Y’know, I was going to write about Black representation in media regarding supernatural theme shows, then I thought, “Nahhhhhhh, I’ll write about Black culture and its relationship (or lack thereof) with mental illness.” Newp. Instead, I’m going to write about erasure of identity, thanks to a conversation I had online.
One of the worst things you can say to anyone who lacks privilege is “we’re all human”. Okay, not worst but it practically heads the top ten list of most annoying. Its sibling saying is, “yeah but that was in the past, it’s different now.”
No. No it isn’t.
While it is true that we all bleed red, some of us have bled far more than others. And not only have we bled, we’re told to just up and get over it, it’s only a flesh wound. It is very important to not neglect the fact that injustices happened to historically marginalized groups, ever, because it is disrespectful to our history. And when the privileged suffer some sort of injustice, regardless however small in comparison to the bigger picture, they want parades, holidays and commemorative plaques to bear the incident in memory. (See: Occupy Wall St., discussions of 9/11)
What started all this was a friend of mine (and reader of this blog) was told by an elderly White woman that she, a Black girl, would have loved living in the ‘50s. Friend said it was awkward because, well, the ‘50s may have been cute and dandy for Whites, it sure wasn’t for everyone else. Of course, pretty much everyone agreed until a random White girl appeared and tried to say that why were we giving the ‘50s a bad rap? The elderly lady was talking about fashion and such, why bring up the start-up of what we know now as the Civil Rights Movement? People tried explaining to her that the ‘50s was a much different time for Blacks than it was for Whites. It was a much less happier time that also had sharp fashion but also lynchings, bombings and other things that I and any other sensible Negro kinda personally wouldn’t want to experience just for some poodle skirts and victory rolls. She, of course, didn’t get it because she continued with saying we’re being oppressive towards an old White lady because we thought she should have said either nothing at all or a basic “you look nice”.
She legit used the word “oppressive”.
Us saying (after the fact) that the lady made a White privilege-induced brain fart is on key with bombing a church, using intimidation tactics to prevent people from exercising their right to vote (or live for that matter. Y’know “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” and all that jazz), stringing people from trees and using police force as well as psych campaigns when those dang colored folk started demanding rights. Y’know, like they actually were the primary reason the country they reside in is a super power nation.*
Oh really now?
Ok, I have mostly a Black Pagan readership (which I’m proud of because it means I’m attracting the right people, the target audience) but for the random White reader (which makes me wonder: why are you here? Unless one you happen to be Jane Elliot. You rawk. \m/,), lemme give you a lil’ briefer on history, minorities and crimes against humanity:
Don’t ever say we should forget or call us angry or upset as if it’s irrational. If the subject matter makes you feel bad, that’s good, it should make you feel bad because it was absolutely atrocious. Very bad. Absolutely horrible. It just means your humanity is kicking in and your natural sense of right and wrong is calibrated correctly. You have got to remember that it wasn’t all hopscotch and happy days for everyone back in the past. Don’t ignore other perspectives because they make you feel weird when brought to light. You don’t have the right to make that call. You’ve barely the right to get moody about it, let alone try to tell people that it was the past and how we’re past that now. No. No we’re not. A teen was shot in Florida because he wore something that made a random, emotionally unstable bigot go into first-person shooter mode. That was 2012. It’s 2013. And that’s just one case, there are many, many cases and incidents that don’t get the same coverage. Racism is alive and well. People still lob slurs at minorities, check out a Youtube comment section if you don’t believe me. Check out Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance (which was mere months ago) if you don’t believe me. Stop deluding yourself because you’re not directly impacted by the problem but benefit from it, no need to get upset when folks point that out.
Think of racism as the bedbug of society. You wouldn’t tell a friend who’s got bedbugs to ignore it and maybe the little critters will move on to another house. Instead you’d most likely help them figure out how to eradicate the problem. Ignoring the fact racism exists doesn’t help anyone except those who benefit from Whiteness and this is running on the assumption that ignoring is possible because it’s pretty hard to ignore when laws are passed in the name of bigotry, when you’re not picked for jobs because they’d prefer a White person instead, when people treat you differently (read: worse) because of your skin. And don’t bother trying to tell me or any minority what your perfect world is if our identities have to be erased in favor for the idea of Whiteness in that world. If that’s the case, it’s not perfect, it’s a hellhole. White-centered utopic thinking is a terrible idea. Occupy Wall St. were really big offenders of this thinking and they wondered aloud why minorities weren’t rushing to their sides, all the while pushing ideas that mainly were built on the spectrum of Whiteness, regardless of intersection.
Getting back to center, this girl wasn’t Pagan as far as I know but this isn’t a very far jump from how mainstream Paganism thinks, especially since the face and culture of modern Paganism is fairly White. I’ve heard the same in Pagan circles: “just forget about it”, “racism is dead”, “I was/am oppressed too because I’m [Irish/Woman/Pagan/Gay]”, the gambit. Firstly, because we gotta get this out of the way: ignoring intersections doesn’t help you out. You may be gay but you’re still White and gay. The intersection of Black and gay is still more tumultuous because of the twofold combination of racism and homophobia. The intersection between Black and Pagan and female is also just as tumultuous because of the threefold combination of racism, sexism and religious bigotry. As said prior, if minorities bringing up racism makes you feel bad, the fault doesn’t lie with the minority for being really honest with how their life is, the fault is with the society thinking that the minority is a liar and thus continue performing acts of racism, be it subtle or overt.
Despite the progressive looking lip service, mainstream Paganism tends to fight against acknowledgements of racism in the community and like to sweep non-beneficial parts of history under the rug. Try to hijack Voudon for all its rootwork? Oh sure. Thieve from Native American culture for cleansing techniques? Go right ahead. Ransack Eastern beliefs for meditation methods and ways of thinking? O hai, y not? Bring up slavery and colonialism? Dude! Why so harsh? It’s really problematic because it’s erasure, which is part of Whitewashing. The original culture does not benefit from the promotion of these now horribly-divorced parts of their culture. If anything, they’re continually degraded and treated like they’ve never created a thing or that thing wasn’t worth anything until White culture got ahold of it.
All in all, it’s important that history is not revamped to be more White-centric, and thus erasing the experience of everyone else. It helps no one when my culture’s history is ignored because it jars White culture’s depiction of it. It’s more important to see the whole picture instead of the more privilege-friendly snapshots. Erasing identities doesn’t solve racism. Ignoring past and current crimes against humanity doesn’t solve racism. Performing micro-aggressions and micro-invalidations doesn’t solve racism. Opting for a more White-centric perspective definitely doesn’t solve racism (if anything, it continues it). Don’t like the fact that people constantly bring up marginalization when the past is brought up? Deal with it because it happens and the effects are still strongly felt today.
And that’s the first column for today. Coming up in the next few hours: The Arts!: Samhain Edition
Remember, I’m still accepting entries for Samhain Pickers Giveaway. The prize is a divination reading from me and only three winners are chosen at total random.
Here’s how you submit an entry:
Send in an email to thisblackwitch[at]Hotmail.com with “Samhain Pickers” in the subject line. In the message of the email, please write:
- Type of Divination (Cartomancy, Tarot, Natal Chart, Dream Interpretation)
Also, next week is Ask Black Witch so if you have any questions, send them in! Good questions are appreciated, bad questions are eviscerated!
* We are. Crack open a history book if you don’t believe me.