Things I Wish White Pagans Realized
I am currently putting time and energy into a hospitality suite for Pagans of Color at Pantheacon. It’s a labor of love and difficulty because of the perceived notions about what that space means and how its effects will reverberate through the general pagan community. Discussion on a post I put up on Facebook (that I have since removed) derailed, HARD. There was an individual who was quite upset with the words white supremacist as a descriptor (and a valid one) for what I call ‘majority society’; white, affluent, male, gendernormative, heterocentric, and cissexist. Pointing out to an individual that while he WASN’T racist, there were those who looked like him that were, was read as an attack that didn’t actually exist. But the kneejerk reaction of needing to be labeled as NON-racist was so strong that I was surprised and a little unsure as to how to proceed. I stopped engaging the person I’m speaking about because he tried to get me into an either/or argument and I refuse to talk in logical fallacies, he decided to take my silence to mean that I agreed with him in his logical fallacy, thereby putting words in my mouth. That conversation was a while back but I find myself going back to it time and again, especially when this post started making the rounds. Keri’s experiences are all her own, but far too often, the question of racism in paganism, along with all the other -isms that exist in society get brushed aside, silenced when mentioned, or are casually dismissed as being ‘not important to the circle and its workings’. So, here’s my list of things I wish white Pagans realized when PoC (Pagans of Color) join the circle, (all of these are written in the first person singular, because these are things I WISH they realized, each PoC’s list will be different by a little or a lot, that is part of the joy of dealing with people NOT as a single voice for their ETHNICITY OR RACE, but as the INDIVIDUALS they ARE):
1. When I talk about marginalization, I want you to imagine an onion, and all the layers an onion has, how thick or thin they are as they get down to the core, that’s what marginalization is like for me. The more intersections I have, the more layers to my onion. I am a genderqueer, queer, kinky, poly, pagan, female-presenting, AFAB, Mexican American, lower socioeconomic status upbringing, working class, person. My onion is nice and thick. When white pagans complain about how demeaned they feel by the majority society and their tendency towards being Abrahamic Christian and the assumption that they are to, that’s a layer on their onion. But, they have the opportunity to be heard because their whiteness grants them that chance to state that they aren’t Abrahamic Christian. If I stand up to say that, it is automatically assumed that I must be a Santera, or some other derivative of that and therefore still have reverence for Catholic saints, etc. because I’m “mexican so that’s what you do, right?”. I have layers to my onion added, because of what people assume about me by seeing me on the street, in the circle, and at pagan gatherings, not REMOVED.
2. When I say that I want a separate space for marginalized groups within paganism, I’m not just talking about PoC (Pagans of Color), I’m also talking about groups that don’t normally get lots of exposure or attention. The second generation, the older women, the young women learning their sexuality, the men who want to explore in safe space the feminine within (dressing, acting, taking up roles traditionally considered female and not allowed or accessible in normative society), the Christo-pagans who have a need for sanctuary to practice their particular faith without getting the side-eye from ‘true Pagans’… All those voices and experiences deserve a space they can carve out and call their own to feel safe, not just from the rest of a ‘con or gathering, but from themselves. It’s not about self-segregating, it’s about self-care. When I am asked if I would be okay with someone making a space in a pagan gathering that was ‘whites only’ and how that would affect me, I honestly didn’t have an answer because, the majority population at a pagan event tends towards white, so why do you need another room when there’s a whole conference/space/gathering area where you can see each other?
3. Using questions like how I feel about any and all forms of racism as a way to goad me into stating that some racism is worse than others is just plain tacky. At worst, it shows that you’re grasping at straws for an argument, at best, it’s a blind statement to how you might think you’re being attacked when someone questions the privilege of your whiteness.
4. Declaring that you are upset by people choosing to have a space that marginalizes you because you’re white, is hard (for me) to take seriously. Do you actually HEAR yourself when you say these words? Do you realize how hard it is to hear this because that’s what it’s like for me and other PoC and marginalized groups for a few moments in a hypothetical situation? Our marginalization happens in our day to day. We are marginalized, othered, and shamed for things we have NO control over, just going about our day. I wish I could feel for you, I really do, and part of me does; but the part of me that does, is sardonic in its response because you have now been afforded a taste of what my life is like, CONSTANTLY.
5. My silence does NOT mean my consent. Silence means NO. My silence and what it means, does NOT get to be defined by you. By deciding for me, what my actions mean, marks me as the one needing to have my mind made up for me, and clearly, you as the white person, know my mind better than I do. No, you do not, therefore you should NOT ever be allowed to do that. It’s just another tactic that has been used in the past to drive home just how marginalized PoC are, and is plain bad manners.
6. One of the things that makes this hard for me is this commonly used phrase in paganism, “in perfect love and perfect trust”. A friend of mine and I were discussing it, I see it as part of the agreement I consent to by doing magic with a circle of people, not just with my deities. And this is the one that suffers the most every time I have to defend the need for space; the more I hear claims that people who are pagan CAN’T be racist, the more I hear that this is self-segregating, separatist, etc. the less I feel I can trust being in sacred space with you. This isn’t just about me saying that this space isn’t open to allies, which it is. It’s more about why did I have so FEW allies at the first PoC Caucus at Pantheacon? Why wasn’t my room overflowing with allies wanting to hear, listen, support, and learn ways to participate in the discussion around this social justice issue?
Paganism isn’t immune to these issues, if it were, there wouldn’t be the need to hear from one Heathen group after another distancing themselves from their more stringent contingents (the ones who claim that only Northern European descendants have the right to worship the Norse deities). We deal in interesting areas of life; we worship g*ds that are from a time that’s not ours, a people we may have no actual genetic connection to, and have experiences that science can’t explain but that feed our souls. Part of the experience within humanity is remembering that we all have walked a path long before we walked this Path together. I read a lot of talk about how each person’s path is different and the destination looks similar even if it’s worlds apart, but part of that is the fact that for some of us, the path has been thornier than just people not understanding the CHOICE to be pagan.
The main thing I wish white Pagans realized: I’m not any more different from you, just because I have a skin color that is darker than yours. The g*ds called us both, even if the way we are called looks vastly different. I ask to join this circle because I want to have that moment of perfect love and perfect trust with you, with the group, with my g*dden. If you can’t have me there because you hold onto some antiquated notion of what being non-white means, then tell me, before I enter into the circle with you. Don’t waste my time with your issues, I have enough of my own.
Posted on 28/08/2012, in Life, Pagan, Processing, Race, Right Practice, Right Thought, Work and tagged circle, culture, groups, heritage, ideas, image, life, me, musings, pagan, path, Race, right practice, right thought, thoughts, work. Bookmark the permalink. 71 Comments.
Thank you for posting this.
Thank you for stopping by and reading.
“in perfect love and perfect trust”.
I don’t use this phrase in practice because while it’s an idyllic paradigm, in reality it’s total bullshit when human beings are the arbiters of that. No circle I’ve been in is deserving of that badge. It takes only one person, one mistreatment, or silent resentment or suspicion to make that house of cards all come tumbling down. This is why gossip, splintered groups, factions, abuses of power and other stuff happens on the regular.
As for the rest of this blog post, I truly feel you. But before I can commit properly on it, I should reflect and get my thoughts together. Deep stuff.
Completely understood. I look forward to your contributions to the discussion. Thanks for stopping by.
