Podcasts/Sacred Tension-Black Nonbelievers Finala8dzg

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Black_Nonbelievers_Finala8dzg SUMMARY KEYWORDS black, people, community, organization, tst, white, absolutely, folks, church, religion, rock candy, atheists, represented, christianity, speaking, white supremacy, systemic, listening, eden, racism SPEAKERS Stephen Bradford Long, Matt Langston, Mandisa Thomas

Matt Langston 00:00 You're listening to a rock candy podcast. Hey guys, my name is Matt Langston. I am a music producer, a mix engineer and an avid unicorn enthusiast and I would like to invite you over to my podcast 11 D live on eleventy life we get to talk to your favorite artists, producers and creators about what makes them tick. We take deep dives into where they get their juiciest inspirations from and how they keep from being cynical about all of it. We even get to pull back the curtain on my band eleventy seven and share some fun insider tips and tricks for our fellow bandmates and creators out there. So be sure to check out eleventy life right here on the rock candy Podcast Network and wherever you get your favorite shows.

00:40 This is sacred tension, the podcast about the discipline of asking questions. My name is Dante Amadeus alimony and you're listening to the rock candy network. For more shows like this one, go to rock candy recordings.com Now I know what you're probably thinking Stephen and I had to duel to the death and I vanquished him to become the star of this show. And while I commend you for the theory, in reality, Steven was feeling a bit under the weather this week and asked me to step in. For those of you who don't know me my name is Dante aka llama boy and I'm the producer for this podcast. In this week's episode, Stephen interviews Mandisa Thomas, the founder of Black non believers, Steven and Mandisa talk about what it's like to be an atheist minority as well as the complications that come with being a black non believer. They talk about racism in the atheist community minority representation to black church in America and much, much more. If you want to support Steven and his work, you can go to patreon.com to leave a donation of your choice as for those who have donated your Stephens, personal lords and saviors, any thanks all of you. If you want to take part in that community of sacred tension, there's a link in the show notes to Stephens discord, as well as a link to Stephens Patreon. Now, with no further ado, I give you Stephens interview with Mandisa Thomas

Stephen Bradford Long 02:23 Mandisa Thomas, welcome to the show.

Mandisa Thomas 02:25 Thank you for having me. It's great to be here.

Stephen Bradford Long 02:27 So when I sent out a call to my audience about who they want to have on the show next, you were one of the top names that came up. And so yes, you were everyone on my Discord server was like you have to get Mandisa. So I am so glad you're here. This is a highly anticipated conversation. People love you.

Mandisa Thomas 02:48 Well, I appreciate that.

Stephen Bradford Long 02:49 Yeah, yeah. They really, really do. And so just tell us some about who you are and what you do. Yes. So

Mandisa Thomas 02:55 I am the founder and president of black nonbelievers, which is an organization headquartered in the Atlanta, Georgia area, and I most recently became a humanist celebrant. So in addition to running the organization, I also serve on a few boards, namely the American Humanist Association, and American Atheists. So now I also have the ability to perform and officiate services that that people in our community actually need or and could utilize so much of my work does focus on increasing the visibility for blacks who are atheists, and also questioning religion in favor of leaving as well as, you know, just encouraging, open, unabashed, unapologetic expression of our position. Because as we are dealing with still a very, very challenging task is within the black community in particular, seeing as how is still very highly religious, it's important that we create the spaces and communities for it for each other, that we can not only network, but also advocate for ourselves and others.

Stephen Bradford Long 04:06 So and I think a lot of people in my audience are probably familiar with you because of TST in some of the conversations that you've had publicly with Lucien Greaves, our founder, how did that relationship come about? Just out of curiosity with with the Satanic Temple as TST

Mandisa Thomas 04:21 started to gain ground of course, I always had a respect for the work and I will I love blasphemous stuff anyway, but absolutely. I absolutely do. So, Lucien, and I actually spoke at the same conference in 2015, which was the atheists Lions of Americas conference that was in Atlanta, and he actually bought one of our shirts. He bought a B in shirt. And so we've had, you know, conversations since then, and I've known others along, you know, along in my work, who have been affiliated with, you know, the Satanic Temple in some way way. And so, you know, he and I recently spoke together at 2020 freethought festival in Madison, Wisconsin, it was freethought festival nine, if I'm not mistaken. So he and I have been in the same space before. And I've had others, you know, from the TST, who have interviewed me and, and so we've had sort of a working, you know, relationship in, you know, sort of, you know, working alongside each other with, with our missions.

