#Pantheacon follow-up on race and cultural assimmilation

Thanks to the glaring injustices hitting an all-time high in 2014, a good chunk of this year’s Pantheacon went to deeper discussions of race and cultural assimilation. The tracks proved necessary, because something about “hey, there are people in our group having a different experience from the rest of us because of surface and not-surface physical differences,” is entirely too difficult for some members of the Pagan community to wrap their head around.

I have the frustrating experience of encountering people telling me what kind of experience I’m having instead of asking; it frequently bounces me out of Pagan/magical circles almost as much as my need for a sense of genuine stability ((especially right now)). I am not all good with the God/ess; I am barely on speaking terms with my patron. This active faith, not blind faith, and what I practice is not the fuzzy love of blind submission that others call religion. I will be back eventually but right now we all need to work some s*** out. This is just me, as one of the inclusive white “in” group. I don’t have some idiot looking at my skin and saying “Oh, so you’re like into the Egyptian stuff, right?” My microaggressions are of the fat and female variety – adding microaggressions of the color-flavor on top of that might drive me completely batshit insane.

To me, treating Pagans of all colors as though they are the members of the movement/tribe that they actually are should not pose a difficult concept. Recognizing that while our ancestors suffered – my Polish ancestors did not fare well through World War II, my WASP ancestors were pretty much authors every problem we have now and yes, the women suffered as part of that culture – but for the most part, we are not suffering as our ancestors did. Whites as whites are not living out a legacy of injustice now, the sort of injustice where the people around you make for damn sure you don’t have choices about the ways in which you are othered. People of color are experiencing these problems right now.

Understanding the immediacy of that problem is all that you really need to get. Most people don’t, their minds jumping ahead to defending whatever cultural practices they may have appropriated. An added layer to this? People born in the United States – especially the whites – are a jambalaya of cultural appropriation. Our entire culture is composed of practices borrowed from somewhere else. Yankee Doodle Dandy was a British song mocking the Americans. Farming traditions all came from somewhere else. As far as anyone can tell, the only three things we know of for sure as American cultural inventions are jazz music, denim, and McDonald’s. Jazz music actually comes from black culture – and that’s a complicated conversation about when music transcends and when it doesn’t.

Let me put it a less global way:
It’s well-accepted that if you have not initiated as a Gardnerian, you should not claim to be Gardnerian. (Some Gardnerians might argue you should not claim to be Wiccan, but they are just ignoring some pointed memos from the God/ess.) Gardnerian Wicca is to be approached on its own terms. You can’t just go running off with it and make it your own.

The same absolutely applies to indigenous religions. People may get called to practice those rituals, or to come to those cultures. If you practice those traditions from a place of sincere devotion, you won’t just throw them into a Wiccan circle format and do an invocation at a UU picnic.

What you do in private – without making any authoritative claims, and without bothering anyone – is between you and your gods.

I only went to one of the racism/cultural assimilation tracks. I have posted my pull quotes here: