Alom Shaha has an important piece in the Guardian about the lack of racial minorities in the organized atheist movement:
The atheist and sceptic movements are dominated by white men and I think this is a problem…
These are issues that the white “leadership” of the atheist and sceptic movements have largely ignored because they are not issues that concern them. But these issues should concern all atheists — because if we are to be a “community”, if, as so many of us want, we are to be given the same standing in society as people who identify with a religious group, then we must ensure that black and Asian people are not just made to feel welcome but actively encouraged to join atheist and sceptic movements.
Shaha acknowledges there’s no conspiracy afoot, but urges groups to purposely reach out to non-white atheists whenever possible:
While black and Asian people may not be actively excluded from atheist and sceptic gatherings, the lack of black and Asian people as speakers or audience members might be one reason why many black or Asian people feel such events are not “for them”. So, even if there’s no deliberate exclusion, there is accidental exclusion…
I have not written this to accuse anyone of being racist, but rather to plead with those who are in a position to do something to stop turning a blind eye to this important issue. I know from personal experience that there are many black and Asian atheists out there who feel very alone — please reach out to them specifically, not generally.
All non-US atheist groups should be inviting me to speak at their conferences.
I accept your invitation (along with all travel and lodging costs).
You’re welcome, white people.
Obviously, there are a lot of non-white atheists who are outspoken atheists. I hope more of them start to feel comfortable speaking out.
One of the problems with just “reaching out” to minorities, though, is that a lot of atheist groups don’t “target” certain people. I’ve seen a lot of atheist organizations simply say, “Look! We exist! If you feel the same way we do, come join us!” Then, they wait and see who shows up.
I’m not sure how they could target minorities specifically. But if some minorities became more prominent — and the national groups promoted them (and their works) more often (at conferences, websites, etc) — there’s no doubt it would help.
Paul Sims extends this idea even further:
If it is to become less taboo for atheists from, say, Muslim backgrounds to speak openly of their non-belief, then change will ultimately have to be driven from within those communities. Humanist groups can help by remaining open and inclusive (something which, I would argue, comes very easily to humanists) and, hopefully, as more and more people from ethnic minorities get involved, the knock-on effect will be that like-minded peers will feel more comfortable joining them.
Is there anything non-theistic groups should be doing to attract more minorities?