Saturday, February 25, 2012

We Interrupt this Important Dianic Discussion... for More about PCon

In the ongoing argument about Z Budapest's "genetic women only" ritual, I've seen numerous commenters ask "would it be OK to hold a 'white people only' ritual at Pantheacon?" The implication, of course, is that it would be an abomination. There's no way the Pantheacon organizers would ever allow a group to hold a "whites only" circle and anybody who tried would soon be shunned by every right-thinking person at the festival.

This is comforting news, except for one inconvenient little fact. Most of the rituals and events at Pantheacon already are exclusively white. As I said in the comments of Crystal Blanton's post on "Daughters of Eve:"
Something I noticed when I attended PCon years ago was the ... shortage... of people of color. Not to put too fine a point on it, but every person of color attending PCon could have fit easily into a room party with plenty of space left over for a band and a couple of belly dancers. (I also remember the experience of one Mexican-American woman who was attending a suite party and was repeatedly mistaken for a maid... ).
 And today Pythia Theocritas comments:
It is no surprise that the modern pagan movement is heavily Eurocentric, and very fond of cultural appropriation for the sake of the ‘exotic’ or ‘ancient’. Plastic Shamans hawk ‘ancient native rituals’ about as ancient as the first tablet PC and Hoodoo and Vodun becomes the latest craze amongst those seeking the spirits of the ‘noble savages’ they’d be too frightened to speak to in real life.
As I noted in an earlier blog post, I have taken a hiatus from writing about Vodou because I felt I was enabling the people who wanted a kinder, gentler - and whiter - African Diaspora experience.  They wanted something more "authentic" than the One-Size-Fits-All reductionist monotheism which uses deities like ethnic decor. But they didn't actually want to deal with brown people to get that authenticity. I'm guessing once Hoodoo and Vodou become passé, the next big thing will be Curanderia, Brujeria and the Santa Muerte cult.  And I'm guessing, sadly, that many of these new "curanderos" and "brujas" will never get any closer to a real Mexican than their local Taco Bell.  So I am very, very sympathetic to Pythia's concerns.

How do we fix this issue? How do we make our faiths more welcoming to people of color? Well, a good start would be acknowledging that there is a problem.  Many Pagans have shown a remarkable talent for ignoring this lily-white elephant in our living room.  I think this whole flap over Z Budapest's comments has opened up some important dialogue about gender and inclusivity.  Perhaps now we can also start addressing the pressing issues of racism, classism and cultural appropriation within the community?