You appear to view white people as though we are part of some privileged group. There are all sorts of things that make one privileged. Language and common views are a part of that. Creating a safe space for any group is challenging. The broader the group the more difficult. It might be worth having several safe spaces with some of the groups you mentioned when each of those are established to bring all together to share experiences as a culmination. I’ve been in groups of republicans where outsiders (yes other white people) are carefully kept out. When there was a communist scare in this country Ideas could make one an outcast. I guess I’m saying maybe your grouping of all white people might make you just as blind toward white people as you find them toward you.
I do hope and remember having written that in so far as America is concerned, yes, white is a privilege. One I don’t have, despite a maternal grandmother and a sibling who passes for such.
Yes, there are plenty of things that make for privilege. Once we start getting into the nitty-gritty of what makes one privilege we start treading the waters of intersections and that creates the onion visual I wrote about in the first point. It’s also a mitigating issue for me; I am a natural born citizen (privilege), but I am nonwhite (mitigating the privilege), AFAB [Assigned Female At Birth] (mitigating the privilege), queer (mitigating heternormativity and the privilege inherent to that), nongenderconforming (mitigating the gendernormative privilege), raised in a middling to poor socioeconomic status (mitigating the privilege inherent in a better socioeconomic status). All of these things are things I wasn’t given permission to join, but was assigned by a majority society (white, affluent, male, gendernormative, heterocentric, cissexist) and that I work at in order to create the assumed ‘level playing field’ that most apologists for majority society talk about. “Well, you’re clearly not trying to make it fair for yourself if all you can do is point out the flaws. You’re wasting your time… do something productive!” that isn’t an answer and it’s not actually do the thing it needs to do, which is finding a way to work at the system without treading on someone else. Why should my inherent nonprivileged status require that I see the majority? They clearly seem to see me just fine, despite the labeling they put towards what they see of ME. And I see them, just fine, albeit, I think you expect me to see them as how…?
I get that this isn’t something that just happens to PoC (pagans or otherwise) and that it happens within white community, too. However, those tend to be points that I don’t tread because I am inherently not involved in them. If someone wants to talk about things white pagans realized from a white pagan’s perspective, all the more power to them.
Yes, safe space is a necessity for marginalized groups. What good does it do for the small minorities if we feel we are put under some sort of microscope that requires we conform to some idea of what we are, for people who make definitions that we were never asked to come up with?
I’m hoping that makes some sense, I may have to revisit these words to be sure I am being clear.
The world does absolutely rank human beings worth according to ethnic origin and skin color, this is a quantifiable and measurable phenomenon. There are peer reviewed studies published across the board for housing/education/health/wealth accumulation/job promotions/police response/Good Samaritan response… there is no ambiguity in this. A fine bit of very short reading that I recommend is Peggy Macintosh’s “Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack”. It’s very good, and still applies even 20 years after it was published.
What it looks like you mean to talk about is a term called, “intersectionality”. That is circumstance in which different identities within the same person overlap. No doubt, a person who appears white but is of LGBTQ orientation is not going to enjoy the same ease and freedom of public PDA as a straight cisgendered person of color. That is a truth. When different marginalized identities combine, the societal resistance is even more compounded. Women are the largest “class” of oppressed people, but you bet there are a different set of harmful stereotypes for Black women, for Asian women, Latina women, Native American women, transwomen, etc. With that example for women, it has gotten to a point in the mainstream (white dominated) feminist movement, that there has been a parallel movement altogether called Womanism, that actively addresses the problems facing WoC that white feminists largely ignore.
If that is the case for such a large “class” of people called Women, then by extension, why would any other group with a white majority be any different? Every single brown person On. This. Planet. that has come into contact with white dominated culture already knows in their bones that they can expect to be treated as “less than”. It’s written in history books the world wide over, it’s in the tv ads in Asia and Africa that sell toxic skin bleaching creams, it’s in the media both here and the crap movies exported abroad that don’t feature PoC in a positive light, it’s in the households who loathe their classical ethnic features and now measure their daughters’ beauty against the standard that Western culture made. It’s the sort of knowledge that comes with experience. If you haven’t got that internal uneasiness of how that second class stamp comes up in the “oddest” of places like country clubs, around cops, nightclub entrances, retail stores…then that’s where posts like yours come in…
You are telling Xochiquetzal, who is *already busting hir ass* to expend more energy on creating something with hir own sweat to create another special space for you to fit in? You don’t have any idea how rude and disrespectful you are coming off right now, do you?
I’m glad you voiced this! Many of my PoC Military companions faced similar hardships. On top of being Pagan in a predominately Christian organization, adding race to to the struggle for their rights made it that much more difficult for them than it was for me (being white is easy in the Military; majority is a blasphemous privilege).
Your words make me think of all the things I’ve had that are worth fighting for, and all the insipid reasons people have for holding other people down.
First, thank you and your comrades for your service. Second, thank you for sharing a tiny window into those struggles.
I’m glad you wrote this, because I’ve often wondered why there are so few people of color in Wicca and in CoG. We are already the misfits of society in a way, accepting those who were rejected by the mainstream, yet we don’t see many black pagans of any ancestry. Sure, in FL, we have a few Latinos in our covens and participating in our events. There is only one lady ive seen more than a few times who has darker skin. After my first Merry Meet, it looks like CoG is made up primarily of cranky old white people. lol Will a hospitality suite really help? Is there something we can do to make all feel welcome?
I think a hospitality suite is a start. I think a bigger part of it is the need to ask ourselves; PoC and non alike, why it is that in this day and age, PoC are still needing these spaces. I keep thinking to a Joss Whedon quote; someone asked him why he kept writing strong female characters. Without batting an eyelash, he responded that he wrote strong female characters BECAUSE people keep asking him this question. I am asking for this space because I keep getting asked why I NEED this space. It sounds petulant but for people who experience marginalization on a daily basis, the thought of having a room at a conference (a conference attended by a majority white population) where their guard doesn’t have to be ON, is a breath of fresh air. If the request was for introverts needing a room where they weren’t constantly needing to be SOCIAL, I wonder if it would be met with as much resistance and questioning of motive… But those are thoughts for other days. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
PoC and others need these spaces because there is a difference between “standing against discrimination” and actually questioning one’s privileges. Speaking as someone who is white and same sex loving, here is what I see happen all too frequently: “Oh, I am so against racism that my Deity of choice is African *(even though I’m white and am putting all of my euro-centric preconceptions on that Deity because I can only see you through my lenses).” “Oh, I am so against homophobia that I can look at you and see that you are internally the completion of the marriage of the God and the Goddess (because I can only relate to you from the comfort of my hetero-centric, cis-centric existence, but I want you to know that I support you).” My experience tells me that there are an awful lot of folks in the pagan community who are eager to wave me around like a banner to proclaim how open minded they are, but when I challenge them on their internalized privileges they go on the attack because I stopped being their multicultural mini me. And while I can’t know, I have to expect that the experience is similar for PoC. This is why the loss of an LBGT suite at PCon a few years ago was so devastating and why there are several of us who work to try to create that safe space in whatever ways we can outside of having a prohibitively expensive suite that we can’t afford.
It is hard to not read that and feel aggravation at the feeling of being someone’s poster child. It’s what makes it difficult when PoC do speak up because then we are painted as being THE voice for the ______ (insert ethnicity you are presumed to be here). We’re not spokespeople for our entire ethnicity, we’re just speaking for ourselves. I have yet to hear anyone proclaim a white person as the spokesperson for white people, why is it okay to make that assumption about us?
I don’t think we’re going to be able to get a hospitality suite this year, the funds just aren’t there, but we can continue to work on it and find ways to create safe space throughout the conference. Even if it’s just where I happen to be standing.