Stephen Bradford Long 05:30 That's fantastic. And yeah, I, you know, I think I first encountered you by listening to his interview, have you on his Patreon? And it was fabulous. It was great. Thank you. So you said something a minute ago, that was really, really interesting, which is the the challenge that you are facing as a humanist, as a black atheist organization leader within the black community, because the black community is so very religious. Talk to them about that. Yes. So

Mandisa Thomas 06:03 I'm gonna probably get into my background a bit, but he's Do you know, so I'm originally from New York City, born and raised. And, you know, I actually wasn't formally raised religious. And even though New York is a very densely populated city, there's a lot of diversity there, within the black community. Much like within the United States, there's still a very high presence of religion. And so that wasn't lost on me growing up. I fortunately, had parents who did not, you know, they, they sort of they rejected the Christian ideology in particular. And so that's how my brothers and I were raised, my siblings and I were raised. And I learned early on about how Christianity and the church had an effect on the black community, which does stem from, you know, you know, Africans being enslaved in this country, and having to pretty much adapt to Christianity. And also the fact that once slavery and reconstruction ended, that the church became a primary sense of support a primary support system. For many within the black community, there is a lot of close identification with the church historically, especially as it relates to human rights, racial justice within the black community and such, so we don't take anything away from that. However, the challenge that or you know, what we tend to push back on is the fact that Christianity is very instrumental in instituting race, racism, and racial injustice, and also being very complicit in white supremacy. So there is this very paradoxical relationship that the black community has, with the church in particular, which makes it very, very hard to break, it makes it very, very hard to actually have those conversations, both within the black community and within in secular spaces, and non religious spaces within within our organization.

Stephen Bradford Long 08:17 That's really, really fascinating. And, you know, I'm super ignorant about this issue. And so correct me if I'm wrong about this. But you know, one of one of my biggest concerns about being an atheist, but also being a member of TST, is the lack of racial diversity within the spaces. And, you know, as, because I know what it's like to be a gay man, in a space where there isn't representation. And I know that there are a lot of people who kind of, you know, I don't know, poopoo, the idea of representation, that is not important. It's fucking important. And it's important for me as a gay person to feel like I can be represented and heard and understood, and not that that is not the same thing as being black at all. But it gives me a point of reference to understand, right, and so that's one of the things that I do really worry about within tst. And within the atheist community as a whole is the lack of the lack of racial diversity. And as I've thought about it, I really wonder if a lot of it has to do with the nature of privilege. And I wonder sometimes if, if religious doubt, if things like religious doubt, and skepticism is a matter of privilege, it's a luxury, right?

Mandisa Thomas 09:43 So that's part of it. So there's a lot to unpack there, which could probably take up about a few hours, but let's do it. Certainly, yes, you as you know, a gay man can absolutely understand that but someone who's black and gay would have Oh, that's two strikes would

Stephen Bradford Long 10:01 have an even. Yeah, and this is the idea of like intersectionality. For for people who don't salutely For people who don't know about intersectionality, by the way, it's exactly what Mandisa just said, where it's like a black man, and or a black gay man is like that that man is standing at the intersection of two minority. It's like, it's like two cars coming out at once. Okay, but then let's say, black gay woman. Well, now we have like, a three way intersection

Mandisa Thomas 10:31 and atheism on top of that, yes. So right, I think the more we intersect the the less some people who are in a privileged position to to understand. And it's, you know, part of it is our part of it is our upbringing and not having to even, you know, not having to even consider what other people go through. And that tends to be the case with many white atheists. The problem, even if you didn't go through it is when, you know, those represented individuals and groups are explaining and expressing what those challenges are. There's often you know, people often get defensive people often get, you know, they they tend to try to, you know, also try to espouse their skepticism there, too. And that isn't always effective. Because, yes, there is plenty of evidence that institutionalized racism exists, yes, and that it has impacted negatively the black community and other marginalized groups. But unfortunately, it seems like when it comes to the question of, you know, of God, or state church separation, somehow, that tends to get lost, or it's seen as not being as important to other, you know, to these organizations, which makes it very difficult for, you know, black folks who want to be a part of, you know, TST and other organizations to feel like they are welcomed in a, you know, in those differences, and in those experiences, because they are important, and it's important that an organization acknowledges and addresses what is going on, especially regarding racial justice, and how there is a disproportionate how it disproportionately affects other marginalized communities. And so when Yeah, when these organizations failed to do that, and and they also are still trying to be the gatekeepers of this information, meaning that if there are all of these white people speaking on it, and they are, they are actually not looking to and actually supporting the people of color in their in their organizations, then that's a problem. And that's going to keep more more people of color from, you know, from engaging and being a part of the organization. And that's just the bottom line. Yeah,

Stephen Bradford Long 12:56 I guess what I'm hearing you say is if if people of color or trans people, gay people, you know, in general, like minority groups look at, say, a humanist organization, or TST, and are met with skepticism about their experience, then that is a big red flag. Absolutely. And then be if they don't feel like the organization is actively taking, taking, not taking the blame, but taking responsibility. Absolutely. You know, that's something that I want to tell people all the time, it isn't about taking the blame, it's about taking responsibility, that's a huge thing that's been really helpful for me. And if they if they don't see that organization actively acknowledging and addressing systemic issues, then that is also a red flag. And, and so it's like those two fronts that that skepticism of experience, and then that lack of acknowledgement, absolutely.

