Grayscale: The Lie of Being Colorblind

No. It isn't.

I had the chance to listen to a, rather old, Reith Lecture on the BBC about the genetics of race. Normally, I tend to shy away from listening to these kinds of subjects since a) I live within the sphere of being “other” and b) the sphere of race happens to be the one of the most often ignored and or maligned for making itself known; never mind the fact that many Americans have to walk the fine line of having two “selves”, the outer self for the consumption of a conspicuously white-privilege based culture, and the true self that is free only around those one can trust.

To that, the first time my husband told me he “Doesn’t see color.” I almost dug my nails into the fleshy part of his hand in an attempt to keep from calling him a plethora of names, most of them ending with “ignorant asshole” followed by “of course you don’t.”

The truth is, the joy of being colorblind in our “post racial”, liberal, religious community is one only shared by the whites who so proudly bandy the term about as a way of stopping the, uncomfortable, conversation about race. Many cannot afford to be colorblind and are all too aware that our actions, words, facial expressions, and even hair styles are interpreted based on preconceived notions of who we are, based on what we are.

These notions carry over into our personal lives, effecting friendships, work place politics, and even whether the police will search for a dead body…or not. Not ‘seeing color’ is not seeing my reality and, instead, forcing millions of people of color one comes into contact with to reaffirm the beliefs of the ‘colorblind’ individual. It’s really no surprise when some of those touting how colorblind they are, are often some of the first to get venomous if a person, especially a black person, wishes to point out experiences with racism or, even worse, point out an instance where the supposed ally has been racist.

Since women, as a whole, tend to make up a majority of those engaging in these dialogues, they stand as some of the closest allies in unpacking the invisible knapsack of living as a woman, within a minority religion, in America. They can, also, stand as our worst enemies in refusing to acknowledge the black female narrative on its own merits.

This means not having the conversation derailed by well meaning white women who attempt to steer the conversation into a realm in which their beliefs, personal narratives, and concerns are the center of conversation. While there are various issues facing all women respectively, women of color, and black women in particular (since that’s all I can speak of) face a set of unique challenges. Harsher? I can’t say. Different? Yes.

Furthermore, while there are plenty of spaces available for white pagan women to speak and be heard protected by the bonds of ‘pagan sisterhood’ and the culture of ‘nice’, Daughters of Eve, so far, is the only safe space on the pagan web, I’ve found, for a black pagan woman to speak without fear of being censored, slandered, or told to ‘tone it down’ so as to not come across as militant or angry to those who see their willingness to share a space at all as some kind of gift or undeserved hand out.

This open space can become a ground for the peeling back of insecurities, fears, and apprehensions. A place to have honest, and open, dialogue. I don’t expect this to happen; not in my lifetime, nor in that of my nieces and nephews. In a subculture dead set on shallow philosophical agreement, actively courting disagreement to get to some form of compromise is a pipe dream at best.

Lately, the issue of what the pagan community actually is has been at the forefront of some conversations. Some see it as purely a community of individuals under a religious umbrella with little to bind us together save the use of said label. Others see it as a politically motivated cadre of environmentalists and privileged yuppies basking in soft-spoken, shallow, revolution. But I can say one thing for sure; the Pagan community is, in fact, color blind and I don’t mean that in a good way.

 

About Pythia Theocritos
  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    Once you start dropping f-bombs like mad I’ll tell you to “tone it down.” After all, some of my best friends are black… *ducks to avoid Pythia’s flying ninja kick of death*

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      I was drinking wine when I read this. I’m going to need you to replace my keyboard. LOL!

  • Stephie Michaels

    When one is hurt so by others, it is easy to see almost everything as an attack.  We pagans certainly experience that when dealing with Christians.  But we MUST work hard to avoid the easy path of putting words into someone else’s mouth.  I’ve never used the term “colorblind”, but it is a good one.  Here’s what that word means to me — I don’t give a damn is someone is white, black, or purpledy-pink.  I don’t give a damn if someone is gay, straight, or somewhere in between.  I don’t give a damn is a woman was born with a penis or a man with a vagina.  NONE OF THAT MEANS ONE DAMNED THING!  What matters is whether that person lives honorably and honestly, and treats others with the same respect as he or she wants for himself or herself.  THAT’S ALL THAT’S IMPORTANT!

    Why is it you can’t believe people when they act the way they should?  Don’t you remember the adage, “BE the change you want to see”?  Well, there are a whole lot of us who believe that and who do their best to be the people we should and treat others as we want to be treated.  Yes, there are a lot of us who are – truly – “colorblind”.

    None of this minimizes your experience of prejudice, any more that our joint experience of religious prejudice is lessened.  But we who experience prejudice of any sort should not visit it upon anyone else.

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      If it “didn’t matter” it wouldn’t effect my life on that scale that it does, and it wouldn’t make so many well meaning social philanthropist feel so “indignant” when I say the social handout doesn’t mean squat to me. 

