Who gets the right to define you? To label you? Is that right solely your own, or does it belong in some measure to the culture with which you identify? I've considered this question for a long time, and I've concluded that there's no easy answer.
I've long been an advocate for the principle of self-identification: If you choose to identify yourself in specific terms, who are others to challenge it? But things really aren't that simple, are they? What about frauds who have ulterior motives for adopting a label? What about people who don't really understand what the label means?
A Huffington Post article titled "Striking Photos Challenge The Way We See Blackness" recently explored the idea of self-identification in terms of race. The writer interviewed several individuals from diverse backgrounds who identified as black, postulating that "Blackness must be recognized as something other than just skin color and specific physical attributes."
The "Witches must die by fire" Facebook group has returned from its temporary removal. I had a thoughtful reader named Morey, who runs social activism groups on the site, suggested reporting the page to Interpol instead of Facebook, in the hopes of holding them to a higher authority. You can report the page to Interpol here: http://www.interpol.int/Forms/Contact_INTERPOL
If you decide to go the Interpol route, include a screenshot (I have one in this blog post) along with the link (https://www.facebook.com/WitchcraftTheBattleLinesHaveBeenDrawn) and the page's title. Talk about the real-world violence against witches - a quick Google search of "witches and Africa" yields stories like this: http://www.iol.co.za/news/africa/family-of-witch-hacked-to-death-1.1296038#.UhJ3p5LVBrs - this page is not a troll or a parody, this is someone inciting people to violence, death, and mutilation. If you need a sample letter, feel free to borrow or amend mine:
Very few things in social media get me too terribly worked up, but today I encountered and reported a Facebook page titled, "Witches must die by fire." The fact that an anti-Pagan site on FB exists doesn't surprise me, though how overt that hate is took me aback. What disturbs me more is that Pagans who have reported are getting an answer of "there is no evidence of hate speech."
How can a page that spreads slander, misinformation and exhorts violence against Pagans not be termed hate speech? If this were any other faith, would this even be vaguely acceptable? If you subbed in Jews or Muslims, would this be allowed. I would hope not, but given this, I am kind of afraid to ask, actually.
A video making the rounds on the social media circuit got me thinking. It showed a couple of Christian protesters, armed with signs, who showed up at a gay pride parade in Seattle … where they were confronted by several people involved in the parade.
The confrontation wasn’t pretty. In fact, it turned violent. One woman on the video can be seen pushing a street preacher with a Bible in his hand; later, several other people rip a sign from the second preacher’s hands and proceed to tearmit apart. Then another person barrels into the crowd and proceeds to start punching the man with the sign before police arrive to restore order.
As a supporter of LGBT rights, I was disheartened to see the aggression and violence on the part of the parade-goers. Violence is seldom appropriate, and it certainly wasn’t in this case.