Red, Yellow and Green Lights: Discerning Racism

September 15, 2014 at 11:38 pm 6 comments

I took a break from reading/writing Pagan blogs for a while and came back to this news of a white nationalist band being kicked off of Philadelphia’s Pagan Pride and a response by Ryan Smith of Heathens United Against Racism- Ending Silence to End the Bigotry. There’s been some debate over whether this band was actually racist, or just had some racist fans and used some imagery associated with Nazis. It seems like there is enough damning evidence against Norsewind, however I do understand that sometimes it is tricky to draw a line between truly racist bands and Pagan/Heathen groups when they use similar terms, symbols and rhetoric.  Over time, from observing various patterns in code words, framing and phrasing on websites of European (or Euro- diasporan) cultural and religious organizations, conservative political groups, and even having run-ins with individuals on Facebook and other places who set off my alarm bells. I’m working on getting my driver’s license, so the analogy of red, yellow and green lights came to mind. Green means you’re in friendly territory, yellow is caution- warning signs that may signal a problematic group, or may not– if you find many yellow light signs from one individual or group, this may add up to be a red light.  I’m probably being more generous with the yellow lights than some would be- frankly as a person with white privilege I can afford to be. I understand from my own personal experience than un-learning racism is a life-long journey, so I don’t claim to have a huge moral superiority over my peers. From an activist viewpoint- the folks with the yellow “caution” signs are people you may be able to dialogue with, and help them see other views, while the red means stop people I would recommend confronting only to kick out of events, online groups or organizations. Trying to “convert” them to a different way of thinking is a noble intent, but it’s pretty much a waste of time and possibly a risk to your mental and physical health.

Green Light: Explicit statement about anti-racist, pro-LGBTQ, pro-gender equality stance, inclusion of people of color. Hopefully also: people with disabilities, people of different classes and income levels and inclusion of sexual and gender diversity. Involvement in community activities that support these values.

Yellow Light: 

*The phrase “indigenous European” is sometimes used by New Right/white nationalist groups

*the term European-American, or Euro-American is used by both right-wing and left-wing groups. I mean, I use it.

*Indo-European studies- of course, being an ADF-er I don’t have a problem with IE  Studies by itself. However sometimes people with creepy agendas use Indo-European studies to support their views- usually for a “Aryan origin for all religions!” metanarrative.

*Facebook friends/fans- remember a fan page is different- you can be a fan of a group without their acknowledgement, a friendship request requires a person to respond. Should we expect band members to check potential friends’ facebook pages for signs of racist views? This is why I think fan pages are a better idea for bands. Frankly, I have individuals who follow my blog that have expressed anti-Semitic, homophobic and other not cool things on their blogs. Don’t know why they follow me, but I just don’t follow them back.

*Neo-folk and black metal genres of music- bands who play these genres- or any other genre may or may not be racist

*Use of symbols/imagery that were (mis)used by Nazis, KKK or other groups- Black sun, Celtic Cross, certain runes, swastikas

Orange Light:

*Individuals/Groups that express concern over (non-white) immigration, complaints that affirmative action policies are “reverse racism”, paranoia of the growth or influence of Islam in Europe or the U.S., Christianity, feminism, Big Government, pop culture or some other sinister influence as making “our sons” effeminate, homosexual, weak pacifists and we need to go back Ye Olde Macho Warrior Traditions!

*Playing a gig for a racist group without realizing it was racist (this claim can be a stretch at times- people don’t see what they don’t want to see- however there are groups that are sneaky, and the politically unsavvy may be taken in)

Red Light:

*Explicit exclusion of people with the “wrong” ancestry (usually just by making assumptions based on their appearance)

*Repeatedly playing gigs for racist groups (while claiming to be “a-political”) Repeatedly co-hosting events with racist Heathen/Pagan groups in the name of “frith” or “harmony”.

*White genocide- Oh No! white people are a minority in “their own country” (whose country?) This is not the same as genocide! No one is systemically being killed. Little hint: Pale-skinned people have *always* been a global minority!

