Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Godless Americana by Sikivu Hutchinson

Sikivu Hutchinson introduces Godless Americana as "a radical humanist analysis" that "provides a vision of secular social justice that challenges Eurocentric traditions of race, gender, and class-neutral secularism", and then spends the next 7 chapters doing exactly that. This book is a call to action, a vision of humanism that decentralizes the white experience and asks the reader to embrace a compassionate sense of initiative within their own sphere of influence.

Page after page, I found myself questioning my position on which issues humanism ought to prioritize, as this book brings up numerous examples of how centralizing the concerns of white secular Americans is to actively render humanism irrelevant to anyone who falls outside that territory. Perhaps most poignant moment was the day I had 2 extra hours to myself to read on the bus, due to my car being in the shop. As I sat there, surrounded by people for whom, unlike myself, this was not their back-up mode of transportation nor a temporary inconvenience, I read about the mobility gap: "Transit-dependency means isolation. It means less access to living-wage jobs, quality schools, affordable housing, and park space... whites generally live in white neighborhoods with greater access to social services, park spaces, and job centers."

How can the reader continue to practice a humanism that does not make efficient public transit a humanist issue; that does not make city planning a humanist issue; that does not make jobs, housing, education, and public health a humanist issue? This book is ready to answer every white-washed "we are all Africans" humanist who can't fathom why Americans of color run back to their churches for support from a Bible which advocates slavery, by questioning the very presumed innocence of whiteness itself. It boldly proclaims that a humanism that is not relevant to people of all races is quite simply irrelevant. I recommend this book for all humanists who have come to expect more from ourselves.

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