      It’s funny how I’ve had the word “discrimination” and “prejudice” lobbed willy nilly, with very little to back up the claims. Yet I do believe I was rather rational in my viewpoint of why “colorblind”, to me, is the most overused, ridiculous, and thoroughly self-congratulatory BS to ever spring forth from a well meaning population.  

      Have a coke and a smile love.

      • Guest

        “It’s funny how I’ve had the word “discrimination” and “prejudice” lobbed willy nilly, with very little to back up the claims.” – Pythia TheocritosReally?  Very little to back up claims of prejudice and discrimination against pagans?  I think you’re forgetting who your audience is.  I’m sure it’s difficult being black in America, but acceptance of African-Americans is just about a foregone conclusion in the U.S.  Sure, not everyone is on board yet, but we did go through our Civil Rights moment for African-American equality.  We’ve had no such moment for pagans.  We did elect a black president, and that’s not a sign of a nation that is *overwhelmingly* racist against blacks.  When do you anticipate our first pagan president?  Not soon, I’d guess.  Even the Southern Baptist Convention, which still discriminates like crazy against gays, pagans, muslims, etc. (pretty much anyone not Southern Baptist) just elected a black president.  While we’re not there yet for blacks, we’re definitely not there yet for pagans!In the Southeastern U.S., where I live, discrimination against pagans is very real.  Fundamentalist Christianity is big shit down here, in case you hadn’t noticed.  My own community has seen Klan style vandalizations of pagan homes.  If that were to happen to a black family today, it would rightfully be seen as a huge discrimination issue.  And the way that you know that it’s OK by most people when it happens to pagans is that it isn’t even big news.  It may be easier to initially recognize you as a target for race discrimination than it is for a lot of white pagans to be recognized as targets of religious discrimination, but once recognized life can get pretty hard for us (jobs, relationships, in-laws, neighbors, government, law enforcement, etc.  AKA a lot of the same shit you deal with).  Do I need to mention the millenia long history of oppression and murder of pagans (white and otherwise) at the hands of non-pagans, or does that go without saying?If you’re not finding the type of acceptance you want from the pagan community, maybe it’s because you’re not offering acceptance.  After all, you’re the one participating in an ethnically based group, and running the rest of us down *as a group* in an online rant.  We’re all daughters of mitochondrial Eve, or sons of a daughter.  She made us Sisters and Brothers, and you use her to set you apart.  Ironic, no?So I’ve been ranting, and I admit I’m a little angry that you would diminish the poignancy of the pain and isolation that others feel for the sake of your own expression.  But on the whole I really do want to connect with you, and understand your experience.  I don’t think I understand from reading your article, if the colorblind thing isn’t working (or if it’s just an illusion), what type of treatment you *do* want as an african-american member of the pagan community.  I want to know how you want to be treated such that you feel respected, and I’ll make every reasonable effort to treat you that way.  I hope you also understand that I am not your oppressor, but I *am* your equal, and I may have my own expectations about respectful treatment.

        • Pythia Theocritos

          I’m wondering if this person even read the post or just jacked off in their hand and hurled it at the computer screen. O.o

          • Guest

            Yes, the blog engine ripped out all my formatting, now my post is very difficult to read.  Did you try to take a look at the contents at all?  It wasn’t so much a response to your article as it was to your reply to Stephie Michaels, which seems to imply that white pagans are charging some kind of false discrimination.  And I took that as bullshit.

            Here’s the Cliff’s notes, since you probably didn’t bother to read before blindly insulting me: Pagans experience discrimination too.  We really do.  Examples given.  If people exclude you, maybe it’s because you are, in fact, a little racist.  I want to treat you with respect, and I’m trying to ask you how you want to be treated, but I can’t talk, and you won’t listen, because you’re busy shitting on my face.  I think that just about sums it up.

          • CassDawn

            i didn’t read it that way at all.  i read that she was pointing out that stephie (and many others here; and i’m sure in the real world) are accusing her of displaying prejudice herself without backing up that claim.

          • Bittrbuffalo

            This comment made me LOL….

            Anyway, I think the point that (white) people are missing is that not all prejudice is the same thing. By saying, “Hey! Look! I’m being discriminated against, too, because I’m Pagan/female/gay/fat/whatever, and I’m not making a huge deal of it! I’m a victim!”, you’re kind of undermining another person’s pain and that’s a dick move. You don’t sound like you’re commiserating, you sound like you’re not really listening to the problem and dismissing it. Yeah, other types of prejudice are problems, too, but right now we’re talking about racism and obtaining some sort of understanding about HOW and WHY it occurs, recognizing that there IS a problem…and maybe, just maybe, this can eventually lead us to healing. So don’t make this about you or distract from the discourse.

      • rosewelsh

         OK, now that I’ve thought it over and read a few other comments, I can see how the term “colorblind” is so crappy.  As I understand it now as a word used to assimilate everyone together without regard for their individuality or social and cultural identity.  I don’t want to do that!  That’s just crazy talk.  I want to find things in common with unique people: discrimination, prejudice or the type of food and books we like.  From a place of common ground then, I want to discover what our differences are and understand them in context with the person. 

