I am glad to hear some voices of reason in Heathenry. I have thought about taking a step back from the Heathen/Asatru communities, though I felt greatly encouraged to hear from a Facebook friend, who contacted me asking if he could cite me as an example of a Norse Polytheist who believes the religion should be inclusive. He is working on a paper explaining that the racist contingent of Asatru is a distorted viewpoint- contrasting it with Viking religion (he’s working on a B.A. in Scandinavian Studies) and making a comparison to how the Westboro Baptist Church is not representative of Christianity.
The Northern Gods Are Not White- by Sarenth Odinsson- Excellent! Couldn’t have said it better myself!
How to Raise Racist Kids- Not how you think, actually!
A suggestion I’ve seen from various people is not to condemn racists, but to try and educate them. I will admit, I probably let my Christian influenced “turn the other cheek”/take the high road etc. mentality get the better of me (I know it’s not how polytheists roll, but it’s my upbringing and personal inclination), and more than once I have been taken advantage of as a result. I’ve invited people to “dialog” and understand where they are coming from, to have them stab me in the back. For my post about the origins of policies of who belongs to the Jewish people and various Native American tribes, and how it doesn’t compare well with Heathenry, I got support from people who already agreed with me, but people who didn’t, ignored all the points I made and just told me I was perpetuating “white guilt” and hating white people.
So if I am so stopped by a sense of “Nice White Liberal” guilt, then I would give money to any person of color that was asking for money, but not white homeless people, because after all, they’re so privileged. And I would expect my white tenants to pay rent, and my non-white tenants to not pay rent, because my family who owns the house “owes” them. Actually I don’t. I don’t want begging going on in my neighborhood, and so to discourage it I don’t give money to people of any skin color. Instead, I give to charities.
And currently there actually is a situation in which I have one tenant who is paying rent, and 2 others who are not, which is why we are evicting them. I’ve had both great and terrible tenants of various ethnic backgrounds. I actually consider it just as racist to give special treatment to someone because they come from a historically oppressed group than to a historically advantaged one. Believe it or not, I am a white left-winger who has mixed feelings about affirmative action, that great sacred cow of liberalism. But I don’t whine about “reverse racism/discrimination”. I actually think, if we are going to have such policies in colleges in particular, it would make more sense to give scholarships on the basis of economic need. White people who are not wealthy are getting very angry with being told that they are privileged. I think class needs to get discussed a lot more. I think disability needs to get considered more. The word “social justice” should not just get thrown around to apply equally to pseudo-causes like “otherkin oppression” or “Wiccan privilege” as actual forms of oppression & privilege. People should actually look up the origins of the term, it was invented by a Catholic monk. Discussions have in general become way too centered around individual privilege (of any type) and there is too much of an expectation in every discussion that every participant has a recent liberal arts education and knows a bunch of academic terminology.
(This is a response to a couple comments I blocked, mainly to keep this as a safe space- if folks want I will make them public.)
I am a member (out of thousands) in Heathens United Against Racism, not a leader. So flattered to get your attention, Mr. Irminist! I’m waiting on hearing back from the leaders in regards to accusations that have been made. They are making inquiries. I did vote in favor of the pronouncement against Irminfolk, but I hadn’t heard of the group before, so I didn’t have some previous grudge or anything that diabolical. By the way, the inclusion of “Aryan” as a ethnic label in your by-laws was a nice touch. Does that include people from India or Persia? I’m in ADF, so I know all that obscure Indo-European stuff.
Ryan Smith, one of the leaders, publicly identifies as an anarchist (different from communist, FYI) so he’s not really into ordering us around like we’re his little minions or flying monkeys. We have people with a range of political views, and different countries as members of the group. Including Europeans. And people with Germanic ancestry that have been told, sorry but you’re just too brown. Nothing personal. But you only require 7/8ths “Ethnic European” ancestry, right? Does that include Jews, just wondering?
I am not sure if anyone in HUAR is directly involved with Philadelphia Antifa (antifascists) Personally I am not connected with them, or any other anti-fascist skinhead group and I don’t really agree with their tactics. I most definitely prefer non-violent political action, and direct action/protest used sparingly.
I identify primarily as a Druid/Celtic polytheist, but have been exploring Heathenry, in part due to the major German and Scandinavian cultural influences here in Minnesota, and heck, my aunt is a Norwegian professor (Lutheran not Heathen but she humors me :) In particular, Urglaawe (Deitsch heathenry) and Vanatru (a very UPG-based form) interest me.
I am an advocate for mental health awareness, being that I struggle with depression & anxiety myself, and I often tell people to *not* refer to racist/homophobic/sexist etc. attitudes as forms of mental illness, mental retardation since that is pretty insulting to people who actually have those conditions. The comparative friendliness and inclusiveness I’ve encountered in HUAR towards people with disabilities is in contrast to many online and offline Heathen groups- particularly ones calling themselves “folkish”. Obviously we won’t see eye to eye on matters of race, but perhaps you will re-think how to throw around words like “delusions” and “crazy”.
Religious and private organizations do indeed have the right to restrict membership according to their own criteria in the United States. As far as I’m aware, HUAR as a group at least does not advocate for changing those laws.
Religious organizations are restricted from endorsing public candidates for office, but not against advocating for various issues. Growing up in the United Methodist Church, my parents were very active in peace and civil rights movements, and now I belong to the Unitarians.
Personally I am more interested in educating people about cultural issues- and educating myself than in helping out the Southern Poverty Law Center keep track of All the Scary Racists Hiding in Bunkers ™. I kinda doubt you fit into that category anyway. I don’t have a giant White Savior complex, and I am not plagued by white liberal guilt. Go psychoanalyze someone else, in fact I already have my own therapist, thanks! Oh wait, psychoanalysis was invented by Jewish guys. Shucks!
I do not represent an organization, political or religious. I am one woman with a blog.
I grew up in the ’90’s so this is my idea of trolls…what I have been dealing with are not trolls, but bullies. And “In My Day” there were no anti-bullying laws or anti-bullying movement- partly because when you went home, you were safe from the bullies (well, unless you had abusive parents or siblings!) because there was no Facebook and such. So instead of offing yourself, you were more likely to go play with your troll dolls. At least, that’s what I did.
My parents- and every other Important Grown-up, always told me and other kids to just ignore the bullies and they’d go away. Well sometimes it worked, but often it didn’t. Especially because I sucked at just ignoring them! Autistic kids are really easy to get a reaction out of, and we’re like bully magnets. Sometimes, when I was able, I even defended other kids who were bullied- often “fat” kids.
Oftentimes, the bullies were never punished because of “he said, she said” situations. Who started it? Who deserved what was coming to them? Was there something Darwinian about it, that weird, or awkward or weaker kids needed to be culled from the herd, and taught a harsh life lesson to conform, to “know their place”? People defending bullies often seem to think so.
Unfortunately I’ve found online Heathen groups to be pretty full of bullies, and a group I belong to has been accused of bullying behavior itself, based on calling out the policies of another group, and that they claim to have suffered repercussions for. I don’t speak for the group, I am just one individual, so I am waiting for the dust to settle and statements to be made by people in charge. Whether it’s a good idea for us to publicly identify groups that have membership policies we disagree with- I suppose can be a matter of debate- is live and let live a better policy? I don’t claim to always be in the right. It’s not always clear what doing the right thing is. I want to be clear that this blog is just *my opinions* about both religion and politics, and random other topics of interest, it does not represent any organization I belong to, religious or political, nor does the blog represent my own organization. I am not “obsessed” with race or racism, I have been writing about it a lot due to current events, and because the society I live in is pretty darn “obsessed” with race, even if it pretends it isn’t. Just because *you* don’t experience something, doesn’t make it not real.
Atheists, agnostics, skeptics, freethinkers and humanists- I identify loosely with several with those labels with the exception of atheist- in fact I feel atheists have a tendency to take over words for themselves which apply more broadly. The latest one is Pagan. Who has a “claim” to the word pagan? A messy question for another day! I see heathen get used, but usually in a more joking manner, and they generally aren’t aware of its use by Norse/Germanic pagans. What types of atheists make good allies for Pagans & UUs, and which types mesh well enough to even be included in UU & Pagan groups?