Thank you for reading.
It is nice to hear from different ethnic groups about their experiences and I find that there are many similarities, even as some things are different. Thank you for a clear, honest and nicely written account of some of the things that could support a change in perspective. That is something I would love to see in society at large, and of course in the Pagan community. Although there are many people who are incredibly open and supportive of POC, it does not take away from those who are not.
I think that’s what I keep hoping for, in my heart of hearts; that the change in perspective is enough to effect change in the way we treat one another. And yes, change of this kind in society at large would be AMAZING. And within the pagan community, I would think that this kind of equality would be an amazing way to start effecting that change in greater society. And yes, there are many who are supportive, and this is a chance to talk about and find more ways to be vocal and strong allies and supportive voices. Thanks for sharing.
i wish i had the ability to express myself as well as you do. thank you sharing your thoughts. this was an excellent read.
Thank you for reading.
I hope I can get you and Crystal Blanton to come on my show and talk a little bit more about this. Would you be interested in something like that?
Sure, my contact information should be somewhere on the site, feel free to email me or message me via FB. 🙂
I chose not to attend the first PoC Caucus at PCon as an ally because I thought it would be wiser to give space for you and yours to discuss your issues without someone like me hovering and risking a derail or making some of the more cautious ones feel less safe speaking up. Seeing your reaction to the lack of white faces, I think I shall make an effort to attend the second caucus should I make it to PCon next year.
I look forward to seeing you (the submission for the second PoC Caucus is still awaiting approval from programming) if you make it. And I look forward to sharing space with you and any allies you bring along!
Thank you for reading.
Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for this article, thank you for working to create safe spaces for the onions in our community.
I try. Please share this wherever you think it appropriate.
Well written and I feel a good deal of agreement with nearly everything you have put here.
Though I think you are a little off the mark with number 5. It isn’t White privilege that will have people filling your silence with presumed acquiescence to their own thoughts it is human nature.
I personally am a Agnostic Subgenius Skeptical Lutheran in my own faith. I believe that we must speak to our own struggles, while walking the fine line of also not diminishing the struggles of others.
We all have our anguish, strife and struggles in our lives, and if others need some small space to aid each other I’ll not begrudge them. As long as it isn’t too much space and they are not keeping too much from others. The line there is indistinct and often painful to find.
I will have to explore the possibility of it being human nature, thank you for that valid point.
Thank you for reading.
Wow. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you.
Thank you so much for reading this. I’m glad you found it resonance.
I completely agree that it is valid to have a separate space at Pagan events for groups such as people of colour, LGBT people, kinksters, etc. People have discussion groups about Myers-Briggs types (which is a sub-group of “people who are interested in Myers Briggs”), so what’s the problem with a group for other sub-groups?
However, I would question the use of the phrase “white supremacist” to mean “white privilege”. White supremacists are those Nazi types who want to deprive people of colour of any civil rights whatsoever. White privilege is what you get if you’re white, and all white people should check their privilege and assumptions arising from it (and so should cisgendered people, etc) and work to abolish these privileges and extend full rights to everyone.
For the record, I am white, queer, kinky, genderqueer, biologically female, and Wiccan. I agree that “perfect love and perfect trust” can be misused – as far as I am concerned it is an ideal to strive for, not something to use to sweep dissent under the carpet.
I would agree with your feelings on the white supremacist thing except for by it’s definition (stripped of American-centric views of sheets, lynchings, and cross-burning) it’s been a huge mentality that is thrust upon people who AREN’T white. We are taught that whiteness is this ‘supreme’ ideal that we are supposed to strive for, eventhough we will fall short of it because of our skin color.
To my thinking, white privilege is the ability to walk through this world assured that your place in it is never questioned, that your opinion is never invalidated, and that your movements are not under scrutiny.
White supremacy, is that I should be able to do all the things that white privilege is defined by, usually by pretending to be something I’m not.
Obviously, these are personal definitions and as such they are malleable based on discussion, experience, and reflection but for now, the distinctions are pretty clear to the way I am trying to present them. At least, I think they are clear.
Thank you so much for posting this. I found this post via the Daughters of Eve blog and it’s going on my recommended reading list for anyone looking to be an ally for Pagans of Color. Very thought-provoking.
Thank you for reading and for sharing, I am glad you found this to have merit for others.
Your struggle would seem to be insurmountable and reading this article, I appreciate the thoroughness of your thinking and love how much emotional ground you can cover. I am tired of being blamed for the worst of my people and don’t forget the vast range of thinking within white people. Many of us feel revulsion at what still remains of Manifest Destiny and my children for instance, are completely, absolutely, post-everything. and it is heartening to see. I would be supportive of your efforts to lead many people into peaceful spaces, a moral high ground hateful white authoritatian christians will never occupy. Briefly, I created an idea that hasn’t gotten very far. I call it the Pagan Reform Temple( treebord.webs.com )a unitarian universalist type of place and space for all solitary and eclectic pagans. you could do something similar with much more success.
Thank you for reading and sharing. I tried to write about my experiences as clearly as possible, though I always feel like I could do better and see where I could have improved on this.
Things like your project and the projects of others that I am aware of lead me to believe that there is hope to arrive at a place where I am told I am accepted, and that I am seen, not as a person ‘lacking’ in color but rich with it, with the experiences it garners me, and with the willingness to let out some of the hurt that it has brought me, but without feeling like a victim.
I currently don’t know if I am looking for MORE success or if I am looking to enjoy the little success this has given me. Anytime I write (and publish!) feels like a success, to be able to let some wounds out and stop their festering, is a success. So with your last comment I am left wondering what MORE success would look like: I guess it would look like I have a completely funded hospitality suite that other groups can use and seek refuge in, and that we have enough funds for the room again, next year, and the year after, and that we’re able to bring more social justice work to other areas. Lofty goals, I know.
Yes. Thank you for writing this. Something I see as a large part of the issue (from an ally perspective) is the perception that “race doesn’t matter” or that cultural histories make no difference when examining individuals among white pagans. Of course race doesn’t matter to you if you are privileged! That’s what privileged means. That you don’t have to worry about your race and how it will be perceived.
Or that your cultural “needs” should be respected even at the expense of others. I’m thinking specifically of the issue of cultural appropriation in the last bit. Arguing that Ancient Celts assimilated portions of cultures they encountered or conquered does not make it acceptable for you to just start grabbing traditions of other people just because you feel like it, especially when those people have asked you not to take their traditions.
Sometimes the fight gets very tiring for me and I don’t have to do it every moment and day of my life. I cannot understand how bone-weary it must be to have to do so. Having a place where you can set down the fight for a few hours/days must be so extremely valuable. When white people get offended by the need for PoC/gay/trans/queer/female persons to have their own space I try to just ask, “When was the last time you didn’t get proper medical care or a job for being who you fundamentally are and cannot change? Religion doesn’t count because you can change that. Because in that case, you don’t need a space. You don’t need a space when you get to define your whole world because other people aren’t busy defining your world for you.”