Mandisa Thomas 13:55 And I would actually add one more thing, because, you know, from an organizational standpoint, I see more organizations acknowledging, you know, they talk about Black Lives Matter, you know, they are speaking up on those those issues, but if it isn't an active it is if it isn't implemented within your organization, you know, people of color are being treated in a way that is, you know, not affirming or it isn't represent, you know, it isn't replicated in leadership. And that's also a problem because it's one thing to say it publicly but to institute it, organizationally, is more important and not and not just beyond the one or two people, you know, the one the one or two people of color, see, you know, see we have this one person so, and it's sometimes it's the ones who mean well that end up causing, causing harm. So listening to us and actually acting on what we advise organizations to do would would be a huge

Stephen Bradford Long 15:00 improvement. Yeah, that reminds me of like, organizations like Amazon saying black lives matter or, you know, McDonald's having the, or was it Burger King?

Mandisa Thomas 15:12 It was Star. Was it Starbucks?

Stephen Bradford Long 15:14 Starbucks to the training? Yeah. Yeah. Well, well, the training but also they do this with LGBT as well, where it's like they, they, they will put a burger and like a rainbow wrapper and I'm just like, and I'm like, Fuck yo, like until you start paying employees well and treating the environment better and, and actually doing things to to care to to demonstrate instead of just capitalizing off of the symbols that have been hard fought for. It drives me fucking crazy. It's my flame flames on the side of my face. And they do this all the time with gay pride. And, and, and I saw the same thing when like Amazon posted, you know, put black lives matter as their banner. And I'm like fucking Amazon, they have, you know, literal like torture sweatshops and Alabama and yeah, and disproportionately employ people of color in a lot of underprivileged settings. And I'm like, fuck you. Anyway, that was a rant. Right?

Mandisa Thomas 16:26 But that's fine. You are? That is absolutely what and for many black folks, when we see, you know, well, you know, when we see the what is now considered performative, right, we see a lot of people saying things, but when it isn't, again, reflective, and, you know, in leadership, when it isn't effective when it when we when we don't see it reflected in how, you know, in the distribution of, you know, their resources, you know, in a sustainable way. Yes. Then it becomes it becomes lip service. And sometimes, you know, we find ourselves looking like, huh, here we go again, you know,

Stephen Bradford Long 16:59 yeah, exactly. I mean, yeah, I have that I have that exact same experience with with LGBT and Gay Pride all the time. So it sounds like there is I'm contemplating that paradox that you were talking about, at the top of the show, between the ways in which Christianity and the church within the black community has been absolutely kind of central to human rights. And, you know, along those lines, I think of people like what's his name? Cornell West, who? Really, really connected to the church? I don't know, maybe you have a, maybe you have different views of him than I do. But I I like him. I really, really liked him. Yeah.

Mandisa Thomas 17:44 And, you know, I don't I don't take away, you know, Dr. West scholarship, and as well as his popularity, it's just very, very interesting. And he's actually pretty receptive to atheists. And believers. Yes, he

Stephen Bradford Long 17:56 is. I've been really, it's just, it's just always

Mandisa Thomas 17:58 interesting to me that for a man of his scholarship, and his stature and his intellect and intelligence, he is still a hardcore believer. Yes, he is, you know, I mean, it's, it's very interesting to me, you know, I respect you know, the choice or what have you, but just the fact that even in amongst black scholarship, and you know, and in the academic world, and just in the black community in particular, that, you know, there are so many who will still make it seem as if it is impossible to be black and to be atheists and humanists and, you know, and, and be a part of this community. And that's, that's what we that's what we are facing, in fact, one of the same event where I met Lucia and for the first time, there was a woman of color and ministries conference taking place, in the same in the same

Stephen Bradford Long 18:51 what was it? What was the name of the conference,

Mandisa Thomas 18:53 women of color in ministry? Okay. And so there were also other there were there were other events taking place a lot of black religious folks there. And interestingly enough, you know, we met some, you know, we met some really nice folks there, but there was this one woman who jumped in my face and she was horrendous. She had the nerve. She told me she said that she could not believe that as a black woman that I had the nerve to identify as an atheist in front of these white devils. She also said I had a slave mentality that she felt sorry for my mom and my kids are yes, she represented like everything that like that we deal with at times.

Stephen Bradford Long 19:30 So pause. Hold on, okay. I cannot hear that as anything other than racist being told you have a slave mentality.

