Several Humanist groups have spoken up in response to what happened to Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Considering how often pastors’ voices were heard in the wake of everything that’s happened, it’s good to see some secular voices in the mix. Because if God doesn’t exist, we have to rely on ourselves to heal any injustices and prevent them from happening again.
“The black humanist community mourns Freddie Gray and others across the nation who lost their lives because of racial injustice,” said Aaron Bishop, an organizer for the Frederick Douglass Humanist Society of Baltimore. “Everyone deserves human rights, and we demand accountability and transparency from our law enforcement to ensure that all citizens are treated humanely and justly.”
“It is neither an American value nor a humanist value to rule our citizens as if they are guilty criminals who must be proven innocent. When the police ignore fundamental civil liberties, it is time that we rethink the role of our increasingly militarized law enforcement,” said Rebecca Hale, president of the American Humanist Association.
Hale continued, “Instead of seeing themselves in opposition to residents, police must develop an ethic of community that includes building relationships and communicating with citizens so that both can live together in cooperation, free from fear and intimidation.”
The Baltimore Ethical Society, American Ethical Union, and others also added:
The crisis in Baltimore will continue long after the news media has moved on to other tragedies. The Baltimore Ethical Society, American Ethical Union, and American Humanist Association are committed to improving criminal justice and strengthening our economy so that everyone is treated with inherent worth. Rather than using dismissive and dehumanizing words that range from “thugs” to “pigs”, our leaders must encourage respectful dialogue with all people whether they are black, white or dressed in blue. We are committed to putting our values of reason, compassion, and hope into action to work toward lasting solutions, regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings.
There are signs that activists, ministers, and political leaders are working together towards constructive solutions. We applaud those courageous leaders who have taken to the streets to encourage calm. However this situation gets resolved, let’s remember the bigger picture. Ethical Societies will continue learning and teaching about systemic racism. The system in Baltimore, in Maryland, and across the nation needs to be fixed. Our retributive and racially biased criminal justice system is an insult to the ideal of equal justice under law and stands in the way of creating an ethical culture.
There’s no reason other groups that value reason-based thinking can’t say something similar. This isn’t about taking sides or playing politics. It’s about recognizing a problem in our society where certain groups are treated horribly through no fault of their own. We’re excellent at supporting and defending LGBT rights when they come under attack.
There’s no reason atheists should be slow (or absent) on this issue either. It’s about humanity and dignity and treating others with respect; if you don’t believe in God, it’s hard to argue against those ethics.
(Image via Wikipedia)