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.
|Both the books shown here are |
available through Crystal's website.
Can you please tell us how you identify religiously/spiritually?
I identify as a Wiccan/Pagan.
Can you tell us how you identify as a person of color?
I am a Black (African American) woman. That is how I identify if I were to strip it down to one over arching label but I am also mixed with other things, as most of us are.
Do you identify with the term "pagan"? Why or why not?
I do identify with the term Pagan because it is a label that encompasses the elements of my spiritual practice. As a person that works with the old deities, elements, forces of nature and works within the concepts of earth based spirituality, I find that Pagan is a good umbrella term that identifies my spiritual beliefs and practices.
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?
I recently encountered a man in a Pagan meet and greet that made some racist comments to me about Black people in Oakland. He referred to his children as "sagging" their pants and made a comment that he immediately told them they were not black. He then went on to ramble about black kids who are shot every week because they are on the corners selling marijuana and then are chased by the cops. He states they were shot because when running they had to pull up their sagging pants and therefore were shot by the cops because it looks like they are reaching for a weapon. I wrote about this experience in the Daughters of Eve blog...
I do believe there are a lot of fears about deities and other beliefs that are not common within the Euro-centric concepts of Gods and Goddess. Venturing out to understand the African Gods appear to be quite frightening for many who are practicing Pagans and are within the common box of working with only Celtic or Greek Deities.
What would you like to tell white pagans about making spaces more welcoming, inclusive, and "safe"?
I think there are many things that could be said to those who are not balancing the line of being the minority race within the Pagan circle. I would mention here the concept of privilege and developing a great understanding that not everyone has the same outlook and experiences in life. Due to these differences, it is important to acknowledge that diversity gives us perspective that we may not otherwise have. Evaluating ones privileged opens up the opportunities to see how others views are valuable and also seeing ones on limited understanding of the many ways of the Gods. Honoring each person as an individual and a child of the Gods goes a long way, regardless of the color of a person's skin.
Have you had conversations with "white" pagans about race? Did it go well? Do you feel as if you were heard?
I have had many conversations about race with non-minority Pagans. While some went very well, not all conversations have gone without a hiccup but all conversations are progress. I do feel heard many times and being able to work with the Daughters of Eve blog on Patheos or with the Shades of Faith; Minority voices in Paganism anthology has given me even more outlets to be heard through. It is an exciting time within our spiritual community.
Do you have anything to say about appropriative spirituality? Has your tradition been appropriated?
For more information on dismantling white privilege, race in the news, and anti-racist activism, check out:
Daughters of Eve
Understanding and Dismantling Privilege
What Tami Said
and more links to come.