Tonight, I want to talk about the intersection of religion and race in America, in that insidious institution of privilege. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the majority of those who read this will be nominally or devoutly religious. That is, you believe in the existence of a single (or even multiple) higher being(s). And if so, even if you are a racial minority in the United States, you are part of an overwhelming religious majority.
My current default icon for IBARW states, "Do you really
not see race?" And the tone of that question applies to every institutional prejudice; no one can be aware of all of them. For example, until coffeeandink
's excellent post
today (warning for pregnancy squick), I didn't know about ableism. Now I do, and even if I later forget, the knowledge will sit in the back of my mind. So I write about religion, only tangentially related to race, because awareness aids all kinds of anti-discrimination.
As my friends well know, I am atheist. I also love to argue. You can see where that might lead to untactful conversations, yes? But I ask you to consider the following, some of which is obvious and some of which is hopefully not as obvious.
1. "In God We Trust"--printed on every U.S. bill of currency (and coin?). So who is this collective "we" that trusts in an unspecified god? I certainly trust no god or goddess, seeing as I am convinced of the non-existence of any deity, with perhaps an exception for a deity that has absolutely no interaction with this plane/universe (including creation).
2. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God
, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." Interesting fact: I consider myself Chinese-Canadian, i.e. not American. However, I know the Pledge of Allegiance by heart because when I moved here in elementary school, it was a (Communist-esque) mandatory daily recitation. Recent rulings have allowed students to omit the italicized clause, but in practical terms, that does nothing but ostracize the rare prescient student who makes such a choice. Why is the U.S. so insecure that it requires (by an unspoken code of ethics, if not by law) its youngest citizens to recite an oath of allegiance? Freedom should also mean the choice to not
be loyal to one's country, so long as you don't break any laws.
3. "*sneeze* Bless you!" This seems to be an American quirk, since I don't recall ever being blessed for sneezing in Newfoundland (and this at a school where we said grace every lunchtime). Whether or not the implied "God" is omitted, I still don't understand why you or your deity would wish to bless me. Especially since I'm going to hell as a blasphemer, etc.
4. Christmas and Easter breaks, now renamed to the politically correct Winter and Spring Breaks. I can accept that Christmas has become a commercialized holiday. However, I see no reason to take a week off from school in the middle of spring every year, somewhere in March or April. Jewish people have excused absences for their holidays, but the major Christian holidays are school-wide vacations.
5. And finally, the little things. For instance, I have a wonderful yoga DVD that I love; I even embrace some of its dubious health claims. But in the Closing Prayer is a jarring farewell note of "God bless you." I assume that the viewer may fill in their own god as necessary--while those of us with no such handy filler must simply ignore it. There are so many little things in life that as a minority--whether that involves belief, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else--one learns to ignore in order to survive sane. Because you can't get offended by everything. You can't argue at every single opportunity. In such an outnumbered battle, you can only choose strategic retreats--and strategy dictates sacrifice of the little things.
Privilege is a wide, overarching influence. If you read or participate in IBARW, I know that other bloggers will gladly enlighten you concerning white privilege. But for many of the non-white people: please consider your religious privilege. Barack Obama has faced undeniable prejudice during his Presidential campaign, but I assure you, if Obama or even any old white man were openly atheist, they wouldn't have a chance in hell at winning. I am Asian, Canadian, female, and atheist; I am also lucky enough to be middle-class, educated, able (physically and mentally), and cisgendered. But of the many minorities I belong to, atheism is by far the most dangerous. So I guess I'm saying, think about the privilege that you take for granted, and don't limit your activism to one cause and one week.
<End of infomercial; we now return to our regularly scheduled topic for this week.>