I came across this study- copy pasted it here, with some added commentary
Two researchers at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga found that atheists and agnostics run the range from vocally anti-religious activists to nonbelievers who still observe some religious traditions.
“The main observation is that nonbelief is an ontologically diverse community,” write doctoral student Christopher Silver and undergraduate student Thomas Coleman.
“These categories are a first stab at this,” Silver told the website Raw Story. “In 30 years, we may be looking at a typology of 32 types.”
Silver and Coleman derived their six types of nonbelievers from 59 interviews. We’re pretty sure we’ve spotted all six in our comments section.
1) Intellectual atheist/agnostic (often but not always activist type) Some friendly to religious liberals, others more broadly anti-religion
This type of nonbeliever seeks information and intellectual stimulation about atheism.
They like debating and arguing, particularly on popular Internet sites.
They’re also well-versed in books and articles about religion and atheism, and prone to citing those works frequently.
2) Activist (generally also the intellectual type, some anti-religion/anti-theist, others are more like “faitheists”
These kinds of atheists and agnostics are not content with just disbelieving in God; they want to tell others why they reject religion and why society would be better off if we all did likewise.
They tend to be vocal about political causes like gay rights, feminism, the environment and the care of animals.
3) Seeker-agnostic- Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) many UUs, many Pagans- this describes me! Agnostic with a polytheistic worldview & an aesthetic/intellectual enjoyment of ritual & mythology. I feel that’s a more intellectually honest description, though I use polytheist for short. At the end of the day I feel I have more in common with them.
This group is made up of people who are unsure about the existence of a God but keep an open mind and recognize the limits of human knowledge and experience.
Silver and Coleman describe this group as people who regularly question their own beliefs and “do not hold a firm ideological position.”
That doesn’t mean this group is confused, the researchers say. They just embrace uncertainty.
4) Anti-theist (sub-type of the activist) New Atheists, typically. This is the type that probably would *not* mesh well in a Pagan group, interfaith group, or a UU congregation! Ableist attitudes (such as “religion is a mental illness/neurological disorder” or “religious people are stupid” are disturbingly common.
This group regularly speaks out against religion and religious beliefs, usually by positioning themselves as “diametrically opposed to religious ideology,” Silver and Coleman wrote.
“Anti-theists view religion as ignorance and see any individual or institution associated with it as backward and socially detrimental,” the researchers wrote. “The Anti-Theist has a clear and – in their view, superior – understanding of the limitations and danger of religions.”
Anti-theists are outspoken, devoted and – at times – confrontational about their disbelief. They believe that “obvious fallacies in religion and belief should be aggressively addressed in some form or another.”
5) Non-theist (Apatheists, functionally agnostic) my partner falls in this category
The smallest group among the six are the non-theists, people who do not involve themselves with either religion or anti-religion.
In many cases, this comes across as apathy or disinterest.
“A Non-Theist simply does not concern him or herself with religion,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “Religion plays no role or issue in one’s consciousness or worldview; nor does a Non- Theist have concern for the atheist or agnostic movement.”
They continue: “They simply do not believe, and in the same right, their absence of faith means the absence of anything religion in any form from their mental space.”
6) Ritual atheist (secular Buddhists & Jews, UUs, some Pagans?) Alain de Botton- Religion 2.0
I suspect for a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/comics & games fandom, fandoms can function as surrogate religions for the ritual atheists. Music & sports do as well.
They don’t believe in God, they don’t associate with religion, and they tend to believe there is no afterlife, but the sixth type of nonbeliever still finds useful the teachings of some religious traditions.
“They see these as more or less philosophical teachings of how to live life and achieve happiness than a path to transcendental liberation,” Silver and Coleman wrote. “For example, these individuals may participate in specific rituals, ceremonies, musical opportunities, meditation, yoga classes, or holiday traditions.”
