Month: November 2013

Why Katy Perry’s AMA “Performance” is Racist

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Well, no doubt many of you are scratching your heads or shaking them with disbelief over Perry’s AMA performance. Most likely, however, you’re confused as to  why so many people are getting their panties into a knot over it. What’s wrong with it? Wasn’t she just dressing up? Why are people so sensitive about race? It’s just a costume.

Exactly.

She’s dressing up- using someone else’s culture as the costume and a bunch of random Asian props as her background.

For those of you who don’t seem to understand, the East has long been plagued by exotification and appropriation of it’s many diverse cultures. Many Asian women-especially Asian American women- are turned into sex objects, as stereotypes of the sexy, submissive, stereotypical Asian girlfriend/lover plagues the mind of many men.

Also is the tendency to ignore the fact that Asia is not limited to just China and Korea and Japan- it is also made up India, Vietnam, and Thailand, just to name a few. These are all different countries, each with their own individual cultures, food, and ways of life.

So the very fact that one privileged white pop singer feels as if she has the right to get up on stage and ignore the cultural diversity of an entire continent is extremely disrespectful. Picking a bunch of “Asian Inspired” clothing and props is disrespectful to those people who you are stealing from especially since homogenization of Asian cultures is extremely prevalent in the United States.

Taking a “kimono” and sexing it up for your viewers also plays into the “sexy Geisha” stereotype that America can’t seem to get enough of. Geisha led very complicated lives, and yet people still believe that Geisha’s were prostitutes or some type of  sex workers (not that there is anything wrong with being a sex worker). By dressing up and pretending to be one, what you are doing is playing into harmful assumptions and stereotypes that many people still believe, reinforcing the image of sexy, exotic Asian women.

Also important to note is that when members of a particular race practice cultural activities, they are met with scorn, distrust, disgust, and racism. Because of white privilege, it is always okay for a white person to practice a cultural activity belonging to a certain culture, but when a person of said race does it, it is no longer okay.

For those of you wailing, here is a list of examples:

  • Black women who wear braids are seen as ghetto, white women who do it are seen as edgy or stylish.
  • Indian women who wear Indian clothing are seen as “too ethnic” and unwilling to except white American culture, white women who do it are seen as fashionable or exotic.
  • Black women who twerk are seen as ghetto and un-classy,white women who twerk are seen as just dancing or even as sexy.
  • Native Americans who dress in their respective traditional clothing are seen as being old fashioned, unwilling to “give it up” and just accept white American culture- white people who dress up as stereotypical, homogenized versions of Native Americans, complete with random ass paint markings and feathers are seen as (by a lot of people) edgy, boho, unique, alternative

The list goes on and on.

Not to mention the overt racism that also happened when Psy, an actual Asian- get’s up on stage, que the racist ass chanting.

So basically the lesson is that it’s okay for white people to take the pretty parts of other people’s culture, but it’s not okay for people of that culture to do them. Because everyone knows that white people just do everything better.

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Propaganda About Muslim Women: How Does it Fit into White Oppression?

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If you live in America, then no doubt you are aware of the “politics” surrounding what Muslim women choose to wear on their bodies. I wanted to write this blog post about it, because it is actually very important.

Usually in topics such as these, whether it’s white people speaking about sexism in the black community or what Muslim women choose to put on their bodies- notice how there is always a need to make it appear as if somehow these cultures are any more sexist than their own.

They will always try to make it seem as if their culture is somehow the pinnacle of appropriate behavior, overlooking their own flaws and instead choosing to focus on those in PoC communities, because those flaws they find only serve to feed how great white culture is as compared to those of PoC.

Also is a need to “save” brown women from brown men, (or other PoC). Here we also see how many white people view MoC (Men of Color) as beastly, uncouth, and uneducated. The idea that WoC would be “better off” if they simply emerge themselves in white culture or just stay away from men of their own race is also present- as if somehow things are always better if they are white.

The very fact is that white people are offended that you will not shed your own beliefs and culture and be more like other Americans. (White) This is also coupled with the propaganda the U.S. is using in order to fuel it’s interference with the Middle East, under the guise of fighting terrorism. The U.S. has a history of painting other races and cultures as barbaric, lazy, uncivilized masses in order to fuel it’s political agenda- today is no different, albeit in a much more subtle form. 

