Starting Point: Diversity

Author Bridget Gaudette

I'm an ex-Jehovah's Witness with a focus on Black atheism, humanism, and sex-positive dialogue. | @BridgetGaudette

I think you would be loathe to find many individuals in the atheist/skeptic/humanist movement who believe that everyone except non-White males should be disenfranchised. I don’t think anyone wants people to feel unsafe. If you are in this super small minority that believes otherwise (that only White males should have a voice and safety is not a concern), then all I can say this isn’t for or about you. For the other 99.9%, can we agree that the movement should be diverse? I believe so.

If almost everyone agrees that the movement should be inclusive, what is all of the online arguing about? I think it’s mostly about HOW we can make this happen (also, much of the arguing is pointing out where we feel others have failed to act or a person feels unheard). Some folks think it should happen organically: when non-Whites and/or non-males step up, then they’ll be heard.. just give it more time. Some folks think it’s via education: leaders et al. need to acknowledge the lack of diversity and learn about such concepts as privilege and discrimination. Some folks want to “force” it to happen by boycotting events and conventions and issuing forceful blogs.

I don’t know (three words people need to use WAY more often) the best way to accomplish more diversity. I don’t know. What I choose to believe is that calling people names (be it feminazis, chill-girls, misogynists, or other) is not the best way to address the issue (see Backfire Effect).

That being said, just because I don’t believe in a particular style of fighting DOES NOT mean that I don’t think there is a fight to be had. I spoke with a friend earlier and I stated that I don’t understand the snarky and/or angry tone of some blogs and he said something along the lines of “well I don’t mind it because the cause is something I believe in”. This stopped me in my tracks. I believe in equality, too! So, allow me to restate: Just because I choose to fight the good fight differently DOES NOT mean I don’t think there is a fight to be had. I am a feminist. I believe that women should have a voice in the matters that they want to have a voice in. I believe White male privilege exists. I believe that pretty much everyone except non-White males are underrepresented in the secular movement, and that we should be making strides towards accomplishing diversity.

MY style is less confrontational than others (of course I do have my moments). I have been able to easily, privately, contact people on all sides of this issue, so it’s not like we’re unable to shoot each other an email or Facebook message asking for a recantation or elaboration on something that we take issue with. Our movement needs more sweeping changes than this, and sending an email here or there won’t solve the problem entirely, but what if such a simple gesture could actually make a difference? So I suggest that when someone differs in style that you don’t assume they want the opposite of what you want. Almost all of us wants the movement to be inclusive. What I’m asking is that we all agree that the movement should be diverse and the disagreement is on how we accomplish this. 

Yes, I’m simplifying the issue for brevity’s sake. I could write a book on this. I simply feel that the best starting point is where we agree and then we work from there. That starting point is not “elevator-gate”. It’s not a leader’s rejection of having a sexual harassment policy. It’s not what T-shirt someone wore. It’s not a specific blog post. It’s not some tweet. The starting point we share is a desire for diversity.

From what I understand of Malcolm X and MLK Jr., both wanted equal rights for Blacks. One believed by any means necessary (including violence), the other thought peaceful, more passive demonstrations were a good idea. And most people were somewhere in between. I’m guessing they didn’t care for the others’ style nor how they were choosing to address the issue of Black inequality, but they both had similar starting points and end goals in mind. I hope Malcolm didn’t call MLK Jr. a house-nigger because of how well he worked with Whites and others to make change. I hope MLK Jr. didn’t call Malcolm an evil racist because he was more forceful. It seems counter-productive to assume the worst possible thing about another human being (they might have done this, I haven’t done the research).

So I challenge you.. us.. as a movement, agree that we want diversity, that we have the same starting and end point.. it’s how to get from one to the other that is causing all of the division. Let’s not assume that those who think diversity should happen naturally or those that don’t fully agree on what privilege means are misogynists and sister punishers. Let’s stop assuming that the people who push hard for sexual harassment policies and diverse speakers at conventions are all radical feminazi man-haters. Let’s reset and go back to the starting point where we know we actually agree and can move forward from: the desire for diversity.