    • Crystal Blanton

      There is a audio clip of an author named Dr. Joy Degruy and she is talking about this very topic in parts of it. She talks about the concept of color blind and people saying I don’t see race when I look at you. She says something to the effect of “funny…. because when I look at myself in the mirror I see a Black Woman. How is it you don’t see that too”. I agree…… colorblind is safe and it is suppose to mean we are not prejudice but instead it is erasing the very diversity we do have. We are not a colorblind society…. unless someone does not have the gift of site. It is not about people acting as they should… that is subjective. It is about acknowledging what is in front of us and not acting like it is not there just because it makes us feel better as a society to illustrate that it doesn’t matter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nissa70 Anissa Roberts

    When i first read this i was very indignant – I wanted to jump on here and defend my fellow pale complected Pagan compatriots.  After a couple of deep breaths i am still torn.  I do not deny that it must exist – you say it does so you must have experienced it. But I know I do not engage in it, nor any of the Pagan community I am a part of.  We are not color blind.  We know that the struggles for people of color can never be understood by an outsider.  Just as you can never understand what is like to me, or any other person.  That is the point, we are all people that have had experiences.  Racism is everywhere, discrimination is everywhere, and I am sad to admit it must also exist in my beloved religion but to say that it is the entire pagan community is very unfair.  It is the same as if I – a middle aged white woman – had a bad experience involving a young black person and decided that the entire black community was to blame.  You cannot blame an entire group of people for the actions of a few. That is discrimination!  

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      You’ve actually done EXACTLY what I said you would do. Congratulations. 

  • jd

    this doesnt sound like an exposition upon racial perceptions but rather more simply an outburst of anger. Thats okay if its what you neeed, rage on. but dont expect me to accept the basic premise just cuz your pissed….

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      I don’t “expect” anything from you. Careful, your privilege is showing.

    • CassDawn

      in my opinion an outburst of anger IS an exposition on racial perceptions as they currently stand.

    • Crystal Blanton

      Rage is your judgement. Straight forward confrontation is not rage. That is priviledge and assumptions shining through to mask from looking and reflecting on self. You should worry about what you expect from yourself. That is a good start. For everyone…

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/ krisbradley

    As a well-meaning white Pagan woman I have very often passed along links and articles about African-American Pagan issues and joined in discussions of the articles.

    I ask this question with absolutely no sarcasm or ill will, just truly trying to understand your point of view. By trying to take an interest in this cause of my fellow Pagan woman, trying to understand it as much as someone who hasn’t walked in those shoes can, are my actions taking away from the discussion?  Should I just step back from this and mind my own business?

    • http://hellenicpolytheist.wordpress.com/ Pythia Theocritos

      Your post, alone, shows that your actions and insights can be valuable to the dialogue, and eventual cultural shift, necessary to actually eradicate racism once and for all. This is how conversations, for me, have normally gone when attempting to discuss the issues facing black women in particular;

      Me: [Explains experience/occurrence]Ally: Well it probably wasn’t about race but sex.

      The problem with the above conversation is that it undermines my perception, a perception already one edge because, for some reason, “playing the race card” is a far worse offense, in America, then actually being racist. And, unfortunately for many allies, being willing to listen to a woman of color and take her perception at face value is considered being “politically correct” as opposed to giving the weight of her/my observation the same credence one would of their similar racial group.

      In other words, as much as our societies wish racism didn’t exist, the onus has been placed on people of color to make it “disappear” by no longer talking about it. Even if it still exists and effects our lives. Even if we go through insane mental gymnastics and methods of deduction to get to the conclusion we have ; because we do have to think long and hard before voicing anything of this nature; since we don’t have privilege to fall back on if (and when) things go awry.

      I think, if you’re genuinely interested in engaging and listening, then you not only add to the discussion, but may even help have that discussion with others. I can count among those who “get it” as some of the best allies I could possibly have; Star Foster, Kenaz Filan, etc. 

      I’m, in no way, expecting a “fix” but reflection. Since the only person one can change is oneself, recognizing attitudes and actions that undermine the narratives, experiences, and insights of women of color (in all of our political and ideological differences). You’ve done more than many will ever do. Thank you for being an ally.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/confessionsofapagansoccermom/ krisbradley

        Thank you so much for this reply.  This article definitely gave me a lot to think about, and I will carry your words with me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=544465126 April L. Edwards

    I’m a bi-racial woman who passes. I learned early on that, regardless of my heritage, there are some things that i shouldn’t speak on because they don’t apply to me. Most white people don’t understand that they really shouldn’t comment on experiences they will never understand. Some are trying to “help” and some are trying to “understand”, but the black community need to help and understand themselves before allows others to do so.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gina.elaine.5 Gina Elaine

      While I have another opinion about the colorblindness itself I will address in another comment, I think that white people should speak (of course, I’m white so IMHO).  Not from a position of authority or knowledge; quite the opposite.  Rather, I do think there should be an open dialogue.  If there are any misconceptions out there that a particular person has about life as a Pagan of Color, I’d rather the ignorance come out and cleared up.  I could be wrong, but I believe that is partly the purpose of blogging anyway.

