Tuesday, February 28, 2012

And the Comments Keep Coming In: for Wade Long

Responding on G+ to my earlier post on race in modern Paganism and at Pantheacon, Wade Long (who has also offered his thoughts on the Z Budapest flap) opined:
Well, America's three quarters white, pretty much across the board. When you take into account that paganism in general is most embraced by white liberals, you're going to HAVE to simply deal with the fact that there aren't a whole hell of a lot of blacks in the pagan community. It's not just PantheaCon, either. It's everywhere.
Wade is offering as the answer what I presented as the question. I asked why it is that contemporary American Paganism is overwhelmingly white, middle-class and liberal he notes that "When you take into account that paganism in general is most embraced by white liberals, you're going to HAVE to simply deal with the fact that there aren't a whole hell of a lot of blacks in the pagan community." Which is rather like answering "why is the sky blue?" with "when you take into account that the sky is blue..."

I also note that Wade's response (and those of several other commenters) utterly fails to address the comments I posted from several black Pagans as to why they feel uncomfortable in the greater white Pagan community.   One persistent theme among black Pagans was that they feel ignored and marginalized by white Pagans. Given the way their concerns were ignored by many who responded, I think they just may be onto something. 
Then, when you address the fact that most African Americans who do practice magic don't, for the most part, actually participate much outside their own neighborhoods ... well, you just won't be seeing them going to events like PantheaCon. They're too busy doing stuff.
Again: WHY don't they "participate much outside their own neighborhoods"? You are restating the question and presenting it as an answer.  I'd also add that I have some questions about the statistical sampling you used to determine the preferences of "most African Americans who do practice magic." Especially since you seemed to miss several comments from African American practitioners in the post to which you responded. 

Then there's the inherent racism in your sentiments, by stating outright that whites Just Can't Do Magic, and are apparently unable to make Santeria or Brujeria work without having their very own pocket Mexican right there to give them the thumbs-up on it. 
Magic doesn't come from your skin color, any more than it comes from your naughty bits. Saying "No Honkies Allowed" is just as silly and counterproductive as saying "No Transies Allowed". Unless the ritual involves getting a decent tan, white people can do magic just as well as nonwhites.
Seeing as how I never said whites Just Can't Do Magic - and in fact have written books which teach readers white and otherwise how to practice Haitian and New Orleans magic - I am puzzled as to where you came up with that one. What I said (or meant to say, just in case I was utterly unclear) is that there are many white Pagans who want to practice spooky, exotic magic from African diaspora, Hispanic and indigenous cultures but who show an active aversion to actually meeting representatives of those cultures.  (The term generally used for that is "cultural appropriation," something we've been discussing here in other posts as well).

Obviously white people can do Vodou: I'd look awful damn silly saying they couldn't. But I question the motivations of those who want to learn Haitian Vodou but who have no interest in actually engaging with Haitian people.  I have issues with people who want to call themselves "rootworkers" and "conjure folks" but who are terrified of the poor black people who actually originated this tradition.  I find the white folks who will happily buy dream catchers and practice "Native spirituality" while stepping over the homeless drunk Cherokee in the parking lot distasteful.  That doesn't mean they "Just Can't Do Magic."  It means that I find their behavior to be exploitative and shameful.  I harbor no illusions that I'm going to change it, but that doesn't stop me from calling them on it.