The writer, the witch, the poet

A Commitment to Realignment and Resignation

A Commitment to Realignment and Resignation

Dec 11, 2014

I feel I owe a clear statement to the community about my resignation from the Covenant of the Goddess organization. After 8 years of membership, I have come to a place where I am compelled to align myself with organizations that have a clear message of supporting justice and equity for marginalized people. And while I am a supporter of equity in all areas, identifying the hugely disproportionate rates of violence and death at the hands of law enforcement against unarmed Black people has to be addressed right now. Black and Brown people deserve more than passive attempts at acknowledging the historic oppression and  trauma that they face.

Paganism is expanding to include more and more people of color who are practitioners of our community, but currently struggling to acknowledge the ways to acknowledge them within Paganism and their struggles in society. And the community is often apathetic to the challenges we face, the culture of dismissal of our pain, and putting action in motion to actively support equity.

After much discussion, Covenant of the Goddess was not able to release a statement in support of Black people who are suffering under the oppressive systems of militarization of the police, the prison industrial complex, and systemic racism in this country. Over 40 statements were made by organizations in the community, with most of them naming Black people as the victims of such disparity and harm. CoG was not able to do that and released a statement against the consensus of the members of their organization; Further marginalizing those who are people of color within the organization and the Pagan community. As a result my coven resigned from the organization.

Many COG members wanted a clear and concise statement against this oppression, and tried to be true allys against injustice for POC. They too were disappointed by the statement that was released. I honor those who fought to have this statement reflect the needs of those it was meant to serve.

Below is the resignation letter of my coven. I have no desire to speak against individuals in CoG. I have a lot of respect for many people in the organization. My issue is the structures of apathy, aversive racism, and structural bias that live out in organizations that have not adapted to the needs of a growing and changing community.

My attempt at transparency here is to be clear of what I put my name behind, and after 8 years of membership and support of CoG, I need to be clear that I do not support their statement and I am no longer a member.

In search of justice and right action,

Crystal Blanton

In an attempt to appease public relations politics, I am sad to say that COG dismissed an opportunity to increase their support of people of color in the Pagan community, and society, by issuing a direct and clear message of solidarity against the disproportionate injustices against Black people. Instead the message that was released is a classic example of dismissing the specific needs of the most vulnerable in society, in favor of a watered down statement to cater to the overculture.
As COG is majority White, this would have been a strong statement of solidarity from one of the oldest Witch organizations. Instead it sets a clear picture of passivity on issues of life or death for Black and Brown folk in this society, and it reinforces the message that Black people are not respected or seen in this organization.
When an organization is unable to stand up on the side of justice, and acknowledge the needs of its most marginalized members, it sends a clear statement to those watching. And instead of consulting with those affected the most, a statement was released that further pushes People of Color away from this organization. By lacking the ability to name the victims of the oppression we are speaking out against, we are showing that we are more concerned about reaction than purpose.

As a result, the Circle of Ancestral Magic effectively resigns immediately from the Covenant of the Goddess organization. It is important for us to be in organizations that are working WITH diversity and putting that above issues of catering to discomfort. As I am a Black woman, I do not have a choice to ignore being Black, and it is an insult that COG insists on doing just that to the marginalized populations within the organization.

I give a special thank you to the members of the NCLC that I have worked with for the last 8 years since being a member; much gratitude to Rachael, Jutta, Glenn, Anna, Don, Jason, Nettie, Greg, Debra and many others.
In search of justice and right action,
Crystal Blanton
Stephanie “Del” Kjer
Circle of Ancestral Magic

14 comments

  1. Blessings to you, Crystal, and your coven. I and members of my priesthood were appalled to read CoG’s statement which essentially says “all lives matter”, a position which whitewashes the fact that it is Black lives being targeted for destruction. I support you, am saddened and pissed that you have had to resign from the organization, but recognize and witness what brings you to do so. Were I a member, I would have resigned in protest as well.

    I honor your struggle, work, and presence in this community and am proud to know you.

  2. Our Coven, a member of the Covenant, issued the following statement last night, partly to clarify that there are many members of CoG with the intestinal fortutude to stand up and be counted.

    Black lives matter. Indeed, all lives matter..

    Martin Luther King Jr. said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    Although it is not a new phenomenon, there have been many stories in the news recently about young black men who were shot by police officers for offences that did not merit the use of deadly force or for no offences at all. Worse, the officers in question have not been indicted by grand juries for even the most minor charge. Not murder, not manslaughter, not even reckless endangerment. This is completely unacceptable to us as a religious organization committed to the sanctity of life and to equal justice for ourselves as Witches and all our black and brown brothers and sisters of color as human beings.

    We call upon the State of New Mexico and all of its police jurisdictions to commit to ending this appalling situation wherever it occurs in New Mexico. Law enforcement needs to be educated in methods of dealing with difficult situations that do not involve the use of deadly force, as well as the unconscious assumptions we all make in confronting persons of different races and ethnicities.

    It is our understanding that training budgets are often cut as an economy measure. When this happens, an officer who has only been thoroughly trained to use his or her weapon in tense situations turns to the tool he or she is most familiar with. It has been said that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Law enforcement officers need to be trained in more than one way to deal with difficult or confusing situations.

    We support making funds available for better trained law enforcement.

    We applaud the Department of Justice’s agreement with the Albuquerque Police Department requiring new officer training and guidelines for the use of deadly force and hope this will prevent future situations like that of Oriana Ferrell, whose van and family were shot at by a New Mexico State Patrol officer for leaving the scene of a traffic stop.