The other downside of wanting “spokespersons” for a race or ethnicity is that if you are not that race or ethnicity, there is a desire to discredit what you are saying if you are speaking out against injustice. “How do you know what it feels like to be a PoC/gay/trans/queer pagan? You can’t tell me that what I’m doing is offensive!” *sigh* I suppose that empathy isn’t a good enough argument anymore. Or maybe that if the idea is repulsive to me, it might be a good bet it’s repulsive to others and that maybe you could ASK so that I don’t have to try to explain it to you? Oh wait. That’s not what privilege means…
The phrases that invalidate color “race doesn’t matter” or “I don’t see your color” can leave one feeling so bereft because we’re not striving to be a color-blind society, if anything it’s about being color-aware, I think. If I am aware of the issues that plague your color, then I am also aware that these are not issues that plague me and I can offer myself as a supportive person and advocate because I know I don’t get told to shut up, sit down, don’t make a racket and I do it not from a place of knowing I am better than, but because I am better WITH variance of experience in my life, not withOUT. If that makes sense.
And yes, cultural appropriation is a very hard issue and it’s extremely volatile, for people who do it without a care or concern for the host culture, those who are part of that culture that is being taken from, it’s a cruelty and a lack of empathy and understanding. The Charge of the Goddess says “power AND compassion” if you have power (institutionalized) over another, it is on YOU to also show compassion by your actions, and THAT is a difficult thing, but not impossible. It just takes a willingness to look hard at oneself and realize that giving of your power doesn’t actually hurt you or incapacitate you.
As a PoC, I have reached the point where I’ve realized that I CAN’T do the work for others, all the time. I used to be someone who insisted that if given enough time and resources, I could fix it all, myself, my immediate sphere of people, my community, my society, my world. Now, I work hard at fixing ME and by my actions provide an example (sometimes it’s a good one, sometimes, not so much) for those looking to find a way to deal with their own issues. The most I can hope for, is that people will explore who they are, their privileges, and how they can work on recognizing when they are using their privilege and leaving others in a disadvantage; so that they stop those behaviors and develop new ones.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.
Thank you for this article and for sharing your thoughts and voice. I have been exploring and examining my own onion and privileges–both conscious and unconscious– and how these filters affect all my relationships and encounters with others. It is an uncomfortable space for me in those privileged areas to become aware of how blinded privilege can make the privileged. And yet, sitting with that discomfort is necessary to wake up.
Again, thank you.
Thank you for doing YOUR work! It’s great to meet others who are exploring what this is like and being honest and forthright about the struggles in acknowledging privilege. It makes me happy to know that you are already engaged in this work and that you possibly have taken something from my writings to help you. And yes, privilege blinds some to the way they use their privilege to invalidate and leave others at a disadvantage. And yes! sitting in that discomfort is necessary, to wake up, to see oneself, to make oneself look into that mirror and really REALLY see what and who we are behind the facades, masks, and glamours. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.
I could get lengthy about this but will try not to. My mother grew up walking two roads. I am identified as white but spent over a decade as part of a readily identified and much vilified group that is associated with a looked down upon ethnicity. As such I’ve had the experience of racism in the US. Some of it is born of ignorance, some of it is ugly and scary. It was a window into a world few whites see. However, I was not raised with that and was able to leave it (now there are members of that group who would kill me if they knew my history, if you leave they believe you should die). I feel that I have some grasp of the experience of racism.
Within Paganism I tried a pagan dating site and encountered some of the white/ethnicism you are addressing. One man wanted to know my heritage because he stated that if we had similar Nordic descent we would understand each other and think the same. Huh?? Yeah right. On which planet is it that everyone in a geographic area or whose ancestors came from the same general area, thinks the same? He determined that I was an ethnic traitor. He was certainly using paganism to support his racism.
Another perspective on that, to play the devil’s advocate, is that if their concept of the gods and goddesses of their pantheon requires a specific birth line, let them have it. The problem from my side is only if they decide that makes them superior and gives them a right to control or suppress others. Historically the people of each area and perhaps even each household, had their own deities. When traveling people may have taken their own deities with them but also gave respect to the god/desses of the places they visited. Conflict over this arose with the concept of a jealous god who was proclaimed to be the only god and required that all people be brought under subjugation.
On a side note: my personal practice is not so much about what was as about where we are headed. I look back for what can be gleaned to build my future rather than as a ready made practice to try to recreate.
All that aside we also have recognize that our expectations can color our experience. Back when I was a member of this visibly identifiable religion I went shopping one day. This was in a community where I had been face to pillowcase with armed members of the KKK, so there was plenty of reason to expect prejudice. When I checked out, the cashier was very rude and nasty and I assumed it was prejudice. As I pushed my cart out the door, the woman who had been in line ahead of me, was beside me, “Oh” she said.
“I always hate coming here when that cashier is working. I try not to end up in her line. She is the nastiest person. I don’t know why they keep her. I just dread dealing with her.”
So much for me being a special case.
It was a good lesson about expectations and interpretation.
By no means does that apply to all situations but it was a bit of a reality check.
I’m fairly new to group practice with the wider pagan community, I was a solitary most of my life, even while exploring that other group – some of them did identify me as a witch and they do kill them in countries they control. I guess I’m fortunate that the community I am part of now has pretty strong culture of acceptance. You know pagans are an odd lot by their nature. Dealing with them can be rather like herding cats. We are people who have stepped away from the mainstream culture. Many of us have never felt that we fit in anyplace and some, to put it gently, are lacking in social graces. Your concerns address the need for training and consciousness in leadership (that isn’t the same thing as initiation) around keeping balance, and being welcoming and accepting. We are still finding our way and whether we like it or not we are still very much steeped in the patriarchal dominator model.
I encourage you to work with those who get it regardless of their apparent ethnicity to help our diverse community learn and grow positively.
Thank you for sharing your experiences and personal realizations.
I’d like to think that I am seen as an open and welcoming person to anyone who is interested in working on issues that I care about, but I can see how that may not be the perception people get from me, especially when they don’t ask. For the record, I will work with anyone who is exploring these and other issues I hold close to my heart. It won’t be easy, the challenge is to work from a place of openness and recognition of each other (flaws and all). But then, if social justice work were easy, we wouldn’t consider it work, right? (Laughter appreciated, but not necessary.)
all good points you have. it’s true that the white,hetero,male has held much of the power and has been the standard for centuries. it happens in any gathering where peoples have even the smallest shades of differences, and i agree that a safe room/area needs to be put aside for those who my need of it (in caring for needs not to segregate) weather the gathering be mostly white, black, asian, latin, whatever the background or skin tone. the gods have called each of us to serve, and it is my beleaf that they do not see our skin color so much as our spirit/soul….. sorry for spelling and punctuation errors
Your point comes through clearly enough, no worries and no need to apologize for the spelling and punctuation. Thank you for reading and commenting.
I’ve been waffling about posting this since I saw it earlier today. I decided I might.
Firstly: Thanks for writing this. I think it’s important. I just want to offer my own thoughts on the nature of this guy’s responses to you. Take from it what you will:
To be white is to be implicitly assumed to be racist. White guilt is intensely fostered upon us by society, impressed upon people that if they are not hyper-vigilant against racism they are immediately vilified. It wears you down, and people desperately want to show that they’re inclusive. That terms like “reverse racism” are being thrown around whenever a white person suffers racism at the hands of a non-white. Which, of course, is bullshit. Racism is racism, regardless. It isn’t a white phenomenon.
“Civilized” society makes racism out to be such a HUGE evil that people get these knee-jerk responses. They CAN’T be racist. They’re better than that. They HAVE to be better than that. They’re civilized, and egalitarian, and EDUCATED, dammit. The fact that this person took your silence to imply it isn’t so much him putting words in your mouth (although yes, he did), but that he’s so conditioned to be phobic to the idea of appearing like a white racist that he went overboard.
