This month I attended a secular conference. While I enjoyed myself, learned some new things, and met some new people, one conference speaker almost spoiled the whole thing for me.
This conference was right in my wheel house. It focused on being a secular person and on social justice. It definitely had a liberal bent which I rarely have a problem with.
One issue that did come up was the conference was scheduled to fall on the anniversary of the day an unarmed black man was murdered by a white police officer in a town close to the conference host city. The conference failed to acknowledge the anniversary until people complained.
I was concerned but it didn’t derail my interest in the conference and the various workshops and speakers.
A conference speaker on the main stage did almost spoil the weekend for me.
The topic of the talk originally was going to be about social justice in the secular community but the speaker and her co-speaker decided to talk about the negative police relationship with the African-American community as a whole. Both speakers were women but neither speaker was black – one was south Asian and the other white. The white woman was the one I had an issue with.
I’m a white cis gendered male so I go to these events and listen. I want to be a better ally to people of color and learn how I can use my privilege to open doors for others to come through. I do have to hear a lot of complaints about my privilege and how we cause a lot of the problems for people of color and other marginalized groups. I’m fine with that. I want to be better.
I still want speakers to make sense and be logical in their arguments.
One of the first things the white woman – who I will call Molly – said was she was an atheist but when she is protesting with the black community and a woman beside her, who has lost a child because the child was killed by the police and says that God is the only reason she can get out of bed in the morning, how can she tell the woman God doesn’t exist.
Well in that specific situation you DON’T.
Just because one is an atheist doesn’t mean one marches around and yells it at every opportunity. There is decorum and tact and reading an audience.
Atheists and believers can come together over the same issue without having to name check their beliefs at the same time.
It seems like common sense to me.
Molly, at a later point in her speech, said she lived in a major urban city on the east coast and was 42 years old. She said she didn’t know there was a problem with the police and the black community until Trayvon Martin was murdered.
What??? She’s 42 years old, lives in a major city, and only knew there was a problem of unarmed blacks being murdered by the police in 2012???
Wow… She’s woke now…
Maybe she meant to say she didn’t start protesting until then which would make sense. A white person can live in a major city and not really care something like that is happening. A lot of white people today do that or go so far as to say “All Lives Matter” to belittle the marginalized groups or bitch about being late for work when protesters block a major city street.
I will give Molly the benefit of the doubt but that day, during her speech I just remember thinking that she lost all credibility with me. It just seems completely wrong to accept advice from a middle age white person who, until recently, was clueless about the world outside their “colorblind” community.
Molly ultimately had something important to say so that’s why I am being vague on the personal details of the woman and the details of the speech. But I hope in the future white people talking to other white people about being better allies do a better job of expressing their expertise on the issue.