Pantheacon, Bringing Race to the Table, and Racism

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Note: I’m cross posting this blog entry to my website, as well as on this blog.

I’ve just gotten back from Pantheacon. It’s been a transformative weekend, with new acquaintances made, friendships deepened, and good conversation and spiritual work done. One of the events I was proud to be part of was the Bringing Race to the Table Panel, where we discussed the recent anthology Bringing Race to the Table. Unfortunately, before the panel even began, a situation occurred where a racist joke was released in a satirical newsletter. The newsletter wasn’t an official pantheacon newsletter, but something done by individuals as a way to humorously comment on the proceedings of the convention (Its the Pantycon newsletter). In this case however, there was nothing funny about what was written. If anything, it highlighted exactly what people of color deal with everyday, and the fact that this occurred at a Pagan convention shows that racism is a reality no matter where you go. The joke in question was a fake workshop:

“Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans
Large Umbrella Pagan Group

Isn’t all this talk of social justice and racism just tiring? Don’t you wish you could just ignore it and put out meaningless statements of pure pablum? We’ll discuss how to ignore requests for consideration by pagans of color, cover up racist actions of high-ranking members, and pretend that you don’t understand the resulting outrage. Remember, #AllLivesMatter, except  when it’s uncomfortabe or inconvenient.
Large Umbrella Pagan Group has been around for long enough that they think they can get away with this stuff.”

This joke is tasteless. Regardless of what the intention of the person or people writing it was, the result was that people of color felt triggered once again. This joke was a form of harassment (to put it mildly) and of racism.

Pantheacon has an anti-harassment policy. The head of programming showed up to the panel and made it clear that Pantheacon didn’t endorse or approve of what had been written. Additionally they had a cancelled workshop on Monday and made sure a follow-up session was made available of Pagans of Color and other people interested to discuss what happened and what could be done to make conventions safe. I was unfortunately not able to attend because I had to catch my flight back.

At the end of the Bringing the Race to the Table Panel, one of the attendees, Luna Pantera, who has contributed to Shades of Faith and Shades of Ritual got up and expressed how she was triggered by what had been written in that newsletter. The pain in her voice, the rage, the hurt, the fear is something that I as a white person have never had to experience. Then she asked all of us what we were going to do to take action, to make change, to stop letting this be an everyday reality.

What she expressed struck me to my core. It reminded me of the privilege I have, the white bubble I live in everyday. I take it for granted. But a person of color can’t take it for granted anywhere. In Shauna Aura Knight’s post she shares how an escort system was set up so Pagans of Color could feel safe and how people would walk by the POC hospitality Suite and yell Racist because the Pagans of Color wanted a safe space.

On Sunday night, after I’d finished up with the Immanion Press panel, I walked by the POC hospitality suite. They were going to have a closed door meeting, just available for them and what I noticed is that they were redirecting people coming to it, to go to another location. I didn’t follow because it wasn’t my business to, but it struck me how a space that was supposed to be safe was no longer because of racism.

Luna asked all of us what we were going to do to change this. I can’t answer for anyone else, but my own answer is to continue to call racism out, continue to take action to support people of color and to support causes that perform a similar function. We can only stop racism if we don’t allow it to flourish in any form, but instead recognize how it causes inequity, how it reinforces a system of oppression and how it diminishes all of us. What will you do to take action?

8 thoughts on “Pantheacon, Bringing Race to the Table, and Racism

  1. You know, I suppose it’s an expression of my white privilege, in that my initial thought about the Pantycon article was to think of it as good satire. The CoG’s actions (or rather, lack thereof) were deplorable – a total fail – and an perfect illustration of the shadow side of consensus decision-making and what I call “The Curse of Pagan Niceness.” It is the duty of the satirist to humiliate and deride jerks; and that’s exactly what this writer did. And well too, because everybody knows exactly who they’re talking about, don’t we?

    But it does indicate disregard for the seriousness of the issue; and make no mistake, it’s serious. I’ve seen it in my own community. It’s not funny if the people affected aren’t laughing. And I certainly don’t blame our Pagans of colour if they’re not shrugging things off right now.

    As to what was going on at the POC hospitality suite . . . disgusting. Just disgusting. Those racist jerks yelling “racist!’ are the same ones who ask every year, “Why don’t we have a STRAIGHT pride parade? What’s wrong with being straight?”

    The reason, you clueless self-absorbed imbeciles, is because you don’t NEED one. The WORLD is the Straight Pride Parade. LGBTQ people have been so poorly treated by you that we need to create our own safe space, and need to make a great effort to develop our self-esteem and our pride in who we are, because you straight, cis-gendered people always treat us like we’re lesser than you. When you’re not discriminating against us in the personal and professional worlds or beating the hell out of us, that is. Or shooting us in the streets.

    The world is also the White Pride Parade. We Pagans enjoy our smug little myth that we are somehow above all of that; that we’re so inclusive and welcoming and holier-than-thou (especially when compared to those nasty Christians!) that we don’t need to worry about racism and gender issues and class issues and sexual abuse and sexual orientation. And because of the Curse of Pagan Niceness, we shrug things off that we shouldn’t. Well, obviously we are by no means “above all of this.” I have been deeply saddened and disappointed by this fact, which has been forcibly driven home recently, because I believed the myth too (save, of course, for a small minority of heathens I could therefore feel smugly superior to). But since we have been awakened to reality, we now have a chance to step up to the plate and DO something about it. Kudos to the Pantheacon team for trying to do that.

    • You hit on a good point…the tendency to believe Pagans are above all this, but it is clear we aren’t and its something we must address, both within our community and in the larger communities we are apart of.

  2. Unfortunately, there were also accusations of racism against certain people who were not present to respond to said accusations; I wonder why that was allowed to occur. That seems as deplorable as the satirical piece in question.

    • I can’t speak to that or who those people were as the rather gray context you provide doesn’t say much about the situation. I also read this as an attempt to derail the conversation from the actual issue, which is how this situation made people of color feel unsafe.

  3. …I wasn’t there, but I find the idea of people walking by the “Pagans of Color” hospitality Suite and yelling “racist” to be a rather…WTF moment… I also wonder what would/might happen if I as a “white” woman wished to enter and strike up a convo with my fellow humans…

  4. I can say that many web sites for Pagans are geared towards whites. Lack of information about about gods, goddesses, mythology, or cultural magickal understands from ANY place were the people are dark skinned. I am sure they do not think about that. I am sure it is not done with evil intent but it is what it is. Try finding images of African, vodu or hoodoo idols any where on line. Information about hoodoo is limited to ONE SITE over seen by a white woman. I have even seen blogs that rant how hoodoo is truthfully magick not of African American Slaves but Scottish people. This is a real issue in the Pagan community. It is ignored but we are even more isolated in an isolated community.

  5. Pingback: Racism and Activism at Pantheacon | Pagan Activist

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