Hatred, misunderstanding, and down right LIES about what is and what it means to be a Muslim only serve to rile white America up into outrage, building anti-Islam into a smear campaign against Middle-Eastern Americans.

The idea of a white Nun being the epicenter of purity and devotion but a fully covered Muslim women being oppressed is no coincidence.

Because the idea that women’s bodies- especially those exotic, foreign brown women- are covered from white male eyes is literally throwing white America into a tizzy. Because in American culture, women’s bodies only exist for the gratification of white men, to serve as their own sexual fantasies and conquests.

The idea of a Muslim women- or any other women- is refusing to please the white male gaze is like an unmentionable crime.

Also present is the confusion that sexual freedom somehow equals power, because if  you please white males and entertain their white male privilege, everything ill be a-okay. Just don’t mention their privilege. Or your culture, other than those “exotic” adornments. Or expect him to take your customs seriously. Or honor your family.

Why I Don’t Want to Hear Your White Opinions on Race

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Another thing that often sickens me whenever talk about race and racism is involved is when white people attempt to have any sort of dialogue on it. Why? Because most of the time they cannot see past their own prejudice, white privilege and white guilt to truly see the matter- these things distort their perception of events, and they often try to take race out of things because the topics of race and white privilege in general makes them uncomfortable.

Whether it’s Lily Allen or Miley, it seems as if white critiquers always manage to divert attention from the actual problem in facor on focusing away from racial conversations. The very fact that white people believe they have the right to tell PoC what is and is not cultural appropriation and theft is white privilege. The fact that Miley’s sexuality will be applauded while Beyonce’s will be demonized is because of white privilege and the constant demonization/fetishization of WoC by society.

This is why most PoC tell whites that their opinions are not needed or wanted- because their opinions often attempt to derail conversations away from race and thus away from any feelings of white guilt.

Your guilt is not my problem. I don’t care what you thought about Lily Allen’s video, because I know that you will just assume that I’m overaccting, “bringing race into it”, being a “race-baiter” ect. This is why your opinions on topics are not wanted in PoC spaces- like this blog.

Because while in most other places (minus a select few) you will be assured that race and cultural appropriation had nothing to do with it, thus soothing any anxiety you feel when the subject of race comes up. It will not happen here.

What I will say is that most comments on race by white people range from blatenly ignorent to downright disgusting, whether it’s about racial crime (it’s not about race!) racial discrimination (that’s just the race card) cultural appropriation (I’m just appreciating the culture!) or what the fuck ever.

THE LIES TOLD TO BLACK PEOPLE TO MAINTAIN WHITE DOMINANCE

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If you ever wondered why African Americans are portrayed so negatively in almost all media sources, please look no further than this.

African Press International (API)

By F. Jones

Many African Americans now holds the opinion that in the face of greater gained opportunities that many within their race became their own worst enemies. It is not uncommon to hear these negative sentiments about their own race now echoed by many African Americans themselvesthey that consider themselves as being exceptions to this norm. This perception often engenders profound feelings of immense humiliation, racial self contempt, and disunity among many African Americans in the 21st-century. But are these self contemptuous views among so many African Americans correct?

And if so how have African Americans, the racial group that demonstrated an unprecedented degree of Black racial pride and unity during the 1960’s civil rights movement now become living contradictions of their former selves? The common response, when presented with this daunting question is to take the position that the core problem lies with something to do with Black…

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Pagans: Please Stop Stealing Hoodoo

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A reoccurring them I seem to be realizing through many of the Pagan books I’m reading is the tendency to take traditional Hoodoo formulas and then relabel them as a generic “magickal” formula. Lets dig deep into this, for those of you who are confused.

Hoodoo, also called rootworking, is an African American spiritual practice that came into being via  slaves brought over from Africa into the Americas. By mixing not only each other’s beliefs, but also those of Native Americans and Europeans, the system of “Hoodoo” was created. Let me repeat: although Hoodoo is a spiritual practice that anyone can practice, it is an African American one. I have seen many books that seem to feel uncomfortable with this fact and will often drop the African American part and simply address it as a spiritual practice that anyone can do of apparently mysterious origins.  Recognize  the system as what it is- a system rooted in African American culture.

