Sunday, February 26, 2012

Z Budapest was Right

Oh, do you have your hackles up already?

Don't get me wrong. I disagree with her on most things. Heck, I even partially disagree with her on what I'm about to post. However, I look for the truth in a message no matter who is saying it. One of the problems humans have is the inability to separate an idea from its source in order to dispassionately assess the idea. I noticed this for the first time many many years ago when Jerry Brown suggested a flat tax. The Democratic pundits were all for it. The Republicans against it. Just two years later a Republican offered the same idea. The Democrats and Republican pundits switched positions. I have long held that if the flat tax idea was a good one, it was good no matter who is advocating it. If it was a bad idea, it was bad no matter who was pushing the idea. To me, this is basic logic. The idea should be judged on its merits alone.

My case in point is with Z Budapests roundly panned statement about transgendered people. Frankly, she is wrong in my book but she tossed this in, "Men want to worship the Goddess? Why not put in the WORK and create your own trads. The order of ATTIS for example,(dormant since the 4rth century) used to be for trans gendered people"

First of all, the "men" she is referring to are women. So, let's kill that debate right now. Second of all, you can worship whatever you what, whenever you want, however you want. That is between you and your deity of choice. So, let's kill that debate too. However, she did point the way to an "order of ATTIS." Frankly, I only did a brief internet search and didn't come up with much. However, if there was an order dedicated to transgender people, it would seem prudent for someone with a researcher's mindset and a pagan heart to look into that. Maybe it can be resurrected for the greater good.

I am not saying that transgenders should be excluded from anything. I am only saying that if there is a deity or order out there designed for transgender people, it would seem a good thing to have the resurrected for people that need it. Would you turn your back on that need just because Budapest came up with a possible solution? I hope not.

Good ideas can come from bad messengers.

Race in Paganism

I bring this up because Kenaz posted this article on his blog, "White Unity in White Diversity."

I have only been friends with one African-American pagan. Chris didn't like that term. He preferred to be called Chris. I wrote of his passing here. I can honestly say he was treated no differently than anyone else. Well, probably slightly better than many others because he was very well liked. I once asked him if he felt discrimination based on his race. He said no. Chris assumed that if you were a jerk to him, you were either having a bad day or you were just a jerk. He never assumed someone was being a jerk because he was black.

We lived together for four or five years as roommates. One day he came home mad as hell, a very rare thing for him. He said, "Do you know when I said I haven't been discriminated against? I was wrong. I have been constantly discriminated against by other black people!" He never told me exactly what happened that day but he did say that isn't treated well by that community. Chris liked Celitc music, hard rock, classic rock, a smattering of country, grunge but not hip hop or R&B. Chris didn't go to a Baptist church; he was pagan. He didn't like to dance as he was a big man. He said he was constantly looked askance at because he didn't fit into 'their mold'.

I never knew a pagan to have an issue with Chris due to his race. In fact, few people had any issues with him at all. For all that, he was an intensely lonely man. I have never known anyone with so many friends and spoken of so highly to be so lonely.

I could be wrong but I have been in the local pagan community for over a decade. I can only think of two or three African-Americans that came to explore the pagan scene. Chris was the only one that stuck around but that ratio wasn't alarming. I don't think 1 of 3 people of any race that explored the local scene stuck around.

So, if you look at the Fresno Pagan community and see nothing but white people, does that mean we are exclusionary lily white elitists or does it mean that African-Americans are simply not interested? Given only three have poked around over a decade and I never saw anyone treated with disrespect, I am going for the later. If we had a bunch of racist Asatru around driving people off, I'd be concerned. The local Asatru actually have plans in place to make sure the racists are not accidentally included in their meetings.

Let us look further, if there was a voodoo class at Pantheacon would I go? Yes and I have for general background information. In fact, I think Kenaz was there before I knew Kenaz was a fellow blogger. It simply isn't my path. There are lots of traditions discussed at Pantheacon that I do not attend except for background information. That isn't due to the race of the speaker. It has everything to do with the fact those are not my traditions. I have zero resonance with Celtic traditions. I do not attend those classes and I promise you I have nothing against the white race.

In my life, I have only knew two white people speak of "our people", "our race" or use language that like. One was a fellow named Utah that I met when I was 18. Utah was a murderer, drug addict and bigot. We were not friends. The other was a coworker that went from well-liked and respected to much less than overnight when he used the phrase "porch monkeys". Someone had to explain to me what that meant. I had never heard that term before. So, the people I know in very conservative Fresno do not put up with racism from other white people.