I’m not sure why whites get the way they do when people of other ethnic groups want their own space. I think it’s, again, a residual feeling from this. Whites have been taught to be inclusive. To be exclusive is to be racist. There can’t be organizations that say “If you’re non-European, you can’t join”. That’s racist. Maybe they think it’s only fair, or that to be excluded is unfair. Maybe they’re intimidated and feel like they’re becoming marginalized. I don’t know. Groups that celebrate white ethnicities are considered racist simply because they assume you’re going to keep people out who are not white. Ultimately, I’d like to see people no longer being intimidated in these circles, but you cannot help it. I’m a solitary, so I really don’t have much of a place to critique other people’s actions when it comes down to group space.
I’m just trying to explore the actions and reactions of this person according to your blog post. There was probably more to it that I’m not able to see, but this is my feeling on the subject matter. It might shed some light on the fact that he may not need to realize his issues, but that he’s so hypersensitive to being possibly un-politically correct and racist.
Thank you for reading and sharing. I’m going to try to get to all your points.
I get guilt (raised Catholic) but the thing I have seen is that white guilt has a recourse and solution. As this isn’t about white guilt, but merely about the recognition of privilege, I can’t speak too much more for that. However, I do agree there is an onus of ‘don’t appear racist’ in white culture; the problem is when the implication isn’t questioned. When one is hearing racist remarks in the circle, staying is a choice, but so is voicing disapproval and leaving is a stronger choice (in my opinion), but it requires a willingness to stand up to people you may have initiated with, belong to as kith and kin, clan, etc. And yes, I get about being worn down, I feel that when I have to sit and explain yet again, why I have just as much right to stand before the hearth and pour out a libation to my Shining Ones. And yes, terms like reverse racism and their ilk really are pointless for the reasons you state, but more importantly it’s the institutionalization of these -isms that is the core issue.
That you put civilized in quotes leads me to wonder if these are not in fact key goals that should exist in civilized society, to be aware of the racism is different than to be NOT racist. To be aware of racism is to be aware of the advantage one has at not having to feel the effects of racism, that’s an educated stance, surely a civilized society is capable of that?
The silence comment you make, I am however, taking issue with because it is about putting words in someone’s (my) mouth. Doing that, regardless of who is doing it to whom is a tangible way of saying, “my opinion of your experience OUTWEIGHS your actual experience” and is considered by me and possibly others, a microagression (defined by Wikipedia’s entry [based on Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, v62 n4 p271-286 May-Jun 2007] as: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color”). Note that the definition includes the word unintentional. While I grant that there is the possibility that it was an overreaction, (and I also acknowledge areas in that thread that derailed that I could have done a better job of dialoging) it spoke more to me, that instead of being OKAY with my silence, the person was bothered enough to take my silence and give it voice. It’s a common tactic not just when talking about the privileges in race, but also in other areas. I am NOT saying that is what this person intended, I am merely saying that this is one of those unintentional (and probably unaware) slights that happen and have happened to me, in some way, from a young enough age to grate on my nerves.
As far as your statement about whites being taught to be inclusive I find that the teachings of inclusivity usually mean and apply for/to them, as opposed to being seen as inclusivity for everyone (else). I notice this, mostly from working with MCC-SF (Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco; an LGBTQ church whose motto is, “A Home for Queer Spirituality”, in the interest of full disclosure, I just became a member) which espouses a radically inclusive and personal liberation theology that speaks to me about HOW one can be inclusive, even when it is clear one has advantages and privilege over other members of the church.
I understand the need to explore and find your own connections to the events I describe, and yes, there is more that is unseen and thank you for sharing your feelings on the matter. And yes, that is a possibility, and I do hope to cross paths with this individual, if only to extend a hand and a hope to share space with him, even if it is momentary. I do believe that had we had the conversation in person, it would NOT have gone the way it did, I believe we are both better people than the words on a screen, that we all are.
Very excellent, and thank you for writing this!
(Also, how come I didn’t know until now that you had a blog?!? Eeek!)
As you may know, the matter of diversity is one that I constantly worry about with the Ekklesía Antínoou–I’m thankful for any attendance/membership that we get (with some exceptions, of course, as you know!), but I do wonder if there’s something we’re doing that makes us less safe or welcoming to people of color, etc. I know pagans and queer people do screw up with these matters, and are not immune to racism and other ethnicity/skin-color-based biases (more often than one would hope), amongst many other ills, but I am trying as best I can to make sure we don’t have much (if any) of that in the groups with which I’m involved and have a major say. So, if you have any suggestions in that regard for us, I’m certainly all ears! 😉
Thank you for reading!
(I don’t know why you didn’t know.)
I have yet to consider that in the Ekklesia (in the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the Ekklesia, both as a person but also due to my being an initiate of Sharanya, which declared itself allied with the Ekklesia at a ritual held during Pantheacon a few years ago, IIRC) I am NOT welcomed. But then, I think that it is because we as a group have always been focused on and made sure to extend a warm welcome and to be honest and forthright about any questions asked by new and incoming people.
If I have suggestions, I will be sure to voice them. At this juncture all I have is, “Keep on keeping on!” 🙂
You raise a lot of important points, and these are issues that all communities struggle with. One thing I hope you will be honest about is that there is NO WAY to strip the word “white supremacist” of its cultural implications. That’s like trying to use a swastika and pointing out it used to be a symbol of peace. You can’t “unload” something like that from all its history.
Making space for those of similar background to explore together is important. It’s all about the intent. Exlusion or exploration. It also does, frankly, depend on whether or not you are part of the majority culture or minority and what the intent is. Intent, of course, is a hard thing to judge from outside.
Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.
For ME to be honest, the cultural implications you are speaking of (from the subtext I am reading in your comment so I may be incorrect), are largely steeped in an American-centric point of view. When I used the words for the first time in that discussion that derailed, the automatic connection was to white sheets, burning crosses, lynchings (a pretty thin veiled vector towards the KKK and the history of their founding and rising to prominence in America, but mostly in the American South). If we are to really look at the term, we have to look at it from the historical context but also the academic one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_supremacy#Academic_use_of_the_term); by this definition, my use of the phrase is valid.
On making space, yes it is about intent. Sadly, too often, as soon as someone hears that there is a group that wishes to make space separate from the rest of the people they are around, it is seen as an attack on them for some lack to be inclusive. I tend to view it as an issue of hospitality (here’s where my tendency towards the Heathen Virtues but NOT the Rede is most often on display) and how one extends graciousness in a situation that may be perplexing and may cause you to turn a mirror to yourself and your actions and see if something has offended without intent to do so.
Firstly I have to thank you for acknowledging right off the bat that you’re not referring to everyone when you complain about “white supremacists” and acknowledging that there are allies out there whom you are grateful for. It is really refreshing to see that and I like that originally you gave the groups two separate names to differentiate. There are legitimate reasons that allies feel the need to have that line drawn. I would like to (if I can) explain from an ally’s perspective why your friend’s first reaction was to feel attacked in spite of your efforts to show that you were not referring to allies in your references to “majority society”. I can’t tell you exactly what he was thinking at the time, but I can share with you some of my own experiences and trends that I’ve seen.
Let me start out by telling you a little about myself for context purposes. I love experiencing different cultures. While I myself am a Celt in body and soul, I really enjoy learning about beliefs and ways of life from all around the world. If you ask I will tell you about my culture (which believe it or not the majority of people know little about) and I will almost always ask you about yours. Anyone who knows me knows that they are completely safe to be themselves around me and that the only assumptions I make about people are that they have an interesting story to tell. When I’ve done rituals in groups I usually prefer to work with people who follow different paths than I do because we each bring something unique into the space.