For many of these nonbelievers, their adherence to ritual may stem from family traditions. For others, its a personal connection to, or respect for, the “profound symbolism” inherent within religious rituals, beliefs and ceremonies, according the researchers.
(Problem is I couldn’t figure out where a non-theistic path such as Buddhism would fit in- though I suppose it would depend on the kind of Buddhism. By secular Buddhism I mean the practice of meditation & some philosophy without the belief in karma & reincarnation. )
A while back I wrote a “racial autobiography” about my experiences growing up and how l learned about racial and ethnic identity issues. I would like to challenge other pale-skinned folks- white, Caucasian, European-American/Canadian, or heck even European to write their own such autobiographies. Because when I talk with you about these issues, I know where I’m coming from, and what I’ve learned, but I’m not sure about you. Many of our friends/relatives/neighbors of other ethnic backgrounds have had to confront their skin color and ancestry on an almost daily basis, but we have the luxury of ignoring it. In fact, we’re often taught to deliberately ignore it. This makes it really hard to understand their experiences, and we probably never will on the same level that they do, but even just examining our own history and the messages we have picked up on. Remember the focus is on you and your history, your family, neighborhood etc. It seems in all these racial discussions that you want to talk about how Poor Whitey’s perspective is being ignored. OK, well here’s your chance.
If you don’t want to share your specific age, give us an idea of the time period in which you were growing up
When did you first learn about race?
What was the cultural/ethnic/racial makeup of the town/city/neighborhood(s) you grew up in?
Were there other divisions, such as class, occupation, religion, etc. that were significant? How did those affect you?
Were any of these divisions present in your family?
What were you taught about your family’s history- how recently did immigration happen? What countries did your family originate from?
Were some parts of your heritage more emphasized, or proud of than others? Were there parts you were taught (implicitly or explicitly) to be ashamed of?
Did the things you learned about race in school (history, culture etc) differ from what you learned at home?
Overall, how were people from the group you identify with portrayed in history books?
Were you taught to ignore racial slurs and comments, to confront them or to simply change the subject when it was brought up?
Did you have any personal, familial or cultural expectations factor in to who it was appropriate for you to make friends with, date, marry, adopt, do business with, where to buy/rent a house, etc.? What clothes to wear, how to style your hair, gender roles, type of music you listened to, food you ate/cooked, what occupations and forms of education were considered appropriate for some people in your community and not others? How have these expectations differed in different places you have lived?
Did you only find out about some of these “unwritten rules” after you “broke” them? Did you face any consequences for breaking these social rules?
Did reading and/or answering any of these questions cause strong feelings? Describe your feelings.
What is racism- how do *you* define it? (I keep seeing people say X isn’t racist- but Y totally is!) So what’s racism? Are there different kinds of racism? Is racism always intentional?
Crystal Blanton’s call for a response from Pagan & Polytheist communities has been met with many statements from organizations & individuals listed here on the Wild Hunt blog. I’m happy to add any further statements from people of any tradition, ethnicity that are anti-racist and specifically that this about the lives of Black/African-American people. I’m proud to see organizations I’m a member of of, like ADF and Heathens United Against Racism, come forward at this difficult and divisive time and stand up for what’s right. I’m disappointed by the statement given by the Covenant of the Goddess nationally- which was much too generic in nature, and I don’t blame Ms. Blanton and her coven for resigning from CoG. I’m not a member of CoG but I have attended many of their rituals over the years, and have been grateful for them providing rituals in local, bus accessible, handicap accessible locations (which a lot of other Twin Cities Pagan groups *do not*!) I’m hoping that the Northern Dawn Council, our local CoG chapter will write & release a better statement. (Shall I get off my duff & join?)
There are also some incidents going on with mistreatment of American Indians- in particular Corey Kenosh, a 35-year-old unarmed man who was killed by police. I don’t want to steal the thunder from the Black community, but this needs to be acknowledged as well. American Indians are a smaller group, and many people aren’t as aware of the American Indian Movement. I’m originally from Montana- where “No Indians” signs on stores were once as common as “Whites Only” signs in the South.
