Some experiences cannot compare to others. I know there are many differences in opinions that lead one to believe he or she has the answers to any given situation and the “rights” from “wrongs” in the world. In reality our personal views on life are build by a variety of elements that create the current take on reality. Reality is not the same for everyone and this is important in the building of understanding and becoming more sympathetic to the world around us.
I can count numerous times when I have had the realization of how tiring it is to come up against the views of others that are based in mis-perceptions and exist among the prejudices of skewed experiences. It is often overwhelming and disheartening because it seems to be a continuous dynamic that minorities have had to encounter for so long. I have had this experience in my own life and identify with what it means to have to live among the stereotypes that have been thrust on society.
I write a lot about this type of thing because it is my passion. I also feel that these types of perceptions are often ignored in many communities, including the Pagan community, but it can isolate members from actually being a part of that very community. That is one of the reasons that Daughters of Eve will continue to lend a uniqueness to our Pagan culture; we have never before had a medium where Black people within the Pagan path have been able to just talk about experiences, culture and occurrences that influence their paths.
It seems as if I am not able to escape the misguided views that make up the limited understanding of my ethnic culture and it often feels like others attempt at reinforcing old stereotypes that are not accurate and still harmful for the Black community. Whether someone is making references to our ability to be “real” Pagans, our intelligence, poverty, our intentions or even that Black people don’t know how to care for our own kids; this dynamic in society at large has got to stop.
So I would like to take this opportunity to clear up a select few of the many misconceptions of Black people, Black culture, Black Pagans or poverty that I have heard in the last 2 weeks. Only 2 weeks folks, because if I were to write something for everything I have heard in the last few years, I could write a series of books. I would title them….. Everything You Thought You Knew About Black People was Wrong.
Let us start…..
Black people are just Black people:
although our culture is different and we might have different historical experiences, Black people still bleed red. We have bones, veins, a brain, heart and even feelings. The amount of melanin in our skin does not dictate our physiological make up and our potential in life. Due to the fact that we are in the same species as other races, we can even procreate with others. We are no closer to being monkeys as another person might be to his or her local zoo.
Black culture is still a culture:
Many times people from other cultures may not understand another person’s culture because they have no context to understand it with. I do not pretend to know the significance behind certain meals, practices and faiths of those who may have been born and raised in Africa, Japan or even the middle east. I have a clear understanding that I am ignorant to the ways of many other cultures because I have not been a part of them. People often don’t understand that this applies to us as well. Although our culture is Americanized and has been separated from our ancestral cultures, it is still a culture that should be respected. We have our own foods and practices just like other cultures. Not all Black people would know how to cook asparagus correctly, just like I don’t know how to make Chinese food and someone else doesn’t know how to cook greens. Our preferences are not based on something as black and white as only wanting to eat fast food, nor can others assume that our food of preference is to eat unhealthy foods just because it does not add up to a Caucasian society’s version of healthy.
Black culture is not…
Black culture is not big rims, sagging pants, rap music, gold teeth, black hoodies or $300.00 pairs of shoes. Those are choices that are often based in other components that make up a person’s preferences. “Acting” Black has nothing to do with those elements and it is simply ridiculous to think that someone who is wearing their pants low or talking slang is trying to be “Black”.
Poor does not equal ignorant or ghetto:
The amount of money that someone has is not a automatic indicator of how much intelligence he or she has. There are incredibly smart people in poor areas, just like there are smart people in the middle class. To assume that poverty equals bad choices and a lack of intelligence is saying more about the person who perceives that than the people that are being talked about.
We are a diverse people:
You cannot push any group of people into a box, assuming that they are all alike. Generalizations seldom work for any group of people, and especially not for Black people. We are dark, light, pale, red, yellow with black hair, brown hair, sandy hair and blond hair. We have blue eyes, grey eyes, brown and hazel eyes. We are thin, tall, short and thick. Our lineage has been mixed with many different cultures over the hundreds of years here in the United States, making it impossible to isolate physical elements or to make any assumptions of who we are. We are doctors, teachers, police officers, counselors, computer technicians, mechanics, Christians, Pagans, Muslims, poor people, middle class, rich people, criminals, geniuses, drug addicts, pharmacy technicians, mothers, fathers and citizens.
Black Pagans are diverse too:
Just because a person is Black and Pagan does not mean that he or she works with Egyptian or African Deities. We are as diverse as the Gods themselves and connect to the variety of pantheons regardless of the hue of our skin or the kink of our hair. You cannot assume that any one spiritual path or reflection of deity will relate to a person just because of the color of his or her skin.
Black people are strong people:
Don’t let the commercialization of stereotypes confused you from the actual strength and ability of this group of people. In every facet of the world Black people are a part of society, show incredible force to survive beyond generations of adversity, prejudice and oppression. We have helped to build this country with hard labor and the sweat on our brow.
And in closing (for now), we should remember that these stereotypes continue to alienate people from truly relating with one another. As we become a more aware society that celebrates the true nature of diversity and cultural respect, let us really learn to acknowledge the many differences that make up the very diversity that has helped to build this very nation. Let us stop acting like we know what is best for others because we assume that we understand who they are and the culture they come from. While I can relate on a human experience with others, I cannot make assumptions about their culture and the way that one lives. Just because I think I know what is best for people does not make it so, my ideas are just my ideas unless they are backed by facts and studies.
Instead of judging others by our own set of standards that may not apply; let us ask questions and learn from one another. And while our Pagan community is becoming more openly inclusive of a myriad of different type of people, let us remember that we are all faces of the divine. Judging one face of the divine is like judging them all, or your own.