Tag Archives: Indigenous rights

Post the Forty-First or On Magickal Anti-Racism

The neo-pagan movement has seen an amazing resurgence in the belief of a Goddess or even the belief in many deities. It has inspired many to break away from traditional and oppressive forms of worship and find their own way to relate to the divine. This resurgence has also created a space for the revival of the magickal traditions from all over the world. The magick of many of the institutionalized religions have lost their power. Either because those branches have been erased or because the mainstream nature of the religion make magick largely inaccessible. Whatever the reason, more and more people are turning to witchcraft and paganism for their spiritual and religious needs.

One of the things that I really love about magick is that, historically as well as presently, it gives access to power for the powerless. Magick allows oppressed people get ahead, whether through casting a spell to get a job or calling upon a spirit for justice, it makes life easier. I know that in my experience, magick has helped me a lot and I don’t think I would be where I am today if I hadn’t relied on it. And I know countless people who have used magick to do anything from escaping an abusive john to healing the wound that was caused by rape. And these were things done by those who don’t have access to the “mundane” channels of power. In many respects, it levels the playing field.

But despite this, it seems that the neo-pagan movement as a whole is mostly white. When I enter pagan spaces, it is predominately white and a white person is usually leading the ceremony. What’s worse is that many times these white pagans will appropriate deities and ceremonies from magickal traditions that are not only still alive but also practiced by mostly people of color. For example, I was at a ritual where the mostly white circle were invoking the loa without context or understanding as to what they were doing. They seemed to fail to realize that the reason the loa came to be is because of centuries of colonialism, diaspora, and religious persecution. I’ve also been in space where white people were invoking Native powers and traditions without acknowledging that they were occupying stolen land. Not to mention the fact that there are no authors of color in the mainstream neo-pagan movement, which I know for many is their only way to access this knowledge.

It’s no wonder that people of color are turned off by it because their is no space for them and many times the rituals are actively racist.

Moreover, since we live in this diasporic context it’s sometimes very difficult, if not impossible, to have access to the traditions and magickal practices of our ancestors. In many cases, those traditions have been erased or so bleached of their power that they no longer work for us. Speaking for myself, as a first generation American, I don’t have access to the ancestral land of my foremothers nor their spiritual traditions. However, the need for this sort of practice is needed, if not vital for my well being.

How, then, do we create a space for anti-racist magick? How do we practice our craft or transformation that has at it’s roots principles of social justice? If magick gives power to the powerless, how do we give the powerless access?

The first step, I believe, is to start talking about it. I think it’s important that we start having conversations on the legacy of colonialism and its very real impacts today. White folks need to start owning their privilege and their part in appropriating the cultural traditions of those that they have colonized. They need to realize that by appropriating those traditions, they are furthering the cause of cultural imperialism.

But beyond that, we need to start making a space for ourselves. We need to develop our own magickal practices and traditions. We need to take what fragments we have and create a system that is relevant to us today. We need to build collectively a system that serves our interests and our needs. We need to call upon and explore the powers that we have to create a community that not only learns together but also thrives together. We all need to pool our magick together to create something beautiful and healing and energizing. So that we can continue the work that we do.

The time to create something that can heal our wounds has to be now.

Post the Thirty-Forth or On Rewriting Myths

Myths surround and inform our existence. From the myth of the American Dream to the myth of how George Washington cannot tell a lie. In many, subtle ways they imbue our subconscious with the values and ideals of American society. However, many, if not all, of those values and ideals are oppressive. Because this country was founded on colonialism and the backs of brown and black people, the values and ideals that spring up from that foundation are bound to be rotten. From the ideal that hard work always pays off (you can ask the people on the Rez if thats true) to the value of profit over people, its obvious that the framework that America operates under is flawed.

Much of the work that we do challenges and attempts to transform those ideals. We use a variety of tactics to ameliorate the damages that those ideals cause, such as create community centers, get stolen wages back, and provide free therapy. We used education and leadership engagement to enlighten folks to the reality of the world we live in and give them the tools to change it. Which in turn leads to a lot of work to create change systemically so that those direct services are less necessary, such as direct action, protests, and grassroots organizing. We use those tactics to create a more equitable world. And while many of these address the underlying issues that cause inequity, I believe that we a missing an important element. That is, we aren’t challenging the framework, the myths, that inform and support the inequitable society that we live in.

How, then, do we challenge that framework?

We challenge this framework by challenging and changing the myths that inform that framework.