Mandisa Thomas 19:41 But this is yeah, this was another black woman. This was another black woman who was saying this to me. That's awful. I mean, yes, that's terrible.

Stephen Bradford Long 19:50 That's unacceptable. I mean, wow. So why why is that why is there The is there this assumption that atheism is fundamentally white that atheism and, you know, I definitely think that there's the stereotype of like the the white douche logic bro as well. And why why is that?

Mandisa Thomas 20:17 Well, again, we that goes back to the very heavy influence that the church and religion has on the black community as well as the still lack of representation amongst us. So there have always been humanists free thinkers and atheists within the black community. But we're still very much smaller in number. And because most black religious folks still associate God with good and understandably, you know, the aspects of racial justice or racial injustice and white supremacy, that the overwhelming number of you know, white represented, non believers would lend itself to, you know, misinterpretation and misrepresentation. And within the black community is seen as well. That's only something that white people do, even though the religion that they follow is a direct result, pretty much of white evangelicalism. So it's like, you know, there's a very interesting, you know, when we talk about being godless and being evil, it isn't atheism that represents that, right. But these are the things that we're combating and that and our communities this is this is something that most white people don't have to think about when it comes to the black identity and what it means it's like, we're rejecting our blackness, to so many there. It's a it's a perception that we're rejecting our blackness and our identity, as you know, as a people, and not just that, because, yes, race, race is a social construct. It's a racist construct that was created in order to declassify blacks. Let's let's let's just go there for a moment. Right. So but, but also, it's this notion that we are rejecting the history of the black community that the church represents, you know, us in its in its in our entirety, and that there have never been those who have dissented, those who have questioned and that just simply isn't true. You know, there's a long history and of notable black folks who have questioned religion in the church. And this this, this does, you know, a disservice to black folks and white folks who didn't notice information. I can't tell you how many times that I bring up Dr. Carter G. Woodson, his name, who is the founder, basically, who was a foundation of Black History Month, and most people don't know he was a free thinker. Most people don't know that he actually critiqued and challenged the church. So this is information that is good for all of us. And so this is what we, you know, when we redefine that narrative, and we disrupt it, this is our existence, our very existence does that. So

Stephen Bradford Long 22:59 when you try to combat this, this tie between theism and the black community, and kind of that deadlock that you're describing there, how do you go about doing that? One way that I'm hearing you say that is just by existing and disrupting that narrative and pointing out figures in history who have disrupted that narrative? So that's one way I'm hearing you say you disrupt that. But what are what are some other ways? Yes, so

Mandisa Thomas 23:23 Blatt, and I believe it's as an organization is very event oriented. So we host a number of events that are primarily for our members, but they are open to the public, you know, we have discussions about the challenges that we face, especially as black atheists and those who are questioning religion. We also host informational sessions, we have guest speakers. Last year, we hosted a black family discussion about Christianity and white supremacy. And, and and it's, you know, and how they are very closely tied together, where we had guest speakers, and moving into the future and what that looks like. So we also again, for those who you know, can't see me I wear you know, my be in apparel, you know, so when people ask me about the organization and my position, you know, I speak up. And this is a and we encourage you, we advocate for people to speak up if they can, because this is how we dispel, even if there may be times where there's pushback, some people might be nasty. It's about getting up the courage to stand up for yourself, and also to stand up for those of us who offer that support and advocacy we are also we also work with other organizations. You know, we we recently co signed, co authored a letter with the Freedom From Religion Foundation to Representative Clyburn in South Carolina, protesting the bill which sought to have Lift Every Voice and Sing as a part of, you know, a national anthem, and it's it's very, very religious, and it doesn't entirely represent the black community and so It would be, you know, it would just be absolutely ridiculous and atrocious to have such a song represented, that's supposed to, you know, where they're supposed to be, you know, Church State separation, you know, and separation of religion and government. But unfortunately, folks have gotten away with that for so long. So we absolutely do work with other organizations to advocate for the non religious community. And, and also, like, and also other, you know, human rights initiatives like the LGBTQ community, reproductive justice, of course, racial justice. And so this is how, as an organization, we, how we how we operate, we are definitely a event and community based organization. But we also speak up and we make ourselves known in any way that we can,

Stephen Bradford Long 25:54 I think that's fantastic talk some about the connection between American Christianity and white supremacy, because it's like, that's the other side of the paradox with the church, right with the black church, where it's like, on the one hand, the black church has been instrumental in in furthering social justice and equality and civil rights. On the other hand, it's like Christianity is deeply tied to white nationalism. So talk about that. Talk about that side of the paradox, and how does that relate to the black church?

