On April 7 there’s a day-long event called Secular Social Justice 2018 that I really wish I could attend (and if my health problems have stabilized by then, I’m going to try to go). It’s being hosted by the American Humanist Association but the person who really is behind the idea is the amazing Sikivu Hutchinson, who organized a similar event in Houston in 2016. She explains the necessity of such an event:
Challenging the secular movement’s dominance by white elites, the secular social justice conferences that we spearheaded in previous years were designed to bring social justice activism to the fore of radical humanism and atheism.
SSJ was intended as a platform for activist humanist, atheist, and skeptic organizations of color from around the nation to share their intersectional organizing work. It was in direct response to the Eurocentric notion that addressing institutional racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, and white supremacy within the context of secularism was unnecessary or “distracting.”
Our focus was the particular struggles of people of color within the context of state violence, hyper-segregation, economic inequality, mass incarceration, and the neoliberal gutting of public education. These systems have had the most devastating impact on our communities, and have only intensified the grip of organized religion precisely because there is no comprehensive social welfare safety net that addresses these disparities.
The rise of Trumpian neo-fascism makes secular social justice activism even more relevant to communities of color grappling with the anti-human rights backlash of the current administration.
The thing that I find exciting about this conference is not only that it will address these very important issues of justice and equality, but that not a single one of the speakers is someone I’ve heard at an atheist/humanist conference before. Frankly, I get tired of hearing the same people speak at conferences — even when it’s me! We need new voices, new ideas, new perspectives. We need to hear from communities of people that have not had a seat at the table. And we need to listen to them.
I want to attend this conference not so I can offer my own ideas but so I can listen to others, to people who are directly affected in a way that I, as a straight white guy from a relatively privileged background, will never be. I believe it is absolutely crucial that we put those who are the victims of injustice at the forefront of humanist activism, that we listen to them when they tell us what we can do to support them and that we commit ourselves to working to make society more fair, more just and more equal.
I probably won’t be able to be there, unfortunately, but I hope some of you can go. And if you do and would like to write up something about it, I’d love to put it up as a guest post here.