    We support the Department of Justice investigations into the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and others who are the victims of suspected unjustified use of deadly force by law enforcement.

    Sincerely, Laura Liles
    for Our Lady of the Woods

  3. Jamie Clemons /

    What exactly was the statement that COG made?

  4. Crystal /

    I saw on facebook what you said because I was tagged into the thread. I am sad that you take the position that you do that this is just about being shit stirrers in order to not work with people. Besides the statement itself, what many people do not know or understand is how much we (the membership) were discussing and working on this. The amount of aversive racism (and some covert) that came out in our indepth discussions behind the scenes. And the amount of discussion was very involved. And as a consensus organization, many people were very vocal about the offensiveness of many of those words. Many people said that if we cannot craft a statement that is not disrespectful to black people, they would leave. This statement was released without a vote or consensus. Our voices were muted.

    No where in any of MY statements or anyone that I have seen did anyone say anything about the problem being promoting peace. That was not the issue at all. For those of us who are social workers, social scientists, and anti racism activists, we were very clear that the wording they were using was considered offensive to POC and was aversively racist. They went over the membership, denied consensus and released the statement.

    Several of us stood by our word. We were on the inside trying to support the process and then were reminded that it didn’t matter. People should understand the depth of how we got here instead of assuming that we care to stir anything. What happened here was some exposure….

    In addition, I will say this to anyone reading this statement. Those of us who left made no statements after leaving. It was mid day the next day after there release, while I was at work, and my phone was blowing up. I had messages from a whole bunch of people, didn’t even know I had left, and the boards online were on fire. The POC boards were discussing and talking about the offensiveness of this statement before I ever even said I was involved or left.

    The reaction of those most affected was present. The shit was stirred by COG. The rest of us responded.

    Why are so many POC upset by the language used? That is a question people should ask. calling it grand standing and shit stirring is minimizing and dismissive.

    Blessings

  5. rain crowe /

    Thank you.

  6. I am speechless. I just don’t even know what to say about COG’s “response.” To say that is is wholly inappropriate is an understatement. Ms. Blanton, your response was eloquent and generous given the dismissal you and all people of color were served at the hands of COG.
    Thank you for your courage-although one should not need courage when speaking for equity in spiritual places- it speaks volumes about who you are and who they are. For your response to be called “shit stirring” also speaks of how unaware, either by choice or by ignorance, many people of privilege can choose to be.
    For COG to release a statement without consensus is in and of itself unacceptable; for the message to be so dismissive is reprehensible. Those that made this decision should be embarrassed and ashamed.
    Sincerely,
    Liona Rowan

  7. Christine Kraemer /

    I’m just catching up on the news after an illness, and I was shocked and disappointed to read CoG’s statement. So sorry that you had to leave an organization you had served for years in this way.

  8. Thank you, Crystal, for all that you do, and for your especially important action in this specific regard. Calling out this kind of ineffectual statement-making, especially by such an old, established, and generally well-regarded organization is difficult, to say the least, and to have done so in such a decisive and superlatively graceful fashion is even more commendable.

    [As someone who has had to schism from another group when that group took a turn I could no longer theologically, socially, or methodologically support, I fully appreciate how heartrendingly and soul-shatteringly difficult it can be to do this, whether singly or as a group, as you and your colleagues in the Circle of Ancestral Magic have done.]

    Saying “all lives matter” and “we’re all human” in situations like this just shows how little, in fact, the people making such statements do think that Black lives matter and that Black and brown people are as much a part of the human family as anyone else.

    I’m infuriated by this turn the discussion on these matters has taken on the part of CoG and many other people and organizations, and stand in solidarity with you, and with all Black and brown people (no matter what their genders might be), and all others who struggle under oppressive marginalization. I commit to doing all possible to improve this situation, and to prioritizing the demarginalization and full enfranchisement of Black and brown people as an important and essential ideal and attainable goal that will be of benefit to me and to all people; to do less would be spiritual cowardice, in my view.

    A thousand blessings from a thousand deities to you and the Circle of Ancestral Magic for this, and for all else you do and have done!

  9. Anonymous /

    This is what the COG statement said, in part:

    “Today, we the members of the Covenant especially stand together with people who are not privileged by race and class and say to you: Your life matters. We stand with you and work alongside you in ending the systems that disenfranchise you. We encourage and support all efforts by those within our communities to explore the realities of racial inequality and to work to find ways to eliminate these injustices.”

    That sounds like a very clear and direct statement of support for people of color. Can you explain in more detail why it was unsatisfactory?

  10. Al Moonlight /

    I don’t fault my dog because he cannot fly. He is pretty good at being a dog.

    If every member of CoG demanded an organizational statement supporting that member’s dearest cause, that would pretty well kill the organization, wouldn’t it.

  11. Crystal /

    This isn’t about anyone, let alone myself, demanding a statement. Other members of the group were very vocal about wanting this statement, as was I, but they brought it to the forefront where I did not. It meant a lot to numerous people… but more than that…… it was in the words of the discussion, the silencing of the voices most affected, the ignorance of the pain of Black people, and the reinforcing of language that is coded for POC. COG decided to make the statement and they decided not to listen to those of us who were telling them that the language they were using was loaded and disrespectful.

    And COG has had no issue releasing statements on other human rights issues….. I see no difference. So the real question should be whether an organization is already dead….. that is the real question to ask.

  12. Crystal /

    Thank you. It means a lot to have the support.

  13. Crystal /

    Thank you very much for the support.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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