Civil Rights: Despite Progress, We Have a Long Way to Go

pity the atheist church signAs we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and reflect on the contributions of the civil rights movement to our lives, it is important both to acknowledge the progress made and to acknowledge how far we still have to go.

There is no denying that considerable progress has been made regarding the civil rights of African Americans and other persons of color; however, real equality remains elusive. Even though racism officially ended in the U.S. sometime before 2003, a great many people did not receive the memo. We continue to see embarrassing examples of racism from members of Congress, state governors, and new political movements. We have even seen it used openly as a political strategy. As a society, we have so many issues with race that it will continue to divide us until we find a way forward.

2010 brought an important civil rights milestone in the form of the DADT repeal. Hopefully, we will see effective implementation and few resulting problems in 2011. I also hope that 2011 will be a year of significant progress in bringing full equality to LGBT couples who wish to marry. Believing that it is inevitable is nice, but seeing it come to pass would be far better.

And what of atheists? We experience bigotry and discrimination regularly simply because we refuse to go along with a harmful mass delusion. There are reminders everywhere that we are the enemy. We see them at gas stations and at our schools, we hear them from political candidates and representatives of Christianity, and we face them at our jobs. Indeed, it is difficult to leave our homes without being reminded of how much we are hated by our religious neighbors.

And yet, we atheists will persevere. We will learn from the movements before us, and we will move forward. For we know that atheism is indeed a civil rights issue, and we have reality on our side.