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So carrying on, looking at yet another perspective about Cultural Appropriation, we turn to Avoiding Appropriation and The Perpetuation of Privilege by Crystal Blanton. Once again, can’t claim I’ve read anything by them before, we’re just going with impressions and logic of position. The only think I can presume is that since she’s writing for “Daughters of Eve” which is a patheos blog for “women of color” I’m going to guess she’s not white. So let’s get started, and see what wisdom we shall find.

Fair warnings, this post is looong. I tried to figure out where to break it up, but I couldn’t do it without ruining the flow of the post and/or derailing it slightly. Also I am probably going to piss people off, both with content and with the jokes/memes.

Again.

Sorry.

“You take a part of a person’s culture that means everything to them, and you make it meaningless. You were the symbols that represent their cultures without actually understanding the power of what these facets of their culture means to them.” – Udoka Okafor

Uh…okay. I’ll admit my writing tends to be a bit ESL but I have to admit, I’m having some trouble understanding this quote. I’m guessing there was something about “you were using,” but can’t say for sure. Still, if we’re talking about CA here, then these symbols had meaning to the one who used them even if they weren’t from the original culture. Not sure how that would make them meaningless, or if Blanton is using this quote out of context to make their point.

Anyways, awkward opening quote aside, let’s get started.

It is quite disheartening that we still live in a time when People of Color’s voices are silenced by those of dominant cultures within our society…

Our opening line people.

Oh boy.

…While we are moving through a time of such intensity around the needs, pain and brutality being experienced by People of Color, especially Black People, it is one of the most important times to be self aware and cognizant of the ways we participate in the reinforcing of white supremacist culture in this country…

Oh gods. This is going to be one of those articles all about how one race is the innocent victims and one race is the privileged oppressor. Am I going to have to get the Hitler memes? Please, please tell me we’re not going to Hitler meme territory here…

…We collectively support systems of oppression and harm by ignoring the damage, continuing the damage, being complacent in the face of the damage, or by using the power created by the damage, to thrive. All of these things support and reinforce systems of disenfranchisement and racism in this country and around the world.

Welp. Looks like it’s going to be one of those articles. I knew I’d get to one eventually.

Die Juden sind ein Volk von Privilegien, die die Rechte und die Stimmen des deutschen Volkes zu unterdrücken. (Yeah, it’s google translate. XP)

nazi invading poland

Why is this important here? Why is this important now? And why is this important to Pagans?

No idea, but I’m sure you’re going to tell me at length, with much racist dialogue about how evil white people with their privileges and are no doubt going to be justifying racism and hatred because of it.

And before anyone even starts, no, I’m not saying their argument is bad because it is racist. That’s an ad hominem. We’re not doing that, and they’re not getting away that easily. We’re going to do this right.

For all the reasons that our spiritual and human experiences shape and mold how we engage in the world and how we interpret our work, these things should be important to everyone. People are victims of mass incarceration and New Jim Crowism, suicide and mental health are rising, and people are dying at the hands of systemic racism and continued systems of oppression in our country. How we acknowledge and dismiss the damage of the very systems we are a part of will help to shape our overculture, and in our case… the culture of Paganism.

Wow, already starting with the über Kultur I see.

Okay, we’re going to start here. Yes, mass incarceration is a problem in the US. However, we have mass incarceration not because we have squads of storm troopers sounding up people based on their race and locking them away. We have that because we have a criminal justice system which punishes people for their illegal actions (but tends not to kill them). That a lot of people seem to have turned to crime is not a fault of the criminal justice system or the incarceration process. The jail is a building, that it is over filled is not the fault of the prison system itself.

Also, new Jim Crowism? Had to look that up, seems to be from a book by the name “the new Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, in which they attempt to claim that mass incarceration is a new form of racist shenanigans which make black people still 2nd class citizens. Despite the fact that blacks have all the same legal rights as every other racial group out there.

Right.

