Racism and Activism at Pantheacon 2015

FB_IMG_1424196654259–by Shauna Aura Knight

Yesterday Pantheacon ended. Pantheacon is the largest Pagan conference and has almost 3,000 attendees and takes place in San Jose every year. I’m posting this a day late because I’ve been at the conference and wanted to write about activism within the Pagan community and specifically on activism-related issues that come up at Pantheacon.

Several years ago, Pantheacon was rocked by the exclusion of transgender women from one of the women’s rituals, and that controversy rippled out (and is still rippling) across the broader Pagan community.

This weekend I was proud to be part of a panel discussing racism within the community. Unfortunately, that panel began on a sour note as I learned that there had been something hurtful and racist written in one of the various newsletters distributed at Pantheacon.

Pantheacon runs from Friday through Monday, though I arrived on Thursday night so that I wasn’t a zombie on Friday for my workshop. The extra time gave me the opportunity to meet up with some folks that I hadn’t yet had the chance to connect with, so that’s a good thing. This is my third year attending Pantheacon, and I still feel like a bit of a newbie. While Pagans do fly in from all over, there aren’t a huge number of people from the Midwest, and it’s taken me a few years to get to know people.

I’m grateful beyond words for many of the folks I’ve met who are social justice activists, and this year I had the opportunity to get to know more people doing that work. Sadly, getting to know more of these activists came about because of incidents of racism here at the convention.

I was invited to be part of the panel discussion themed around the new anthology, Bringing Race to the Table. As I mentioned in my last post, I had been hesitant about writing for the anthology.

What could I, a white Pagan, offer to the anthology?

In fact, most of us on the panel were white. Many of the people of color who contributed to the anthology weren’t able to attend Pantheacon. I felt fairly awkward being there, but I committed to doing a lot of listening.

Earlier that day, it turns out that a newsletter had been circulated at Pantheacon. “Pantycon” is a satire newsletter that has cropped up over the years at Pantheacon. My understanding is that, at one time, it was a joke put out by the staff. This particular edition was not published by the staff, and contained a fake workshop description:

“Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans
Large Umbrella Pagan Group

Isn’t all this talk of social justice and racism just tiring? Don’t you wish you could just ignore it and put out meaningless statements of pure pablum? We’ll discuss how to ignore requests for consideration by pagans of color, cover up racist actions of high-ranking members, and pretend that you don’t understand the resulting outrage. Remember, #AllLivesMatter, except  when it’s uncomfortabe or inconvenient.
Large Umbrella Pagan Group has been around for long enough that they think they can get away with this stuff.”

Pantheacon has an anti-harassment policy (and I’ll link to that or post it once I’m not typing this on a tablet). In fact, many groups, including Coru Cathbodua, incorporated statements of safety into their work this year. Many of the hospitality suites incorporated #Blacklivesmatter into statements posted on their doors, or simply posted the statement on their door.

The head of Programming attended the Bringing Race to the Table panel and responded to the outrage against what was posted in the Pantycon newsletter, stating that the staff was actively investigating to find out who wrote it, and if/when they found out who wrote it, that person would be ejected from the conference for violating the harassment policy.

For clarity, the paragraph seems intended to poke at COG (Covenant of the Goddess) which has a large presence at Pantheacon but released a poorly-worded statement that was supposed to be in support of #BlackLivesMatter but included enough coded racism terms that several people left COG in protest.

Some of you are probably thinking, wow. People are being way oversensitive about this satirical newsletter.

Pagans, Racism, and Privilege
As a white person, I find more and more that I come to any of these discussions with this invisible blanket of privilege. I so frequently do not understand the hurt because it’s not a life experience I’ve ever faced. And that’s one of my continuing takeaways from this, that I have so much more to examine in my own behaviors and autopilot assumptions.

What I did know is that this statement caused harm. It triggered people of color, particularly in the wake of the Covenant of the Goddess’s poorly-written statement that I referenced above and in my last blog post for Pagan Activist.

