Feb 21, 2015
I apologize for the long post… it is the only way.
I have stepped away in an attempt to try and figure out how to approach even answering some of the questions. I came to a conclusion, while running through the halls of the West Oakland school I work at. If someone does not understand the fundamentals of what oppression does then it is impossible to answer the questions that have been posed by others because it is like trying to put a program for a PC on a MAC computer. This is an important thing for me to note here because all things then trickle down from that point and definitions are given different context. The context of a hostile environment is very different within different contexts. Without that understanding, people will look for things that do not equate in this environment. So let’s explore the difference in overt racism and aversive racism. One of the text I was reading in school last year talked about how aversive racism is the biggest issue on the racism continuum today because people do not recognize it as racism unless you are the targeted population. It is hidden in biases and preferences. If dealing with racism boiled down to people saying stupid things to us, we have been dealing with that for a couple hundred years. Ignoring ignorance is not the problem. But for the sake of understanding (or maybe not) let’s explore that.
Overt racists statements are not something new in Pagan events, not just in this one. It is not something that happens one time. It is something we deal with constantly, from hearing people refer to Niggers to not being able to participate in a rite because of racial purity. You are asking for specifics for THIS ONE SNAPSHOT IN TIME to make it real for you, and yet missing all the information that has been given. Yes, there were overt statements made this year. Yes it was reported to Con. Yes they are aware.There were statements made about people being half-breeds, there were workshops that taught as a part of the workshop about the fundamentals of racist texts, there was a huge dispute in the parking lot about racial purity, there was a huge issue with another workshop where some comments were made about a specific ethnic group. There were some Pagans that were overheard, talking about wishing the workshop for white Pagans to ignore racism was real.The issue of people calling out “racist” while walking past the POC suite, or going in very confrontational to challenge the presence of a POC suite is a NORMAL occurrence. It didn’t just happen this year. It has happened every year, several times a day, for the last 3 years it has existed. Suite staff spoke very clearly about this in Monday’s forum, to the point of telling everyone that it has become a running joke… anticipating the timing of the next one.Now… let’s talk about aversive racism. The racism that is embedded within conditioning… the one that is really hard to see. These often translate as microaggresions to people of color. Microaggressions happen when people don’t even realize it is offensive and yet they are. They are the biases that happen, the things people don’t see as racist, that very clearly alienate or express preference or thoughts to a POC around such issues. They are the statements like “oh…. we are a Wiccan circle, you must work with Egyptian Gods….” or… “Why don’t you work with your own religions?” or…. purposefully using slang or “urban” dialog when a POC enters the conversation, or referring to Paganism as “only” European, or………. discounting the experiences of POC. Or how about “you talk different than other Black people”. Or…. well, you have to be of primary European decent… and when asked how they prove that, there is no way but by sight. (yes that happened to me, ALL of those things happened to me and many others)They are the things that CLEARLY translate a knowing that alienates or “others”… marginalizing the POC in that space. I personally have heard every… single… one .. of those… statements…. And what was amazing to me was traveling and /or speaking to other POC from different areas for the Shades books.. and hearing them echo to me the same shit. And yes such things were said and done this year. They always are.So then I go back to my original point. What is a hostile environment? What is a threat? If this stuff is going on throughout (not just regular society) but within Pagan community all over…. why would POC feel wanted, welcomed or safe? Why do we think the numbers of POC at events are so low? Where are all the POC in our community?
And another note……… the setting up of support systems and escorting one another around was done BEFORE we got to con. Why? Because it is a normal experience within Paganism. It is what is our normal… it is what we live with. So when someone is asking for a specific something to prove that we are justified in feeling unsafe, it is obvious that the very definitions of oppression, marginalization, othering and the functions of racism are missing.That is why the whole idea of questioning victimization is just wrong. It immediately says to a minority (in ethnicity and numbers) that they have to prove that what they experienced really is something real to people who do not and cannot know what that is like. We have to reach into comparisons to help the translations… compare to being a woman or other categories to help make the connection. We have to work hard just to build a culture of understanding so that we can support people in paying attention to the harm we are experiencing.(here we go)…. it is like telling a woman to retell her experience of being raped to every person who doesn’t know what rape feels like….. (in descriptive detail) and then prove to them that it didn’t have anything to do with their clothing or leading people on… or that they were looking for it. Or to verbalize what PTSD post rape feels like and how the visceral reaction feels when a man looks intently at her breasts or eyeballs her up and down, or uses the creepy voice when saying how beautiful she is…. Over… and over… and over again.Why is a POC caucus important? Because we don’t have to do THAT. Everyone in that room knows. They experience it. So someone can stand up and just talk….. and be heard, and understood, and validated.So. In this very long response, I have given very clear examples of things that happened at this particular event, and that happen all the damn time and in multiple venues. Why? Because until people understand that this is not a Pcon problem but a cultural problem, an insensitivity problem, a tone deaf problem, a conditioning problem…. nothing will get done and nothing will change.