Here’s an Open Letter from LGBTQ organizations on the Bisexual Organizing Project’s website
A Commitment to Realignment & Resignation- by Crystal Blanton
These events are showing me, more than ever how huge the gulf of understanding of racial issues is between Black and white Americans. I am seeing many of my fellow white folks who are getting it, but just as many who are not, though it is hard, please folks we need to educate the people who don’t get it. Some of them won’t listen, but some of them will. One great first step you can take is by reading the book the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, if you already haven’t.
Personally I have not said much as I’m trying to focus on getting over depression and finding a new job. Information & emotional overload does not help with that. I still care about what’s happening, but sometimes you have to take care of yourself first before you can deal bigger problems!
Here’s also something my Dad wrote on Facebook:
“I think we need to get beyond recent specific incidents that allow critics to pick through facts of the case to try and demonstrate that racism was not a factor. We need to look at the larger problem. Our society continues to be animated by subtle and not subtle racist attitudes.
People of conscience no matter their faith system must be aware of the many strata of racism in and around us and find ways to witness against it. Few things are more difficult. It must begin with self awareness and, well, transcendence. If we are afraid to speak out then we must ask ourselves why. We must be willing to risk social consequences. We must be courageous.
Within any meaningful faith system we can find wisdom and truth that can inform us. And maybe we can employ beliefs unique to our own faith that can motivate like minded folk to acknowledge the greater truth that has seemed hidden from us.
Citizens, believers, cannot easily reach the right conclusions with no outside help. So faith groups can help by offering training; by giving participants insight about what is happening around them; and suggesting specific actions they can take.
Grand juries can fail to indite but that is a technical legal process. I doubt anyone believes those officers INTENDED to commit murder. But in the mix of things going through their minds at the moment they pulled the trigger or choked the victim was race in the equation? I think it is difficult for any critical thinker to say NO!
Now that state bodies have ruled limited as they are by facts and law, the federal Justice Department can ask did these officers as individuals and as part of the law enforcement collective violate the civil rights of these men? We can hope and expect that the answer will be yes. But then we cannot just move on and wait until the next injustice presents itself. No matter the answer we are called to continue the struggle against institutional white racism.”
(Virtual hug) Thanks, Dad!
As I was looking thru my wordpress reader, I saw that Sarenth had written a great post-Why Racism Harms Heathenry (go read it!) responding to a comment to statement released by HUAR- Heathens United Against Racism about a folkish Heathen group. As a member of HUAR (though I do not claim to speak for them as a whole) I’d like to further respond to a comment made on Sarenth’s blog.
“As for the Irminfolk bylaws. They aren’t racists. Do they have a quota on genetics in order to be a member? Yes. But so does every Native American, or really any group that’s for a specific ethnic or racial group, out there. That in an of itself is not a racist act, or if it is, then the Huar dishonor themselves by not attacking all “Racist” blood quota. Instead HUAR attacks only heathens, their own people, rather than honorably call out all racists from every group. HUAR, in fact, are engaged in racist acts themselves because they only attack one group based on skin color, rather than hold all peoples accountable to the same standard.”- Lucius Svartalf Helsen
There are plenty of generic anti-racism groups, including ones that are not Heathen-friendly because they think we are all racist! HUAR is opposed to *actual systemic racism* (not “racism” as conveniently defined by whites as happening…against whites) There are a bunch of reasons why comparing membership policies of folkish Heathen groups with American Indians and Jewish communities is very misleading.
The system of blood quantum was put in place by the United States government. Policies for tribal enrollment vary by Indian nations, with the Cherokee being among the most inclusive. Some nations are working on changing those laws- here’s an article about the White Earth Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota considering doing so. Indians, being human beings, are also prone to the influence of anti-Black racism, and some tribes have excluded potential members with proven tribal ancestry due to their African ancestry. Personally I believe they should be consistent in enforcing blood quantum and I support reform in such systems. However as a non-Native person I think it’s best for those decisions to be made by the tribal governments themselves- especially considering they are in fact, sovereign nations. As for non-tribal members participating in traditional spirituality, once again it is up to the Indian or group of Indians in question if they want to share those practices. Considering that the practice of Native American religion was not allowed openly until 1978, with the passage of American Indian Religious Freedom Act, I think it’s pretty darn understandable that they are protective of their spiritual heritage! As I’ve discussed before with the example of my uncle, people of non-Native heritage are sometimes invited to partake in ceremonies, especially after demonstrating a sincere commitment to the group and its folkways.