This is problematic because the common trend in modern, eclectic Paganism where said Pagans will decide that they enjoy/want a particular aspect of a culture and will take from it without doing further research, by attempting to sever this new system/practice from it’s traditional  structure  and repackage it as if it never belonged to a system to begin with (i.e.- chakras, yoga, the Elder Futhark) because it suits their need to incorporate an element into their personal practice without having to sacrifice the work, effort, and energy to study said system in it’s original context, feeling that their own interpretations are good enough to suffice for authenticity.

Hoodoo is a very specific system- it is not just general “magick” or magickal herbalism- it is unique in that not only herbs and stones are used, but also animal parts, soil, body fluids, and the like. The individual meanings and how each element is incorporated into a trick or working is specific to Hoodoo- when you redefine the meanings of formulas,candle colors, or herbs, it is no longer hoodoo.

Also there  is the tendency for some to look down at Hoodoo because unlike other modern magical systems, hexes and curses, called crossing, are also used as a part of the system. While many individual root workers may choose not to practice such things, favoring other practices instead, there is often a break in history where people forget why they were used in the first place.

It is because African Americans in the past faced (and yes, still do, although in a much different, non-institutionalized form) oppression and racism that was  constant threat to not only their well-being, but the well-being of their loved ones and communities as a whole.

When having an enemy can mean danger to your family, or when racist cops are quick to find offenses to get you in trouble over, you don’t give a shit as to whether or not your actions are harming someone else. Your concern is the safety of your own- your family, your community, and your people.

You’re not concerned over whether or not the white man at work whose sexually harassing you is harmed, or whether or not your  nosy, snitch neighbor develops a disease and moves away- as long as he’s gone and your shit is safe, that’s all that matters.

Hoodoo is a practice born out of desperation of a people with the desire to live and prosper under horrifying circumstances-not some gentle, herbal practice that those with no appreciation for the it can just go buy on Etsy without even understanding the circumstances of it’s creation.

This is not to say that no rootworker-then or now -has ever used it for unjustified malicious purposes- because yes, it was common at one point in time.

What I’m saying is that many Pagans today have no or little understanding of what it means to be truly desperate.

There is also a long standing history of whites appropriating from black culture while giving no credit to the culture they appropriated from. Keep this in mind when traditional (black) rootworkers become offensed over your taking of their shit.

If you want to work or practice Hoodoo- do some research. Until then, quit stealing our formulas because the idea of having tons of magical formulas entices you, or because you like the way the packaging looks, or because it’s so versatile, or whatever bullshit excuses you’ll try to give for being too lazy to learn shit about the culture you’re stealing from.

The versatile, Earth-based practices of Hoodoo- floor washes, Mojo hands, powders,incense, bath crystals, handwashes, candles, and perfumes make it an easy target for those who are interested in new ways to incorporate herbs into their practice, but who could care less about the oppressive history of African American culture and spiritual practices, it’s apparent “lack” of ethics, and it’s lexicon of new words.

That will be all.

Websites and Blogs for People of Color!

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Hello again my dears- here I will begin the stock piling of sources for those of you interested in sources that cater to the experiences of PoC.

On another note, let me define what I mean by PoC. In some cases, I use it for shorthand to mean Pagans of Color, to which I usually will put in brackets for understanding.

People of Color does not mean just Black people- it also extends to Asians- Laotian, Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean- Latin Americans, people of Middle Eastern decent-

You get the picture.

The idea is to have multiple resources for those who come from different cultural backgrounds, so I have compiled all of these links together for your enjoyment! This page will continue to be updated as time does on.

Racialicioushttp://www.racialicious.com/

This website details the intersection between race and popular culture, and is very inclusive. There is a focus on not just African American PoC, but also Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other PoC.

Angry Asian Manhttp://blog.angryasianman.com/

A blog that caters to a wide variety of issues facing Asians and Asian Americans, including not only racial issues, but media, music, and other blogs. Read it.

