As a 6’5” African-American humanist, atheist, Unitarian male, I have spent much of my life defying stereotypes. This boldness came out of a lot of privilege in that I was raised by a liberal grandmother with whom I traveled to many countries in order to expose me to many different people from many different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. Even so, as we experience Black History Month in 2018, more and more it seems as though many feel that we are living in a political climate where we are more and more defined by our race, sexual orientation, religion, or lack thereof. More and more people feel empowered not be politically correct. For me, it has never been about being politically correct, but about being educated and putting it to use.
So how do I, as non-theistic person of faith who refuses to rely on a god, cope in this sad society struggling to be on the right side of history? Simple things like going to a bar or restaurant by alone or taking trips by myself has helped with reaffirming my inherent worth and dignity. These alone times are reminding me that there are places in the world, and even in America, that actually are on the right side of history, and that we can all make a positive difference in society as I meet people who think more like me, than I realized.
When I go to a restaurant alone and especially when sitting at the bar, I often talk to people different than me. On these occasions, I realize that there are many whites who are as alarmed by our political climate as I am. There are as many straight people who are as alarmed as I am by rise in homophobia. There are as many younger people who are as alarmed as I am by our increasing disregard for the elderly. While I appreciate our news sources, be it CNN, MSNBC, or even crazy FOX News at times, there is no substitute for one-on-one interaction with people to show me what the world is really about.
Obviously, I don’t need to go to a bar by yourself in order to interact with people I don’t know. There are many activities that allow me to interact with people who are different. Engaging in activities as an individual allows me to encounter others beyond the safe spaces of my familiar groups and space. For me, this is a sacred act of self-care.
On Sunday, at the Unitarian Society that I attend, our assistant minister shared a reflection entitled, “This is Us!” In this peculiar climate, it is tempting to see our divisions and think, “This is US!” But actually, a trip to a good bar (one not segregated by race or sexual orientation) shows me the true “This is US!”
As we reflect upon Black History Month and the sacrifices made by African Americans, but also all Americans, to ensure equality in America. We have come a long way to ensure that “This is US” is a reflection in our diversity, not our divisiveness. May we make those who have sacrificed and gone before us, both living and dead, proud as we stand against the divisiveness of these times. Because, in America our diversity is what embodies “This is US,” not our divisiness.