Pagans & Politics: The Power of Pagan Activism

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Drowning in a Sea of White

I am working on a blog about race in Paganism, so I am posting this guest column by Elena Gutierrez. Elena is a mixed-race Latina, Tarascan (native Mexican), white young woman in the Midwest.

I am drowning in a sea of white. I am not at an actual sea with light colored sands and receding waves, but rather, the extravagant dining hall my grandparents eat at every night. I am ‘blessed’ with the opportunity to eat in the same dining hall when I go to visit them. The table cloths are of thick material and they are so white you would think they are brand new, straight from the package, rather than washed after each use from meal times. Maybe they are brand new. It would only make sense based on where they live. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, live in a retirement villa. They have to ask us in advance when we schedule a visit, if we would like to stay for dinner, if we respond yes, they have to hurry to make reservations. They are my white grandparents. I am drowning in a white sea that is made up of all the retired masters of their career fields. It is a white population who sit at their white tables with their white pearls hanging from their necks smiling with their expensive fake white teeth.


My grandma introduces a man to me who goes on to tell me about the panels he had the privilege to sit on and how quickly his career took off. He is a retired and very successful psychiatrist. I forget how, but somewhere in the mist of boasting about his accomplishments, he reveals he has Italian blood in him. “Not of those bad unfortunate Italians though,” he proceeds to say with a slight chuckle. Behind him is a man I know to be Mr. Gregory who is a retired engineer like my grandfather. Although coming from the same field, they share little in common. With their race being one of similarities, it proves to be enough to accept each other and call each other friend. I do not fit here. My sister does not fit here. My mother does and so my sister and I do, in a sense, but it is only by default. We are not like the food my grandparents feast upon. We cannot be sent back if we do not meet their standards. It was not until I grew up that I really started to pick up on the specks of racism behind their words.


When my other aunts and uncles come to visit we reserve the banquet room. It is here where my grandfather leads discussion while my grandma remains silent at his side like she has done for years. He starts by asking the men and their sons how they are doing and how their lives are. He does not mean in regard to happiness or how many successful relationships with colleagues and friends they have maintained. He does not mean the healthiness of our bodies or mind. He is interested in the amount of intelligence we can show off and pure monetary aspects. The women are questioned next. This means my turn is approaching. I know he is curious about my academic struggles, assuming I have many to get off my chest.

He never asks about my dad. My Mexican and Mexican Indian dad. His collar does not match my grandpa’s. My grandpa’s collar matches his skin (white), while my father’s matches his skin in the winter when he works in a factory with missing doors and air that travels through the poorly insulated walls (blue). A man with a blue collar is hardly a man at all. The ideology of men like my grandpa. The figures on my father’s paycheck will never amount to that of my grandfather’s yet, we are seen as successful to the rest of the country.



Sitting through dinner, time after time, listening to the stories of my family’s past triumphs, with aid from their white privileges, relates to The Researchers Body by Saldana and Going It Alone by Haile. I felt like a version of Saldana himself sitting at the white clothed table with multiple spoons all having different purposes in front of me. Saldana was an ethnographer and often felt like he was being studied and observed meanwhile remaining on the outside from these people. I was an outsider. I sat and interacted, at times, with the rest of the people but I was far from actually being one of them. I was simply an observer. A very stretched and generous form of ethnography at work. Not so much in regard to myself, but more my father, does Haile’s concept in Going It Alone, apply. Haile had no idea that one of the bigger struggles she would have to face would be the penetrating words that would spew from white people’s mouths. After being challenged countless times, my father decided to wave his white flag. He does not go with us to visit my grandparents anymore because the burn of stares and sharp whispers can only be ignored for so long. My grandparents’ retirement villa is an environment in itself that is flooded with whites who feel more privileged than ever when my kind walk through their doors. It is as if it is second nature to so effortlessly make it known when my kind (assuming other races as well) are not welcomed and that we do not belong there.  

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Cairril Adaire is a solitary Celtic Witch and lapsed Discordian. She is the founder of Our Freedom: A Coalition for Pagan Civil Rights. She is an entrepreneur and also a professional musician with the world music ensemble Kaia. She blogs at  


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