Mandisa Thomas 26:24 Yes. So of course, it does, again, start with in the transporting of Africans to this part of the world, whether it is the Caribbean or the United States, and there were laws put in place where you had to be deemed Christian. So there were laws on the books of Virginia and there's a good documentary on Amazon Prime speaking of called holy hierarchy, the religious roots of racism in America by Jeremiah Kamara and so in, you know, in declassifying, you know, the enslaved and their descendants there, what it was necessary to institutionalize, you know, the systems that kept blacks at a, you know, as a underclass, also, this, you know, this notion of IQ basically accepting your suffering, because even if you've ever watched a roots by Alex Haley the Docu series, you see that there were, you know, sermons amongst the enslaved in which the passages of you know, of God basically ordaining or making it, okay for blacks to be enslaved, they were you they use passages to justify that

Stephen Bradford Long 27:39 and to clarify, these are sermons being preached among the black slaves, not by the white slave owners, necessarily, although it was implanted by them. Yeah, it sounds that we're

Mandisa Thomas 27:51 actually okay. We're actually preached by Okay, the, the white slave owners, but of course, you know, there were black, you know, pastors of slave slave pastors who were, you know, who were, of course, utilized to or, you know, to hold services and such, but even as like the, like, the African Methodist Methodist Episcopal Church was formed by Richard Allen, like at the end of legal slavery, it was a way for blacks to worship and come together when they were being kept out of white churches when they were so you know, and also one thing that we need to remember is that on the other side, the Ku Klux Klan when we talk about Christian nationalism and white nationalism, the Ku Klux Klan is a Christian organization,

Stephen Bradford Long 28:40 and they were powerful and powerful. Yeah, absolutely

Mandisa Thomas 28:43 powerful. And so on the one hand, you had both of these you had you had these factions of quote, unquote, God fearing and God loving believers, but you had some who were using their, you know, their religion to, you know, intentionally cause harm on to others and actually ordain it as their mission from God. Yeah. And so this has again become so institutional when when you know, when slavery was ended, and I'm not speaking here as an expert on this, but you know, certainly having information that other people can can research when we talk about the the creation of the Jim Crow laws after Reconstruction, which effectively disenfranchise blacks therefore therefore trying to make a you know, the community so codependent on the system, but also being disproportionately affected by the system, where folks were kept out of jobs kept out of neighborhoods kept from advancing, even and also having property and also having resources deliberately destroyed. So and in this narrative that you know, black folks are lazy, you know, we can't do anything on our own has just manifested itself in it. In a lot of people's minds, and how they end how they think of black folks, whether they realize it or not. So, it's a whole, it's a very, very ugly cycle and system that we're dealing with here, as well as a religion that has reinforced this dependence on, you know, a religion that basically, you know, encourages suffering, you know, and encourages dependence on an afterlife, which has also manifested itself in, you know, the way the black community does tend to, which is changing now, but how the black community tend to ignore certain other aspects within our community. Now, we see that, you know, even with the COVID pandemic, you know, COVID-19, the black community has been disproportionately affected in other areas of public health, the black community has been disproportionately affected. And part of that is due to this systemic, systemic racism and also access to better to better health care and to better resources. So it's a, it's this is a, this is a, this is a huge subject that it would do a lot of folks a lot of good to actually do some research on and to know more about. So like I said, we could we could be taught, we could talk about this

Stephen Bradford Long 31:21 for days, and days and days, no, and it really is, like a lifetime commitment for people to really invest in learning about this stuff. And it isn't something where for listeners, it isn't something that you can just like, you know, read a book and be like, Okay, I got this now, or, you know, study, you know, look into it for a few months and be like, Okay, I got this now. No, it's it's really the these issues are so deeply intertwined, and so systemic and so deep, that it really does take a commitment to longtime learning to to get it. And so I'm curious to hear what are your experiences of racism in the atheist community? If you have any what so So there's obviously racism within the Christian world? Do you encounter racism in the atheist and humanist world? And if so, what does that look like? Oh,

Mandisa Thomas 32:19 so yes. So of course, racism isn't as overt as it used to be, of course, so a lot of it is very subtle, it comes out in micro aggressions. And that was say one of the most glaring examples was when I spoke at a convention in 2013. In Toledo, Ohio, organizers were absolutely fantastic. Most of the most of the attendees were fantastic as well, my presentation was on what the secular community can learn from the hospitality industry, because I am a hospitality professional, or I was up until three years ago when I took my activism full time. So there was a question from a woman in audience, a white woman who asked and she preface it by saying that she wasn't sure if this was the right forum for this. But she asked what was our organization going to do on black about black on black crime, and she cited, you know, the crime in Chicago and how out of hand it is. So what do we plan to do about that?

Stephen Bradford Long 33:16 And you're not? You're not in Chicago, right. And

Mandisa Thomas 33:21 so, how is this just our problem to fix? Yes, yeah, exactly. And so that was very, very racist, of course. And so I often, you know, I often face challenges with mean, I can say something of absolute divorce, but as soon as someone White said it, you know, it gets more traction.

