Skip to main content

I was recently interviewed on The Humanist Hour podcast on issues related to Ferguson, race relations in America, social justice and privilege. If you have time to check out the brief discussion, please do so. Continuing my thoughts expressed during the interview, I couldn't help but contemplate these matters and add more to the discussion in written form.

Humanists Black Lives Matter

#BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag or set of webinar platforms - it's a movement. I don't think it's right to put it on par with the African American Civil Rights Movement of yesteryear due to the dissimilar sociopolitical constraints and cultural context. However, there are obvious similarities. Both movements highlight a glaring racial disparity issue. Both seek a remedy that is equitable toward all human life.

Thus, the #BlackLivesMatter Movement is a call to action, a plea for America to recognize, "There's work yet to be done - let's own it and evolve accordingly."

Let's short circuit one notion out the gate - the reactive "#AllLivesMatter" hashtag and the sentiment behind it. Perhaps those who feel the urge to make this statement don't recognize how it's facile in nature. It's "wrong" in the sense that it's a truism, a platitude so self-evident that it isn't even worth mentioning.

Realize that, when using this counter - whether meaning to or not - you diminish the purpose of #BlackLivesMatter. This movement underscores a recurring theme within our societal narrative that sees a surplus of significance attached to certain groups of people, and a markedly deficient significance assigned to others. #AllLivesMatter attempts to hijack this conversation and "steal the thunder" that rumbles for a specific cause: To bring awareness to an issue that has overarching ethnocultural, political and social implications. A challenge is levied with #BlackLivesMatter, and it is that challenge - which encroaches upon preconceived notions of "reality" - that certain people have a problem with.

Understand - this is not a new issue whatsoever. It only seems new to those who, for whatever reasons, haven't been paying attention. The difference now is that the clear unevenness rendered across this nation's social systems is coming to the forefront of concern. It's always been cooking, the plate's just been promoted from the back burner to the foreground.

BlackLivesMatter is more than a hashtag - it's a movement. I don't think it's right to put it on par with the African American Civil Rights Movement of yesteryear, but there are obvious similarities.

As we reflectively season this dish that is long overdue on being appropriately served up, it is important that the principles of humanism guide our endeavors to be more civil, fair and charitable with one another. Therefore, for those that consider themselves humanists - those that promote unfettered, egalitarian human welfare; those who desire a humane society and seek to humanize all individuals through a rational philosophy - I offer the following tips on ways to be allies regarding #BlackLivesMatter:

Observe Constancy – In America, discussion of religion and politics is considered taboo in certain settings. Still, a "hot-button" topic that is even more uncomfortable than both of those is the discussion of race. I cannot think of any issue that has ever been effectively resolved by avoiding it or pretending it doesn't exist. Such action (rather, inaction) is counterproductive, only exacerbating the frustrations that lie beneath the surface.

The only way we better comprehend the faults in present day race relations is by actively discussing them. My article – Race: Why We All Need To Talk About It – features a more in-depth analysis, including discussion of why "colorblind" stances are both counterproductive and ill-advised. This isn't some trivial "trending" subject that can be observed once or sparingly only to be tossed aside until another "big story" comes across your social media feed. Yes, growing (as an individual) is hard - learning takes effort. Neither will spontaneously occur by disregarding what’s staring you in the face.

We all have family, friends and others within our social bubble that we discuss a wide range of topics with. Allowing the out-group (the subject/group being marginalized and stigmatized) a platform to share their perspectives on discrimination and racism may deepen your level of empathy and perspective. Habitually engaging in these conversations builds awareness, works to destabilize misconceptions and better facilitates progress.

Granting A Platform – If you are not a part of the out-group, it’s preferable to grant a platform to those who are subject to the ostracism.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Imagine a man telling a woman about how she should ideally express her feelings relating to patriarchal tendencies or setting parameters for how women ought to voice their concerns relating to gender equality. Imagine a non-heterosexual having to endure the beliefs-presented-as-facts routine from heterosexuals who state “the real reason why” non-heterosexuals aren’t straight. Rinse and repeat this laughable approach for those who aren’t transgender, gender-queer, atheist, or some other disenfranchised group, and yet consider themselves “in-the-know” on what these groups really go through.

When they fail to seek enlightenment from the out-group, those who are on the outside looking in are inclined to possess uninformed and patronizing views about matters they are only tenuously familiar with by virtue of hearsay, anecdote and disinformation presented by in-group peers or sources.

Granting a platform greatly reduces such ridiculousness, and allows for preformed beliefs to be upgraded through the eyes of those experiencing the hurt, frustrations and dilemmas.

Perspective-Taking – Perhaps you recognize there is a problem but you don't fully "get" what is transpiring or how it affects the lives of others. Research suggests perspective-taking increases one’s willingness to engage in contact with negatively-stereotyped out-group members. This is achieved mainly by creating social bonds – increased contact – with stereotyped people.

So then, to obtain heightened awareness, I suggest counterintuitively removing yourself from your comfort zones. Make it a habit. Displace yourself within circles you don’t normally frequent by reading the words of and actually intermingling with Black voices who lend insight by sharing their experiences and thoughts on America’s racial dynamic.

Findings indicate that perspective-taking can combat automatic expressions of implicit racial biases. An excerpt from one such studies states:

Although the blatant racism of earlier eras has declined dramatically in recent decades, contemporary forms of bias continue to thwart the realization of genuine racial equality. The current research provides converging evidence for the utility of perspective taking as a strategy for combating automatic expressions of racial bias and for facilitating more favorable interracial contact experiences.” - Todd, Bodenhausen, Richeson & Galinsky, Perspective Taking Combats Automatic Expressions of Racial Bias

Someone who simply “owns” these techniques is my friend Daryl Davis (referenced in the article linked earlier). He has single-handled disarmed numerous now-former members of the KKK and like hate groups. How did he do this? By talking. No magic words or incantation. He achieved (and continues to achieve) success with the most formidable opposition by simply having discussions. Constant discussions.

Luckily, most people we engage on a regular basis aren’t extremists like the individuals and groups Daryl confronts. Many remain unaware and possess an incomplete picture of the entire race relations landscape. The painting can only better develop with a more involved observation into the particulars

This is how masterpieces are conceived. The more informed we become, the more refined our knowledge base becomes, which translates into a decrease of tactless broad strokes and ill-conceived blotches.

Master painters carefully appraise their surroundings and the canvas they engage – be master painters, my friends.


For a shining example of the above techniques frequently in action, check out my friend (and ally) Chris Stedman's Faitheist blog.

Sincere T. Kirabo
Old Piano