In Which I Have Nothing of Value to Say
As I have noted previously, I am a white guy. Really, really white. 23andme.com tells me that I am 99.4% northwestern European in derivation. I get that this limits my perspective in a variety of ways, and so the following may be of no value other than for the questions.
I lead with this acknowledgement because often, the perspective of (straight, cis-gender) white guys is considered the “baseline” from which all other perspectives are variations. And that’s just nonsense.
It isn’t logical and it isn’t moral. Even in Anglophone countries, those people aren’t even in the majority; it makes zero sense that their views should be considered the norm.
Recently, we had a bit of a dustup in the Atheopaganism Facebook group, in which one (white, male) person exhibited a lot of cluelessness about the nature of racism (protesting about “racism against white people”), which he fortunately later copped to and expressed openness to learning more about, and another (white, male) person expressed an actual profession of racism.
The former was suspended for 24 hours to think about what he had said. The latter was simply banned immediately.
We do not roll with that shit at all.
We don’t have many people of color (as we label such folk in the U.S.) in the Atheopaganism group. Some, but not a lot. And this reflects what I see in both the Pagan and atheist communities: lots and lots of white people, and not much else.
And I wonder: why?
There is a ton of conventional wisdom on this topic: suggestions that atheist circles don’t contain many people of color because churches have often been key organizing principles in their communities.
But that seems to be changing, and fast. Though Black Millennials are less religious than in previous generations, for example, they are still the most religious subgroup of Millennials. And some of those who have left Christianity have gone directly into a non-Euro-centered witchcraft rooted in their ancestral heritage.
So: is it just that some people of color* who are leaving mainstream religions but pursuing other paths are avoiding Pagan circles because they are creating their own, non-Euro-dominated circles?
But what about atheism? I was at the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference last November and it was white as a pile of Richard Spencer’s tendons, preferably carefully rendered from his body in as painful a manner as possible.
What about the PoC who are leaving mainstream religions and becoming “nones“? Why aren’t they joining atheistic groups and communities much?
Could it simply be that they don’t find a big crowd of white people to be a go-to choice for where they want to explore their spirituality?
Or could it be that there is a Euro-centric subtext to the culture and operation of such spaces–including the Atheopaganism Facebook group–that they find off-putting?
I. Don’t. Know.
I can see merit in any of these theories.
What I do know is that I love my PoC friends, some of whom are Atheopagans. And it would be great, in my view, to have the perspective of a more diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities inform our conversations and the unfolding of our constellated religious paths.
So…what can we do to invite and encourage that?
I do what I can to be as ardently and visibly anti-bigotry as I can in our community. It seems to work in relation to LGBTQ folk, of whom we have many.
Not so much with people of color.
I have no answers to any of these questions, and if I did, they wouldn’t be worth anything, because I have the aforementioned pile of Richard Spencer’s tendons problem.
So I don’t know. I mean I really don’t, and it’s entirely possible that I can’t. But I’d sure like to hear from people who do, and can.
PoC readers, do you have recommendations, wishes, or analysis? I’m not asking that you “speak for your people”, just for yourself: what would help you to feel comfortable and welcomed in Atheopagan spaces?
*And let’s be clear: “people of color” is a YUUUUUUUUUGE category which includes far more than people of African derivation. What about those of Asian and South/Central American or Mexican origin? Not seeing tons of those folks in atheist, Pagan, nor Atheopagan circles, either.