Stephen Bradford Long 33:44 Could you give some examples of that?

Mandisa Thomas 33:47 Oh, you know, there's just so many, you know, I mean, I there there are, like, different you know, it's interesting because like, for example, you know, we did our black family discussion about Christianity and white supremacy and Andrew Seidel, who I love dearly from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, you know, he did a, he did a YouTube talk about Christianity and white supremacy, and it got so much more it got somebody and now he referenced that he prefaced it by saying that he people should take a look at our YouTube discussion. Yeah, but it's like as soon as you know, someone white and probably most likely male says it. It's like, all of a sudden now people tend to give it more credits.

Stephen Bradford Long 34:31 Yeah, suddenly it goes viral. As if, as if they were as if they were the ones who had the idea.

Mandisa Thomas 34:37 Exactly like example for the me to movement. Now, the founder and the creator was Tirana Berg who was a black woman. Yes, but as soon as Alyssa Milano started a hashtag a me too. People will like oh, that's when it was viral. That's when people thought she was responsible for it. And you know, they said, no, no, no, no, no. So I tend to you know, not tend to but I have experienced that on a number of occasions in this movement. So yeah,

Stephen Bradford Long 35:05 that's and and there's a psychological toll to that of continually I can imagine of feeling continually invisible and saying saying something that is true that is close to your heart that is important. And then watching someone kind of white and male and adjacent to you also saying it, and then it suddenly blowing the fuck up, I can imagine how that would, after a lifetime of that be really, really difficult,

Mandisa Thomas 35:36 right. And so in trying to understand what that feels like, for most black folks, especially in predominantly white spaces, and already having to deal with, you know, issues within our black communities of, you know, a finding our own identity and being comfortable with that, you know, we are always that we seem to be always be at this intersection. And it doesn't mean that we're being persecuted, it's just always a challenge. It's just always something that we have to add that we always have to fight against. And it does become tiring, it becomes very frustrating is, you know, it's exhausting. And so this is what keeps the black folks from coming back to these spaces if they constantly have to do that.

Stephen Bradford Long 36:17 Yeah. Because it's like the that uphill battle just eventually isn't worth it. Absolutely. Yeah. And so I My suspicion is that there are probably a lot of people who might not understand why that first example you gave of, you know, the white woman asking, Well, what are you going to do about the black on black crime in Chicago, as if you are as if you as a black woman are personally responsible for it? And as if the black community is responsible for it when the reality right, it's a systemic, big issue that's way bigger than the black community.

Mandisa Thomas 36:56 And also, it ignores this idea that most crime is intra racial. So are your secular organizations going to do anything about white on white crime? or Yes? About the meth issue? You know, actually hard? Are y'all going to do you know, What are y'all going to do about, you know, what we are going to do about this, this president that just left office, you know, help me now is just yeah, you know,

Stephen Bradford Long 37:23 so, so explain it. My suspicion is that there are probably people in the audience who don't get why that is racist, put it put it in as clear away as you can, as to why white people should not ask that question of their back of their black friends. Right?

Mandisa Thomas 37:41 Because, again, for one, these systemic issues, that's not to say that, even if we didn't get, you know, even if there was no enslavement, that there wouldn't still be crime. But when we are talking about the disproportionate number of blacks who have been affected by systemic racism and injustice, it is not just up to black folks to just resolve that, because we certainly didn't create the problem. Absolutely. And this idea that again, you know, that all black folks, it's also an implication that you know, that all black folks are just are just committing crimes, you know, that that is a that is a nother very, very racist implication is that we're just supposed to do something about these problematic black folks, because y'all are incapable of doing anything else. And so there's so many negative reinforcements that come along with that, and so many presumption to, you know, to, you know, to, you know, it really just shows a detachment from reality, and also putting, like putting black folks on the same box.

Stephen Bradford Long 38:52 Yeah, I can also see how it assumes that black communities are policed in the same way as white communities. Right, exactly like right like that. That there's basically like this military occupation, this invasive military occupation of black communities across America in a way that white communities simply don't see. Right and experience. And so it's assuming that the arrests are equivalent,

Mandisa Thomas 39:25 right, and that they're justified, which, as we can see, especially as you know, the deliberations of the George direction event, children's trial, yeah, that the arrests aren't always justified. And they've been, you know, overly there's been a lot of over policing. There's been a lot of police brutality. So yes, it presumes that all of these Yeah, all of these arrests are are justified against, you know, against the black community. So there's, there's such a criminalization and in the aspect to you know, the police stuff that really is broken that is often ignored. How does

Stephen Bradford Long 40:04 Christian theocracy intersect? This is something that I found myself wondering a lot lately is how do how does Christianity and policing and the racist manifestations of that in black communities, you know, toward towards the black civilians who are just minding their own fucking business? Is there a tie there between fundamentalist Christianity and that ideology and policing?