And yes, suicide and mental health problems are growing. I’m tempted to blame tumblr, but hey, I do know for a fact that the highest suicide rate now belongs to men, with white men edged for the lead last time I checked. Not sure how that helps Blanton’s point, but there you go. I’m also going to guess she meant “mental health issues”  are on the rise because mental health iteslf being on the rise would, I presume, be a good thing. Then again, my grammar is so terrible half the time I’m not even going to fuss at that.

Also, I’m going to presume that this “dying at the hands of systematic racism” business is about all those black people killed by cops, usually in the attempt to commit a crime, resist arrest, kill the actual police officer, and harm innocent civilians. Yeah, you can look it up, every person #blacklivesmatter mentions (at least all the ones I’ve managed to track down) were killed in the commission of a crime, often a serious one. But, you know, muh racisms. Apparently.

yeah, I know it's a shop...but you thought it was real for a moment, didn't you?

yeah, I know it’s a shop…but you thought it was real for a moment, didn’t you?

But hey, you know, forget Iustitia, the people committing these crimes are black, and they deserve special treatment, not punishment. Because punishing lawbreaking is racist, yo.

This brings me to the topic at hand…. Cultural Appropriation. What is cultural appropriation? It is the borrowing and using of another person’s cultural treasures without permission, without necessary cultural context and without employing the respect due…

Like you speaking English? Wearing pants? Utilizing democracy and free speech?

You might think I’m being a smart ass here, but concepts like democracy and free speech are entirely European in origin. In fact, they were considered sacred rites and rights. Of course, in the US we gave everyone permission to use these things, even if they didn’t understand the cultural context (a lot of people died to get us democracy and free speech, nearly all of them white. And I do mean a lot of people died) and often with complete disrespect to the cultures and peoples who gave things like democracy and free speech to the world (I mean, our author here starts off with rhetoric about privileged white people doing damages to other people which would do Hitler’s speech writer proud).

With that in mind…

…Many times cultural appropriation is the means of monetary gain by the exploiting of things that should not be for sale, and sometimes it is to gain prestige or credibility…

Like Blanton is doing right now, writing this article for patheos and presumably getting both paid, and prestige and credibility with the masses reading it. You know, I want to thank Blanton for giving us such a perfect example of cultural appropriation. Well done.

…It is also a way that white people have gotten fame or credibility by the very use of cultural attributes that others from the culture are criminalized, vilianized and demonized for…

This is the internet. Blanton could have linked us to some evidence here. She didn’t. I wonder why. If anyone would like to provide examples of such things were a white person has gotten away with something religious/cultural that a “poc” hasn’t originating from that “poc” person’s religion, please put them in the comments below. The phone lines are open.

Also, love the racism here. Seriously, flashing back to all my WWII classes. “The Jews are exploiting the German people and getting away with behaviors the German people would be punished for!” Really, just throw in a few bits about how whites run all the banks and we’re heading into a laughapaluza.

nazi hitler approves

…Either way, cultural appropriations takes the valuable pieces of marginalized cultures, those who have already suffered at the hands of painful oppression, and further takes what is left for them to have agency over. When one’s culture is gone, all things are lost.

You know, I kinda wanna make a smart remark here, but I have to admit there is some truth to this statement. Especially when you look at say the history of free speech, or even various European Paganisms. When one’s culture is gone, all things are lost. That, typically, is why you see European Pagans using stuff from other cultures, because the things we had which did those things are lost.

So when you really think about it, the pagan cultures of PoC are privileged because they are far more intact that the marginalized and often destroyed pagan cultures of Europeans. Yet, instead of offering a helping hand to their co-coreligionists in order help restore ancient practices, they start demanding that their brothers and sisters stop what their doing because “those are our toys, they are not for your kind.”

But I’m actually going to step to the side here and point something out. We’re talking about cultural appropriation in a pagan context. Now, what are the things generally appropriated in Paganism. The Worship of various Gods, the practices of rituals essential or related to those gods, and occasionally “magical technologies” related to one practice or another (such as dream catchers).

