Debrief from the Secular Social Justice Conference

By Adam Beardsley

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Secular Social Justice Conference in Washington, DC. It was hosted by the American Humanist Association. It was a very interesting and insightful conference to attend. There were a variety of secular social justice workers who spoke about their work and the issues that concern them. Many of them discussed strategies for non-violent direct action and protesting/demonstrating. Almost all of the speakers were people of color and focused on identity-based social justice issues.

There were presentations on differences in the criminal justice system between white people and people of color; harm reduction strategies, especially in regards to drug use and addiction; and the tie between the Evangelical Christian community and the Trump wing of the Republican Party.

This conference was especially powerful for me as someone involved in a couple of different social justice and political organizing spaces. Considering the current political climate, my big take-away is that social justice work is necessarily intersectional. In order for Black Lives Matter to be successful they need to fight against white supremacy and oppression as a whole. This means that ignoring the (especially negative) impact white supremacy and oppression has on other groups (Jews, atheists/Humanists, women, and any other persecuted/oppressed group) only hurts the effort by any of these groups to achieve liberation. In addition, almost every speaker highlighted the importance of people in the (mostly white) crowd to show up not as allies, but instead as co-conspirators (i.e., white people putting themselves between BLM protesters and the police instead of just being part of the crowd) in causes that don't directly affect them. When we are working for social justice, we need to consider everyone who is affected by oppression and not just ourselves.

I am planning on hosting a workshop discussing what I learned at the Secular Social Justice Conference during our annual CSJO Conference being held on May 25-28 in Chevy Chase, MD. Stay tuned for more information about this particular workshop, and make sure you register for the conference.