How the “problem” with black culture is like the “problem” with atheist culture

How the “problem” with black culture is like the “problem” with atheist culture July 5, 2016
Image courtesy of Marco Belluci under CCL 2.0
Image courtesy of Marco Belluci under CCL 2.0

“Interviewer: What is it you most dislike?
Christopher Hitchens: Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.”
Hitch-22: A Memoir

“We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thinking that the problem with black culture is that they are a victim culture is like thinking that the problem with atheists is that they hate God.

Atheists don’t hate God. Their problem is that people look at the word “atheist” and assume that we are part of a God-hating culture in order to reassure themselves that the negative effects of religion on atheists don’t have anything to do with the religion itself, but with “sinful” atheist hate of an entity they secretly believe in. That assumption is a major part of what makes us so self-conscious about being atheists. This self-consciousness produces the sounds Christians interpret as a secret hatred of God.

The way to fight the problem is to listen to atheists and find out how, exactly, the CONCEPT that they hate God wreaks havoc on their lives and makes them hate religion.

Black culture’s problem is not that they are a victim culture. Its problem is that people look at our skin and assume that we are part of a victim culture in order to assure themselves that the effects of racism on black people are their own fault. That assumption is what makes us so self-conscious about being black. This self-consciousness produces the sounds white culture presents as evidence that black people wrongly think they ARE inferior, when it’s really a reaction to people THINKING they’re inferior.

The way to fight the problem is to listen to black culture and find out how, exactly, the CONCEPT that they are a victim culture wreaks havoc on their lives and makes them hate their own skin.

In both cases, the solution is to listen.

But Christians won’t listen to atheists. Christians want atheists to listen to them, even as most atheists insist that they know Christian culture because they have to deal with it 24/7. They are affected by it far, far more than Christians are affected by them, and Christians would know this is they saw outside their Christian bubble and looked at things from the atheist’s perspective.

And white culture won’t listen to black culture. White culture wants black culture to listen to them, even as most of black culture insists that it knows white culture because it has to deal with it 24/7. They are affected by it far, far more than white culture is affected by them, and white culture would see this if they looked outside their white culture bubble and saw things from black culture’s perspective.

But that doesn’t happen overnight. For me, listening to atheists and getting past the idea that they were just mad at God took hours, days, months, years of conversation, arguments, tussles, back-and forths. It wasn’t just a “nod, you’re right.” It was deep conversations, trying to figure out why they had emotions I didn’t understand — not to judge, but to figure things out. Because I wanted to save them from hell, and didn’t know how. I even had to fight through strong opposition that what I thought was a compassionate reason to help them — saving them from hell — was the most offensive thing I could do. I even had to get over THAT. It was hard. It took tears. It took study. It took time, It took perseverance. And eventually, I think, I understand somewhat — but I still work on it. I still have disagreements. The path of understanding keeps going.

A lot of my Christian friends didn’t do that work. They didn’t have to, but as a result they still think atheists are just mad at God. They’re stuck.

For much of white culture, listening to black culture and getting past the idea that they are just a victim culture will take hours, days, months, years of conversation, arguments, tussles, back-and forths. It won’t be just a “nod, you’re right.” It will take deep conversations, trying to figure out why it has emotions much of white culture doesn’t understand — not to judge, but to figure things out. Perhaps, in the beginning, because it wants to save them from being victims in society, and doesn’t know how. White culture may even have to fight through strong opposition that what white culture thinks is a compassionate reason to help them — “saving” them on a high horse from being victims — is the most offensive thing it could do. It may even have to get over THAT. It will be hard. It will take tears. It will take study. It will take time, It will take perseverance. And eventually, those of white culture who do this hard work will think they understand somewhat — but they will still have to work on it. They will still have disagreements. The path of understanding keeps going.

A lot of white culture just won’t do that work. They don’t have to, but as a result they will still think black culture is just a victim culture. They’ll be stuck.

And on the other side, us atheists will look at those stuck Christians, and those of us who are born into black culture will look at stuck white culture, and be a little sad, and continue to be angry. with the knowledge that the bridge is just a few listening ears away…

And the band plays on.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. I have a Patreon, if you want to help me keep doing what I do.

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