  • CassDawn

    when  i actively reject colorblindness and state i am unwilling to entertain it;   i encounter a lot of anger and admonishment from white people.  

    this is compounded by the anti-racist meme that you can’t speak to a person of color about race.  so fb explodes in posts of morgan freeman talking about how we should stop talking about race and (my brains explode) “colorblindness” is reinforced (and believe me it’s painful for me to disagree so vehemently with “easy reader”)

    to me it seems, if we don’t talk about race and culture in a striving for “equality” then aren’t we really seeking assimiliation?   i have had this argument regarding women in the workplace
    “well, many women can’t hack it in the business world”  / response: “possibly true since they had no hand in designing the rules.”   
    now, for *some* *unknown* reason (i really need a sarcasm font) that argument goes over better than the parallel regarding race.  

    in my experience a marker of white privilege is surety;  leaving it behind means acknowledging we might not know something.  it was much more comfortable when not being racist meant don’t touch black women’s hair and no “nword.” check! i can do THAT!

    another marker is any admonishment of white privilege itself is seen as being all about *me* and the cries come forward to say “why can’t you see me as an individual” the irony is glaring when you actually say those words to yourself.  

    which isn’t to say i don’t suffer from the above – i do.  how can you really divorce yourself from taking things personally anyway. and the whole thing is uncomfortable and i wish to brigitte someone would just come up with a definitive handbook.  

    the current rule i’m operating under is to reject any solution that is only backed by white people – so color-blindness seems like it will be a lovely thing when black (or asian or hispanic) actually have the option of choosing it as well.  in the meantime it seems like another privilege. 

    i’ve actively pursued conversations on race for a long time but it’s only just becoming clear to me how very different “our” realities can be.  for that reason  i’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this  if you were so inclined : 
    “This open space can become a ground for the peeling back of insecurities, fears, and apprehensions. A place to have honest, and open, dialogue. I don’t expect this to happen; not in my lifetime, nor in that of my nieces and nephews. In a subculture dead set on shallow philosophical agreement, actively courting disagreement to get to some form of compromise is a pipe dream at best.”

    all of which is a long winded way to say – thank you for the article; i wish there was more of this out there and i have shared it. 

    • Rosewelsh44

       This helped my understanding a lot.  Thanks.

  • Rosewelsh44

    I’ve always wanted to ask this question. I’ve “met” many women of color who have gotten angry at me for attempting to equate a prejudice I’ve experienced with their own.  I do this not to lessen their experience, but to empathize and attempt to understand what they have gone through.  I have the gift of being white and straight in our society, thank heavens.  But I also have experienced thin privilege and fat prejudice.   I am also a woman in a male dominated society.  I want to be able to equate my experiences of prejudice with those of women of color so that we can find common ground from which to bond and find a way to stop the problem you describe in our community and society at large.  Yet, I’ve found that all I get is anger and the attitude that my experiences are not worthy of being equated to theirs.  (It’s happened also in forums where gay people have tried to find common ground with African Americans by equating their struggles with those of African Americans, and that just never seems to work.) 

    So from my end of the pool, it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.  It seems that on the surface the term “colorblind” means something totally different between the African American pagan population and the Caucasian population.  “Colorblind” to the white population defines their attempt to understand and level the playing field.  But to you it means something more akin to the word “green-washing” or “white washing”, i.e. “color washing”… i.e. to blend all races together in an attempt to ignore the real issues.  Maybe a real dialogue could happen if both parties agreed on terminology. *shrug* 

    With all this in mind, how do we start a dialogue?  On a similar note, I’d be very interested to read a blog post here about a specific experience of yours regarding this issue.  I’ve only experienced prejudice as a Pagan when I attempt to talk with hardcore Reconstructionists.  They sure know how to make a person feel small and stupid.  GAH!

    Thank you

    • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

      I can’t, and wouldn’t presume, to answer for Pythia on what you’ve asked.

      However, I think I might see what part of the difficulty you’re expressing here is:  that word “equate.”

      I have experienced lots of different kinds of prejudice and discrimination (because of, in no particular order, religion, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, social class…and a few others I’m probably forgetting) in various situations in my life.  Those all suck to have to experience.  Lots of others–including racism–also suck to experience.  But do any of them “equate” with the others?  No.

      Having a difficult conversation with reconstructionists isn’t in any way on the same level as racism, for example.  If you are able to engage with someone directly and have a conversation with them, but later they say or do something in that conversation which makes you feel demeaned, that’s a lot different than someone making up their mind about a person before they’ve even shared a word with them because of the color of a person’s skin; and, while size privilege is a very important consideration and something that is still rather unexamined, it’s different than the tendency for police to stop black people for “walking/driving while black,” and to do much worse that simply stopping and harassing them (which still does happen).  As a queer person, I might be allowed into an event of some sort, but if I start asking uncomfortable questions or challenging a dominant viewpoint or acting in some way that makes people uncomfortable (even if it is harmless–e.g. dancing in a “gay” way that wasn’t suggestive or provocative, just “gay” in some person’s opinion, which is something that has happened to me before), I might get scorned or even asked to leave; but, many people of color might not even be allowed into certain events, venues, and circles of various sorts to begin with.