What Blanton is saying (amid all the nazi style propaganda) is basically this. “People own their gods, and own their technologies, and you (as a white person) have no right to worship or utilize these things, because I think white people have lives of ‘privilege’ and thus do not suffer like I suffer, but are in fact responsible for my suffering based om their race.”

Now, coming from a Hard Polytheist background, I find the former premise to be highly insulting to the Gods themselves. They are individual beings with their own agency. They can, and will, be worshiped by whoever pleases them and can (and will) step outside their “native group” if need be for the worshipers they want and desire. To bash a person, based on their race alone, for following the dictates of a Divine Being is foolish, racist, heretical, and blasphemous. Also the height of hubris, to think one can dictate to a god who they can and cannot be worshiped by.

As for the technological stuff, okay fine. White people cannot use the “technologies” of “marginalized” peoples. But that road works both ways, marginalized peoples should not then use the technologies of “white” peoples. So anything with a computer chip, combustible or electric engine, or factory manufacture should be handed over this instant. Because if you’re not going to share your “toys” why should I share “mine?” After all, science has a long and sacred history in European nations, it’s practically a religion unto itself. So gimme and stop culturally appropriating my stuff. Two can play at this game.

Not to mention, modern manufacture and culture is apparently “white supremacist” so really, you would only be exploiting yourself and aiding in your denigration by utilizing “white” things. And clearly, Blanton’s a poc whose voice is being silenced and marginalized under the concept of free speech, I mean, it’s not like she’s writing this article or anything, so Free Speech, the foundation of American Governance, is the foundation of White Supremacy. Maybe Blanton should give up these things of “white power” and help stop the oppression of marginalized peoples by white culture….

Okay, ow, I think I hurt my head trying to understand Blanton’s double think.

the stupid burns

I’m not fond of quoting Jesus, but I suspect there was an appropriate (ha!) quote about removing logs from one’s eyes before trying to remove splinters from the eyes of others.

When we ask people about what is and is not cultural appropriation, we will always get a plethora of answers. Within Paganism, the lines of appropriation and cultural exchange often get confused. We look for concrete answers to what it is and what it is not, and get confused at the complexity that there is no easy answers. We look at it as if all marginalized cultures should have the same rules, and make it easy for us. That Eurocentric frame of mind that this country was build on makes it feel complex when it is actually less so.

So short answer is…no one knows, there is no definition, it’s based purely on how offended someone is by something with no objective standards.

Oh, but there’s actually a simple answer, is there? Well let’s just ditch this “Eurocentric” frame of mind which tries to figure things out and insist that everyone plays by the same rules.

Here are some clear things we should remember when speaking about cultural appropriation:

Oh boy, this should be good.

gods guys, I’m sorry for all these.

It is very real. Taking from oppressed groups is a trait that follows us in history and when we take one’s culture without permission or respect we are doing the ultimate injustice.

Can we please take a moment to talk about this “oppressed groups” stuff? I mean really, is there even an objective standard to this? I’ve heard all this before in my history class. Nazi propaganda was all about “oppressed groups” vs “privileged groups.” So already you’re not making a strong case to me here.

Also, I’m pretty sure the ultimate injustice would be gas chambers, not a white dude praying to Baron Saturday, but what do I know. I’m just a Heathen.

That being said, every group has taken from every other group through out history, regardless of race. Hel, just look at all the stuff Muslims have taken from literally everyone around them that they took over. I can recall a few nice civilizations and objects de arte that were taken away.

When people from privileged cultures or backgrounds attempt to dictate what is and is not cultural appropriation versus cultural exchange, they are reinforcing the imbalance of power that has continued to steal the voice from people of color throughout history. The best people to speak on the use of their cultural treasures are those who struggle in systems that erase them.

