Intersections: A Pagan View of Modern Culture

An exploration of culture, the arts, and science through the lens of modern paganism.

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Painful Truths- The Fear of Discussion

I just wrote a whole post on Ferguson, white privilege, and racism. It was all about overt and institutionalized racism and the difficulty of seeing your own privilege. It recognized my own privilege as a white man and asked people of color to have patience with those of us who have a melanin deficiency as we try to figure out how to handle these successive rounds of evidence of systemic racism in society. Then I threw it out.

It was way too “Great White Father.” I was speaking to the white community, not the African-American community, but it still smacked of power and privilege. I can afford to sit down and think about these things because they don’t affect me. That’s privilege.

Yet I still want to get beyond the immediate injustices because they are symptoms of a much larger problem. We are afraid to talk to each other. People of color fear having their very real problems marginalized (again). Their white allies fear to say the wrong thing, knowing they can never fully understand the Black American experience, so they censor themselves. Plus, people of color need white allies to be vocally on their side. And that is a huge problem in all of this: we need to communicate, both to each other and within our communities.

In my presentation at the Pagan Activism Conference, I proposed this elemental model of activism:

 elemental model

Fire represents that immediate, get out on the streets and march element of seeking social justice. That is a vital element, but there is so much more to it. At some point, the different combatants in a dispute need to talk to each other. They need to understand each other’s problems. Otherwise one side sees only the angry picketers and burning buildings that the media shows them on TV and the other side sees only privileged, smug silent observers sipping their Cabernet as others fight for their basic legal rights. If no discussion happens, the sides don’t understand each other. The problem escalates.

We need that lesson of Air. Communication includes both speaking and listening. Argument is good, but screaming over each other as if we are guests on Fox News is not. Going forward in this fight for justice, I hope people of all opinions can quench their fire enough understand that there are real people suffering. Listen to their concerns without becoming defensive and without belittling their true experience. Speak your beliefs in a way that helps the other side truly understand your point of view.

There is so much pain in all of this. Listening to the voice that has hurt you will not be easy. But successful movements must convey their message to the other side in a way that helps them understand it. Protests bring attention to an issue, but it is negotiation and clearly framed messaging that changes hearts and minds, especially the way our media covers these events.


Crystal Blanton
Crystal Blanton

We who live with privilege can no longer ignore it. This constant denial of basic rights of safety from harm for our brothers and sisters of color cannot continue. It's not one instance; it's the pattern.  The Wild Hunt’s Crystal Blanton, a stalwart advocate for real equality puts it so poignantly:

The fear that I carry as a mother of Black children is not different than the fear of mothers from any historically oppressed population. On Monday night, as my son walked out of the door, I stopped him to tell him not to wear his hoodie on his head and to put his dreads back in a ponytail. The fear that he may be mistaken for a thug because people will see him as a Black man first is a sad reality for many parents.


That’s not OK. Experiences like Crystal’s need to be communicated to those of us who are free to wear hoodies with impunity.  We need to see and hear and understand these little bricks of privilege. The problem is clear, but let’s begin to focus on communication and healing for the long term.


Sometimes that may include that may include uncomfortable choices like writing a blog post you’re afraid to post or keeping a racist friend on Facebook so that you can scrape away at them with messages like Crystal’s. But then, if that’s the most uncomfortable decision you make in all of this, you’re ahead of a lot of other folks who are afraid to go to the corner store in a hoodie.


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I am a teacher, theater lover, and witch who loves both reason and magick. I believe that all things are connected, so I strive to write about connections between Paganism, pop culture, science, and the arts. My work was published in the Ancestors of the Craft anthology and in Finding the Masculine in the Goddess’ Spiral.  


  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham Sunday, 07 December 2014

    Love your pentacle of activism!

  • Linda Pardue
    Linda Pardue Wednesday, 10 December 2014

    The thing is while I can't completely empathize with the current climate's situation - I CAN empathize with the fear for their children and their lack of safety. I was 3 when my mother and I were walking my older brothers home from school on the south side of the Detroit City Airport - in 1967 - right when the riots broke out. We almost didn't make it home. And for the nearly 2 years it took us to be able to afford to move out of the neighborhood our lives were in constant peril. My mom put me on a bus to kindergarten class only to pick me up covered in blood and bruises from the gauntlet I had to walk to get to the back of the bus.
    Even after we moved from the neighborhood, the situation over the years was tense. I recall walking home from High School with 4 black boys stalking behind calling out 'hey white girl... you ain't gonna make it home..." I quit High School for the last time when a friend of mine was raped and murdered by a classmate on her way home from Church - I just couldn't see the point. How could anyone learn anything being that afraid. I knew I couldn't.
    The irony is that to this day and even as a little girl I never blamed the RACE for the problem - I blamed hated, fear and ignorance perpetuated on BOTH sides and the utter lack of dialog betwixt neighbors.
    I refuse to give out what I was given - I wouldn't wish that on my worse enemy let alone a stranger. And that we are still having this damn conversation without talking 47 years later makes me wanna cry.. but I prefer to fight ignorance with reason and hate with compassion.
    I can't fix this. But I sure as hell wish I could. I would love for every child from here on out to be able to feel safe in their own skin.

  • Tim Titus
    Tim Titus Wednesday, 10 December 2014

    I'm with you, and all I suggest is that we talk with rather than over each other.

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