I really didn’t want to write about this. I”ve posted a bit here and there on my Facebook and I have been so incredibly sickened and disgusted by the response of my white colleagues. I”ve seen quite a bit of explaining, excusing, mansplaining, and privilege in all its manifold forms rearing its head, always under the guise of presumed logic, and tolerance but privilege nonetheless. Yes, we have it, by virtue of our fucking skin tone, and you know what? I think that puts a greater obligation on us to not reinforce the system that has led to Ferguson.
I talk a lot about fighting the Filter and this is part of it: recognizing, calling out, and taking a stand against the systemic racism, classism, sexism, and a thousand other dehumanizing poisons that fester in our society. Ferguson is a perfect example of this. It’s also a prime example of the racial divide that is still tearing this country apart, whether those of us with privilege want to see it or not.
Before I go any farther, I want to make it clear that I’m not anti-police, but as a white woman, I’ve been raised to think that I can go to a cop for help if i need it. I suspect the experience of my friends of color is a bit different. Racism is sneaky. It’s systemic. It lurks in our minds even when we are sure that we’re free of it by virtue of the fact that we grew up in this culture. To have that unexamined and worse, unchallenged, and to be in a position of power — as a police officer is–is a recipe for disaster. I believe the police have an obligation to the society they are supposed to be protecting and serving to hold each other to a higher standard of behavior and to call this shit out when they see it, and most of all, to not excuse terrible events like Ferguson.
Because you know what? This isn’t an isolated incident. Just last week, there was a an shooting incident in NYC, in which a young black man, an innocent man, was shot (I believe in the stairway of his own apartment building) and over the past few months i’ve seen at least a dozen other similar incidents. Trayvon Martin, Ferguson, these are just the tip of a very vicious iceberg.
As a polytheist, I reject certain elements of our over-culture, especially racism. I know that it’s a hydra that I am tasked with fighting, most of all within myself, every day of my life. I cannot afford avoidance. Moreover, as polytheists, we’re all in unique positions: we have the wisdom of our ancestors and of our very old traditions to draw upon. This type of ingrained, virulent poison that we’re seeing with Ferguson and elsewhere is the product of the Doctrine of Discovery, of Industrialism, and of our doggedly Christianized “modern” world. Things were not always so and as I have said to my students time and time again, we have the power to change this. That change begins by confronting it, by standing up in whatever arenas to which we may have access, and of saying no, this isn’t right, of fighting, of pushing back, of tearing down — brick by brick if necessary–the structures that support such hatred. Because things were not always so, we know that they need not always be this way in the future and we owe it to each other, and to those who come after us of every race, gender, and color, to root this out now.
When I teach ancestor work to those of Northern European, mostly white, backgrounds, I point out that there are two major ancestral wounds that *must* be addressed. The first is the destruction of our traditions by monotheism, but the second is that eventually some of our ancestors drank that poison, came across the ocean, and became the destroyer of nations. As our traditions were destroyed, our people put to the sword, our children mentally enslaved, we brought those things to others: genocide, torture, and slavery. For us, most especially, there is an ancestral obligation to take a stand against racism when and where we see it — and trust me, one doesn’t have to look very hard. This is very much our fight. We don’t get a pass because we may not be directly impacted.
(image from this site)