Tag Archives: Race

Remember Upon Whose Bones Your House is Built

I am mildly torn on the subject of Columbus Day. On the one hand, Columbus was an evil bastard who deserves to be burned in effigy every year, preferably as part of a charity drive collecting donations for Native American causes.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t be here if he’d never done his entirely objectionable thing and kicked off the rush to colonize the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. Oh, Europeans would have gotten around to it eventually, but the historical context would have been different and therefore the social and historical conditions that made my life what it has been would have also been different, and I would not be here.

Perhaps the one who would have been, would have been a better human being than I. I don’t know, and my depression and anxiety like that thought way too much to pursue it further. But I digress…

Columbus was awful. But he was also pivotal. He was evil, but also helped shape the world which shaped me, and I rather like me, most of the time.

I like to say that we owe a debt to our ancestors, and pay it to our descendants. But we all have ancestors we don’t like, perhaps even hate, and would like to forget about. In more recent (than Columbus) history, I had ancestors who were southern slave holders and Confederate officers, for instance.

How do we remember them, without glorifying them? How do we give honor to those without honor, or at least who deserved no honor in life?

We remember them honestly, without glossing over the evil they did. We admit that their bad is in our history as much as any good they did. We admit, in humility, that our houses are built on a foundation of native bodies, and in turn we honor those who were killed so unjustly.

We give our problematic ancestors honor by working to clean up the messes they left behind. I can’t undo the horrors that Columbus and his successors wrought in the Americas, but I can work to make the conditions in our present, which are the legacy of colonialism, racism, and empire, less vile.

We can honor even the ancestors we hate by making the present better than the past, and the future better than the present.

many felt unsafe walking alone

I haven’t been talking much about Pantheacon 2015, as I was out sick for most of it. However, I have heard all these stories from folks involved with the Pagans of Color hospitality room, and others. This is a problem in our community that we, collectively, have ignored far too long.

It should be stressed that these are not problems with Pantheacon in specific, but in the greater Pagan community. If it seems like you’re hearing a lot about Pantheacon, it’s because putting 2000 Pagans together in a hotel for a long weekend kind of amplifies the sound. Pagans of color experience these problems at non-Pantheacon gatherings, as well as in everyday life, but there are more witnesses (and more people fond of blogging about such things) in the con environment.

I’ve been asked to clarify: The photo that comes with the article is not of an honor guard outside the PoC Hospitality Suite. They’re outside the PoC Caucus, an event held in regular programming space.

Update on PantyCon Kerfuffle

Well, a few days ago, the PantyCon authors apologized in responses to Jonathan Korman’s open letter. It’s in three responses to the original post, linked above. Go read it, I’ll wait.

So, basically, they hadn’t realized it would be taken the wrong way, they’re sorry they contributed to an ongoing problem, and they’ll be more careful about it in the future. I’m not certain I’m entirely satisfied–to my mind, an apology shouldn’t spend so much time explaining, as that starts to sound like making excuses after a bit–but it isn’t my satisfaction which is of primary concern. Still, it is an apology, and it does show some awareness of what went wrong and why.

That last bit, though, where the authors defend their choice to apologize anonymously and get in a last dig at Pantheacon…

Good form through the routine, but you stumbled on the dismount, there.

Look, I can understand apologizing anonymously. I think it would have been stronger to come forward, but I see their reasons. But that last bit reads like a slap at everyone who made complaints about PantyCon but who has been silent about the ongoing presence of problematic groups like Covenant of the Goddess and The Troth.

Thing is, people haven’t been silent on those issues, either. Many of the same folks who have been loud about PantyCon’s tone-deaf application of satire have also been loud about the weaksauce, color-blind statements from these larger organizations, issued as a PR fig-leaf more than as a commitment to stand against racism.

Racism is an ongoing problem in the Pagan community, really, in the human community. And so resistance to racism must also be an ongoing work. It didn’t start with PantyCon, and it won’t end there. We must each continue to call out what we see, and demand that it be corrected.

Misaimed Satire at Pantheacon

Honestly, I can’t leave the Pagan community alone for a weekend…

So, Pantheacon is an annual Pagan conference held in San Jose, California. This year, a parody of the con newsletter was published by an anonymous satirist which contained a (fake) panel description: “Ignoring Racism: A Panel for White Pagans.”

Now, I get what whoever-that-was was trying to do. Unfortunately, by mishandling context and going too far too soon, the satirist ended up poking the community’s fresh wounds and reminding people of color in the community just how little support they get, too much of the time.

Jonathan Korman has posted an open letter to his blog, Miniver Cheevy, asking the anonymous satirist to come forward and apologize.

I have to agree with Korman, here. Letting this go on is a distraction we don’t need.

An open letter

To the Mysterious Author who writes the PantyCon schedule:

I have an unsolicited word of advice, in this moment when a lot of people are unhappy with you. I’m going to ask that you do something that probably runs counter to your instincts:


That’s a strong suggestion, and both you and the community deserve a clear explanation for why I propose it. That means, I’m afraid, that I must get long-winded in the name of clarity.

Read the rest at Jonathan Korman’s blog, Miniver Cheevy.

Spread the word.

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