However, in Kenaz's blog he quoted someone as saying this, "I am not surprised that hardly any of our people attend the various pagan conferences...I am not sure that we are really wanted in attendance." First of all creating or perpetuating race distinctions with an us and them attitude displayed  by the term "our people" doesn't help. If you're a human being wanting to explore paganism or what I do you are welcome. There is no your people and my people. We are people. Secondly, "I am not really sure we are wanted in attendance." No, if you are going to assume I am a bigot when you 'are not sure' I don't want you there. Who wants that sort of baggage projected on to them? However, if you are there to explore paganism, share your tradition, forge links between the traditions or anything similar, show up! Give a class. Talk. Converse. Have a great time. If one of my favorite speakers isn't on at the same time, I will show up and listen.

Lastly, many neo-pagans go back to their genetic roots for spirituality. People with a Western European heritage may be into Celtic stuff. I know two that into Russian paganism. There are Greek, Roman and a host of other reconstructionist groups out there. I am going to make a leap and assume that African American genetic heritage takes them to a different continent and some very different traditions. What is wrong with that? There are some links between those areas of interest. For instance, I think many people of both races get drawn to Kemetic work or other forms of Egyptian religions or psuedo religious practices. I think the art of Geomancy crosses some boundaries too.  Maybe those are the places to begin to form dialogues that don't start with an us and them attitude but with one of common ground. 


Nutty Prof said...

Yeah I have been following this race conversation. I find it tiresome. Pretty ironic considering I make my living writing about race and religion in the 1800s. The way I see it is that the current conversation about race is significant only in that it gets everyone's karmic/emotional juices flowing, but it actually gets in the way of what's important. But I suppose I have the luxury of taking this position; after all, I am black.

V.V.F. said...

As someone who's mixed with two different communities in the Central Valley, I can say that I've never been the only POC in an organized group. That doesn't mean that I've never heard racist remarks, because I have. Just because it doesn't happen in front of you, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

Pointing out the fact doesn't mean that I'm accusing you of being part of the problem; anyone who speaks out against that kind thinking has no need to defend himself. So I think you can relax.

Buddhagan said...

I haven't come across many black pagans but we are out there. When I was seeking, I learned about a path that specifies european roots. I'm not sure if my biracial child would be welcome to worship there. I like the point you made about some pagans following the genetic roots. I personally do not feel drawn to celtic, norse, or any other euro traditions but I don't mind learning about them.

Yes, it would be a positive thing to reactivate Attis. Not for the purpose of segregation but for support.

Unknown said...

You make some good points about the race issue, but I think you're way off about the use of "our people" and the like, and I think perhaps it's a matter of white privilege. I have not been allowed the luxury of assuming I'm the same as everyone else in the room. Being an ethnic minority one is reminded of that, in subtle ways, every single day of ones life. Your being unaware of this--in my opinion--is probably directly related to your having lived your life as a member of the majority.
Also, the race issues one encounters at places like Pantheacon aren't Jim Crow type shit; it plays out subtly, because the people involved aren't actually consciously racist. It plays out in invitations to events for your friends, which you do not recieve... in smiles and eye contact from you being met with fast walking and aversion. Just my opinion and experience...I don't claim to be an authority on the matter. But. I've been to Pantheacon, and I've been looked at like a Lion in a stationery store, as if my very existence in such a setting was bizarre. Again, not overt racism, but the effect on me is similar. I did not attend this year.

Robert said...

I will be the first to agree I have no idea what it is like to be black. I have a little inkling being Pagan in an ultra Christian area but I can hide being Pagan. You can't hide being black.

On the other hand. I do believe that may acts of normal human rudeness are attributed to racism when in fact some people are just rude. I appear to be a very open guy in public. Yet, I have a hard time approaching anyone new.I don't know how to start small talk. Some would you assume I am shy in that way and some would assume that I didn't approach because they were black.

Unknown said...

True enough; I usually err on the side of folk being rude, in that sort of situation. However....when the folk around you who aren't Black aren't getting the same treatment, despite being equally-to-less friendly, it becomes difficult to attribute it to anything other than a subtle aversion (or not-so-subtle) to my people and culture.