That said, I’ve been experiencing a lot of negativity from people who I thought were MY allies as much as I am to them.
I’ve experienced post after post from friends (one in particular) bitching about white people as a whole instead of acknowledging that it’s not everyone. My ethnicity has been bashed up one side and down the other instead of bashing the individuals or types of people who are causing offense. I am as pasty white as it gets with my Scottish, Irish, French, and Italian ancestry and I love where I come from; just as much as I love that each of my friends comes from where they do.
Unfortunately in my experience, a lot of PoC tend to demand to be seen as unique individuals with one hand, but clump all white people into one category with the other. (Notice the words “a lot” in that sentence. Those are words that need to be used more frequently, which is why I was so pleased and grateful to see you use them in this post) Although the intent nine times out of ten may not be to insult the one who hears it, it doesn’t change the way things are being said by so many. If someone is posting to facebook for example, who are the people that are going to see the post? I generally only have friends who care about me and support me on my facebook, and I would like to think that others wouldn’t “friend” people just so they could bitch about them in status updates. I WANT to hear my friends frustrations and help them in any way that I can. I do not want to sit there being insulted the entire time when I don’t even know the people who are the real problem, which is what my friend is doing. It is both frustrating and hurtful for an ally to have their support, love, and acceptance be met with having their entire ethnicity condemned for the actions of others and it happens too frequently to be ignored.
Everyone has that ass-hat relative that they’re not proud of, but is it right to blame them for their obnoxious relative’s mistakes? The Celts for example have never been Imperialists. They just want to live in their homes. Everyone is welcomed to visit and share their story, just don’t try to take our homes away. These are the ancestors I identify with. These are people who are proud of who they are and want to hear who you are. While there are certainly descendants of the Celts who through time have changed and become horrible excuses for people, there are a lot of us out there who are still good people. We don’t want to be placed under the same title as the jerks. I disagree with your friend in his complaint about your use of “white supremacist” because it’s an accurate description. It’s specifying that you’re talking about those people we’re all embarrassed and angered about. Believe it or not, these “supremacists” are the same people who are just as likely to attack us as they are to attack you if we’re different than they are, which brings me to another thing that probably angers your friend and I know it bothers me: we face oppression too but are treated as though we don’t.
It comes in different shapes and forms, some more obvious than others, but it happens. It’s hurtful to help your friends through their hardships but have your own thrown back in your face and dismissed because “you’re white so it can’t be that bad”. Guess what? It can be. Sure, that “majority” grouping that has been mentioned here has it a lot easier. It’s sad, but in a lot of cases true. But there are a lot of minorities within the “white” community who have to endure a lot of pain as well. I have friends who were kicked out of their home as teenagers because of their beliefs or sexual orientations. We’re shunned by a sickening number of people for being a pagan of any sort. Our skin color serves as NO protection from that. I have had family members tell me I would go to hell if I didn’t wait on them hand and foot. I have had to keep my personal beliefs a secret from all but one trusted member of my immediate family. My family on my mom’s side at least is very close. I hate having to hide a big part of who I am from them. It’s bad enough when you have society trying to tell you who you are, but when it’s the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally it hurts on a much more personal level.
Culturally? My Scottish ancestors (whom I identify with the most) had their cultural identities stripped from them by England, who took their lands, raped their women, and shipped them to the Americas to do the hard work of building the settlements and fighting their wars. To this day Scotland is still trying to recover it’s cultural identity and only getting the scraps thrown by England. Scots weren’t permitted to wear their tartans or traditional attire until England “allowed” them to again. The Gaelic language is nearly forgotten in much of the lowlands. The only place the true Scottish music tradition is still alive in it’s original form is in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia where some of the people were sent. Music is a tremendous part of our culture. It’s who we are. That’s why it was one of the first things attacked in England’s attempt to break us. This battle to keep invaders from destroying the land and culture has been going on in various forms for over 2,000 years. As a person of Scottish descent I am constantly fighting to preserve my culture and bring as much of it back to life from the rubble as can be recovered. Are we white? Yes. Have we had it easy? Clearly not. Do we have a long fight ahead of us to be able to live the lives we should? Yes. All any of us really want is to be able to be who we are and have that be okay with everyone around us (or at least with the people who matter in our lives).
I suppose this is all part of why I work to be as helpful of an ally to as many cultures, beliefs, and lifestyles as I do. I understand the pain of being told you can’t be who you are and try to use any small “privileges” I have to help others get their message out there. I understand the pain of being told you have to be something else. That’s why it hurts so much to be clumped in with the oppressors or told I have it easy just because SOME of who I am is okay with the majority of society. That is what a lot of allies have to go through.
Let me make one thing clear: I am NOT in any way shape or form making excuses for your friend’s behavior. The fact that he’s your friend should mean that he should give you the benefit of the doubt, listen to what you have to say, and share his own feelings in a manner that honors the friendship you have. I don’t know what the original post was, but it sounds as though his behavior was out of line and he should have calmed down before talking with you like a rational adult. While it is surprising that he refused to listen to you, the fact that he felt the need to have that line drawn clearly is not.
What I do hope to do is show you why he might have jumped to the conclusion that he was being attacked. When so few people differentiate between the ethnicity and the oppressors, and people actually get mad at you if you bring up that you suffer too it’s hard not to get at least frustrated with the world. It’s difficult to try to be supportive of people and have them treat you like an outsider instead of a friend in return. You may not be like that, but that’s what allies are faced with so frequently that it’s come to be what we almost expect.
I still don’t know how to bring it up to my friend that he’s being hurtful to me without him jumping down my throat and accusing me of being a horrible person who doesn’t know what “real” attacks to who I am are. The last person who politely told him they were blocking his newsfeed so they didn’t have to see those hateful posts was promptly and publicly attacked, told to “go reevaluate their life”, and treated as though they were the one who had a problem. The immediate answer would be that my friend is not the ally I though he was, and that apparently the support of culture between us is a one way street. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but I can’t believe that to be the case. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt because he was always a good friend to me before he moved away. I want to believe that he just doesn’t realize that he’s being hurtful. I just don’t know how to talk to him in a way that he’ll listen.
Well, this ended up being a bit longer than I intended. Let me wrap this up by again commending you for your attempts to celebrate everyone’s unique background. I wish I could have been there to support your efforts to bring to light groups that don’t get more recognition. Giving people a safe environment to be themselves is a wonderful thing. It’s really exciting to see what makes a person who they are and to give people a chance to celebrate it. One thing that might help build attendance for your cultural minority area might be to emphasize that people are welcomed to come learn about it. I’ve seen people avoid going to see things that interest them because they weren’t sure if they were allowed to join in because they didn’t fit in the categories listed. Personally, I like being a minority when I go to learn about a culture because the only way to learn about a way of life is to immerse yourself in it. Other people might be afraid that they’re not wanted there because they’re different. It seems silly that something like that could stop the curious, but it might help to remind them that they are encouraged to come learn. I was fortunate to find a group in college that encouraged everyone of every faith, culture, background, and personality to come share their beliefs and learn about others. The only requirement was to be open and respectful. It has ended up being a wonderful, safe, and loving place for hundreds of people. It celebrated individuality and support for each other. Keep at it, once people see what you’re offering them they’ll be thrilled! You have a good thing going and it will blossom into something great. Hopefully attendance will grow each year until your room is filled to bursting.
Best of luck!