Mandisa Thomas 40:33 There absolutely is when there is this idea that you know, you are God's chosen people and you have to tame these savages you know, and oftentimes in especially in American Christianity and also when it comes to the subjugation of people of color throughout the world there is this idea that you know, we are we are the savages that need to be tamed and to you know, they need to be doing their God's will in order to control us or destroy us. And so this has again it it when it has been you know, when when those when it when it has basically been incorporated into, you know, the systemic structures within the United States, which again, has you know, just declassified and dehumanize the black vote, it becomes easier and then also when you don't see when you don't see them as you know, see us as people it becomes easier for you to you know, for you to justify that belief and also you know, and also commit harm onto them or to us so when you have this you know, Christianity has unfortunately created like a superiority complex and a lot of people and so again when they feel like it's their duty to you know, do their God's Will by you know, by by doing this this is a this is absolutely how it goes hand in hand and it's certain that certainly has been the case there are still a lot of police departments who have In God We Trust on their

Stephen Bradford Long 42:05 vehicles like in my very very small mountain town here and I actually I just drove by the police department and they had the the thin blue line flag and then they had another thin red line flag and I don't know what that one means. Maybe you know what that one means but I don't I don't I'm scared. I'm scared to look it up. But yeah, and you know, I'm reading a book right now called passing orders and it's a critical theory book about demonology in the United States but one of the points that the author makes which is super interesting is how we America kind of has this conception of itself as Eden as this holy land as this Eden and how their belief in demons and and so you know, this author like goes into all of these different like spiritual Christian spiritual warfare handbooks and kind of examines them from an intersectional critical lens and it's it's super cool, but one of the things that they say is is the is how the border America the American border and American culture they Christian nationalists kind of see that as as Eden and there is this endless need to protect the border the cultural border, the actual physical border of because they need to return to Eden they need to, to recreate Eden and the deep sense of anxiety that comes about because those borders are ultimately permeable, and that freaks them the fuck out. And I see the same thing when it comes to people of color, LGBT people, so on and so forth is is it's like, there's a certain faction and I think it is also there's a huge number for whom this is who for whom this is unconscious of like America is Eden Christianity is Eden and we need to keep the snake from invading and the snake are LGBT people who can corrupt our sexual ethics, this snake are people of color who, for whatever reason, deeply threaten our hegemonic understanding of the world so on and so forth. Does that make sense? Am I it does Yes.

Mandisa Thomas 44:21 And you know, there is often a lot of fear there's often a lot of there's often a lot of delusion there of course. Absolutely. You know, as is interesting to see you know, people who want to preserve this sense of purity and this white heaven when it was often when it was a collective when it was collected white folks that destroyed heaven for a lot of people. Yes. So you know, there is a you know, there's definitely a delusion there when it comes to and and this is one of the reasons why I say white supremacy has hurt all of us because it is this idea that you know, to be way is to, you know, be right all the time. And that isn't true. And so yes, I there is certainly a, you know, there's certainly a correlation there. How do you

Stephen Bradford Long 45:10 practice self care and good boundaries? When you do the kind of work that you do? Like, how do you stay? How do you stay well, emotionally? Well, when, you know, I can imagine you deal with clueless white people on a regular basis, but you also deal with religion and do it a lot. You deal with you deal with all the things. So I guess my question is, how do you maintain healthy boundaries? What kind of outlook Do you have that that helps you to keep going.

Mandisa Thomas 45:41 So what helps me to keep going is knowing that there are people who have been helped by organization, and not just the black folks who have needed us, also our white allies who have been better informed and better educated by our existence, and knowing that, you know, I have a family, you know, I have a husband, I have three children, knowing that what I and others do, is ultimately making a better world for them, is what helps keep me going. And, you know, just knowing that I have been helped by this, I have been further liberated, even though I wasn't formally raised religious, but to know that I found a community and that I'm still helping to build a community that, you know, that is important, you know, I try to focus more on what is what still needs to be done, rather than, you know, the, you know, rather than the challenges, which can be difficult. Because, you know, if you've ever been an organizer, and you've just dealt with people along the way, you realize that people can be very flaky, you know, they aren't necessarily consistent. And, you know, they get excited about something for a certain amount of time, and then all of a sudden, you get left holding the bag, but ultimately, knowing that, you know, there is there is a lot of good being done by a lot of people. And I did take steps last year to improve my health. You know, I started exercising almost every day, you know, I talked to my mental health professional, I have a therapist, so And sometimes I curse a lot, too, you know, I can know what it is, you know, because we're not, we're not perfect. And there are some times there are, there are things that are gonna piss you off. And it's okay to say, you know, what, bucket this, like this, it is hard. Absolutely. I think once we come back and just continue, you know, continue to keep going and continue to maintain the focus is what ultimately helps.

