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Monday, November 7, 2011

Sikivu's "Savvy Sister of the Week" Interview

This week I'm profiled as Savvy Sister of the Week by My Savvy Sisters Editor
Te-Erika Patterson:

MSS: Being Black, feminist and atheist sounds like a triple punch in the face to the "Miss Manners" generation. Can you remember what it was like to form these feminist and atheist views?

Sikivu: I grew up in a secular household, so I had a leg up on skepticism, freethought and intellectual curiosity. Both my parents were what I would call “activist scholars.” Some of my earliest memories coming of age in South L.A. in the 70s and 80s were of going to demonstrations, public forums and meetings on social justice issues relevant to the black community, particularly around the pervasiveness of police terrorism and police misconduct during that era. I was also exposed to authors, intellectuals and historical figures of African descent (many of whom embraced freethought) very early on, so this became my moral foundation. My parents ensured that I had literature from black women thinkers and writers. My father gave me my first anthology (by Mari Evans) on black women writers in high school and my mother was a nationally esteemed English teacher heavily into forerunning womanist/feminist writers like Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. These were my values. Consequently, Christianity, supernaturalism and belief in God really had no bearing on my sense of ethics, justice, fairness and identity.

MSS: Outing yourself as an atheist in this society could be painful and scary. Why is it important to you to share your views on spirituality or the lack thereof?

Sikivu: My world view as a non-believer and a humanist goes beyond the question of spirituality. There have always been black free thinkers and secular humanists who have challenged the ways in which Western notions of personhood, public morality and Manifest Destiny-style justice pivot on racial/sexual otherness and the imperialist dehumanization of people of color. The dominant culture simply doesn’t acknowledge these traditions as being a legitimate and culturally relevant part of black intellectual history and social thought. For example, mainstream discourse fetishizes black religiosity and deifies MLK as a strictly religious figure and thinker without reference to the humanist underpinnings of black liberation struggle. So my charge is to bring secular humanist traditions to the fore and contextualize them in terms of the human rights struggles that people of African descent are still waging in this so-called era of American exceptionalism, post-racialism and post-feminism.

MSS: Is Feminism an anti-man movement? In your eyes, what is it?

Sikivu: The idea that feminism is “anti-man” is an absurd caricature. In its most radical humanistic form, feminism is a movement for the recognition of the absolute human rights of women, their families and communities. It seeks to break down heterosexist and patriarchal models of masculine and feminine that straightjacket all genders into binary oppositional roles. Patriarchy and sexism...More @