Blackout Secular Rally: Atheism Makes Minority Inroads


In yet another sign of how the American secular demographic is emerging – in terms of both raw numbers and organizational commitment – the first-ever rally featuring nonbelievers of color is scheduled for later this month in New York. The Blackout Secular Rally takes place on the afternoon of Saturday, July 27, at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens.

The event was inspired by last year’s Reason Rally in Washington, says Mandisa Thomas, president of Black Nonbelievers, a co-sponsor of the celebration along withBlack Atheists of America. The Reason Rally drew over 20,000 nonbelievers from all over the country to the National Mall on a rainy March day, showing a solidarity that had never before been demonstrated by America’s atheists and humanists.

“We thought it would be a great idea to have a similar event," Thomas told me in a recent interview, adding that the Blackout will be a chance to showcase both the growing numbers of secular minorities as well as pro-secular speakers and performers who may not be well known outside the African-American community.  

Written By: David Niose
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  1. Thus, in some ways the Blackout can be seen as a revival or (sic) sorts – a revival of sad African-American experiences of slavery and slave mentality.

    There. Fixed it for you.

  2. In reply to #1 by RDfan:

    Thus, in some ways the Blackout can be seen as a revival or (sic) sorts – a revival of sad African-American experiences of slavery and slave mentality.

    There. Fixed it for you.

    Oh, look. The trolls have climbed over the bridge today.

  3. Not only did the white slavers of America entrap their victims physically, they indoctrinated them with Christian beliefs, forced them to worship the Christian god, persuading them that this was the way to salvation and a better life after death and Christianity would be the only way they could redeem themselves. Anything after death would be better than their enslavement endorsed by Christianity.

  4. In reply to #3 by ArloNo:

    Not only did the white slavers of America entrap their victims physically, they indoctrinated them with Christian beliefs

    “Religion is What Keeps the Poor from Murdering the Rich”.

    Couldn’t be more apt. Christianity is poisonous, and what kept the slavery, racial prejudices and colonialism going.

  5. “Blackout Secular Rally”,

    “the first-ever rally featuring nonbelievers of color”,

    “president of Black Nonbelievers”,

    “Black Atheists of America”.

    As a Brit, I find this need for self segregation quite perplexing and I am struggling to work out where the need comes from. Are things still so bad that ‘people of colour’ still feel that they cannot mix, especially at secular events, the one place I would have thought they would be more than welcome?

  6. Given how badly Christianity treated blacks over slavery, you would think there would be a movement to explore the original religious beliefs before enslavement or to cast off all religion. The Christian church is still segregated. They see the black part of the church that helped with desegregation, not the white part of the church that perpetuates it to this day.

    The church still teaches passivity. Up here Canada Christianity was taught to the natives deliberately to “soften them up” to make them pliable and easy to steal their land. I don’t think the average black Christian has any inkling of how callously they were used and bamboozled. It is a case of Stockhold syndrome.

  7. Yes, institutionalized racism still exists. It doesn’t just go away because people do not wish to acknowledge it. That being said, we receive support from people of all different backgrounds. There is a need for organizations to address issues that directly affect a particular segment – the black american community, in this instance. It is no different than organizations that directly deal with the youth, women, hispanics. etc. Each of these segments have their own cultural needs and organizations that seek to target those needs. Ignoring cultural differences is simply irresponsible. I’m excited that we received support from organizations, such as RDF who understands the need for diversity in the movement.

  8. In reply to #6 by old-toy-boy:

    I agree with Veggiemanuk. There is a hint of positive decrimination in Blackout.

    Hi “Veggiemanuk”, and, “old-toy-boy”. There is only one reason to have the “BlackOut” rally, and that one Excellent and Brilliant and very over due, but right on time reason is, to bring blacks and other people of color Out of the skeptics closet, and, others who just aren’t sure, And, other’s who just need support. They will know that they are not alone. Shit, I was alone for decades, ready to give up on love even, because there in no middle ground between a theist and a believer, and now, thanks to the internet, I know that there are other sane, unaffraid, thinkers out there. The BlackOut rally is another vehical like the internet. We know that there are skeptics amoungst the religious in the black community as well as the Latino, Asian and etc..and this is a Great way to help them out of the closet. Blacks in America are so steeped in religion that, up to just a few years ago, you’d be VERY Hard Pressed to find another atheist anywhere say in the city of Philadelphia let alone a black, Latino, Asian or Any other people of color that are non believers. This is a great thing. Peace!

  9. In reply to #9 by Smill:

    In reply to post 5 and 6. Where is this utopia you live in?

    It’s a land free of the tyranny of the discontinuous mind.

  10. In reply to #9 by Smill:

    In reply to post 5 and 6. Where is this utopia you live in?

    In the UK, we do not have ‘Black Britons’, we do not have ‘Brits of colour’ either and for sure, we do not have ‘African Brits’, we just have ‘Brits’ regardless of colour. Sure, some racism exists here in the UK, but it does not make the need for self segregation on a scale seen in the US. The sooner you loose and differentiating terms for people, the better. Why not just have ‘Americans’ and have done with it?

  11. In reply to #14 by Smill:

    In reply to post 13. ‘should everyone be categorised under an umbrella term so generalised it doesn’t recognise anyone? ‘

    Why this need to be differentiated from other people? Labels only serve to segregate, one person or people over another.