Thank you for reading! I’m going to try and hit the most salient points as I get to them (and my apologies for the delay in approving this, I don’t mean it as a slight but you covered a lot of ground and I want to do justice by it.).
I think that when we have discussions like these that it is important to make that distinction; clearly, early on, and often throughout because then the assumption is that one is talking in broad-reaching generalities (which in a way, we still are) about ALL people. Just as I would rather not be made the spokesperson FOR the entirety of all Mexicans born in the US to immigrant parents, neither should any ONE person of any race be treated as the VOICE OF. It’s why I said that this is the joy of treating each individual as their own unique entity, and not just a profile of assumed cultural and ethnic traits. We are a diverse people, human is the only similarity we carry from one to the other, what we do with that humanity is where we diverge.
You are also more than welcome to try and explain, but I truly do wish that people would stop. The actions of another will always be cause for speculation (and in the event I wrote of, I am so critical of my own responses that I am trying to be present with that instead of speculating on anyone else) and we just end up on an endless loop of, “maybe he meant this? Or this? What about that?” and instead of seeking ways to fix the glaring issues that were unearthed, we delve into minutiae and lose sight of more constructive avenues.
It sounds to me, that what you are experiencing at this moment from your friends is the reversal of the traditional roles within an unbalanced power dynamic; wherein the ones who suffer the brunt of the privilege lorded over them are expected to carry no ill-will, hatred, or objection to what is being foisted upon them. As an ally, that can be a hard thing to hear, and it can be a hard thing to experience, I get that. This post might help you shed some light on where that rage is coming from and as an ally, your job (in fact, anyone who is interested in social justice work of ANY stripe) isn’t to take IN every invective hurled from a marginalized person, but to let it flow. (Yeah, there’s that wacky paganism stuff again!) Just as we are taught to become a conduit in our bodies for the powers of sky and earth to mingle in our centers and flow out of our bodies once the magic has been done, so too, must we (as social justice workers) find a way to flow with the hurt and harm being expressed. I tend to view it from the point of a festering wound, one that has a need to let out everything that has been trapped inside that harms the body; it needs to let out the pressure that harms the rest of the area.
You are experiencing something that I have, unfortunately, done on occasion to friends who are also allies; I’ve made them take the brunt of what I call ‘marginalization fatigue’ (I’m sure other people call it something else), it’s that feeling of exhaustion at having to ‘keep face’. The micro-aggressions, -invalidations, -insults, and -assaults are (despite using the word micro as a prefix) like a steady tide; wave after wave of these little jabs. They are wearing, just as I imagine being clumped with racists can be. And here, I do believe that you have every right to point out to someone whom you are trying to be an ally for that you acknowledge their pain (if you didn’t, why bother being their ally?) but that YOU (personally) are NOT the cause for what they are feeling. Too often, we are told that we can’t respond to something that hurts, to feel numb when we get one epithet after another hurled at us, that we (as PoC) are taught to keep silent when someone follows us around a store suspecting that we will shoplift something, or that we just shouldn’t be there. But, when we start doing it in blanket statements, then yes, we run the risk of losing people who are on our side… But it’s not my place to absolve them of the responsibility to engage in discussion about these topics like adults, that is where we need to hold each other to a standard of discourse and rhetoric that sadly, we don’t learn in school anymore. I don’t know that I have anything helpful here other than to recognize and acknowledge the frustration you are feeling and wondering if maybe starting out from a place of neutrality and calm to state how hurtful it is to be an ally and still be lumped in with the problem people.
You make a valid point with the relative analogy. However, there comes a point where you need to face the obnoxiousness of that relative, especially when that relative is ACTIVELY causing harm outside the family. When a PoC (pagan or not) faces open hostility and is surrounded by other people, the ones who voice disapproval at the hostility are seen as ‘safe’. But, and this is the thing that racism clings to in order to continue creeping into society (even a society that can elect a black president): a white person who espouses racist thought, will look at other white people in a crowd and assume that each and every white person they come across AGREES. The struggle is finding a balancing point between feeling like you can’t stop them, or wearing a sandwich board every DAY that says, “I am NOT a racist, so don’t even think it!”. I don’t doubt that you face types of oppression, but I can’t speak to that. I’m not white. Nor would my words do anything other than (probably) be palliative. Power isn’t granted me by majority society so anything I could do, doesn’t go as FAR as it should or could. And I’m sorry to have to admit that as a personal failing, especially because it’s one that I didn’t ASK FOR.
I know a little bit of that history, I will admit that my knowledge is passable but definitely not very rigorously backed. However, I also applaud your willingness to note these times in your own history and share them with those who read this post. It’s also a way to gain a glimpse at what we (PoC) are STILL going through; our cultures are ridiculed and stolen from, on a daily basis. Our lives are seen as LESS THAN others just because the shade that covers us is darker, deeper, richer. Because it’s the color of fresh-turned earth, of mud, clay, and Earth herself.
I see how hard and frustrating and (many more adjectives, I’m sure) for white people who AREN’T like the racists and that can be exhausting. I am sure that if you were to sit your friend down and explain that while things may not be as ‘hard’ because of your whiteness, for your specific SINGULAR experience, things ARE hard, things ARE feeling difficult and THINGS aren’t EASY. If you were to find that your friend can’t see how his words invalidate you, make you invisible, make you feel like your humanity has been stripped away; and he can’t see how he’s using the very same tactics that others use to do that to him, then maybe you should stop being friends with him, that you can’t be pulled into a supportive role when someone isn’t meeting your needs for support as well.
Thank you for sharing your words, I hope I was able to touch on the key ones, I’m sure I missed some. Thank you for reading.
“This isn’t just about me saying that this space isn’t open to allies, which it is. It’s more about why did I have so FEW allies at the first PoC Caucus at Pantheacon? Why wasn’t my room overflowing with allies wanting to hear, listen, support, and learn ways to participate in the discussion around this social justice issue?”
Only speaking for myself. . .
As a respectful ally, my default understanding of such spaces is that I will presume myself unwelcome unless clearly invited, and likely even then I’d be irrelevant. It’s quite possible that the invitation was explicit in the description, which I did not read because my what I got from the title was “the focus of this is a group to which you do not and cannot belong” and so I looked no further.
That may well speak to a flaw in my approach, rather than anything being unclear in your communications.
I regret having misinterpreted the boundary markers and not been there in support.
The language did state that the first time I did the PoC caucus that allies were welcome and encouraged. Maybe next time I should use a bigger font.
I understand that, but I also had a lot of allies ask hesitantly if they were allowed in, (despite reading the blurb) and they were enthusiastically asked in.
Please, don’t apologize, I understand feeling uncomfortable, I felt that way the first time I met the coven I ended up ordaining with because I didn’t understand boundary markers as a new ‘baby pagan’.
Thank you for your words and for reading.
Thank you. Well written and to the point. I already shared your earlier post and at least one person took notice and realised as Pagans we have a hidden problem i.e. one that is hidden from most white Pagans.
Thank you for reading and sharing! I appreciate that others are starting to see some things that we need to be proactive about instead of reactive. As PoC become bigger and more vocal components of their local pagan communities, I think we’re going to start needing to look inward more at the assumptions that rise inside us about every single person who comes into our circle. I’m not saying that as a way to mean ill intent but merely as another facet of the Shadow Work that each of us has and (hopefully) works on as we come across it.
I saw this post on another blog and commented on it that I agree completely that there should be spaces for those of us who are in special interest groups (e.g. LGBT, disabled, ethnicity, and indeed other specialised interests such as people who are into Myers-Briggs types).
