Greetings, and welcome back to Wyrd Words. Keeping the Thor in Thursdays, every other week here on Agora!
Writing here at the Patheos Pagan Channel, I’ve gotten to know some remarkable authors with some truly brilliant ideas. In my time at The World Table I’ve met some fantastically brilliant people from all ends of the religious spectrum, and I’ve learned a lot from our conversations. Bill-Paying-Day-Job aside, I love what I do. Working for and with the online Pagan community is great! Mostly.
I’m the chief administrator for Huginn’s Heathen Hof, which hosts blogs, comics, a Library of Lore, and a number of other services for the online Heathen community. Sadly, every community has its dark sides; and it was through this website that I had my first real encounter with our own. It was late one Thursday evening when I received an e-mail from the website’s built in contact form.
All it said was: “Hail! Plz share tis!”
Somebody had apparently had investigated my webpage enough to know that it was a hub for Heathens (but NOT enough to see the “About the Author” page that says I’m married to a Jewish woman), and decided to send this to me, followed later by an invitation to the march in Tempe, AZ. I got invited to this abominable display of ignorance because I’m a Heathen blogger, and somebody just ASSUMED that I would support their “Diversity=White Genocide” message because I follow the Aesir and the Vanir. This wasn’t just some random, ill-informed outsider making accusations. This was one of our own, propagating the stereotype that those ill-informed outsiders shout at us.
So why is this important?
Like it or not, there is a small segment of the modern Heathen community that not only buys into this kind of blatant racism, but co-opts our faith and uses our religion as an excuse to do so without having to admit that they ARE racist. These people twist the idea of ancestor veneration and cultural pride as a way to justify and mask their hate, as if using religious reasoning for their behavior somehow exempts them from the consequences of their actions. I refuse to allow them to abuse and dishonor our faith, our community, and our gods. We have the power to speak up and strip away that religious mask they wear. We CAN expose these people for what they are and show the world that they do NOT represent us.
The Difference Between Pride and Racism
The most common excuse you’ll hear from the kind of people who supported this event is that they’re simply displaying ancestral pride. They’ll say things like:
“Black people are allowed to celebrate their ethnicity!”, or “Why isn’t it okay to celebrate our culture and heritage as white Americans?”
and (most annoyingly), “Oh yeah? Why don’t we have a WHITE History Month?”
“I would like to live in a world where each and every race is able to take pride in itself, honor its ancestors […] so that White people can choose to live in White communities and White countries”
-Kyle Hunt (White Man March Organizer)
They’ll try desperately to assure you that they don’t HATE non-white people… They just wish they’d live somewhere else. That’s not racist, right?
This isn’t pride. This isn’t “celebrating our ancestors”. This is hate fueled by FEAR.
Going to the Highland Games and trying (or more likely failing) to toss a caber is a way to celebrate your ancestors. Freaking out because your next-door neighbors are Mexican is not.
Going to a Blot or Pagan Pride is a great way to get in touch with your roots. Pretending that sharing our country with other people (like the ones who were here first…) is somehow a plot to exterminate us is a great way to get in touch with your local tinfoil hat vendor.
So What Happened Next?
Needless to say, after I had received such a polite invitation, I was excited to have an opportunity to attend the counter protest! I even made a sign.
So I showed up to the counter protest, AWESOME sign in hand, to stand in the sun for a few hours before I had to work a 12-hour shift. I had no idea what to expect, or how to prepare for it. It’s a good thing I didn’t spend too much time trying, because would never have guessed what happened next. As we were setting up our signs, more and more people from various groups started to assemble. We had Anarchists, Anti-Fascists, African American Civil Rights activists, LGBT activists, a few random pedestrians who picked up the cause, and 1 Heathen with a crappy hand made sign. In total, over 50 people came, ready to stand up to the white supremacists. In fact, of all the people who volunteered to be there that day, only one group canceled.
That group just happened to be organization behind the White Man March!
There we were, over 50 of us loudly protesting the racists who had yet to show up, when a Tempe Police Lieutenant informed our group that they had contacted Kyle Hunt (the man behind the “White Man March”) and been informed that the event had been canceled due to the large number of protesters. Let me just reiterate that. All of these “Proud White Men” heard how many of us were waiting for them and RAN AWAY. So how did our merry group of protesters respond?
By claiming victory of course!
That’s me (in the red circle) getting interviewed by Fox News while the Anarchist group does a victory chant.
A Glimmer of Hope
If you’re at all like me (or really like any rational human being), this whole thing took a bit of a notch out of your faith in humanity. Watching the white supremacists chicken out did a bit to restore my spirits, but what really convinced me that there’s still a reason to hope for the future came after I got back home. Before I went out to the counter protest, I posted an update to this blog’s official Facebook Page. If any other local Heathens were going to be there, I wanted them to know they weren’t alone, but I honestly expected to lose a LOT of followers that day as a result of my stance on the issue.
I lost 6 “likes” that day. 6 people were so firmly in support of this display of blatant racism that they couldn’t tolerate me anymore. In exchange, over 200 people joined the page, dozens of people left supportive comments like those above, and I received at least ten e-mails from fellow Heathens who were thrilled to see people standing up to this organization.
The kinship and support that I got from our community that day was OVERWHELMING. The racists in our community may be loud and well-organized, but they are NOT the majority. I saw so many people stand up for what’s right that day that I can’t help but have hope for a future where this kind of ignorance may someday be eliminated. It’s not just a pipe dream. It’s not a lost cause. It’s not impossible. On March 15th, in the middle of what was supposed to be a “World Wide” white supremacist rally, I saw proof that it CAN BE DONE; but only if good people are willing to fight for it! All we need to do is be willing to speak up when racists try to hide behind our faith. We can’t pretend that these people don’t exist. We can’t be afraid to deny them their religious justifications and force them to acknowledge what they’re really doing.
Lead by example and show them how to live with PRIDE rather than hate.