I’m a Racist

iStock_000001291278XSmall–Shauna Aura Knight

Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m a racist. No, not one of the ones clearly defined by the pointy hats and white robes. And not one of the racists clearly identified by hateful invective.

In fact, I’m in some ways the more dangerous kind of racist; or at least, I was. Once upon a time, I was the kind of racist who didn’t realize how bigoted I was. I still struggle with my own blind spots and how much this impacts my thoughts and actions on a daily basis.

How did I come to be this way? This kind of racism is systemic. It’s ambient. If you’re raised in it, you can’t see it any more than you can see the air you breathe. But just because you can’t see the air doesn’t mean you aren’t breathing it in.

I used to believe I lived in a post-racial society, that I was “color blind.” And then…I used to believe that Pagans couldn’t be racist. Yet within the broader Pagan communities, we do unfortunately have problems with racism just like the dominant culture does.

But what do we do about it? Because #BlackLivesMatter .

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I’m not an activist but I want to do something!

It’s still close enough to January 1 that people are thinking about, and trying to act on, goals and resolutions for the coming year. This post is for everyone who has hit their tipping point and wants to do something more. Maybe it’s the #blacklivesmatter movement, maybe it’s the shootings at the offices of Charlie Hebdo two weeks ago. Maybe it’s the Keystone XL pipeline or genetically engineered food or pitbull rescue. Whatever it is, you want to do something more. But where to start, especially if you don’t have a lot of extra time, energy, or other resources. Or maybe you just aren’t sure where to start.

Wisdom from Teddy Roosevelt

Wisdom from Teddy Roosevelt

Find your focus
There’s a slew of causes you might care about and you want to do something for ALL of them. But you only have so many hours in the day and so much energy to spare. Concentrating your efforts translates into being able to give more. Outside of issues tied to my day job as a librarian, primarily censorship and access to information, my major causes are advocating for real food (which includes environmental activism, anti-GMO work, and support for smaller farmers against the agriculture-industrial complex) and support for people with chronic health issues.
Whatever you do should also fuel your spirit. If you care for a cause but active work toward it seems to drain you, that will not help anyone.

Educate, educate, educate (with a nod to Weston Price)
Read, learn, talk to people. Find out what resides below the surface. Also take some time to look at writing on a different side. For some issues it’s a big help to know what people are saying and will give you information for potential debates.

Don’t go overboard
Maybe it’s my age talking along with my own health issues. Pace yourself. The last thing you want is burnout.

Go local if you can
Before my mother passed away in 2013, she including in her arrangements a wish that people eschew sending flowers and donate money to a local charity with which she was involved for many years. The organization provides daytime services and advocacy for people with severe mental illness. The organization received so many donations on her behalf that the director started up a fund in her name. The fund provides money for some of the members to attend a week-long overnight camp during the summer. I made my own donation to the fund recently, and before I did had a meeting with the director of the center along with the head of another group in the area which coordinates fundraising and grants for local charities. During our meeting, the latter woman told me that donations to local charities can have a bigger impact because these organizations often run on smaller budgets and struggle.
This isn’t true just for their financials. Aside from around the holidays, it’s not uncommon for local charities and non-profits to need support. Working for a local group also serves as a reminder of your community and continues to demonstrate that pagans, polytheists, and animists aren’t fringe weirdos. Thorn Coyle has been active with #BlackLivesMatter in California and has worked in a soup kitchen for many years. Lupa has mentioned a portion of river she sponsors in Oregon, and as part of her caretaking cleans up trash in the area and takes readings.

We all have a starting point. Where is yours?

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When Freedom of Speech & Expression Are Shot Down

Controversial cover of Charlie Hebdo, cartoon depicts the Prophet Mohammed making out with a Charlie Hebdo artist. 8 Nov 2011

On 7 January 2015 in the city of Paris, France, two gunmen entered the offices of a magazine and killed 12 people. Charlie Hebdo, a satire magazine known for sometimes taking their exercise of free expression to extremes, became another statistic in the “war on terrorism” that has been waging since long before 9/11. Many have made this tragic shooting into a discussion of religion (which it may well be), others have tried to claim that the shooters’ religious beliefs had nothing to do with their actions. Vox.com and others are making an attempt to say that the tragedy had nothing to do with the cartoons and other satire published by Charlie Hebdo. All over the interwebs, especially on social media, I have seen numerous postings by average people regarding this incident. Everything from outcries against Jihadists to victim blaming, from confused and terrified people to bored and I-don’t-give-a-damns (though if they are posting about it they obviously do care, or are trolls). What I see the most is people saying this tragic shooting of 12 people (including two police officers, one of which is said to have been Muslim, Al Qaeda has claimed responsibility) was an attack on the freedom of speech and freedom of expression that so many of us in Western culture hold as sacred. Continue reading

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Activism… Before and After Retirement

So, there you are at work, thinking about all of the other things you’ll need to do when you get home to take care of your other job… you know, the one that really matters to you, your activist job. If only you didn’t have to plan around the paid employment that keeps you otherwise occupied for eight hours every day, not to mention the time needed for travel and unwinding once you get home. IF ONLY YOU WERE RETIRED!

That is precisely the situation I found myself in for the last 3 or 4 years that I was gainfully employed at a job I held for over 25 years. In my last few years there, I became more and more frustrated over not having enough time for the other things that had taken on great significance to me. I envisioned life after retirement as easily managed, comfortably paced and enriching not only in terms of my activism but also in terms of all the other aspects of my life that need attention. I had the chance to discover that first hand when my department was eliminated and I was handed the very chance I had craved for so long.

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Feeling Like an Oppressor

10411828_10153046534021840_3436143187642342525_nRaise your hand if you feel like an oppressor.

…Did you raise your hand?

When you take a moral stance, on some level you’re accusing others of taking an immoral stance. When you fight for justice, it must mean some people are unjust. There’s not really a way around that unless you draw really vague boundaries.
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