On the other hand, while various Pagan & Heathen individuals and groups have experienced discrimination and exclusion in American society, our religions were never outlawed, unless you count laws against witchcraft which weren’t really about religious witchcraft. Though some Heathens do organize themselves into small tribes or family-like groups, they do not have legal sovereign or semi-sovereign status the way Indian nations do. They may have status as a registered non-profit- and religious organizations are allowed to discriminate according to the requirements of their religion.
Judaism is a cultural, tribal religion- one can be culturally and/or ethnically Jewish person and practice any other religion- or no religion (though converting to Christianity is often seen as a negation of Jewish identity) Traditionally, a person with a Jewish mother is considered Jewish, in Reform Judaism, any child raised with a Jewish upbringing is considered Jewish. Other Jewish movements- Conservative & Orthodox have their own requirements. Being considered Jewish for the purposes of getting Israeli citizenship is determined by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and undergoing a conversion by a rabbi they don’t approve of can make gaining citizenship difficult. Likewise, certain ethnic groups that claim Jewish descent have been denied Jewish identity. Once again, I’m not Jewish, so I feel making judgments about this really isn’t my business. Whoever tells me they’re Jewish gets the benefit of the doubt.
“But will we ever not be considered racists by the mainstream? I doubt it. We are worshiping “White” gods from “White” countries and taking pride in “white” things. This is the definition of racism as it exists by all those who call Heathens racist. We could silence every real racist out there and the larger pagan community and larger world community would still consider us to be racist because we honor and take pride in “white gods/white history” rather than shame those things as inherently racist. This is why I have pretty much stopped calling out those heathens people have declared “racists.” I do not wish to any longer hunt my religious kin so as to make myself appeasable to the masses. I may not agree with everything a “racist” heathen believes, but his faith is in my gods. Why should i figuratively kill a man of my faith in an attempt to appease a stranger who thinks all who worship as i do are racists and should be destroyed?”- Lucius again
If we tolerate racists in the name of frith and hospitality, while claiming this or that doesn’t “technically” count as racism, people will rightfully not trust us. Referring to pre-Christian European cultures and people as “white” is highly anachronistic. The concept of “whiteness” did not arise until African slavery. Funny thing, I’ve spent a lot of time in Irish cultural and musical events and organizations. I do sometimes encounter people with racist attitudes there, but no more so than any other predominantly white social milieu. I’m not going to claim that all people of color will feel 100% comfortable and not awkward at Irish cultural events, or that they will never be mistreated. I do see people of color at some Irish events. I’ve never had anyone tell me that being proud of my Irish heritage (rather than my “whiteness”) means that I’m racist. I’m happy to welcome anyone, regardless of ancestry who has an interest in Irish culture and wants to carry on those traditions. Now I understand that German & Scandinavian cultural groups attract racists more- but Celtic groups do as well. Would wearing a hammer or a valknot be looked at with suspicion in my community in a way Celtic jewelry wouldn’t? Maybe. But I’m not that worried. Because I’ve lived in an urban neighborhood for 20 years, ridden the buses, had people of all different cultures as my neighbors, my tenants, my co-workers, my fellow activists and students. Not everyone lives in a diverse area, I get that. But don’t just stay within your little Heathen or Pagan bubble. If we keep to ourselves, people won’t get to know us, and they will remain suspicious. But if you get out there in your community, even if you don’t explain your religion to all and sundry, people will know you as a good citizen and a good neighbor, and if and when they find out your religion, even if they think it’s kinda weird, they are more likely to not hold it against you, and maybe even think better of the religion because of your behavior.