots of booing for Rick Warren, actually. More than Bush ever got.

  • Siamang

    I’d even take it one step further — a few individuals booed.

    Agreed.

  • Nightowl35

    If anyone booed the “non believer” comment, I didn’t hear it. I was too busy cheering!

    Besides, how do we know they weren’t booing at any of the other groups Obama included? Many American’s aren’t used to having to include anyone BUT the Christians.

  • Nightowl35

    Blacks who “boo” atheists should go to the back of the bus.

    Oh come on now, how is that ANY different from them booing us?

  • anne

    I was on the Mall and my group was surrounded by people who had been saying “Amen” throughout Warren’s speech. When Obama mentioned non-believers, a friend in our group chirped out a perky “Thank You!” We weren’t booed at all. In fact, there were a lot of warm smiles turned our way. These same amen-saying people also shared hugs with us at the end of the swearing in, just as they shared with all the other strangers around them. There may have been boos elsewhere, but it wasn’t pervasive.

    FWIW, the amens, warm smiles, and hugs were freely shared across racial lines.

  • Aj

    You can’t take this anecdote seriously. It’s hardly a representative sample. Although I wouldn’t be surprised the, “black” demographic is more religious and less educated, and they’d act just like any other group , there’d be more belief in belief, more distrust and disdain for non-believers.

    Unenlightened people will not learn a lesson of equality from oppression and discrimination. If anything they’re more readily commit it. The Mormons and “blacks” didn’t think back to past oppression on the subject of marriage when they voted for Prop 8. They’re hypocrites, it just shows that they’re no different to anyone else.

    Hemant,

    On arguably the most historic day in American history for black people, they actually went against Barack Obama

    Do you have to be part of collective thought of your race, culture, or class? Identity politics… *spit* What happened to freethought, humanism, and individualism? Race isn’t even a scientific concept, culture is just tradition, and class is just ancestor worship. I’d be offended if they treated Obama differently to a non-”black”.

  • http://www.meetup.com/beltwayatheists Shelley Mountjoy

    I had excellent tickets to the swearing-in and consequently could hear every word. Many people without tickets have told me they were not able to hear much. Might I suggest the possibility that the boos were directed at something else? Security maybe… now that was a joke.

    Personally, I only heard boos for Bush. Others have told me they heard them for Warren but it wasn’t present among the crowd in my immediate area. With 1.7 million+ people I’m sure someone somewhere heard a remark on just about every line.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    I think there is plenty of intolerance and hatred of atheists to go around. I see little merit to focusing on any particular racial groups – we need to overcome it across the board.

  • idav

    I’m a bit puzzled. Why do anonymous boos from a crowd of a couple million people mean that people who are atheist need to work harder at appealing to black folks?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    If any revelations about Obama’s beliefs about religion are to come out, we will probably have to wait for his momoir after he leaves office.

  • Anonymous

    Evidently there is something to this:

    Obama’s Nonbeliever Nod Unsettles Some

  • http://dummiesoftheyear.wordpress.com Unknown Nobody

    If he was booed it wasn’t heard on television. I watched it on tv and didn’t hear one boo.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X