Ask Mandisa 8 – Progressive Politics, Atheism, and Firsts

by | November 19, 2018

By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Mandisa Thomas is the Founder of Black Nonbelievers, Inc (Twitter & Facebook). One of the, if not the, largest organization for African-American or black nonbelievers or atheists in America. The organization is intended to give secular fellowship, provide nurturance and support for nonbelievers, encourage a sense of pride in irreligion, and promote charity in the non-religious community. I reached out to begin an educational series with one of the, and again if not the, most prominent African-American woman nonbeliever grassroots activists in the United States. Here, we talk about the recent election cycle.

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: So, you just had election cycle, yesterday. Why do people tend to, not necessarily in a bad way, want to have things happen instantaneously when, in fact, they happen slowly over time with bumps of rapidity?

Mandisa Thomas: I think in this area and in this age of information and the internet and technology. I think many people, especially some young people, want to see change happen overnight. What must be understood is that many of the problems that we have in today’s society didn’t happen overnight, it is institutional and took time to build, so it will take time to dismantle.

Also, people’s memories tend to be very short. That once something good happens then they can be apathetic, like President Obama being elected. Then they don’t think a president like Trump can be elected. It is important for people to be involved consistently, not just on the global level but on the local level.

The States runs in those areas: local, state, and federal. It is important to get involved. They think it is an exciting thing. But often, it is boring and can be tedious. I think it turns people off, but we cannot allow ourselves to become so disillusioned that bad things start happening over and over again.

Jacobsen: What were some of the big wins from yesterday?

Thomas: The state of Colorado elected its first gay governor. The state of Massachusetts has its first black congresswoman. There was a Muslim woman elected to Congress. There was a lot of progress when it comes to Congress. The Democrats are now the majority in the US House. There was a narrow governor’s race in Georgia and Florida. The first potential black governors. The Florida race was almost tied.

It was very neck and neck. The Georgia race will be a recount because there were allegations of voter suppression in the state of Georgia, which affected mostly minorities and the black vote. There is going to be a recount there. There’s also the first openly atheist woman elected in the legislature.

Those sorts of things were there. I know states like Texas had Beto O’Rourke trying to be Ted Cruz, but this was close race. It showed the number of people who took out the time to vote and who believe in change.

Jacobsen: If you take the last 18 years, what was the single biggest win, politically, for atheists and the nonbeliever community in America?

Thomas: Of course, I think it was the election of President Obama. What that means, President Obama was the first US president to recognize the presence of nonbelievers. What that meant for the United States, the change was coming. Even though, he identified as Christian president.

He acknowledged there are differences in the United States. Whereas before, this was not acknowledged at all. There are now more openly – even though the number is pretty low – atheist representatives in national and state governments.  That acknowledgment is crucial to those of us who want to get involved and make these changes.

There are some laws on the books, which say atheists cannot hold a seat in public office. That needs to change. The more we speak out, the more we continue to be involved. We can, hopefully, start overturning these ridiculous laws.

Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Mandisa.

Thomas: Thank you very much.

One thought on “Ask Mandisa 8 – Progressive Politics, Atheism, and Firsts

  1. Tim Underwood

    Mandisa is the start of a real sociological change. Martin Luthor King used the social Gospel to underline the ‘all men are created equal’ idea. This obviously was a week argument but it is similar to the ‘all men are equal under the law’ ideal.

    Once we base our humanity on the ‘out of Africa hypotheses’ (this may already have been elevated to a theory by now) Obama as president is accepted on his demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities.

    Direct African descendants, in the USA, are about the same population equivalency as the entire Canadian population (I think). To witness the beginning of the secularisation this large demographic is encouraging.

    Witnessing the secularisation of the southern rural white agricultural demographic would be more unexpected. If we look back to the first century cultural creation, by the Christian story writers, we would probably find a succession of Donald Trump-like bull-shitters creating legitimization narratives for the eventual feudalism that followed.


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