      I think it’s a good thing to be mindful of the privileges that almost all of us have, at least in some arenas of our lives, and how the experience of discrimination can bring us to a better understanding and appreciation of what it is like for others to have been discriminated against–and, it sounds like you’ve done that, which is good.  But, trying to equate one form of discrimination to another, therefore, isn’t the best way to phrase this, because every form of discrimination is very particular and carries with it things that no one who hasn’t experienced that kind of discrimination can understand.

      Also, phrasing the fact that you are white and straight as “gifts” and thanking the heavens that you are those things rather than, say, black and a lesbian, also makes it look like you aren’t necessarily acknowledging the privileges you hold in a way that is very respectful to the existences of other people.  By saying “I have the gifts of being white and straight, thank heavens” implicitly suggests “other people are cursed with being black and lesbians, poor bastards.”  Pity for others who don’t have the privileges one has oneself isn’t really a good way to enter into a discussion of these matters, I think…

      • Rosewelsh44

         This sort of answer makes it tremendously difficult to hold any kind of conversation.  Prejudice of any kind is equitable in that it is prejudice and causes harm, embarrassment and sometimes death.  And fat prejudice is horrible in this country.  While these days someone may not be able to take children away from parents simply because they are black, they can and do take children away from parents who are simply fat.  We may not get pulled over because we were “driving while fat”, we are openly ridiculed on the street. And before you say it, there is more evidence that being fat is genetic and created by dieting, than the typical knee jerk reaction “well at least you can diet.”  Um no.  Dieting just messes my metabolism up a bit more and eventually I gain it all back plus 10.  I may be able to get into a party, but if it’s full of thin people there will be all sorts of subtle prejudices being displayed, and even some overt.  My favorite is people who think its perfectly acceptable to give dieting advise to fat people.  I may not be thrown out because I’m fat, but I could, just like gay or black people etc., be driven out by ostracism and rudeness. (See there is a way to do this.  Find what we have in common, see some of the difference, understand each other, and move on to the business of fighting all kinds of prejudice together.)

        To equate one prejudice to another doesn’t mean there are exactly the same degrees of problems caused by each different form.  To equate means to find common ground.  I may not get pulled over for driving while black, but I could lose my children for parenting while fat.  So instead of trying to parse the differences, find the similarities and bond because of them.  The more people continue to tell me that the things I’m discriminated against aren’t as emotionally devastating as theirs, the more they drive me away, and others like me: who want to help solve the problem.

        Furthermore, I’m saying I understand that those “gifts” are gifts in this society… they are my white/straight privilege… and thank heavens I don’t have to deal with the prejudice that comes with being black and gay along with the other prejudices I get to deal with.  I do not pity anyone.

        Sincerely – Rose

        • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

          All of what you’ve described is true, and awful, and shouldn’t happen to anyone.  (And, while I’m about average size myself, because I was extremely thin for much of my childhood and teenage years due to various metabolic disabilities, now that I’m average size my family is constantly telling me I’m fat.  No, I don’t get thrown out of places for this, but my family does treat me like I’m deficient for being “fat” in their view.)  I know that there are metabolic issues some people have which will make them larger or smaller, depending on the circumstances, no matter what diet and exercise do as factors in their overall physical situation, and therefore it’s even worse to assume anything about them and start giving diet or exercise advice.  (Starting to give advice on anything when one doesn’t have the full story is a pretty bad idea, generally, I think.)  I would never make those kinds of suggestion to someone based on their size, and never have (thus your pre-emptive comments on what you thought I might say, while understandable, aren’t necessary); meanwhile, it is important to note that the types of discrimination you face are different than those others face due to other factors.

          But, there is a semantic difficulty at the root of what you’re saying:  “to equate” does mean to say two things are the same; that’s why in algebra, each thing on the sides of the “=” have to balance with each other, and thus it’s called an “equation.”  “Finding common ground,” on the other hand, is something else, and asks a person to draw a Venn diagram that includes part of themselves and part of something else in overlapping areas, rather than an equation that says “we’re just the same.”  You clearly understand the difference, so the continued use of “equation” and words derived from that concept still doesn’t quite fit what you’re actually attempting to do with very good intentions.

          In your final paragraph, I still think you’re not getting what I had written previously.  If someone came to you and said “I’ve heard what you’ve said about thin privilege and size acceptance, and I want to enter into dialogue with you on it.  Thank all the gods I’m not fat myself, because it would be horrible if I was, and I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with nasty looks from people in restaurants and supermarkets, and all those health problems and small bus and plane seats like you do,” etc., wouldn’t that kind of offend you?  What if they added “It’s a real gift to be thin, rather than to be fat, in this society”?  Would the thought enter your mind that the person in question was making light of their privilege a bit too much, and making it seem like you being what you are is in some way “not as good as” what they are in their “gifted” state?  Whether they were saying that out of pity for you, or they were just being totally self-absorbed in their attempts to be compassionate, still, the effect would probably be similar.

