Magazine article The Humanist

To Be Young, Gifted, Secular and Black: Black Youth Who Reject Organized Religion Don't Have the Social and Economic Benefits of White Privilege to Blunt Their "Apostasy."

Magazine article The Humanist

To Be Young, Gifted, Secular and Black: Black Youth Who Reject Organized Religion Don't Have the Social and Economic Benefits of White Privilege to Blunt Their "Apostasy."

Article excerpt

A though in the United States young millennials lead the growing wave of "nones" (those who answer "none" when asked their religious affiliation), there has been little mainstream media coverage of secular youth of color. Being nonreligious is just one of many intersectional identities that make these nones outliers. Like their religious peers, college-bound secular youth of color face the challenge of navigating institutional racism in historically white-dominated colleges and universities and of adjusting to academic climates where they may never have a professor or dean who looks like them. Compounding matters has been a lack of visible commitment on the part of secular organizations to the social justice and educational equity issues most relevant to communities where black and Latino youth are being incarcerated in greater numbers. * Responding back in 2013 to the absence of any such effort, Black Skeptics Los Angeles (BSLA) launched the First in the Family Humanist Scholarship fund (in collaboration with Atheists United, the American Humanist Association, and Foundation Beyond Belief) to provide support for foster care, homeless, undocumented, LGBTQ, and system-involved youth of color--youth populations that have historically been shut out of college access. In 2015 BSLA partnered with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) on the Catherine Fahringer scholarship for secular youth of color--the only national scholarship of its kind.

So what motivates some millennial youth of color to embrace secularism, atheism, agnosticism, or humanism? I asked four outstanding graduates of the classes of 2015 and 2016 to reflect on their views.

MARIO ANDERSON (above, left) graduated this year from King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science in South Los Angeles. He is a recipient of the 2016 First in the Family Humanist Scholarship and will attend the University of California, Los Angeles in the fall.

   The reason I associate myself with nonreligious beliefs is because
   I realized that there is no invisible source of support that sits
   on a cloud and offers love and protection to us. This conclusion
   was derived from personal experience after years of struggling with
   my beliefs. I always wished I wasn't visually impaired and scrawny.
   I prayed for years to not be bullied because of my size, race, and
   the fact that I wasn't straight. After nothing changed, it became
   clear that some invisible all-powerful person, who loves me but who
   wouldn't help me in any way until I died, sounded ridiculous. I did
   and do understand that I am the master of my fate, and I am the
   only one who can make my life better despite all the challenges I
   was born with. I am happier with this resolution and feel that if
   others adopted it, they too would be much better off.

   I will be attending the University of California, Los Angeles in
   the fall for my freshman year. Following my UCLA education, my
   future ambitions are to become fluent in Spanish and help members
   of my community as a physician. I want to start a program in my
   community that helps less fortunate people who don't have health
   insurance.

MIANI GIRON received her B.S. in biology from Syracuse University this year and will attend medical school at UCLA in the fall. She is a former foster care youth, graduate of Gardena High School in South Los Angeles, and an alumnus and former president of the Women's Leadership Project, feminist/humanist mentoring program.

   I began to question the authenticity of religion in 2012, the year
   I started my undergraduate program at Syracuse. As an elective, I
   registered for a Women's and Gender Studies course, which exposed
   me to the reality of patriarchy. With this newfound knowledge, I
   was able to recognize patriarchal values throughout our society,
   including in its most widely distributed "nonfiction" book, the
   Bible. I found such patriarchal notions within a "holy" text to be
   extremely hypocritical and eventually found myself straying away
   from organized religion, specifically Christianity. … 
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