Take, for example, the myth of Thanksgiving. The myth states that sometime in November the pilgrims had a grand feast, back when the pilgrims were new arrivals, and invited the Natives. They threw this feast because they were thankful for the Native people for teaching them how to survive in their new and harsh environment. They joined together in peace and harmony and parted as friends, in happy coexistence.

The reality is that, after the Civil War, Lincoln wanted a holiday that would bring people together, especially a holiday that would help reintegrate the North and the South. So, he produced the Thanksgiving myth to foster a sense of community. However, its clear that the “event” that inspired Thanksgiving is a fabrication. Did Native people help out the pilgrims when they first landed here? Maybe. But despite that, the pilgrims were harbingers of a colonization and genocide of those  Native people. A colonization and genocide that is still going on to this day. And it is essential that we recognize that. Otherwise, this false ideal of “everyone can just get along” will be given currency when its clear that oppressed people cannot “get along” with colonizers because of that history of colonization.

So, how do we reclaim Thanksgiving? We must first recognize that we can’t divorce the holiday from its history; indeed we can’t divorce anything from its history because it is that history that gives the thing form. Instead, we need to acknowledge that history and endeavor to change it, moving forward. In the case of Thanksgiving, we can say that the holiday is about getting together with queer familia and not about pilgrims and Native people. We can say that Thanksgiving is about the radical action of gratitude, because capitalism has taught us to always want more, more, more. We can say that it is about honoring our madre tierra for supporting and sustaining us. In short, it can be about whatever we want it to be, as long as we remember the history.

It is by remembering our history that we can move forward and rewrite our destinies.

Post the Twenty-Sixth or A Call to Action for OccupyAustin

I have gone down to Occupy Austin several times and what I have seen is truly dismaying. I saw a whole lot of white folks holding drumming circles (problematic), doing yoga, talking about meditation, worrying about hurt feelings and cooperating with the police. I saw a lot of white, cisgender, men leading and facilitating. I saw a whole lot of standing around, a whole lot of disorganization and a whole lot of complacency.

You know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see a whole lot of people of color. I did not see a whole lot of visibly trans and queer folk. I didn’t see a lot of people who are disabled. I did not see a whole of critical analysis and discourse and I did not see a whole lot of action. What I saw was a bunch of white folks, hanging around and socializing.

This is unacceptable.

Don’t get me wrong; I like meditation and yoga and other forms of self-care, but if we are going to build up a movement that creates lasting social change then we need to be checking our own shit. We need to be examining our privilege and make sure that we have equitable representation of folks that hold different identities. And this means more than just inviting them. This means that we are building a culture of inclusion and radical celebration. It means that we are making room for people of color. We are making room for queer and trans people. We are making room for women and mothers and poor people. It means that we are making room for oppressed people. Equitable representation means that we are examining the effects of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. It means the we examine the actions that we take and makes sure that we are not unconsciously perpetuating those systems of power and oppression. This examination must also include our language.

For example, the language around the very name of the movement. Occupy. We need to examine how this word and the language that surrounds it is oppressive language. This is because this land is already being occupied. This land has been occupied since the first colonizers landed 500 years ago. We need to be examining colonialism and our participation in the continued colonization of this land and the Third World. Moreover, we need to realize that indigenous folk and other folks of color have been trying to decolonize their land and their bodies from white supremacy since the beginning of European Imperialism. We need to realize that they are still fighting this. We need to realize that economic growth in the US usually means the suffering and exploitation of the Third World. We need to realize that the US is still pursuing global empire by getting the Third World to be economically dependent on the US. And its going to take more than issuing a solidarity statement to understand and change these things.

We also need to examine our relationship with the police. The police are NOT allies to oppressed people. They work to defend the status quo and defend those in power. The police has a long and bloody history of brutalizing people of color, queer and trans people, people in poverty etc. They do not exist to defend your “first amendement rights” because once you start getting out of line, they beat you down and arrest you. Any movement that seeks to upset the status quo by bringing true equitable power back into the hands of the oppressed will find no friend in the police.

And not only must we be doing direct action, like protests and bank bombs, but we also need to be establishing sustainable communities. We need to be banding together to support one another, whether that be through skill shares or through popular education or even better permaculture. We need to supporting our activism by having active, vibrant, sustainable communities so that we not only have sustainable leadership but so that we also continue to have momentum and not burn out.

We have an opportunity here to help usher in a new era of social change and social justice. We have a chance to make this world a better place for everyone. Now is the moment in which the 99% can be truly and equitably represented. In this moment we can change the course of history.

Don’t fuck it up.