          • Rosewelsh44

             I would love to have a suggestion of a word to replace “equate”, then so that I can make myself heard without problems.  Sincerely. Do you have any suggestions?

            As for the last paragraph, I sat on this for a few minutes and, no, I wouldn’t take offense to either statements.  I don’t take that sort of statement as a anything but an acknowledgement of the vast discrepancy between how a thin person is treated and a fat person in this society.  I’d take it as a commentary on the poor state of society not as a pompous, personal attack of any degree of ignorance or intention to harm. 

            Thanks for talking about this with me.

            Sincerely, Rose

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            How about “connect”?  That certainly works in every possible way–different forms of discrimination are connected in terms of the underlying attitudes of privilege from which they stem.

          • Meia

            I LOVE this conversation between the two of you.  Being a black woman, and constantly having white people tell me how their particular prejudice experiences are equated with my “color” prejudiced experiences…bothers me a lot..although I understand they are trying to “connect” but it is annoying as all heck.  There is a difference between the two.  Oh, and I am a big curvy girl…so I get that issue too.  Gosh, Lupus you are one smart cookie.  Really love this, getting to the knitty gritty of an issue.

          • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

            Thank you for joining in, Meia!

            I’m always happy to be compared to a cookie–they’re crunchy, sweet, and most people like them!  ;)

  • lm

    I live on the border in Texas in a huge town that is at least 90% Hispanic.  I face discrimination every day because of my skin color and that my name is not Hispanic.  I am a pagan woman.  Pagan unity is non-existant here although we have tried and are still trying.  To be Hispanic here and not outcast…you are Catholic or Baptist.  No middle ground.  If I wear my pentagram out to a restaraunt…I might not be served properly.  If I complain…the manager is very nice and sorry…but the next time I come in…I have a different server and a different complaint.  I have been called devil woman, whore, and every filthy name imaginable over the last 35 yerars.  Ask me if I give a damn.  It comes with the territory. 

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Thanks for a very excellent post, Pythia!

    What would be the best way to try and address the issue of race in my own group as a non-person-of-color?  The Ekklesía Antínoou is a very accepting and welcoming group, I think, but it’s still pretty overwhelmingly white.  I’m thankful for all of the people of color who are in our group and who come to our events, but likewise I don’t want to have tokenism in the group, nor do I want to say, “It’s not only great that you’re here, but that you’re Asian and you’re here!” and so forth.  It does bother me that we are as white as we are (in the sense that I don’t think there’s anything that necessitates us being “that white,” if that makes any sense), and makes me wonder if there’s something we’re doing that we aren’t realizing that makes people of color not want to associate with us.

    In any case, I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

  • Cara

    I enjoy your posts greatly and feel there is something wrong with the Pagan community that families and minorities aren’t ‘converting’ to Paganism.  What are we doing that causes people, who are interested in the spiritual aspect, to take a look at the culture in American Pagan communities and think, “Hmmmmm…not for me.  I don’t belong here.” We need to answer that and address it because it’s OUR problem, not their problem.

    The only thing I have to add about color blindness is that it falls on me to always *behave* towards others in non-discriminatory ways.  Meaning – your *actions and decisions* should be blind to color.  I don’t vote for or against a qualified Pagan Of Color to be on a board because they are a Pagan Of Color – unless I’m specifically seeking out that personal experience to round out the board.   But that’s a different thing from not acknowledging discrimination, bias, and different experience.  

    There are responsibilities that go along with privilege.  Ignoring responsibility doesn’t make privilege go away.

  • http://www.facebook.com/WildChildWH Child Wild

    This is an interesting discussion and a touchy one. We are in a time of transition and many issues that we would like to think were, if not over and done with, at least on their way out, have shown up as still very real. The isms are still very much with us; racism, sexism, ageism, incomeism. Until they are out in the light of day, we can’t see them for what they really are and deal with them. 

    The election of a black man as president has brought some ugly stuff to the surface. That he is intelligent, well spoken, compassionate and has a sense of humor, makes is all the harder for those who are racist. I remember being in a discussion a few years ago about the community I grew up in. At the time it was mostly white with just a sprinkling of blacks, hispanics and asians, no one could recall as kids having seen or heard any overt racist behavior or remarks. The comment that has stuck with me was that, in general they were all well educated and a small enough group  that they weren’t seen as a threat. Why would the dominate group feel threatened? I can only guess that because they come from a dominator mentality they assume that everyone else has the same view and if they lose what they think of as the upper hand, they will be treated just as poorly as these other people have been.

