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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sikivu on the Exhale Show




Exhale show: Aspire Network

Wednesday, July 31st 8/7CT:

Faith & Religion
Season 1 Episode 5


The women of Exhale are having some spirited conversation with Columbia Pictures Executive and Author of Produced By Faith Devon Franklin, R&B Artist Kelly Price, Pastor Beverly Bam Crawford and atheist and Author of Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and The Values Wars Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson. They'll talk about getting through trials that put our faith to the test, religion and homosexuality, the role of women in the Church and the increasing number of African Americans who don't believe – black atheists.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Shadow of the Plantation: Statement in Solidarity with Stop Patriarchy’s Abortion Freedom Rides



By Sikivu Hutchinson

In her book In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Alice Walker writes, “What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s time? Our great-grandmothers’ day? Did you have a genius of a great-great-grandmother who died under some ignorant and depraved white overseer’s lash? Or was her body broken and forced to bear children (who were more often than not sold away from her)—eight, ten, fifteen, twenty children—when her one joy was the thought of modeling heroic figures of rebellion?”

Some of us are here because our foremothers were enslaved, raped and forced to bear children they didn’t want. Some of us are here because our foremothers did everything possible to salvage their lives and self-dignity with alternative medicine and often dangerous aborting devices. In a culture in which women of color are expected to sacrifice, total self-determination has always been a revolutionary act. The current climate of Christian fascist anti-abortion terrorism is a mortal threat to communities of color and all working class people nationwide. It is an affront to the valiant activism of scores of anonymous women who died in back alleys from “illegal” abortions rather than be shackled to the dehumanizing gender hierarchies of the state, patriarchy and the church. The brutal crackdown on reproductive health care, abortion providers and clinics in Texas, the Midwest and throughout the Deep South is a reminder of the blood price women of color and working class women must pay to be free, to even be considered human in this so-called post-feminist society. It is important that the reproductive justice movement not allow the pro-death, anti-abortion, anti-family values fascists of the right drive their biblical stake through women’s bodies again by pimping the language of “protection” and “pro-life”. Over the past few years Christian fascists have labored fiercely to create conditions in which universal health care is deemed to be anti-American and Black and Latina women are criminalized as “dangerous” wombs; mere breeders with no basic human rights. Outlandishly, they have gone so far as to compare fetuses to slaves, and, by implication, women of color to slave owners, stamping the “Scarlet I” of immorality on our bodies. These rich white male guardians of death are in league with a regime which is the most prolific jailer and executioner of Black people in the capitalist world. They care nothing about the scores of children of color in foster care, on the streets, and in prisons. For them, children of color are only useful as political pawns in the anti-welfare state public policy and propaganda war; demonized as collateral damage, welfare queens, savages, and criminals a la Trayvon Martin, a beautiful Black boy lynched twice by the criminal justice system. In Texas, disproportionate numbers of Latinas rely on Medicaid, which is under attack by the Perry administration. And in Mississippi, disproportionate numbers of poor and working class African American women rely on the imperiled family planning clinic that currently hangs by a legal thread.

Decades after the end of Jim Crow, white people have over twenty times the wealth of Blacks and Latinos and the myth of the accessible American dream has turned into even more of a nightmare for people of color besotted with the delusion of democracy. The assault on women’s abortion rights is yet another assault on economic and social justice and a betrayal of the foremothers who sacrificed so we would never know the shadow of the plantation.

The Abortion Freedom Rides will kick off July 23rd in New York and San Francisco and end August 17th with in a Day of Action in Jackson, Mississippi. For more information contact the Stop Patriarchy coalition, stoppatriarchy@gmail.com.
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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Trayvon's Class of 2013



By Sikivu Hutchinson

Yesterday, at Black Skeptics Los Angeles’ scholarship ceremony, my colleagues and I had the honor of awarding scholarships to five brilliant youth of color who are first generation college students. They are 17 and 18 year-olds who have known more struggle and sacrifice than many adults have known in their entire lives. They have each battled the dominant culture’s view that they are not white, male, straight, wealthy or smart enough to be genuine college material. They have all seen their neighborhoods—South L.A. communities powered by hard working people, students, activists, educators from all walks of life—portrayed as ghetto cesspit jungles where violent savages roam, welfare queens breed, and drive-bys rule. They have all mourned the absence of young friends and relatives who did not live to see their high school, much less college, graduation ceremonies. Looking around the room at their bright young faces, surrounded by proud family members, teachers, and mentors, the collective sense of duty and obligation everyone felt toward this next generation of intellectuals, activists and scholars was evident.

Because the ceremony occurred in the midst of national anxiety over the murder trial of George Zimmerman it was both a celebration of promise and a bittersweet paean to the burning loss and betrayal communities of color routinely experience in this racist apartheid nation. Trayvon Martin would’ve been 18 this year, a graduate of the class of 2013. He might have been college-bound, anxious, bracing against the fear of the unknown, heady with anticipation about the future. He might have been mindful of the psychological and emotional miles he’d have to travel to be freed from the prison of society’s demonizing assumptions. He might have experienced all of these feelings while grieving the untimely deaths of his own friends and being told that young black lives don’t matter.

Zimmerman’s acquittal for his cold-blooded murder is a turning point and baptism by fire in the cultural politics of colorblindness. It is a turning point for every middle class child of color who believes their class status exempts or insulates them from criminalization. It is a turning point for every suburban white child whose lifeblood is the comfort and privilege of presumed innocence. It is a turning point for every Talented Tenth parent of color who has deluded themselves about the corrupt creed of Americana justice. And it is a turning point for a collective historical amnesia in which race and racism are soft-pedaled through imperialist narratives of progress, enlightenment and transcendence.

