Women of Color Beyond Belief 2022: Disrupting Religious Fascism and Respectability

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By Sikivu Hutchinson, from The Humanist

While it may be true that religiosity is declining among the overall American population (and Gen Z women), its grip on Black women and women of color is still powerful. A recent survey by Secular Woman and American Atheists, (which encompassed over 50,000 respondents) suggests that women nonbelievers are “more likely than others to encounter stigma and discrimination in nearly every area of their lives —including social media, education, employment, the military, and within their families—because of their beliefs.” Traditional sexist, patriarchal, cis-normative, and heteronormative gender roles and expectations contribute to deep stigmas against women nonbelievers across ethnicity.

Consequently, men are more comfortable openly identifying as atheists, while women nonbelievers are more inclined to hide their views from their families and communities. Negative cultural perceptions associating atheism with immorality and even Satanism are especially insidious for Black women atheists and religiously unaffiliated Black women. According to a 2021 survey on Black nonbelievers, African American atheists were “one-half as likely to have supportive parents and three times as likely to be physically assaulted” than non-Black participants. Perceived as betraying African American faith-based traditions, Black women atheists in particular experience high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. These factors are further compounded by the discrimination Black women experience when accessing mental and reproductive health care.

As White Christian Nationalists steamroll over our fundamental human and civil rights, communities of color are under siege from multiple forces. The overturn of Roe v. Wade, white supremacist attacks on Black communities, and the exodus of women of color from the workforce due to the pandemic, imperil Black socioeconomic wellbeing. Nationwide, homophobic and transphobic attacks on LGBTQI+ youth, gender-affirming care, and anti-racist curricula are creating a terrorist cultural backlash that will undoubtedly increase violence against BIPOC queer, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary youth. And, contrary to mainstream perceptions about LGBTQI+ identification, Black folks are more likely to identify as queer and are also more likely to be raising children while living at or below the poverty line.

It is against this dire national backdrop that the third annual Women of Color Beyond Belief (WOCBB) conference kicks off in Chicago in late September. The annual conference was launched in 2019 by Black NonbelieversBlack Skeptics, and the Women’s Leadership Project to provide a BIPOC feminist humanist space for secular women of color across the globe to connect and collaborate. The only event of its kind in the nation (and, perhaps, in the world), the conference is an antidote to white-dominated convenings that tokenize a few “star” PoC speakers and treat social justice like an afterthought.

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