Sunday, February 26, 2012

White Unity in White Diversity: still more on Pantheacon, Paganism and the Politics of Exclusion

As I continued studying the latest Budapest Brouhaha, I came to an uncomfortable realization. Even with Z Budapest's hate speech and anti-trans posturing, Pantheacon (and the Pagan community in general) appears to be more welcoming to white transfolk than to people of color of any gender.

I've spoken about this before: now I'd like to get out of the way and provide a voice to those who have experienced it firsthand.  Here are some words from black Pagans. I invite the organizers of Pantheacon (and other Pagans, wherever they may fall on the gender or color spectra) to consider these comments carefully and to offers ways in which we can do better by our fellow worshippers of color:

In response to Crystal Blanton:
Thank you so much for drawing clear connections between race, class and gender. Pagan community has long discussed gender--and I am happy to see that conversation including all the myriad manifestations of of sexual natures--but topics of class and race areshrouded in silence. We must discuss all the ways in which we dismiss or remain "blind" to exclusion, be it overt, covert or (worse) unnoticed. - Karinabheart
I am not surprised that hardly any of our people attend the various pagan conferences...I am not sure that we are really wanted in attendence. When I search out our people who are practicing various African dieties, I am surprised at the numbes and very surprised at the fantastic practitioners...yogis, herbalists...all very accomplished but practicing in an Afrocentric fashion. So these black practioners would not attend "white" pagan events, and they may not hear about them within their own very close circles. And from what I've been reading about htem, I don't think I"d subject myself to all the ignorance...I've got more important things to do, for myself and my people. It seems to me that there is a dark energy that clouds these pagan gatherings and attracts similar energies. So I just am not drawn to any place or people that will treat me poorly. It isn't always my job to help them see the light. We all eventually have to decide for ourselves to walk out from the shadow. - Meganhenrycht
In response to Pythia Theocritas:
It has been very interesting reading this article, and the ensuing comments. I think about this subject a whole lot, as a biracial pagan woman of both African and European heritage. I remember feeling intense waves of disconnect 20 years ago, when I began to read about Pagan life in America and gazed at the accompanying pictures of what an American Pagan looked like. They didn't look like me, it seemed. I too, had the sad disappointment of not being able to find any depictions of faeries of any variety of hues other than fair-skinned or blue or something like that. - Nici Johnson
In response to Pythia Theocritas's excellent post, "That Angry, Polytheist Black Woman"
Even though white pagans fall mostly on the left side of the spectrum, they are like many other white folks in our culture in that they've grown up unconsciously ingesting the same racial stereotypes as everyone else. The angry black woman is one of those stereotypes.

Maybe it's because our accents are often different than theirs and they just interpret that as sounding angry somehow. Or maybe it's because we don't do that "sounds like we're asking a question when we're really making a statement" upward lilt in pitch at the end of our sentences like many white women do. I dunno. But yeah, having to constantly reign yourself in so white folks don't get intimidated gets old, pretty quick. - Blackpagan
Well said. The walking on eggshells and the culturally insensitive comments or faulty interpretations of what others have said or mean because of the lack of understanding or covert (even to themselves) predjudice is so completely tiring and frustrating. I do agree that more voices will be heard; as we all seek to grow spiritually - it will be about connecting the voices and not adjusting them down. It is hard to want to re-enter into the larger pagan community; the pain and anger are great - but as the term "pagan" becomes too small for what it happening in terms of global growth, the exclusivity of one cultural/socio-economic voice as the yardstick of the "Neo-pagan" community will have to turn into a multi-plumed fan that can bring life and connection to the worldvoice. As a person of a racially mixed background and upbringing, I have found that it also brings its unique challenges and assumptions into a spiritual community. - Simone Bennett
LOL!!! Its about time our folks started speaking up! I, for about the third time have been told that I am judgmental, that I think I am better than others, etc...you know. And I've been taking it to heart, re-evaluating myself, and each time, I sort of come up...well confused. At these times, I couldn't seem to figure out how I was being judgmental, and in particular how I was thinking I was better than others. What I did notice was that I was being honest, forward, and understanding. Things that were not expected, nor appreciated from a black woman with the highest education in the room. Hmmmnn interesting. And yes, you are right, a lot of folks are not what they think they are, nor who they say who they are. Many are just playing and fooling themselves and others and they hate being reminded of their own shortcomings. - Meia
 In response to my earlier post:
Ashe, and preach my friend! I struggle between exercising understanding and feeling outrage when I see cultural appropriation and individuals who write about or produce images/goods inspired by African Traditions but have no idea beyond what it's called. Worse yet, are people who establish Pagan lists about ancient Egypt and Kemeticism and then have the gall to say that "there is no evidence that Ancient Egyptian pharoahs were black. All artwork depicting pharoahs show them trampling blacks with their chariots." I called the priestess out on her clearly racist remark. I would like to add this: how much of the lack of diversity in neo-Pagan forums the responsibility of Pagans of Color? There are Black Pagans. Why are they not more prominent? Or is it that we tend to 'fade' into the background of cultural indifference when we do show ourselves. - Seshat Anqet Het Her
Personally I know one of the reasons I refuse to network with local Pagans or in fact make the cross-country trek to P*Con is because I'm tired of the double takes I get when I walk in a room AND the spit takes I get when folks realize I don't practice Vodou or Santeria or any other "ethnic" religion. I'm tired of having to "prove" that I belong. - Vermillion Rush