Sikivu Hutchinson is an American feminist, atheist and author/novelist. She is the author of "White Nights, Black Paradise" (2015), Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels (2013), Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars (2011), and Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (Travel Writing Across the Disciplines) (2003). Moral Combat is the first book on atheism to be published by an African-American woman. In 2013 she was named Secular Woman of the year. and was awarded Foundation Beyond Belief's 2015 Humanist Innovator award.
Early life and education
Hutchinson has written articles for www.huffingtonpost.com, The Feminist Wire, thehumanist.com, the , and the New Humanist Blog. She is a Senior Fellow with the Institute of Humanist Studies, and is part of the Speakers Bureau at the Secular Student Alliance.
Hutchinson has taught women’s studies, urban studies, cultural studies, and education at the California Institute of the Arts, UCLA, and Western Washington University. She is a co-contributor to the Black Skeptics blog on the Freethought Blogs network and a contributing editor for www.thefeministwire.org.
In her book, Moral Combat, she examines what she views as the hijacking of civil rights by the Christian Right; the humanist imperative of feminism and social justice; the connection between K-12 education and humanism; and the insidious backlash of Tea Party-style religious fundamentalism against progressive social welfare public policy. Moral Combat also reveals how atheists of color are challenging the whiteness of “New Atheism” and its singular emphasis on science at the expense of social and economic justice. Hutchinson frames her critique in the contemporary realities of working and middle class African American communities which are just as steeped in the tradition of religiosity-due to capitalism and de facto segregation—as they are in the cultural trappings of the Black Church. Hutchinson examines the humanist beliefs of writers such as James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Nella Larsen, A. Philip Randolph and Alice Walker. She highlights Larsen's work as a major touchstone for black feminist humanist thought. Hutchinson's work also explores the emergence of black atheist and freethought activism and spotlights the voices of African American non-believers from around the country.
Black Skeptics group
Formed by Hutchinson in March 2010 she explained to KTYM radio the reason she formed the group was a "response to the emergent need amongst African-American non-believers to have some kind of community and interpersonal connection to each other, in real time". She believes that there is a large community of black non-believers on social media sites, but it is important for these people to find a "sanctuary from the hyper-religiously that African-Americans are seeped in". The group was featured in a May 2012 article that chronicled how greater numbers of African Americans were leaving religious faith and adopting atheism and freethought. Hutchinson noted that "There have always been African-American free thinkers, humanists, agnostics and atheists who have really foregrounded the connection between eschewing religion and the liberation struggle, particularly as it pertains to women and the LGBT community.”
As a black female atheist, she states that "While black male non-believers are given more leeway to be heretics or just MIA from church, black women who openly profess non-theist views are deemed especially traitorous, having 'abandoned' their primary role as purveyors of cultural and religious tradition." Much of Hutchinson's work focuses on the cultural and social history of African American secular humanist thought and its role in black liberation struggle. Hutchinson's work also challenges the social conservatism of the Black Church with respect to abortion, gay rights and women's rights. Hutchinson is also the editor of blackfemlens blog and is a frequent contributor to the LA Progressive, an online social justice magazine.
Hutchinson has challenged the lack of racial diversity and attention to institutional racism in the secular and New Atheist movements, and has also critiqued what she perceives to be their fixation on scientism at the expense of social justice. She has championed the inclusion of anti-racism, anti-sexism, and anti-heterosexism in mainstream secular humanist and New Atheist discourse. She has also written extensively on the role of freethought and secular humanism in black women's liberation and gender justice.
Hutchinson subscribes to a radical Humanist vision that eschews religious and social hierarchies of race, gender, sexuality, class, and ability status because they undermine the universal human rights and self-determination of oppressed peoples. For communities of color, radical Humanism reinforces the cultural legitimacy, visibility, and validity of non-believers of color within the context of a white supremacist, heterosexist, patriarchal, economically disenfranchising ideological regime that equates morality with Abrahamic religious paradigms and beliefs. Radical Humanism rejects the notion that there is only one way to be black or Latino, and that women and the LGBT community are marginal and morally aberrant.
Hutchinson has argued for the articulation of a Culturally Relevant Humanism based on secular social, racial, and gender justice that eschews notions of colorblindness and post-racialism, focusing instead on the lived experiences, cultural knowledge, social histories and social capital of diverse communities. Culturally relevant humanism is informed by an intersectional view of subjectivity. It advocates developing critical consciousness of how these structures of authoritarian power and control shape knowledge construction, cultural production and education. As the founder of the Women’s Leadership Project feminist mentoring program, Hutchinson has advocated the development of secular social justice curricula that train youth to spearhead feminist anti-racist advocacy in their school communities. A key part of the curriculum is humanist education on gender roles, gender stereotypes, misogynist racialized media depictions of women of color and the impact these factors have on the self-esteem, self-identity and life outcomes of young women of color. Hutchinson has argued that the racist and white supremacist objectification of women of color as hyper-sexual “Jezebels” has made African American and Latina women especially vulnerable to paradigms of femininity that emphasize self-sacrifice and obeisance to conservative Christian mores. Hutchinson has written that the heterosexist ideal of the “sacrificial good woman” of faith straitjackets women of color and effectively contributes to high rates of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and HIV/STI contraction in communities of color because masculinity and femininity are viewed as oppositional to each other.
In 2012 Hutchinson was featured in a national billboard campaign of prominent black non-believers launched by African Americans for Humanism. She was paired with author Zora Neale Hurston, a folklorist of African-American culture who wrote of being a skeptic in her essay "Religion." Hutchinson stated “To become politically visible as a constituency, it is critical for black nonbelievers to say we have this parallel position within the civil rights struggle.”
Speaking to the Center for Inquiry (CFI) in June 2011, Hutchinson shows several disturbing images of President Barack Obama and his wife depicted as monkeys and states "these images underscore that we are still... a white supremacist capitalistic patriarchal society, the US has not suddenly morphed into this exceptionalist color-blind post-racial democracy". [President Obama] "... will never be Christian enough for the white heart-land." The problem for black non-believers is that "Christianity has been considered the gateway de facto... into being considered a person, being considered human, being considered moral, and also being provisionally considered to be American".
[Girls] "they are still being shown that their sexuality is a proprietary object that should be used, controlled, exploited and disposed of by organized religion and theocracy".
Hutchinson responds at the 2009 Atheist Alliance International Conference, to comedian Steve Harvey's comments that atheists are amoral. Hutchinson believes that Harvey is calling black non-religious people "race-traitors" based on the belief that blacks are so entrenched in Christianity, that to "step outside the fold is not only the spawn of Beelzebub, but someone that is basically disavowing their native cultural and racial heritage".
- Hutchinson, Sikivu (2015). White Nights, Black Paradise. Infidel Books. ISBN 0692267131.
- Hutchinson, Sikivu (2013). Godless Americana. Infidel Books. ISBN 978-0615586106.
- Hutchinson, Sikivu (2011). Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and the Value Wars. Infidel Press. ISBN 978-0578071862.
- Hutchinson, Sikivu (2003). Imagining Transit: Race, Gender, and Transportation Politics in Los Angeles (Travel Writing Across the Disciplines). Peter Lang Publishing. ISBN 978-0820455860.