Posts tagged ‘anti-racism’

Regional/Cultural Divisions in North America

There are various ways people have tried to divide North America based on cultural settlement, economic activity, etc. Though really, the biggest division tends to be between the urban and rural areas! But if you’re curious here are some books, they are in reverse chronological order. I have only read the 9 Nations one. I think what is a lot more useful, would be to research the history and culture of the particular area you live in. (Above link compares these various books)

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard (2011) This sounds like it oversimplifies and leaves out a lot about later immigration.

American Colonies: the Settling of North America by Alan Taylor (2001) This one covers all the European colonial powers, so- Dutch, British, French, Spanish. Might be of interest.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (1989) This one really goes into cultural differences between early British settlements, and is definitely on my to-read list!

The Nine Nations of North America by Joel Garreau (1981) I think this has similar problems to the Eleven Nations book

Immigration & Assimilation from European Ethnic to “Whiteness”

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev (this one I have actually read- very good, though depressing!)

Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Special Sorrows: the Diasporic Imaginations of Irish, Polish & Jewish Immigrants in the United States by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants & the Alchemy of Race by Matthew Frye Jacobson

Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White by David Roediger

**Good White People: the Problem with Middle Class White Anti-Racism by Shannon Sullivan (this sounds very good!)

After reading  reviews I would NOT recommend these-

Are Italians White? How Race is Made in America- the reviewer notes that the authors only compare Italian-Americans with African-Americans, not with Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Latinos or other groups that might have more similarities. It does not take into consideration discrimination that did take place against Italians, and especially Sicilians.

How Jews Became White Folks by Karen Brodkin- apparently the problem with this one is that it does not discuss the background of anti-Semitism in Europe much, and is better at discussing gender issues than racial issues. There are plenty of other books about Jewish American identity & assimilation, so I would look elsewhere.

Note

Please share if you have any opinions on these books or additional ones that may be of interest. There is most certainly *much more* out there to read about various cultural influences in the U.S. and Canada- I am sorting through stuff about European immigration due to my own interests and focus, so this is not to exclude anyone else!

I have started reading “A Different Mirror- A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki which is quite good so far.

Warning- For anyone who reads this, and decides I am “anti-white people”, “racist against white people”, “anti-American” etc. and feels the need to trumpet this, your comments will be deleted.

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August 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm Leave a comment

Pride Reflections

Like a lot of American celebrations with more radical roots, as GLBT Pride festivals & parades across the country have grown over time, they have become more mainstream and commercialized. (Great critique of Pride here) Some folks of a more radical bent wring their hands over this, longing for more overt expressions of sexuality, anti-capitalism, and pointing out trends with obscure academic sounding terms like “homonormativity” and pinkwashing. While I think there are many valid criticisms that can be made especially of larger Prides and the movement as a whole, these are internal community debates. Prides, while remaining GLBT-centered, are also a reflection of continued acceptance and integration into broader communities- much as ethnic celebrations like Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and so forth have become not just for Mexican and Irish-Americans. At the same time, there’s a balance to be struck. Straight & cis allies can enjoy Pride, while understanding that they are in a queer-centered space, so they can’t be complaining about being hit on by someone of the same sex, or guys parading around in leather chaps and such. There’s space for both the conventional lesbian soccer moms as well as the wacky drag queens.

This year of course we have even more to celebrate, as the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of marriage equality. Of course, I’m quite excited, though I realize there are many more issues we need to work on, both domestically and around the world. I do think we need to give folks a chance to celebrate before lecturing about gloomy statistics about queer youth suicides/murders and the continuing AIDs epidemic.  Anyone who thinks the entire GLBT rights movement was just about marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell obviously has a pretty superficial understanding of it (and probably is only really thinking about the G and L parts) But I think this is part of why it’s a good thing that a more diverse range of people attend Prides- we can get the chance to educate non-activist GLBT folks & allies about these issues and convince them to do more than wear rainbow beads and dance to ABBA.

One of my fellow Unitarians- reflecting on the General Assembly- our national conference held that same weekend- points out two other important Supreme Court rulings that we should be celebrating– the one upholding the Affordable Care Act* (yes, I’d like a single payer system, but I’m still glad we have this one!) which I did hear about, and another the makes it easier to prove implicit discrimination in housing– proof of explicit intent to discriminate based on a protected status is no longer required. (I may have described that wrong- it’s hard to summarize legal stuff- so read the article) This is huge, because for decades the Supreme Court has been getting pickier about how obvious discrimination has to be before they will accept that it’s happening.