You know, the funny thing is (and maybe this is my limited experience here) but the only ones trying to erase anyone are PoC trying to erase “white” pagans who are worshiping stuff from “poc cultures.”

I’ve yet to see one white person who is exchanging or appropriating anything insist that because they’re using it, the PoC from which it originated can now no longer use it. Now, I could be wrong here, It’s a big internet, but…only one group that I’ve seen is the one insisting that a group of people cannot perform a practice based on their race and marginalizing people for who they’re worshiping.

Also, if Pagans are marginalized people (which I would guess they are) then shouldn’t they as a marginalized people by this definition get to have the say in how these things are used? Or are we going to be completely racist about skin colors again and say “well, you’re white, so you’re an unperson as far as this goes, now shut up and let the humans talk.”

nazi oh jew

Just because we don’t like something does not make it less real. Just because some people feel they should have the right to use whatever they want when they want does not mean they should or can. And when they do, they are still taking it without permission and without respect. When we take things without permission, that is called stealing, that is not called cultural borrowing or exchange.

Well, objectively, we do have the right. It’s called freedom of speech/religion/expression. It’s inscribed in the constitution/bill of rights and is considered a sacred ideal in European culture, granted to us by the Gods themselves and to be rescinded and taken away by no man.

So what Blanton is arguing for then is Censorship. Based on race, certain practices shall be considered “Wrong Think” or “Thought Crime” for certain people. They shall be forbidden their use and concept based on the opinions of someone else, because that person finds the selected groups use of those “Thoughts” to be offensive and wrong.

offense

Which is literally part of the foundation of the argument for racism.

See, it’s like me commenting on this article. I have the right to do so both by the founding legal documents of the US and by Fair Use laws. Now, should Blanton ever come across this and be offended at my dissent from their orthodoxy, my use of nazi memes to call out their racist position, and any number of other “crimethinks” that I am no doubt committing, they would very much like to say I cannot do so. But if Blanton wants to keep having the right to say as she pleases, then I shall also have the right to say as I please.

It’s called equality, also another European concept which Blanton seems to have no problem culturally appropriating for her own advancement.

When we remove the agency that one would have over their own culture to say yes or no to your use of their cultural property, you are rendering them insignificant and their stuff as your property to do what you will with it. Not only should marginalized cultures have the right to have agency and authority over their own cultural pieces, they should not have to remind you of that in the process. If you need to be reminded, you are too comfortable in the role of oppressor.

Oh my gods, did she really just say that.

“When we remove the agency that one would have over their own culture to say yes or no to your use of their cultural property, you are rendering them insignificant and their stuff as your property to do what you will with it.”

Fuck it people, bring back the Jim Crow, it’s okay now!

no-colored-allowed-black-americana-cast-iron-sign-10x4_220665307171

Seriously, I know Blanton is trying to say “don’t take from colored people” but the entire argument for civil rights and equality for colored people was that whites didn’t have the right to ban other people from engaging in their cultural property, like freedom of expression, the right to vote, equal citizenship status, etc. These were all European Cultural concepts owned by white people and the entire Civil Right Argument was “everyone is equal, everyone has a right to these things, no one group of people can ban another group from engaging in their lawful equality.”

So, well, holy fuck, Blanton. You just justified all racism, exclusivity, and marginalization there. You have literally handed racist everywhere the perfect argument as a justification they need to marginalize people.

Like, I don’t even need to mess with the rest of this point of hers, Blanton has so shattered the argument they were trying to make. Because she’s already said that things like people have the right to dictate who can and can’t use their culture, so if “whites” want to dictate that “marginalized peoples” can no longer use the Euro-cultural practices of equality, freedom of expression, or civil rights (yeah, those were developed as we understand them today by Europeans), or technologies developed via European cultural practices, then that is the prerogative of white people to do by Blanton’s own logic and argument…in which case PoC do not have any right to protest using freedom of speech, equality, or civil rights.