    Truth is if we look at history, something it is difficult to get an accurate picture of since it is the interpretation of the victors  that we mostly get, people all over the world have had their moments in time when they have been the abusers and when they have been abused. Nothing can justify it or make it a right thing.  I think what we need to be talking about and looking at is where do we go from right now to create positive change?

    I can’t know what it is like to be an ethnic minority. My children are bi-racial. I did spend some years as a member of a visually identifiable religious group that is not much liked in the US and got a taste of what it is like to be judged and condemned on sight. I’ve been face to pillowcase with members of the KKK, refused hotel rooms, restaurant service and spit at. I’m not sharing this to equate it with anyone else’s life experience but to say I fully believe that we have some very ugly stuff in our culture. I’ve been gang raped, no one who has not been raped can really understand that, all they can do is has sympathy for what they imagine it must be like. I haven’t been in combat, when I have talked with people who have, I cannot fully share that pain and experience, I can only imagine what it is like. I can still feel pain for them and want to help heal it. There are many of us who want to help with resolving wrongs, helping with healing and creating a world where we can work in partnership rather than competition and subjugation. Our very survival as species requires that we do.

    The pagan community is, I think, struggling to find its identity and define itself. I’ve plugged in to a variety of groups for ritual and see that many are essentially trying to recreate what they think some ancestral group practiced. There is comfort and power in that. To be blunt some of these groups are indeed very racist while others are not  but hold more appeal to people of a similar ancestry. Personally I’m more into evolving forward than looking back. There are lessons to be learned from an earlier time and every culture has something of value or relevance. We should be able to celebrate differences that can bring us greater variety and different ways of seeing. My own path is becoming clearer, that whatever I may learn from various groups and pleasure I may have in their company, I want something for the 22nd century CE, not 500 BCE (we need to change that CE or AD stuff). 

    What I put to you, with thanks for getting this on the table, is what needs to happen? What can those of us who are trying to create community do?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gina.elaine.5 Gina Elaine

    I would first like to say that I love reposting blogs like this.  Pagans should have access to all different types of blogs, especially ones that confront heavy issues head one.  I am also happy that someone else agrees with me about the BS on a “post racial society”.  I don’t think we live in a post-racial society by any means – I think the people who do believe that are living in either a heavy denial or are not exposed to many people of color in their own life.  I obviously can’t say what any Pagan of color has been through, as I am white.  I do know what I have seen go on in past biracial relationships in various parts of the US – it is not pretty.  You know this, so I don’t need to get into detail.  

    “To that, the first time my husband told me he “Doesn’t see color.” ”
    I’m assuming your husband is not actually blind.  This comment also makes me cringe, and I am white.  I know your husband wasn’t trying to be insulting, but he was negating all of your experiences as a Person of Color, and that is sad.  I have always looked at it as every individual has their own cultural / racial identity to bring to the table (I mean, two people of color have two different views on their culture and two different life experiences.) Not only do I appreciate everyone’s differences, I welcome the differences.  

    In a subculture dead set on shallow philosophical agreement, actively courting disagreement to get to some form of compromise is a pipe dream at best.”  —> I agree wholeheartedly.  I wish we COULD, in this society, actually agree to disagree without going to war with each other.  

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Reposting? Do you have the author’s permission to do that?

      • CassDawn

        wait – if there’s a share we have permission for that right? 
        i’m not being pedantic – i don’t know any other definition for “reposting” and i did share this on facebook and really want to be certain that is okay.  

  • Bittrbuffalo

    I actually wish this article was longer.  As a white Pagan woman who at least grew up with a certain amount of privilege, I realize that I will *never* understand the plight of a black woman. I can’t; I’m not a black woman, and I will never be able to walk in those shoes, at least in this life. I agree that there is no such thing as “color-blindness”. People will always see “Other”, no matter what that other is. Deny it all we want, but Americans specifically need to have a meaningful conversation about race without antagonism and judgement, especially in regards to reconciling our past as a nation. I am confident this will never happen in my lifetime. Hell, we can’t even do that for women of all colors. 

    I recently moved out of Baltimore after having lived there for 10 years. I moved to Baltimore (which has a large, poor black population) from Northern Virginia (a lily-white, rich area). Many parts of Baltimore are ridiculously, abjectly impoverished. It’s depressing to the degree that it’s hard to believe that the suicide rate doesn’t exceed the alarmingly high murder rate. Anyone who denies that America is still suffering from the effects of slavery need not look farther than the housing projects surrounding Johns-Hopkins Medical Center to get a reality check. It’s a very complex situation which includes everything from social programs to health care, the “Shadow Economy” (as it is called–the heroin trade in Baltimore), lack of representation in government (more so than other groups), education, the attitude of the police force, identity crisis, even access to food. I feel like I have slightly more perspective on the matter than most white people, but still–my observation, as a white person, is merely a superficial understanding that barely scratches the surface. I can only get a vague impression of what that existence entails. 