(By the way- if any “No pre-existing conditions/I’ll magically never lose my cushy job with benefits, so screw you”  people want to bitch to me about how it’s soo unfair they are being forced to pay for insurance they don’t need, don’t bother commenting, you can cry me a frickin’ river.)

June 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

Do Not Claim to Speak For Me

Do not claim to speak for me

When your voice fillls with hate and superiority

I am not of your “sisterhood”

I am not of your exclusionary tribe

Those you cast aside, that you scorn

I know I’m not far behind

You tell me I betray “our kind of people”, but you didn’t ask if I was really one of “us”.

I may look like the right kind of woman, from the right neighborhood, the right school, the right country, speaking the right language with the right accent

Clean, respectable, honest, punctual

Trustworthy, loyal to some cause or nation, real or imagined

I’m only of value if I keep silent or stay in line.

I’m not here to be your example, your metaphor, a symbol for your struggle.

What do you know of my struggle? Or whether I share in yours?

You Do Not Speak for Me.

Entrance Fee

My college degree is a membership fee

To enter your special club

I see my friends outside, looking in.

I’d give my ticket away to them. I can’t find my way inside this maze.

But maybe instead I’ll find other ways. Other paths inside to speak my truths about different ways of being

I can’t take apart your country club. But I can open the doors a little wider. I can draw maps of the mazes inside.

(Not sure if this one is done…)

June 16, 2015 at 11:19 pm 1 comment

Untangling the Wyrd Wide Web

Folks- I have put the post about Transphobia into draft mode. I am still very much opposed to transphobia, however I am also very much opposed to racism, and individuals have been sharing that they have experience hurtful racist comments as part of conversations that I personally was not a part of. I also have been called out for comments I made about other people’s status as rape survivors, which is also very wrong of me, and for those comments I apologize.

I typically try to stay out of other people’s interpersonal drama be it online or in person, however sometimes I feel a need to speak up when something is wrong. However, in this case I do not feel I know enough about the people and the situation to truly make a fair judgment. Also to begin with, these conversations took place on semi-private Facebook posts which I only could read because of screenshots being posted. Oy vey.

Cultural appropriation– What this is, is really up to the culture from whom ideas/concepts/rituals et al are being borrowed from- or outright stolen. I kind of got the impression Kathryn nic Dhana was playing “cultural appropriation police” and specifically going after people (like Erynn Laurie & Ellen Evert Hopman) that she seemed to have some sort of rivalry with. This may be a mistake on my part, and I may have let my feelings about past Celtic Recon political faultlines color my impression of Kathryn. She is in contact with Native leaders/elders and is in conversation with them about possible appropriations when they take place. Also since Erynn & Ellen are both authors and semi-public figures, I think its OK to e-mail them and ask them about these things yourself if you are concerned. Kathryn has done so, and said situations have not been resolved to the satisfaction of Native communities involved.

Personally I tend to stick to confronting things that happen in my in-person local community. I am fortunate to have multiple local communities I can participate in, and sometimes disrespect towards other cultures occurs. It’s an ongoing learning process for me, including figuring out what is the best way to share this information to prevent further disrespect from occurring.

Transphobia– I do think there were transphobic comments made in the conversations Allec posted. I also feel like there are some generation gaps in regards to ideas about women-only space, and gender identity. Some people feel that their privacy, and possibly safety was violated, names of minor children were on the screenshots, gender identity status and other things of a sensitive nature.

Gaol Naofa– I am not a member of Gaol Naofa, I am not familiar with how their leadership structure works. There is disagreement over whether these conversations reflect upon the culture of GN as a whole, or whether they were unrelated. I was a member of the Gaelic polytheism group run by GN at one time and left it of my own choice, not due to anyone doing anything wrong, we just had some differences of opinion, that’s all I remember at this point.

Racism– Sky (a friend of Kathryn’s who is also on the board of CAORANN, Celts Against Oppression, Racism & Neo-Nazism) has shared with me that someone in this conversation threw around the word “genocide” in a inappropriate manner (in re: to a cultural practice of exiling violent people from their community). I don’t know why the heck that was dragged in, but it is definitely not OK to make false accusations of genocide, WTF, people! (BTW, the practice of exiling criminals was also done by both the Norse and Irish- and is still probably more humane than our prison system!) There are also allegation of multiple vulgar, racist insults towards Sky and her associate, a Two-Spirit elder.