Way to go Blanton.

th

Riding on the heels of others cultural pain is a form of appropriation in and of itself. In attempting to have dialog about the pain and victimization of any culture, it is important to have it WITH that culture, not about that culture as if the expert lives outside of them.

Sooooo, millions of people from European cultures died over thousands of years to bring us freedom of speech, equality, and civil rights as we know them today, which you (Blanton) are appropriating the use of now (because Blanton seems to be a PoC, based on the blog she’s writing from) in order to make your case about other people not performing the act of appropriation (of which you are guilty of committing).

And even violating her own position here again. She’s not acting “with” European cultures who believe in the free exchange of ideas, she’s talking about them as if she is an expert (despite basically saying she lives outside European cultures with their “white supremacy.”)

huh. Lucius’s Law just keeps popping up everywhere.

Pagans have an obligation to show respect to the cultures in which we are exchanging with, and this means actually engaging in respectful attempts to honor and support those very cultures. It is NOT an exchange if you are JUST taking and using it how you see fit… that is just a form of colonizing.

Welcome to Rome bitch, we colonize everything. In fact, we gave you the word colonize. So kiss legionary sandal. XD

good guy rome

Okay, joke aside, can Blanton prove that any Pagans are not being respectful in their cultural exchanges? I mean, okay, maybe Halstead, but beyond that. Because most pagans I’ve seen who have “culturally appropriated” do so out of a deep love and respect for the things they’re doing (and that’s assuming there’s no divine call in their actions either). So…pretty sure that’s a strawman, Blanton.

Now, I kinda wanna be a dick (shock) and point out that where does it say I (or any pagan) has to be respectful? I mean, respect is supposedly earned, not given, and if Blanton (or a great many PoC Pagans I’ve read about) is anything to go by, there is no respect being given to “European” descended Pagans. We’re mostly getting called racists and told we can’t do certain things based on our skin color/race. Not exactly the environment that would endear me to respecting the other side of things here. If anything, it might endear me to do more cultural appropriation so that those people’s gods could come have someone worship them who wasn’t a complete racist asshole. But that’s just me.

But hey, I could point out that apparently colonization is an important part of European culture. Kindly stop denigrating it. You want me to respect your culture, you respect mine in turn. That’s how respect works, at least in European cultures. Maybe PoC cultures are different.

You know, I’m starting to get the impression that PoC cultures are more about giving people special treatment based on their race…

What’s that say about Blanton’s argument?

Modern Paganism, as a largely Eurocentric community, should be extra careful not to ignore the marginalized within their own communities by saying things that serve as microaggressions against them and their cultures. Ignoring and denying the existence of something like cultural appropriation, that has brought so much pain to marginalized cultures over our history, is exactly that.

Well, duh. I mean, it was started for European peoples, by European peoples, to reclaim lost European Pagan faiths and heritages. That’s like claiming a PB & J is peanut butter centric.

And oh god, really, Microaggressions? Watch what you say and do people, you might offend the precious PoC!!!!!!!!

mother-of-god-super-troopers

You know, I lost all tolerance and faith in microaggression theory when it came out that “too many white people in a room” is a micro aggression. I’m not joking. Saying “I like your hair” is a micro aggression. Asking where someone is from is a micro aggression. What actually counts as a microagression is so banal and meaningless I laugh at them all.

Also, if you’re that upset over say a white person worshiping the loa or practicing voodoo, guess what. The problem is not the white person. The problem is you, being a racist, because you think it is wrong for them to do these things based solely on their skin color. Congratulations.

If you are from another culture, and you THINK you understand, that should be a clue to you that it is time for you to listen. Stop talking.

Well, clearly, Blanton, you “THINK” you understand European cultures. So maybe that means it’s time for you to listen, and stop talking. I mean, just going by your own standards and argument here.

Also, can we just bask in the moment of someone basically saying “you’re an unperson, shut up and listen, you don’t really know anything at all.”