*Metagenetics or other pseudo-scientific theories about how culture (and religion) is genetic. While we’re at it, let’s throw in phrenology just for fun!

*discussion of whites as a minority group whose “interests” need defending like other minority groups

*It’s all a big Jewish/gay/feminist/cultural Marxist/Wiccan/Universalist/New World Order/black helicopters Conspiracy! Extra points if conspiracy that involves different factions that openly despise each other in reality, but somehow are secretly collaborating.

Conclusion Furthering the traffic metaphor- even when you have a green light, you need to be careful. Someone can still make a right turn, and you have to watch out for them. Someone also may run a red light! Likewise, even when an explicit anti-racist stance is taken, there may still be problems with subtle forms of prejudice, micro-aggressions, assumptions and de facto discrimination. People may be good about  Individuals and groups also may change their views and policies over time, and we will all have to decide for ourselves if these changes are genuine, if apologies are sincere, and if we truly feel comfortable associating with individuals or groups that are supposedly reformed. I’ll be discussing dealing with examples of more everyday, “kinder gentler, more liberal” racism in other posts. I also recommend- if you want to give examples of racist groups, rather than directly link to them and boost their web ratings, use, it will link via the website so you visit it without helping the website get more publicity. Please comment if you have any suggestions to add to my list of warning signs.


Entry filed under: Pagan Communities, Race/Ethnicity. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Gentrification and Mixed Feelings Updates/Notes on the Traffic Light/Racism Post

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. suileangaoth  |  September 16, 2014 at 12:58 am

    Hello there!

    I’m always glad to read one of your entries as I love your unique insight on things. You have always been one of my favorite bloggers ever since I ran across your blog and started reading it.


    • 2. caelesti  |  September 16, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Thank you! I am still doing some editing and writing on this one- I definitely want community feedback from a range of views – hopefully of a civil nature- my intent is more nuanced than some people have interpreted it so it will need more clarification.

      • 3. suileangaoth  |  September 17, 2014 at 9:20 pm

        Hmmmm I have some green and yellow lights.

  • 4. Harrison K. Hall  |  September 16, 2014 at 3:54 am

    The problem that, especially those who have been effected directly by hate groups, there is no yellow light. You only have green, which may even border on cautious, and red.

    I’m an admin over at Heathens United Against Racism as well, and you end up hearing some horror stories…and a lot of signs of just how pervasive racist stances are. There are groups which have no Yellow or Red lights sign out there…and who loudly and visibly proclaim an anti-racist stance. These same groups will be against “race mixing”….to the point where someone joined HUAR and asked us to clarify our stance on that very point because they had been mislead before.

    Or the leaders/moderators of these groups don’t have the strength of their convictions…and while they are able to be VOCAL about their intolerance to racist agendas, their track records for dealing with such transgressions isn’t always as stellar as they might try to present.

    It’s a nettlesome problem, and one with few answers or even maintainable metric by which to measure the problem. If you’re looking at close enough to try and categorize what you see, however, you’re on the right track! 🙂

    • 5. Faoladh  |  September 16, 2014 at 7:19 am

      I think that, to use your particular example, concern about “race mixing” in an institutional manner (that is, if the organization as a whole is formally opposed to it for anyone, or even for everyone in their organization), or as something done by any person, not just the person talking, is a “red light” situation. That is plainly racism. If someone has a preference for themselves to stick to one “race” (whatever that actually means – are the Irish a separate “race” from the English? Everyone sure thought so for a very long time, until the Irish managed to “become white”, as the popular book termed it; “race” theories have always been nonsensical), then that could be a mere matter of sexual attraction and fetish, and so is no big deal until they try to impose that on other people.

  • 6. Pagan Blog Project Archive Post | The Lefthander's Path  |  January 4, 2015 at 10:20 am

    […] – Red, Yellow and Green Lights: Discerning Racism September […]


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