Ta-Nehisi Coates woke me up: Lessons on race, atheism and my white privilege

Greg Epstein in Salon:

Brooks_coates_dawkinsCoates, an award-winning journalist for the Atlantic, is primarily seen as a writer on race. And “Between the World and Me” is, on one level, a book about race, with the story of his murdered friend Prince Jones making Sandra Bland’s seemingly similar death look all the more like a depressing and infuriating act of terror. But atheists and humanists tend to see ourselves as transcending culture and race. So much so that I’ve always been dismayed to find the majority of people who tend to show up at the meetings of organizations with words like atheist and humanist in their names, are so very, very white. Why? Maybe, as I explored in my book “Good Without God” (a title meant to offer a three-word definition of humanism), in an America where religious identity is all many minorities have to fortify them against a society that treats them as inferior and other, identifying as an atheist is far easier for people of privilege.

But Coates’ new book is also, boldly, about atheism. It is even more so about humanism. Crafting a powerful narrative about white Americans — or, as he says, those of us who need to think we are white — who are living The Dream — Coates makes a profound statement of what is, and is not, good, with or without god. Coates refers not to Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, not quite even to the “American Dream,” but rather to The Dream in which we forget our history, our identity and much of our nation’s prosperity is built on the foundation of the suffering of people of color in general and black people in particular. The Dream, in other words, is not a state in which only Fox News Watchers find themselves. It is a state that can cancel out the very best of white, liberal, humanist intentions.

More here.