    I am interested in knowing where the term ‘Black American’ stems from, did it exist pre civil rights movement in the US and who continues it’s use today?

    And yes, it is self imposed segregation if a group of people insist on using a term that separates them from others, no one is forcing them to use the term. Why not ‘The Queens Secular Rally’ or some other non discriminating term?

    If we were to have a ‘White American Secular Rally’, you can bet your life you would get a deluge of complaints.

    Equality only works if you really want Equality.

  12. In reply to #16 by Smill:

    In reply to veggiemanuk, post 14. So why did you give yourself that particular username? Why did you feel the need to define yourself as vegetarian, male and British? Maybe because you think it says something important about who you are?

    Actually, like most nicknames, it was given to me by other people, in this instance, work colleagues some 15+ years ago when I worked nights at a local (then) supermarket, on the Produce department (Fruit and ‘Veg’) and I have used it ever since. And no, I am not a vegetarian, yes I am Male and I do indeed live in the UK.

    However, it says nothing about my Atheism or the fact that I just so happen to be white or my age.

    I also use another nickname, this time one I gave myself ‘Dropjaw’. Again, I do not drop Jaws, neither does my jaw, drop. Instead it is after an Undead character I created for World of Warcraft some years ago.

  13. Veggiemanuk – You seem to only have an issue with the word “black.” What about “American?” What about “Atheists?” There are three segments in my organization’s name and yet you only focus on one. There are many organizations around the world that focus on particular cultures.

    People who fight for equality know the need for organizations, such as mine. Equality does not work when you strive to ignore the very issue – institutionalized racism – that fosters the inequality. Again, both of our organizations have had support from real activists. Those that truly seek equality. Both organizations note which communities we are seeking to address and both organization have successfully proved to be useful in diversifying the atheist and skeptic community.

    Labels do not “segregate,” they identify. The fact that you are intimidated by my organization’s name speaks volumes. Ignoring the fact that there are different cultures is just plain ignorant. If you address children, the same way you address adults, for instance, you will be unsuccessful. My organization does not put “one person/people over another.” That’s the structure that is already in place. I did not create racism, it predates me, but you cannot eliminate a problem without discussing it.

    If you choose to ignore racism, then you are the problem. It only helps to promote it. Pretending that we are all the same does not suddenly put blacks on equal footing as whites in this country. We are activists. We fight inequalities. That cannot be done by acting like the inequalities do not exist. Anyone who wants to further our mission is welcome to join either of our organizations. We have support from activists of many different cultures who truly want to see a difference.

  14. In the past I’ve commented pretty strongly against this kind of thing. My feeling is race is a made up social construct anyway and rational people should let race play absolutely no part in their decisions about who they like, hire, etc. So groups that try to reinforce this harmful idea are ultimately doing more harm than good, the real goal is race doesn’t matter and that is what we should focus on. But after the recent Zimmerman verdict in Florida I’m starting to rethink that. (Even though I have to admit as I was typing the above it all sounded pretty good.. for once this is something I haven’t really made up my mind on)

    For those of you who don’t know in a nutshell George Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch guy who despite explicit orders from the cops followed and confronted a black teen he thought looked suspicious. An altercation took place and Zimmerman killed the unarmed black teen (Zimmerman had the legal right to carry a concealed handgun thanks to the insane US and Florida gun laws) who we now know for sure was just walking to the convenience store to get snacks.

    I’m sure people feel strongly about the Zimmerman case and I’m not trying to derail the conversation. I’m just saying these are my opinions if you disagree fine, start a thread on Zimmerman, but not here, I’m saying this just to clarify my muddled thoughts on the topic.

    Zimmerman ended up being acquited of all charges.

    The reason this makes me rethink the need for things like black identity is not just the travesty of justice, those happen. But the white reaction to it.. The kind of nonsense people have been spewing about this is just mind boggling. And while I hate people who over analyze political motives in this case it so obvious the subtle and not so subtle racism that underlies a lot of it. I was so close the other day to a hostile confrontation with some white punk in a Starbucks who was talking loudly about how the “Secretary of Defense Eric Holder” was going to use this as an excuse to constrain white rights (I at least did jump in and with my most condescending voice possible — which can be pretty condescending — told him Holder was the attorney general)

    So my point, sorry for the rambling comment, is that I get it more now. The situation for blacks in the US just is still really different and while it would be better to have an ideal world where that wasn’t so and that is what we should work for a reasonable intermediate step might include special groups like this.

  15. In reply to #18 by ayanna.watson.9:

    Actually, then why did the London Black Atheists – contact us about this event, citing the very thing you claim does not exist? Perhaps, you simply choose to ignore the need for the organization.

    Where did I claim racism does not exist in the UK?

  16. In reply to #21 by veggiemanuk:

    In reply to #18 by ayanna.watson.9:>

    Your comment – “In the UK, we do not have ‘Black Britons’, we do not have ‘Brits of colour’ either and for sure, we do not have ‘African Brits’, we just have ‘Brits’ regardless of colour.” This is an out and out lie.

    Furthermore, you seem to imply that racism is the same as small acts of prejudice and/or bigotry, it is not. It is institutionalized.

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