Gradient Lairhttp://www.gradientlair.com/

Here you will find articles written by and for African American women. Beautiful and inspiring artwork, essays, and thoughtful disscusions provide a safe place for African American WoC (Women of Color) to express themselves and discuss race. 

Excluding Definitions of Paganism: How Does it Effect Pagans of Color?

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Often, especially in old books and websites, I find definitions of paganism that go a bit as follows:

“Paganism is an umbrella term for any pre-Christian European religion”

When people define paganism as such, what they are effectivly doing is setting up a system in which European (white) is the default, and any PoC or-non-European traditions- are considered an outlier. When you ask pagans why there isn’t more PoC representation in the Pagan community, often the excuse is that paganism is defined as European religions, and that most pagans choose to follow those paths that their ancestors walked. Instead, the case is that PoC (pagans of color) and non-European traditions are often overlooked in favor of Euro-centric ones.

Not to mention that that excuse doesn’t make  sense. How do you get the idea that if you are following  a European religion that that is the path that your ancestors walked, so long as it’s European?

I do not know where my ancestors came from, and just picking and choosing a traditional African religion does not mean that I’m following the “path of my ancestors”, much in the same way that a white person picking any European spirituality- regardless of their ancestry- isn’t necessarily  following the path of their ancestors.

This system is problematic, as it also upholds the idea of privilege where any pagan who is not following the defaults of Paganism (read: is white, follows a European spirituality or a spirituality filled with cultural appropriation) is seen as different.

Also seen in the Pagan community is the idea of mutual exclusivity, or the idea that, if you are pagan, you cannot be something else, because pagan and xyz are not possible because they are mutually exclusive.

Also not true.

You can still be a pagan and be a racist.

You can still be pagan and be prejudice.

You can still be pagan and have white privilege.

You can still be pagan and have male privilege.

You can still be pagan and have heterosexual privilege.

YOU CAN STILL BE PAGAN AND HAVE PRIVILEGE- just because you are oppressed in one way- spiritually-doesn’t mean you aren’t benefitting in other ways-being white.

Those are the simple facts, and by pointing out the fact that many pagans feel as if they bear the worst oppression because of their spirituality is laughable-especially because many uphold ideas that racism and prejudice no longer exist, while also choosing to remain “colorblind” (which is a form of racism)- they feel as if you are being antagonistic or simply “bringing race into it” or being a ‘race-baiter”

I am choosing to point out these issues in the community because it remains a constant problem, and in order to truly progress and understand each other, we must be able to create a space in which we can accept others without silencing them in favor for a more homogenized, blind view.

Many PoC feel as if they cannot be pagan because they aren’t white. Others avoid talking about race/cultural based subjects in fear of being seen as a negative race-baiter.

This all goes hand in hand with the fact that people with privilege often feel uncomfortable speaking about it, and will often a) avoid the conversation completely, b) adamantly refuse the idea that they have privilege,thus effectively silencing the voices and experiences of PoC, or, c),  become belligerent, rude, and embarrassed.

All terrible responses to have.

As pagans we need to understand-yes, understand, because despite all the feel good books speaking about how paganism is open to all people from all walks of life- many still choose to discount those who come from different situations and experiences than them, because often times they bring with them experiences which point out blatant differences between them and other pagans.

I did not come from a wonderful home with loving Christian parents who were outraged at my involvement with paganism.

I came from a broken, abusive home where my mother accepted my maturity in studying a spiritual path and my father applauds my philosophic skills.

I did not come from a home where milk was a given, or that dinner was a given- I came from a home where good food (read: not ramen) was considered luxury and should be respected.

I am not the standard white middle class pagan, and I will not have my experiences as well as the experiences of others droned out in favor for a more homogenized view of pagans and paganism.

So many books portray paganism in this particular way that it becomes seen as the norm. We tend to see those that practice differently or don’t believe in the Three Fold Law or don’t follow the Wheel of the Year as “those other people” or just “others” instead of validating them as pagans with different experiences and practices.

I am pagan just like everyone else, and just because I am not the “typical pagan” doesn’t mean that I am not pagan. We need to stop drowning out ideas and voices because we don’t like what they have to say.