On Whose Authority?

Less than 20 blog posts into this mad experiment, and I've had my words shared across dozens of pages, a couple hitting views in the thousands. I've been shared to far corners of Facebook whose intersectionality with the Pagan (and specifically Heathen) audience I originally envisioned for this blog makes a game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon seem straightforward.


Seriously.

But am I someone who should be saying some of these things? They're being shared and read, so there's obviously an audience who appreciates that they're said at all, and a large majority of the feedback I've gotten has been positive.

From a certain point of view, I am practically the worst person to be sharing these thoughts, though. My upbringing was so cliché American White Bread™, it's practically an SNL skit without a punchline: White, firmly Middle Class, two parents, Christian, Private School, International Exchange Student... The list can go on, but you get the idea.

It's taken several years to come to full awareness of what that really means. Stepping outside the bubble that had defined my life until well into college was a long and humbling process. Then there's the new level of awareness that comes from having the blinders taken off. It starts when "jokes" aren't funny any more because you can begin to see the subtle insults and institutionalized divisiveness that lurks within them.

The laugh at this joke dies behind a grimace these days, doesn't it? It should.

Am I the right perspective on matters involving First Nations? Not remotely. I've never visited a community, spoken directly with leaders, etc. If you want to know what kind of issues are at the forefront of those communities right now, you should ask them. Read the fantastic Native Appropriations Blog. Start keeping an ear out on twitter for #IdleNoMore, and chase links down the Internet rabbit hole a couple times. You're sure to find some voices that often get drowned out. Am I legitimate, however, in critiquing how First Nations are exploited by other white people to perpetuate bad behavior? I believe so.

Am I the right perspective on racial minorities, let alone the experience of a racial minority within a religious minority like Paganism? Again, not remotely. Again, ask them. The issues and troubles of the Western Overculture don't magically vanish when one becomes a Pagan. I think that's a blind spot of many modern Pagans. The idea that converting to Paganism is stepping outside of the Overculture "enough" to understand how others experience discrimination is potent as well as misleading. The inherent camaraderie of being part of an outside group, a tribe, can make it difficult to understand that being outside a single piece of the Venn Whiteness Diagram ("Religion") does not equate to being and living outside any other piece. There are lots of resources to begin understanding Pagans of Color out there in the Interwebs, including some very politely worded requests to listen to these minorities and hear their stories. However, am I legitimate in calling out terrible behavior towards racial minorities masquerading as religious instruction? Again, yes.

I'm a cismale, and that confers a high level of privilege. I can't begin to understand what it's like for women to live in a world were just the level of volume in a male voice can cause severe stress and panic, even when it's not at all related to you. I will never fully understand the experience of the LGBTQ+ community, within Paganism or not. I can still speak up when I do see the male-centric system continue its work.

The key thing when speaking up from privilege while entrenched within it is to not speak for minorities and marginalized groups. That does not mean to stay silent, but neither should those with privilege wander through discourse like a five-year-old enjoying their new toy sword. With great privilege comes great responsibility. Speaking up against others who perpetuate the violence inherent in the system is not the same as speaking up in place of those the system is violent against.

It's easy to brush off the changes in the wind that are occurring with greater frequency, to relax and accept and allow the system's momentum to continue to benefit the privileged as it has for generations. Or rather, it used to be. What more and more are beginning to realize, like me, is that...

I refuse to be indifferent, and I refuse to be quiet.
I will speak against, not for, and I am willing to listen when those oppressed speak.

If there are any other resources you'd like to recommend for marginalized voices beyond what I've linked above, please share them in the comments!

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