I Have Something to Say about Humanism
I’m not your average aspiring secular politician. No doubt people raise their eyebrows when they find out that this candidate is a freethinking, skeptical, secular humanist, agnostic, nonbelieving Satanist. I’m also a stand-up comic, public speaker, former U.S. Marine, retired peace officer, and small business owner. I usually stop short at referring to myself as an atheist though. I’m already black, and I don’t need the extra baggage, especially because I’m preparing for another run for California State Senate in 2020.
As I told VICE News in 2016 during my last run, when I was the first black Satanist to run for political office (edited for clarity):
If I wasn’t an activist for the secular community, I would be in a shoo-in. Article six, section three of the Constitution states, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” So if we can knock people out of their way of thinking and they listen to my issues—I’m screaming to these people about improving education on the east side. My wife is a teacher. She works in the economically challenged part of town. We’ve got high poverty levels, eighty-two percent of the kids qualify for free lunch, the grades are below average, especially when it comes to African American kids. And none of the preachers are mentioning this shit. None of them are talking about it. Those problems persist.
Though I didn’t win last time, I did manage to pull in 13 percent of the vote in the 2016 primary without any support from the Democratic party whatsoever, even as the very first black Satanist to ever run for office (you could probably more accurately refer to me as a satanic progressive Democrat). This time, I plan to win.
Let’s be real. By all definitions of atheism, I am an atheist whether or not I identify as one on any given day. I’m also a humanist. It’s humanist tenets—ethical values, aspiring to the greater good of humanity, and being driven by science and data—that guide me as I enter the 2020 race for state Senate in California’s 21st district.
I urge other humanists to stand behind me and support me in this race. But first, I want to make clear that my brand of humanism is all-encompassing—I use data and compassion to determine what should matter to me as a human being and as a candidate. As I told Time in 2016, I also make sure to see the issues from as many perspectives as possible, and that’s where Satanism comes in for me—Satan as the rebel, as the unsilenced inquirer.
My secular, humanist, and atheist community is full of tenacious, talented, and brave unsilenced inquiry. But as a black man, I can’t help but look at the slow motion genocide of the black man in America and ask myself, “Where are the humanists? When are the humanists coming to the rescue?”
I know we all have a lot going on. I don’t necessarily blame the atheist, secular, and humanist community for overlooking the data on what amounts to continued segregation and modern slavery of black people, because it’s just not obvious to most of our demographic. The fact is, most of the atheist community is white for complex and myriad reasons.
So it makes sense that most of the atheist community is simply unaware of the facts about the black man’s plight. I think I have made enough of the atheist community uncomfortable with my stand-up comedy on this topic at various secular events, so let’s get down to it, because the sooner you see it, the sooner we can do something about it.
Let’s look at the undeniable effects of over-incarceration on the black community. One would assume that humanists would have some interest in these numbers, which show that what is happening is totally inhumane, in part because it destroys the family structure.
The reality is that segregation never left America, and residential segregation means that black kids are more likely to have run-ins with the police because police, and people in general, presume that black people are more guilty or dangerous, whether the presumption is implicit or explicit.
It’s called the “school-to-prison pipeline” for a reason. In 43 states plus the District of Columbia, black students are arrested at school at disproportionately high levels, perhaps because they’re more likely to attend schools with police presence. There are also other educational disparities. For example, black and Latinx students are less likely to attend schools with experienced educators and are less likely to access rigorous coursework.
Consider the example of drug arrests. In the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about seventeen million whites and four million African Americans reported having used an illicit drug within the last month. But the imprisonment rate for African Americans is almost six times the rate of white imprisonment for drug charges.
The inhumane hypersegregation of our communities, due in large part to the long history of government redlining and deed-districting, is also easy for humanists to ignore. But the facts don’t lie. Segregation impacts not only neighborhoods but schools too, which has a lifelong impact on achievement and opportunity. And of course, the effect of mass incarceration on communities of color reverberates, impacting everything from children and households to educational and employment opportunities.
As President Lyndon Johnson said at a 1965 commencement address at Howard University, “Equal opportunity is essential, but not enough, not enough. Men and women of all races are born with the same range of abilities. But ability is not just the product of birth. Ability is stretched or stunted by the family that you live with, and the neighborhood you live in—by the school you go to and the poverty or the richness of your surroundings. It is the product of a hundred unseen forces playing upon the little infant, the child, and finally the man.”
But as just a sampling of statistics out of a vast amount of peer-reviewed literature on these disparities show, we haven’t even attained equal opportunity. My fellow humanists, I implore you to apply your closely held tenets of reason and data driving your actions and worldviews. I implore you to overlook these facts no longer and wake up!
I have little faith in the religious community to solve this problem. Based on this factual data alone, you would think that even slightly skeptical church leaders would ask questions about the actual existence of an entity with powers of love and compassion. You would think that, at minimum, religious leaders could provide a reasonable explanation as to why these conditions exist in 2019.
I have little faith in the leadership of our highly acclaimed black activists to solve this problem. They are hopelessly caught up in extreme over-religiosity, which inhibits a clear vision forward. Their belief is in the intervention of a higher, all-powerful being who has, in fact, done absolutely nothing to correct it for centuries.
So this leaves me with two options: 1) Wait on the black church, secular, humanist, and atheist movement to raise their level of consciousness toward these injustices, and to understand that fighting for black communities and other communities of color isn’t merely “identity politics” but rather a crucial step toward true equity and humanism, or 2) Run for political office and make an attempt to effect change myself. The first option is ambitious, and I hope this article makes some headway. But I’m going to be proactive and run for office, too. Stay tuned.