I am going to say for now though, since all this essentially took place behind virtual “closed doors” that should not have been opened I am reserving judgment about Kathryn & Gaol Naofa in general.

April 4, 2015 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

U.U. Race Relations Compared to Pagan Race Relations

As I’ve discussed before, I was raised in the United Methodist Church, with parents who were involved in racial/social justice organizing both within the UMC and in broader society. Most Protestant denominations in the United States broke apart over the question of slavery or of integration. Many of them have made official apologies, acknowledgements of wrongdoing to African-Americans and sometimes American Indians depending on their history. Unitarian Universalists are a largely white denomination and we too have been working at racial reconciliation. Some congregations have made apologies to the family members of Black ministers that they didn’t call, there is at least one U.U. church that has a plaque in honor of the slaves who built the building. We have a long way to go, and are far from perfect, but we are committed to this journey. Recently I read “The Selma Awakening” by Mark Morrison-Reed, a book about U.U. involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Before the march to Selma, U.U.s had made various proclamations against racism, and made some attempts at integrating the ministry, with very mixed results. When Martin Luther King Jr. called upon clergy of all faiths to come march to Selma, many U.U.s heeded the call, and this was a turning point in the U.U. commitment to racial and economic justice.

I am trying to take what I am learning about U.U. racial history and apply it to a Pagan community context, but in some ways I find the situations are not very comparable, probably no more so than if I were to compare to the history of the United Methodist Church.

  • Though considered heretics and persecuted at times in Europe, in the U.S. for the most part, Unitarians and Universalists could practice their faiths openly and freely with formally recognized churches and clergy
  • Wicca came “out of the broom closet” in the 1950’s, and Paganism more broadly in the 1970’s. There were earlier groups, the Church of Aphrodite was formed & legally recognized in 1939 in New York, but they are outliers.
  • While tending to be mostly white, and sometimes insular, people of color could technically join both U churches, though they were not always accepted.
  • Covens and esoteric orders, being initiatory and secretive, tended to stick to a mostly white middle-class social network.
  • Public, celebratory groups and festivals opened up Paganism to a broader spectrum of people, book publishing and the internet even more so.
  • The Unitarian Universalist Association is one organization, albeit a loose structure, that congregations belong to as members.
  • Pagan groups are mostly small and local, with a minority having a larger organizational affiliation. Most Pagans are solitary. (There’s one similarity- there are many U.U.s that do not have a local congregation or fellowship)
  • Unitarian Universalism affirms social justice oriented values- while some Pagan traditions (like Reclaiming Witchcraft) may affirm commitments to peace, environmentalism, gender equality, etc. and individual Pagans might connect activism with their personal beliefs and practices, Paganism in general is not united under any set of principles, and even Wicca specifically does not require any socio-political commitments. (Which is fine, by the way- I’m certainly not proposing a platform for all of Pagandom!)

I think we need to delve into our history in order to understand where we are now. I am going to start by talking about Wicca and related ceremonial magic groups and esoteric orders in Britain and the United States. This is partly because I simply know more about this history, not because other traditions don’t matter, and also because of the influences they have had on other forms of Paganism. American Asatru arose as a separate movement, with different socio-political and cultural influences, so it makes sense to discuss it separately. If you have information about the history of inclusion and exclusion of various ethnic and other groups from your tradition of Paganism, polytheism (or insert preferred label) that you would like to share, please link, I’d be interested in hearing about it. (Also please let me know if I get anything wrong!)

