Sunday, 24 June 2018

the world is a dumpster fire

Are we really going to talk about this again?

Yes. Yes we are.

Why? Because I said so. But this is the last time, I promise*.

The Pagan and polytheist community has a racism problem.  It has a sexism problem, a rape problem,  a fundamentalist problem, a homo-and-transphobia problem.... basically, it has all the trappings of the big 5 without the dogma.

I feel at this point it's an old, played out record. We all know there are people in this community who don't deserve to be here. Who are trying to co-opt and steal our symbols, our rituals, and our gods for their own nefarious purposes. We know this. I HAVE WRITTEN ABOUT THIS IN MY OWN COMMUNITY. People are so content to just ignore it, maybe post a few angry memes on Facebook, and go about their merry way.

As someone who is anti-racist but also identifies as heathen-leaning, I have to stand that much taller and keep my nose that much cleaner so that the people who are working to steal everything we have worked so hard to legitimize won't lump my ass in with them. I stopped wearing a Thor's hammer because after Charlottesville, I didn't want to be mistaken as some kind of neo-nazi sympathizer or worse a neo-nazi myself and get my ass kicked. I don't discuss runes or the sagas or ancestry with anyone I don't know, lest I be lumped in with the fuckers from the AFA. I choose my words very carefully outside of my bubble, because it could easily backfire.

Yes, it's hard for me. It is SO MUCH HARDER for people of colour. So much harder for them to just feel safe and legitimized in a pagan space, especially in a Northern European pagan space.

The whole of the alt-right - their marching orders are to find weakness, inflame, and radicalize.

Here is a very scary quote from this article: (emphasis mine)

... I learnt a huge amount about how people and groups are connected, how the movement operates and what it was planning. I found out how the movement interacts internationally and how important the social aspect of activism is in radicalising and retaining members. These groups attempt to become all-encompassing organisations that go far beyond politics, into art, religion and social life making them incredibly difficult to leave. Tragically I’ve seen how social pressure inside these groups can make ordinary people support genocide.
The far right is often treated with complacency. Should we let them into the public debate? Their views might be different, but aren’t they just other opinions...

Sometimes it is hard to see where the line is drawn for Heathen/Asatru/Northern Polytheist, and racist. The line is blurry. It's more distinct in other sections of paganism, but again, it is getting harder to see. In our quest to be inclusive, we are turning into a breeding ground for predators and the alt-right.

In the Pagan community, we have people who are in active roles of leadership who are espousing hatred as though it is fact. We have the sneaky, ingrained racism, like asking someone of Asian or Black ancestry if they feel 'comfortable' worshipping a god like Brigid because 'wouldn't they feel more comfortable with Isis or Guan Yin'? Or people outright ripping pieces of practice or mythology from closed traditions because it's like, beautiful. Yet we refuse to accept that we have an issue. 'No way', you say, 'Pagans are all about love and light and we welcome everyone!'

The kicker for me is that we're such a small group of people that people think it doesn't matter. IT DOES. It matters because I matter and you matter and we all matter. Our safety and comfort and HUMAN FUCKING RIGHTS matter. It doesn't matter how small the group, there is always the potential for some nihilistic racist sexist shithead to wander in and grope someone at a ritual, or use racist epithets in common conversation, or talk about them 'queers' in a derogatory way. There are always the people who hug when you explicitly ask not to be touched, or ignore your requests to stop appropriating their culture, or are outright fucking hostile about who you are as a person. Our first and foremost reaction should be that it is unacceptable. It is unacceptable that we and members of our community feel unsafe, or feel like they aren't welcome.

Most of the issue is that people are afraid to rock the boat, don't want to make waves or take the risk of making someone mad. Trust me, as someone who is partially ostracized from my own community because of the 'drama' I caused during the racist fuckwit debacle, you have little to lose. This community as a whole needs some strong leaders who are willing to stand up and say that the toxic behaviour that we are complacent to is unacceptable, and demand change. Real change. There are some old-school leaders who have grown far too fucking comfortable. I don't fucking care how useful someone is in a group - if they are being racist or sexist, or harming people, get them the fuck out! We owe it to the community that we serve, and the people we are leaving the community to in the coming years.

Also? That whole 'it's not my problem, I'm not getting involved' only goes so far. That works when Felicia and Robert are having a personal fight, but not in this context. There is right behaviour, and there is wrong behaviour. Staying 'neutral' is a coward's game when racism and bigotry are involved. Eventually, everyone picks a side. Be on the right side.

Remember what I said earlier, about this being so much more difficult for a person of colour? Well, they don't always have the freedom or privilege to speak as frankly or as openly as we can. There is some legit oppression, and that can end up with people fearing for their lives or safety. So we need to make sure our voices are strong to have their voices heard. We need to rise to the occasion, and then step back so those folks can have their say and have their concerns heard. It's easy for me - I'm a white cis-woman loudmouth that no one really likes anyway. I have nothing to lose. For someone who feels unsafe or unwelcome, it's not as easy. However, we also need to know when to step back, because we should not be speaking for those communities - we should just be making it safe to speak for themselves. Being an ally is an important way we can use our privilege for good.

*promise valid only until something else comes along to piss me off.