    Of course, Baltimore is an extreme example and certainly not the plight of every black person. To assume that every black person is poor is ridiculous and racist in itself. There are many black people who were born into wealthy families or who have become very successful. Hell, look at the President (well, he’s half black…but still). He *is* the American Dream. Part of America’s problem in dealing with the very real issue of racism is the belief that everyone is a tabula rasa–that this is a land of equal opportunity and everyone, as soon as they’re squeezed out, is dumped on the same level playing field. This is an absurd, romantic notion that America was basically founded upon. It is a lie that we need to come to terms with. Some people are born with a head start. Most of those people are white. Does this stem from slavery? Well, yeah–at very least the logic behind slavery. And it still exists. As soon as we all acknowledge this fact, the healing can begin. (I am going out on a limb and assuming that everyone wants peace. This may or may not be true.)

    And another thing, white people: stop saying you have “plenty of black friends”. You don’t have any black friends if you say this. Friends are people that you hang out with regularly and invite over to your house for dinner and stuff. Stop using this as a defense. 

    • Bittrbuffalo

      Also, maybe it’s weird, but honestly, I cringe a little at the terms “African-American” and “People of Color”. Maybe this is because most black people I know prefer to be called “black”. I feel like “African-American” and “People of Color” sound a little fluffy-puff…as in, it sounds like something pseudo-open minded white people in the PC movement came up with to pat themselves on the back for sounding more culturally sensitive (because saying “black” just feels too harsh), safely excusing themselves from having to address real issues because “they’re not the problem”. Pythia, how do you feel about this? I may be totally off base. 

      • blackpagan

        Yep, I’m another black person who prefers to be called “black” rather than the PC African-American. African American has too many syllables, it’s awkward and although it sounds kind of “official sounding” in a sociological way it’s actually rather inaccurate. 

        Negro, Afro-American, black and now African-American. And those are just the name changes I’ve personally experienced in my lifetime (born in the 60s). I have a hard time keeping track myself so I can barely expect white folks to be able to. They’re just trying hard not to offend. As long as no one refers to me as the n-word it’s all good. 

      • cupcake

        I prefer “black” as well. I usually see people use “people of color” in reference to all people are aren’t white, not necessarily only black people. By saying “non-white people,” you’re still equating everyone on a scale of whiteness. By saying “people of color,” it takes whiteness out of the equation entirely.

        Just my $.02, though.

  • Nyxwillow

    Thank you so much for your post! I just want to comment that I am still horribly confused by the negative connotations of the “colorblind” issue.  Let me give you some background on my perspective:

    I am a biracial female from an extended interracial family.  My son and I are mostly Irish and American Indian and many of my extended family are a mixture of Irish, American Indian, and American African.  When I was born I came into this world with the pale coloring of an Irish lass but my son was born the most beautiful golden brown of his Indian heritage.  Many of my first cousins (I have a huge family) are a mixture of Irish, Indian, and African with a HUGE variety of skin tones from very pale like me to very dark brown.

    I was raised with the term “love is colorblind” or “family sees no color”.  I was raised to accept each person on their individual merit rather than their looks, which mean nothing in the long run.  I was also raised to understand the different cultures from which me and my family are descended and to give respect to those differences. 

    I do understand how my coloring affects peoples reaction towards me and how my sons coloring, or my cousins coloring, may elicit different reactions towards them.  I was raised that this is wrong.  So as a biracial Pagan women I use the term “colorblind” as I was raised to use it, to mean that all of us are bathed in the love of the goddess and it is our differences which make us beautiful.  I teach my son to honor all walks of life, all cultures, and all heritages, I do try to teach him that color in and of itself is not nor has ever been a determining factor to someones worth.  I am saddened that anyone would see view as harmful.

    So I will continue to think of being “colorblind” as a positive affirmation to the acceptance of the diversity of life, and I really really mean no offence to anyone in doing so.  This is how I was raised, and I love all of my family, they are so beautiful in their diversity.

    I love Daughters of Eve and I thank you for your posts, I have learned so much here on how different other perspectives can be.  I will in the future try to be more mindful of my words, I honestly never knew them to be harmful, because in the end all anyone is going to see of me is a white woman, even though I am so much more.

    • blackpagan

      Yep, I get what you’re saying with your use of the word “colorblind” and as I’m sure you know, black folks aren’t a monolith so not every black person is going to be offended by your saying it. I’m not. As long as it’s truly sincere and in the long run anyhows, actions speak louder than words. Always good to know though what potential impact our words can have on people. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gg-PaganPrincess/100002246818448 G.g. PaganPrincess

    Hi Pythia, my co-blogger Jax Garren recently wrote a post on race, http://www.paganprincesses.com/race-pride-children-and-me/, and we concur — we need to talk about race and ethnicity in Paganism. It was not an easy topic for us to tackle because we are not women of color and feared broaching the topic would invite naysayers. But we decided not be “well-meaning white women.” Thank you for this post. It made me think about my Pagan voice and whether or not I hide behind notions of equality to dismiss valuable differences. What SHOULD we be doing to support race and ethnic diversity in Paganism? I may not be asking the right question here. If I’m not, what is the right or useful question (if one exists)?


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