The head of programming for Pantheacon said that a workshop had been canceled on Monday morning at 11 am, and opened up that space for people of color to host a followup session.

I would offer that it’s rare for an event to be able to (or willing to) switch programming like that, and I laud Pantheacon for being accommodating.

Over the course of the weekend, I had already planned to attend several other social justice related workshops and panels. I attended Rhyd Wildermuth and Alley Valkyrie’s workshop on anti-captitalism and also the panel discussion on cultural appropriation. I had originally intended to attend a different workshop on Monday at 11, but, as an ally and someone who is an activist for social justice, I felt it was important to be at the session.

Holding Space
Space was offered for anyone present to speak about their experience. There was a large open space and a double rung of chairs, and a microphone. I sat and listened for two hours. I cried. I felt nauseated, and I found myself asking over and over, “Is that real? Does that really happen?”

I heard that many people of color at the convention felt unsafe just walking from one workshop to another through the halls and had set up a buddy system of escorts. I heard that white people walked by the Pagans of Color hospitality suite and would hiss, “Racists!” implying that by making a safe space for Pagans of Color, those POC were somehow racist against white people.

As several people of color spoke into the microphone about their experiences and the pain they had suffered, white people sometimes interrupted them and spoke over them. I learned terms like “code switching” and heard a clarification on the concept of “white women tears.” (Google them.)

To get back to why the published paragraph was so problematic, here are a few things to consider:

  • There is satire, and there is “horribly triggering,” and the writer has to be fluent enough to know the difference,
  • Satire is only funny if it’s understood by everyone that it is satire (and in this case, some white Pagans thought that this was a real workshop and wanted to attend it),
  • Satire fails when the people writing it don’t understand all the issues.

Many of the POC in the room articulated that, after all the work they had done to build a safe place for a marginalized minority within the Pagan community, particuarly at Pantheacon, that they feel they are having to start all over. That so many incidents of racism (the paragraph in Pantycon and other incidents) have shown them how racist the community is.

Even during the session, one white man stood up to speak and–even in what I believe was a genuine desire on his part to find out ways to make his organization less racist and discriminatory–spoke in a way that took up too much space and was triggering and derailing to the conversation at hand. He was asked to sit down and many people present offered him immediate and public feedback on his behavior.

Racism is Threaded Through Paganism
Too many of us utter the words, “Maybe you misinterpreted what you read,” or, “Maybe you got the wrong tone.” Heck, I did it. I still do it. I try to catch myself, but over and over I have to realize that I grew up in a very different America from a person of color.

I exist in a different Pagan community from a person of color.

Nobody has ever come over to me when I came to a Pagan event and said, “You shouldn’t be here, you should be working with the Egyptian Gods, not the Celtic ones.” Nobody has ever mistaken me for a maid or janitor when I attended a Pagan event. Nobody has ever appropriated my cultural traditions and told me, “Well, white Europeans lost our cultural traditions so I get to use yours without your permission.”

One woman spoke about how incensed she was that her white Pagan friends did not post about or speak up about what happened in Ferguson. Several people were visibly upset as they spoke out the names of the dead, of the young black men murdered by police. They asked the question that I can best sum up as, “White Pagans, why don’t you care about our dead children?”

Dead Children
That is a piece that has sat most heavily with me. Because when Ferguson happened, I didn’t write about it at first either. Granted, I don’t have a TV and I didn’t find out about it for a while, but once I did, I didn’t have the visceral connection to those dead men. Why not?

Why didn’t I care? Why wasn’t I outraged?

I’m not typically an emotional person, in fact, I often struggle with feeling emotion at all. But I thought, what would I do if a young Pagan was killed every 28 hours? If Pagans were pulled over by the police, incarcerated at the levels that Black people are? What would I do if I knew that Pagan parents had to caution their children to not wear a pentacle because they could be shot?

I would be livid. I would be out in the streets and screaming and begging for allies. I would be wondering, how can you not be angry about this?