March 5, 2015 at 4:49 am Leave a comment

What I’ve Been Doing Lately

  • Went to annual Bisexual Organizing Project meeting in January, was thinking of signing up to be on a committee or two. There weren’t enough people running in the board election, so I threw my hat in. I won. At-large director, one year term.
  • This an unpaid position, but it has important responsibilities, and involves training, so I figured it would not only be a way to serve my community, but also gain some skills & non-profit experience, so I’d make it my job.
  • Helping plan the BECAUSE conference, April 17-19th serving as the liaison between board & University of Minnesota Queer Student Cultural Center, who is hosting the event.
  • (Tentatively) Will be on a panel presentation about neurodiversity and bisexual & trans* identities
  • This week was busy.
  • Monday- went to a hearing about minimum wage laws (an exception to it for tipped workers)
  • Tuesday- long awaited therapist appointment (had to do some bureaucratic wrangling to get back on Medical assistance) Depressing & anxiety has been getting a lot better- the increasing sun is helping!
  • Wednesday- Wellspring Weds. at Unity Unitarian, delicious dinner and discussion of a book about Unitarian Universalist involvement in the Civil Rights march to Selma (50th anniversary of this March is coming up)
  • Thursday- BOP board meeting
  • Friday-chilling
  • Saturday- Take Action Minnesota‘s annual meeting, then BECAUSE planning meeting.
  • Today I chilled and cleaned the house.
  • Tomorrow, I will *finally* be doing another Erik’s Ranch tour of the St Paul Cathedral, plus a reporter from the Pioneer Press will be there, so hopefully that will lead to more tours!

March 2, 2015 at 6:46 am Leave a comment

#Black Lives Matter is Not Racism 101

Throughout the past year, I’ve watched many organizations, both political, religious and civic, particularly those with predominantly white leadership, grapple with the desire to make a statement of solidarity, support, concern or otherwise in regards to the Black Lives Matter series of tragedies and responsive events (my inner political science nerd has trouble calling it a movement yet) The problem is, that some of these groups have not done much in the way of previous work, study or discussion to develop better racial understanding. I have especially noticed this among GLBT, Pagan and Heathen organizations, many of which are comparatively younger organizations, historically very white and not always inclusive of people of color, particularly in leadership positions. As a result there’s been a lot of turmoil in many communities, and long-suppressed tensions have arisen, friendships, professional and organizational partnerships have been threatened or even broken.

There is a large gap in understanding of racial issues between Black and White Americans. It’s always been there, since the first African slaves and free African immigrants alike came here. The gap has changed in nature over time, but it is still far greater than many White Americans realize, and Black Americans while painfully aware of our ignorance, are still surprised by the depth of ignorance. I’ve explained to some Black folks, that in fact, some white folks genuinely *do not realize* why blackface is offensive. White folks who think their racial humor is funny or “ironic” believe that blatant racism is of course, a thing of the past, and so they are being clever/vintage/retro when wearing t-shirts with slurs that their grandparents might’ve uttered but they never heard. White people I know all seem to have their own personal definitions of racism, generally carefully constructed to exclude themselves.

Black folks have been doing work in their communities and broader society in education, health care, criminal justice, employment and many other issues, both on their own, and sometimes with support and partnership of white activists and predominantly white organizations. There is a lot of frustration that they have to be the ones constantly educating whites about race, telling them many of the same things they’ve been saying for years, while white folks argue back and don’t listen. Then self-proclaimed white allies come along and give talks or write books on white privilege often getting paid more do so- or just getting paid, period than Black folks who have been saying the same things for years.

Meanwhile, white progressives/liberals in academia and the professional non-profit establishment have been highly inconsistent about considering the role of class issues when discussing race, thus alienating whites from poor or working class backgrounds. Whites who grew up bullied as a minority in mostly Black and Latino neighborhoods, and whites who grew up in dying farming communities who watched tax dollars being spent on cities feel resentful and angry. When they express their frustrations, they are told that they need to “check their privilege” and that they are racist.

Technology evolves rapidly- making smart phones, and thus access to the Internet far more available to different classes and ethnicities than ever before. Mobile-friendly websites like Twitter and Tumblr grow and spread messages, gossip and information-good and bad- like wildfire. The online community, which thus far tended to slant to educated white men in industrialized countries, finds itself in culture shock at this broader diversity. Isolated teenagers discover others who share their identities, concerns and interests in a way that was never before possible. People are educated, misinformed, and misinterpret, form friendships and communities and end them.

We need to take a step back from this, folks. Several steps back, so we can take a good look at ourselves, our past, our present and future. We need to do our racial and cultural homework before we can write or present our senior paper.

February 19, 2015 at 1:58 am Leave a comment

Voices of Reason

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!

Wotan vs. Ignorance- Heathen Naturalist

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.

December 14, 2014 at 3:46 am Leave a comment

For the Record

(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.

December 13, 2014 at 10:30 am 3 comments

How Folkish Heathenry Differs from Judaism & Native American tribes

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.

December 10, 2014 at 3:17 am 8 comments

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