Of course one needs space to talk about the issues that pertain to one’s particular group, or just to hang out with people who get certain things and just don’t need the really obvious explained.
But I don’t think you can conflate “white privilege” (not noticing that you have privilege because you’re white) with “white supremacist” (believing that you’re superior because you’re white and being extremely right-wing about it). I mean, obviously being unaware of your privileges that you get for just being cisgendered or white or able-bodied is ignorant, but it’s not actively hostile to the groups that are thereby being marginalised.
Other than that, good post.
Thank you for seeing the value in carving out that kind of space.
However, I’m also trying to NOT conflate the two. Also, I would prefer the use of ‘extremist’ to ‘right-wing’ as in this country, we use the term right-wing more as a political stance than as a social one. By saying extreme, we can recognize the lengths that active white supremacy can reach as opposed to the way I use it, which is a recognition of whiteness as this standard that must be achieved; our way of thinking should be white, our looks should be white, our totality of being is based and judged on how quickly or easily we achieve this. As PoC, we won’t reach it because we are automatically seen as less than white due to the coloring of our skin, and thus we start witnessing and experiencing the lack of advantage due to not meeting the standard of whiteness in majority society.
The privilege-blind (those who are unaware they have privilege) is a different category to those who are willfully blind to their privilege, however, I don’t think it’s my place or my work to force them to be aware. Besides, it’s doubtful that those willfully blind to their privilege would hear me out.
Just something for thought: We are all related genetically to Mitochondrial Eve. All people come from people of color, no matter how light our skin. The gods of one race, were born from the gods of another, back to those gods of our African ancestors. All gods are related, though their stories may not reflect this.
Nevertheless, I was horrified by the story of the person who was rejected by pagans because she was of Color. Humans have such a long way to go. 😦 Thank you for your story. I hope you get your space at Pantheacon.
While your comment rings true in a lot of ways, I’m not going on to imply that one g*d is like this other g*d in the exact same way. Syncretism works because we see nuanced differences. I can’t condone people who make statements like Hera is Oshun is Frigga because that’s not true, and is offensive to followers of each of Them. If that makes sense. Yes, we may all be connected to each other in that way, and we still have a long way to go before we can accept that basic fact, but our g*ds are who They are, no more or less than we are still individuals despite belonging to the human race.
Thank you for your words and presence here.
Thank you for your reply. I don’t like the Hellenistic tendency to say Zeus is Odin is… etc. Because truly they are not the same. What I mean by related is that they are all related like we, as human beings are all related. Shakti is 6th cousin twice removed (guess) of Brighid. People traveled far and brought their gods with them, but over time those gods had children from local land spirits and new gods were born. The older gods were eventually forgotten while their children thrived in the new land with their people.
I also take the “we are all related” quite literally in the sense that we are all of the Universe, we all came from the same beginning, stars, planets, beings, and are thus all family.
Thank you again. I’m very glad that as a person of color you are taking the time an energy to educate we privileged white folk (seriously). I’m so lost when someone I consider family cries out for understanding, but has become jaded and is tired of explaining over and over what is really going on.
I feel that because I have layers to my onion (female, non-Christian, disabled etc) I can find a common ground and some common experiences of prejudice with women of color. But, I now (because of your explanation) can understand that women of color and others may struggle under even more layers of prejudice, and that although we can find common ground, our experiences will never be equal.
” There was an individual who was quite upset with the words white supremacist as a descriptor (and a valid one) for what I call ‘majority society’; white, affluent, male, gendernormative, heterocentric, and cissexist. Pointing out to an individual that while he WASN’T racist, there were those who looked like him that were, was read as an attack that didn’t actually exist.”
Uh, you called me a white supremacist because I have white skin.
If that’s not an attack, what is?
“I was surprised and a little unsure as to how to proceed.”
You could try not being racist. That would be an excellent start.
I’m sorry you appear to have missed the irony of that specific comment.
This is absolutely hilarious!
Speaking as the person who challenged your racism on Facebook, there are a few glaring omissions I’d like to point out for the readers, granted you don’t simply delete this out of cowardice.
For starters, you opened the discussion of your No Whites Allowed room by saying its primary function was to “challenge your white allies regarding their privilege and history”. Well, it’s no damn wonder your room “wasn’t overflowing with allies”! All you wanted to do was attack the very people most inclined to help you! You even highlighted your own racism by openly admitting that you were attacking me because of my skin color, because I “looked like someone who was racist”, which in and of itself is the most damning admission of your own racism you could have made. You even made the same confession here!
Second, slamming the door in someone else’s face out of revenge isn’t any kind of valid path toward achieving racial equality. It’s okay to admit that you just want to get back at white people for some sense of closure, but don’t try to pretend that you’re owed that as your due and proper right.
Maybe, and this probably hasn’t occurred to you, just maybe your No Whites Allowed room wasn’t overflowing with allies because the vast majority of the pagan community has better things to do with their time than focus all their energy and identity into gender and skin color. Maybe the rest of us realize there’s more to a person than what they look like.
Thank you for sharing your feelings on the matter. A point of clarification — it is NOT and will NEVER be a “No Whites Allowed” room. I have stated this many times to you, on public forums outside the scope of the original discussion. To do so would be a slap in the face of the allies who DO show up, and it’s also a cruel thing to impose on people who are bi/multi-racial.
As to the rest of this comment, thank you for speaking your voice. It is understood by myself and by others working on this endeavor that not everyone will be moved to help or to work with us; and that is okay. Not everyone will want to be involved, and that’s okay. There’s room for lots of different opinions on this planet.
This article makes me sad. It makes me sad because this stuff goes on in paganism. I was Craft-raised to be color, gender, and path blind because we are all children of Deity.We have a couple of young men who are gay and wear make up and/or cross dress in our group and its encouraged because it is part of who they are. One of these young men is bi-racial and has never been accepted anywhere.
Thank you for opening my eyes to this and to my own ignorance on the subject. I am constantly reminded of what a great community I come from, and wish everyone could be a part of it.
Brightest of blessings!
Two things I must watch everyday that I inherited from my parents, my weight and my prejudice. I fight my own prejudice by listening with an open heart. I try to spread LOVE and educate when I can. I recently wrote a bit about this here: http://audiamvocem.blogspot.com/2013/07/love-racism-and-media-manipulation_18.html Thank You for your perspective, it helps to illuminate us all.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for doing the work. It takes a willingness to look HARD at the roots of our own racism; something that I HAVE to do on the regular because I do have racist thoughts enculturated by my parents and my upbringing. That’s my work to do and continue working on, no doubt. But along the way, I have to remember that the gaze of antiracism has to be turned outward as well. Thanks for doing YOUR work. May you continue to see the fruits of that labor.
I appreciate what’s being said here in so far as there are definitely problems that need to be addressed. And i loved the onion analogy. I’m curious though why that onion analogy is said to not be applied to white people. Each person is different. For example: I’m Pagan. I was raised Catholic. But when I say I’m not Christian I generally get asked if I’m Jewish. Or even get told that if I’m not Christian I obviously need to find God or that I must not have any religion then. I’m female. I say this and immediately assumptions are made. I’m younger than many pagans especially in this area and often get treated as a child instead of an adult because of it. Or I get ignored completely. Everyone has layers. Everyone has suffered or struggled more than you can guess just by looking at them. That, and not just an acceptance of religion, or color, or gender, or age but AND is what we should be teaching.
Thanks for the nod in my direction!
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