I wrote recently about the two biggest chips on my shoulder, one of them being that when I describe challenges I’ve faced, people keep saying that I’ve had an easy life, I think because they see a straight white male in the United States. When I talk to people who have lost limbs or eyesight, which seem pretty significant losses, they don’t talk that way. The ones who tell me I’ve had life easy never ask about my experiences, they just tell me what they must have been.
I’ve long felt scared to share my experiences, since they box me in, but I’m going to explore these areas and stop accepting their checkmating me. I have had an easier life than most people on Earth. That’s not the point. So has everyone I’ve met, including those lecturing me. I don’t see them having greater access to what it means to be human than anyone else.
I’m perpetually viewed as nothing beyond a straight white man. I am one, but once they describe me that way, they disregard my individuality and distinction from other straight white men.
Yet, I’ve never seen anyone like me in the White House or nearly any political position.
My sexual preference has been illegal many times in history. I believe it remains technically on the books in some U.S. states, despite having been ruled unconstitutional. Many people have shamed me for it.
There’s no parade for people like me.
I’ve spent years of my life as a racial minority, taunted and victimized for it.
Religion too. I grew up being told in school I would have been killed for accidents of my birth. People called me self-hating for being myself. Many people told me what religion I was when I wasn’t.
I’m not complaining, just describing history. I could go on and probably will in other posts. I’m writing this post on an article I read about places that imprison and kill people like me, Nonbelievers across Africa risk freedom and family support. I’ll quote some highlights:
According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, 25 African nations â€” nearly half the continentâ€™s sovereign states â€” have statutes outlawing blasphemy, or offensive behavior against a deity or idea considered sacred.
Punishment can be severe. In Mauritania, for example, Muslims convicted of ridiculing or insulting God face a mandatory death sentence and those renouncing Islam have a three-day window to repent or face capital punishment.
The stiffest penalty in Nigeriaâ€™s secular courts is a two-year prison sentence; in the countryâ€™s Islamic courts, active in the majority Muslim north, it is death.
A later quote:
“they hold their views in hiding simply because they are afraid of social consequencesâ€ such as losing jobs or financial support from their parents, said Wonderful Mkhutche, president of the support group Humanists Malawi.
â€œLife is miserable,â€ [founder of the Humanist Association of Nigeria] Igwe said. â€œThey [non-believers] have to live always looking over their shoulders, and they are forced to live in a very dishonest way.â€
In Nigeria, where Bala remains behind bars, there was widespread condemnation last year led by UNICEF and the head of the Auschwitz museum, after an Islamic court sentenced a 13-year-old boy to 10 years in prison for â€œdisparaging language on Allah.â€ The sentence was eventually overturned by the secular court.
I don’t remember anyone asking me what it’s like knowing I could be killed just for being myself in many parts of the world. I wonder why not. I wonder how many people have problems with me sympathizing or identifying with Africans.
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