Saturday, March 24, 2012

PPPPOC Speak Out, Part Three

Last year, I encountered some troubling racism within the pagan/polytheist/pantheist communities that wasn't overt, but troubling nonetheless. It got me to thinking that minorities within any community have it hard- even when the community is itself a minority or subculture.
I decided to give my blog over to Pagan/Polytheist/Pantheist People of Color (and later this year to pagan/polytheist/pantheist queers and trans folk) to give them an audience for their experiences. All too often, we traffic only in our familiar circles and that lessens the chance for dialogue. This is a chance to hear from the affected folks themselves.
I sent out a series of questions to folks that I know and it went viral. expect several columns like this one as the answers to my questions come back to me.

This interview is with TJ Kahn. My questions are first followed by hir answers in italics.

Mass produced racist valentines. An example of
institutionalized racism that people accept...
until they don't.
Can you please tell us how you identify religiously/spiritually?
I qualify myself as a Religious Humanist / Neo-Pagan.  I have a mixture of Native American, Zen Buddhist, Judeo-Christian and scientific beliefs umbrellaed under an animistic/pantheistic philosophy.

Can you tell us how you identify as a person of color?
I identify as a Latino/Native American (First Nations) person.  (Of Mexican-American and Mission Indian descent.)

Do you identify with the term "pagan"? Why or why not?
I identify with "Neo-Pagan" because it is the only term that encompasses all of me, but I rarely identify with the larger Earth-centered Pagan community, though I hold them in great respect.

Have you ever encountered what you consider racism (however you define it) while at a pagan gathering, circle, or workshop (public or private)? Can you tell us what happened?
Holy cats, this one is bad.
I myself have not, but I have experienced a large variety of Earth Mother traditions and very little Great Spirit (Native/indigenous) traditions in pagan gatherings I've attended.

Do you believe that there is a bias against any traditions/Gods/types of religious practices in the greater pagan community? Do you believe that these biases are informed by racism?
As above, there have been very little references to my particular ancestry, and larger pagan gatherings tend to ignore my particular patrons (Athena, Bast, Thoth) in favor of larger Gaea-deities.  (Blue Man, Earth Mother, Pan, etc.)

What would you like to tell white pagans about making spaces more welcoming, inclusive, and "safe"?
Host more Native American animistic teachers.

Have you had conversations with "white" pagans about race? Did it go well? Do you feel as if you were heard?
Not about race.  I've usually felt heard pretty well in the pagan community.

The term "Indian Giver" is particularly infuriating.
Look up the history if you do not know.
Do you have anything to say about appropriative spirituality? Has your tradition been appropriated?
I tend to see a plethora of Native American practices used in pagan ceremonies like smudging and dreamcatchers, but almost none of the other less-popular traditions like medicine dances and sand paintings.  I would say more 'commercialized' rather than 'appropriated'.

Anything else you would like to speak to?
I would like to see more respect given to the ground and ancestors of the particular area where pagan practices are being held.  Not from an Earth-Mother perspective, but respect for whose land that used to be.

For more information on dismantling white privilege, race in the news, and anti-racist activism, check out:
and more links to come.

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