For black people who have had faith in the criminal justice system and due process it is no longer possible to pretend that black life is worth more than that of a dog killed in broad daylight on a city street. People who kill dogs—or those who run vicious dog-fighting rings like NFL football player Michael Vick—receive longer prison sentences than do law enforcement officials (or their surrogates) who kill black people. For a predominantly white female jury that did not see the crushing loss in the murder of a young man pursued by a predator who was expressly told not to leave his vehicle by law enforcement; the life of a dog was apparently more valuable.

This is one of the indelible lessons in “democracy” and American exceptionalism that Trayvon’s class will take with them to college and hopefully spend their lives fighting to upend.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Creepy Crackers n' Shucking Toms



By Sikivu Hutchinson

Pity poor Uncle Tom. When angry white male atheists start trotting him out as a cover for their racist circle jerk you know you've got a postmodern moment with a cherry on top. Although it’s never stopped being open season on black folk in America the Beautiful, the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act, its partial smackdown of affirmative action and the happy times for George Zimmerman defense trial signal that the gloves are off again. So now it seems the wages of whiteness atheist privilege brigade has come full circle from American Atheists’ 2012 naked shackled black slave billboard to Cult of Dusty's viral “Black Christians=Uncle Toms” You Tube tirade. According to creepy-cracker-white-man’s-burden-Dusty all black folk who subscribe to Christianity are not only domesticated dupes but neo-slave House Negro Stephens (in reference to Quentin Tarantino’s wet dream of buck-dancing black male cunning) shucking and jiving in our own 21st century version of Django Unchained. But this racist ignoramus is no latter day John Brown dropping knowledge on us docile backward noble savages cowering under the yoke of dis here Good Book blessed by Massa’s benevolence.

Conveniently omitted from this and umpteen other white atheist paeans to enlightening the dark hordes of ghetto superstition is any analysis of the white supremacist brutality of exalted secularist icons like Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other revolutionary war patriots who built American empire on the backs of slave labor and through the propaganda of democratic citizenship. Missing from this equation is a takedown of the proto-capitalist engine of black exploitation under slavery, its echoes in 20th century Jim Crow public policy and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration that fuels the criminal wealth gap between whites and people of color. As Toni Morrison so sagely put it, slavery and freedom existed side by side, for “nothing highlighted freedom if it did not in fact create it, like slavery. Black slavery enriched the country’s creative possibilities for in that construction of blackness and enslavement could be found not only the not-free…but the not-me.” Then, as now, freedom, individualism and universal citizenship (the ostensible ideological impetus for the Revolutionary War) were based on white supremacy and racialized notions of nationhood. In the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676 white working class laborers were conferred with citizenship privileges—i.e., the right to bear arms, assemble, hold property and move around freely—entitlements that no black person slave or free could ever enjoy. After the gradual institutionalization of racial slavery in the 1640s the categories slave and black became synonymous as did the categories white and free. There was no loophole for any enlightened black non-theists that might have been running around. There was no honorary black slave status (with the advantages of beatings, rapes, lifelong enslavement and dehumanization) granted pesky white atheists and anti-clericalists. And the very secular American Constitution branded black slaves as 3/5s of a man in order to ensure that slave states had equal representation in Congress.

Racial slavery was driven by economic conditions and the proto-capitalist rise of American empire. It provided an insurance policy against white working class resistance against the white aristocracy (from Jefferson the rapist slaver to the Koch brothers) by giving poor white folk access to the wages of whiteness. As Theodore Allen writes in the Invention of the White Race, “At every turn, from the late 17th to the early 18th century, underclass whites were granted more and more rights and privileges: ‘The white-skin privileges of the poor free whites were simply reflexes of the disabilities imposed on the Negro slave: to move about freely without a pass; to marry without any upper-class consent; to change employment; to vote in elections in accordance with the laws on qualifications; to acquire property; and last, but not least, in this partial list, the right of self-defense.’”

Christianity did indeed buttress the regime of racial slavery and white supremacy, but, contrary to the delusions of some atheists, no mass secular/atheist/humanist uprising led to its dismantling—just as there has been no mass secular/atheist/humanist uprising against the mass incarceration of millions of African Americans in the world's "greatest" democracy.

African American Christian theology, critique, organizing and oratory were powerful tools for revolutionary black abolitionist and black feminist resistance. Revolutionaries like Frederick Douglass, Maria Stewart (a black feminist forerunner and the first American woman to address a mixed audience), Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Henry Highland Garnett forged a global religious and anti-clericalist movement against slavery along with scores of unsung activist whites and people of color. This legacy of black resistance informs a 21st century context of anti-racist struggle in which African Americans are confronted by more insidious residential segregation, long term unemployment and barriers to upward mobility than during the Jim Crow era. But white atheists who spew the Uncle Tom charge won't be down with that analysis, because white supremacy means having the privilege to demean and school the ignorant backward Other while profiting from interlocking systems of race, class, gender and capitalist exploitation that keep white America safe and secure in its segregated neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, grocery stores, retail centers, churches, university science programs, hedge funds and think tanks.

Lawdy! Massa cracker don didn't tell us dat though.

On its Wednesday show the Black Freethinkers network, hosted by founder Kimberly Veal, will break down the video controversy as well as the historical context of slavery, Uncle Tom and the political subtext of black caricatures. For more information contact: blackfreethinkers@gmail.com.