And last, for now…. cultural appropriation and cultural exchange are NOT the same thing. It is important to know the difference in that.

I think I understand. When a white person does it, it’s appropriation. When a PoC does it, it’s exchange. It’s all about the races of the people involved. Thanks Hitler!

nazi furious

While I will not link the article that pushed this piece from my mind and through my hands…. it IS all about that article and yet NOT about that article at all. The recent article by Tom Swiss is one example of how we use privilege within our own little society of Paganism to perpetuate harm and then continue to justify it in our practices..,

Oh, you mean the one where Swiss pointed out with the actual meaning of words people like Blanton “appropriated” that what Blanton is doing is in fact the cultural appropriation by claiming only certain people can use certain things base don their culture of origin? Yep, got it. Justifying harm he was.

Also, Schrodinger’s cat argument is an indelible part of “white culture.” You are appropriating, Blanton. Stop.

…This must stop. Examples of this happen all the time within our larger society and within our small microcosm of Paganism. When we start to care about the impact we have on others, we will have to step outside of the places of comfort to say…. “HEY, that is not ok”.  Not only do incidents like this reinforce misinformation, it erases real pain and creates microaggressions against POC in the process.

Yeah…no.

Blanton is arguing for censorship based on race, and basically racism itself. Now, Blanton is dressing it up real pretty like with talk about how “this hurts people, it’s bad.” And “respect the cultural purity of ‘marginalized’ peoples.”

But at the end of the day…it’s still racism. It’s still saying “because of this person’s race, they are to be forbidden certain actions, rights, privileges, and freedoms.”

Here’s the thing though, we forgive offense so that our offensives might be forgiven.  This is not some christian malarky. This is a fundamental concept of Western European Civilization. You can say what you like about me and mine, and I can say what I like about you and yours, and we both walk away at the end of the day with the free ability to say what we please. Why?

Because the alternative is basically open warfare. “you have offended me, so I am going to punish you.” “Well, screw that, I shall not be punished simply because you are offended.” The blades come out, blood spills upon the floor,  and no one walks away happy. Blanton doesn’t want “colonization” but the fact of the matter is that “colonization” would happen as one group violently tried to suppress the other, either for “causing offense” or defending themselves from attack.

It is not ok to treat the pain of oppression as a moment that is irrelevant, AND it is not the type of foundation we want to condone within our community, or within our society. And regardless of the many layers of cognitive dissonance that exists in such matters…..we are still responsible. We are always responsible.

Actually, we’re not responsible.

If I say something, and you are hurt by it, I am not responsible for your pain. You are. It’s a bit of Stoic philosophy, but it’s also found in Buddhism as well, you determine how you react and feel about things. Other people do not choose your emotions for you.

If your entire spiritual practice is about getting offended every time someone with different skin than you does something based off your culture or practice, the problem is not with the “white” person and their practice….it’s with you and yours. You are the one taking offense, you are the one getting angry. You are the one perpetuating hate. Now you can, as Blanton does, justify your hate based on talk about “privileged” and “power” and “microagressions,” but at the end of the day…you’re justifying hate. you’re justifying racism. You are saying “Because of that person’s skin, I hate them, I hate what they’re doing, and they have no right to come here and do these things.”

In which case, you’re doing the same thing some Southern White did seventy years ago when he decided that some black dude wasn’t worthy of siting at a lunch counter with him.

the fact is, the pain is irrelevant. And the oppression? That’s non-existent in this situation. If you are oppressed because someone (of the wrong race) is praying to your gods…you either need to get a new set of gods, a new religion, or just leave the damn country. Maybe the planet, because that is the only way you would ever be “free” of that oppression.

Or you start murdering people based on their race for “breaking your rules.”

On the other hand, you could just shrug, accept that people are going to pray to the Gods they will pray too, practice the things they practice, and live your life about honoring yourself and your culture without turning into a died in the wool racist.

 

Hela Bless

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