Stephen Bradford Long 47:45 Yeah, you know, I got some amazing advice several years ago from a guest on my show, and it was, you know, one of my big passions is climate change. And one thing that I've really struggled with is just climate despair, like Jesus Christ, like knowing what's knowing what's coming for, especially developing countries in the coming decades with climate change, and just how how to not just completely shrivel up with dry with despair, despair and pessimism. And, you know, that's something that I've really, really struggled with, but a climate activist that I had on the show, I believe last year, I asked him this like, what what the fuck do you do? How do you get through this and he said, The best thing is to just get out there and organize that is not even if you lose the fight is worth it. Even if you lose the battle, the act of getting out there with other people who believe the same thing who are like minded who are fighting to to create change in the world, nothing boosts your your mood. Nothing proves that despair more than that.

Mandisa Thomas 49:00 And even if it's just the smallest task, yes, oftentimes, we think of activism as being out in front and you know, being on the big stage and making these big drastic changes. And oftentimes, that that isn't how that isn't how change works. It isn't how revolution works. Oftentimes, it's tedious, it can be boring. And it can be something as simple as sitting in on meetings, sometimes it's just as simple as listening to what is going on, but you got to keep doing it. And that even though it because we're not depending on the higher power anymore, it's up to us as people and that can be very, that that can be a very, very harsh reality to face that we are responsible for this and even if you don't see the big changes overnight, you know, just know that they're happening know that they're occurring and known that you know, your existence does help and your participation. And you know, and your involvement helps a lot. Yeah,

Stephen Bradford Long 49:58 and you know, there's One example that I can think of I forget where I read this, but for years and years and years, and I think this was I forget when this was, but I'm pretty sure this was post Stonewall. But for years and years and years there is this group, this LGBT group in DC, who's like one cause was to it was for the Library of Congress to create an LGBT category in the Library of Congress. That seems so small, like right like on its face that that seems so arbitrary.

Mandisa Thomas 50:32 That's not fair. It was I bet it was a one of the hardest

Stephen Bradford Long 50:35 tasks and it was so and it took years and it was brutal. And it was slow. And it was laborious, but that little change helped to create the LGBT book category in bookstores and libraries across United across the country, because once things were filtered through that category in the Library of Congress that became a reality slowly across the country, and it's like little things like that, that seems small that are hard.

Mandisa Thomas 51:10 Major impact Exactly. major impact. Yes, exactly. Absolutely. Well,

Stephen Bradford Long 51:16 for people who want to find out more about the work of black non believers and support what you do, where can they do that?

Mandisa Thomas 51:22 Absolutely. So you can find us on our website at Black nonbelievers.org First and foremost, we are also all over social media. You can find us on Facebook at Black nonbelievers. We're on Instagram at B nonbelievers Inc. or on Twitter at B nonbelievers. We also have a YouTube channel at Black nonbelievers Inc. Perfect and, and you can also find me at Patreon at patreon.com/mandisa Latifah. If you would like more information on my humaneness, celebrate services. But yes, to follow the work of black non believers and support. Please do. Please do visit us all over social media and our website.

Stephen Bradford Long 52:00 Awesome. And also definitely go get some awesome black non believers merch from their website. So my birthday is coming up this year. And I want all of you to go buy yourself a black nonbelievers merch for me. Can you do that for me? Please? I want you to do that for me. Okay, well, is there anything? Is there anything we missed? Is there anything that you want to add or shout out? Yes. So

Mandisa Thomas 52:23 in September, we will be hosting the women of color beyond belief conference from September 24 through to 26th. It will be a hybrid event that will take place in Chicago of all places. And also will be offering online streaming for the event. And this is a co production with black skeptics Los Angeles and the Women's Leadership Project. And for those of you who are looking to get out again, post, you know, COVID if you've gotten your vaccine, we are hosting our BNC con which is our cruise convention this year. In November from November 7 through the 13th. We will have some fantastic speakers and workshops and aboard the Carnival horizon. It's an amazing experience. If you'd like to join us We welcome you to do

Stephen Bradford Long 53:09 so. That sounds amazing. Yeah. Any anyone listening who wants to support that and wants to maybe watch the stream or whatnot. Definitely do that. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for coming on. It has been a pleasure speaking to you and you're welcome back anytime.

Mandisa Thomas 53:22 Thank you so much. Again, it was a it's an honor to be here.

Stephen Bradford Long 53:25 Well that is it for our show. The music is by the jelly rocks and eleventy seven you can find them on iTunes, Spotify and wherever you listen to music. The show is written produced and edited by me and Dante salmoni and is a production of rock candy recordings. As always Hail Satan and thanks for listening. More shows like this one, visit rock candy recordings.com