I find it so restricting that Black culture pigeon holes us into roles and does not always allow for individuality and differences. This is a challenging thing to say when thinking about all the many wonderful things about Black culture, it almost feels as if I am complaining. It is not a complaint of the culture of Black people, but it is a realization that being Black does not always make sense to Wiccans and being Wiccan does not always make sense to Black people.
I am quite proud of being Black and being Wiccan. I wish that I could talk more openly with others about that incredible combination but because of ignorance about what that means, I cannot always share who I am because there is such a lack of understanding within the Black community. I remember telling my dad for the first time and his question in response. He sincerely looked at me and asked, “you still go to church though, right?” It took years for him to understand that I did not go to church and I am not sure that he totally understands now.
I also recall his wife having some conversation with him and a discussion we had later about how the bible indicates that I am going to hell. I think he was trying to save me; that is what I would like to believe at least. Today my dad is much better at understanding the concepts of my beliefs and for that I am grateful, but he is only one example of what I am talking about and I have a whole family down south without a understanding for what it means to be me spiritually.
When my mother died many of my family from her side flew to California to be here. It was so great to have them around, especially since I needed to have a family presence to remind me that I still belonged somewhere now that she was gone. What I found amazing was the amount of anxiety I felt in sharing with them, for the first time, that I was Wiccan and my mother respected (and often participated) in my religious choices. I know they did not understand and thankfully we were dealing with so much, I didn’t have to explain a lot. I pushed through that anxiety and (along with my covenmates) did a working at the memorial that was Wiccan. I felt good for honoring her that way but conscious of the lack of understanding.
Today I have found myself skating the line between being myself and not having to tell too much. Since I work in a professional counseling environment, it is acceptable practice not to share much about yourself. I wear my pentacle though and it evokes questions. To compound that, I work in a predominantly Black areas, at a 98% Black school. It is inevitable that I have to answer some questions without answering too much.
I often wonder how many others of different cultures find this type of subtle judgmental or uncomfortable situations in their lives. I think it says something for the lack of Black Wiccans that are “out” and even though that number is increasing, there are more in the closet than out. Black people have had a history of self loathing and internal discrimination against one another; much of this dynamic goes back to the slave days where some qualities would dictate which slaves got better treatment than others. Today it equates in trying to figure out what “being Black” is and who is blacker than others. This type of internal discriminatory beliefs continue to divide our community and religion is just another characteristic that falls into this dynamic.
The more chances Black Wiccans have to share and let our voices be heard, the more we have a chance at cultivating understanding and tolerance within both our communities. I look forward to the many possibilities that will allow me to just be who I am without explanation. So, for today, I continue to stand up to those who ask and respectfully say “Yes, I am…. a Black Wiccan”.