And I realized the core of it. I didn’t see those young Black men as part of my community. They weren’t part of “my” bubble. Black children are “them,” not “us” in the way that Pagans would feel instinctively like “us” to me.

And that’s something I’m going to work to change within myself.

Bridging the Connections
Every time I start to think that a person of color is emotionally overreacting to something, I’m going to put myself in their shoes in the best way that I can. I’m going to imagine, what if someone said that about a Pagan?

Now that I know more what to look for, I see racism threaded throughout the Pagan community. Most of the time it’s aversive racism–ambient racism learned through culture–but sometimes it’s right in your face racism. The Pagan community is just like everyone else. We have our sexual predators, and we have people who discriminate against gay and lesbian community members, against transgender and genderfluid community members, and against our community members who are people of color.

So many of us came to Paganism because it was the safe refuge where we finally felt we found “home,” only to find that it was just as abusive and discriminatory as everywhere else.

If we want to change our communities, it’s going to take work. I’m going to lovingly call out the people that I work with who are racist, even if they aren’t intending to be racist. And I hope that my allies will lovingly call me out as well. I’m going to listen and learn and work to understand. I’m going to work to make my own workshops, rituals, and other events as a safe place for people of color just as I’ve worked to make them safe and inclusive for GLBTQ folks.

And what I ask of you, specifically of those of you reading this who are white, is to listen. To check your assumptions. To not brush off the concerns of people of color. To listen and learn. I don’t know all the answers here and this is a big, systemic problem, but I want to be part of making spaces safer for our more marginalized community members.

I’ll be posting more on this topic in the future, and probably a blog post just on the conversation from the cultural appropriation panel over on my main blog once I’m back home and at a real keyboard.

The session on Monday morning ended with a powerful emotional expression of pain from the people of color present. Those of us who are not people of color stood witness to this, and it shook me to my bones. There is pain in the world, my friends. There is so much pain.

And we can either work to make this world better through our words and actions, or we can support the current system through our silence.



Here are a few links that I collected that offer further resources and information on this topic.

https://heathenchinese.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/on-misinterpreted-satire/ For satire to work, the audience has to be able to get the joke. Here’s a great historical example of failed satire.








Podcast: Panel discussion, Bringing Race to the Table

43 thoughts on “Racism and Activism at Pantheacon 2015

  1. buckthornman

    Many white people like myself are frustrated when it comes to race relations. I have worked with a lot of people of color and nationalities other than my own in a former job for over 15 years, and even tho I was a supervisor in that situation I became close friends with quite a few of them. We shared tears, laughter, beer, dancing, etc with no prejudice. Then all this rioting, shooting of unarmed persons, etc comes along with destruction of private property owned by innocents. What can I do? Complain about the destruction and get ridiculed as being racist? And now the American Indians are getting run over by corporate America too? It tears me apart at times that we are supposed to be civilized, yet no better than our warlike ancestors. I think as I look back at my standard bearer in the boy scout law and continue to adhere to it as I have done since I first learned it as a kid, I will continue to be a humble person, but not bulldozed over by insensitive people trying to make me think otherwise.

  2. Tadashi

    Two thoughts:

    1. Sadly, the discrimination is no surprise; nihil novi sub sole. The never-ending constant of hate really does get tiring after a while, though.

    2. As far as Pantycon? Hilarious name. That said, I disagree with your comment about satire: Good satire actually is often mistaken for the real thing. If folks don’t get it, it’s on the reader, not the writer.

  3. Lisa Cowley Morgenstern

    Sadly I was only able to visit one or two suites, and I was at the POC suite once before they were open, and the other time I didn’t have my grandson, they were closed to my ethnicity. I am sad this happened. I carried ribbons this year from my coven saying: end systemic racism #BlackLivesMatter Dragon’s Weyr Circle, COG. I had about five people refuse the ribbon, and a few so dramatically refused that after that I asked if they wanted it instead of just handing it to them. I had 100 and I’m glad to say 95% of the people I gave them to, took them. And 85% were probably white.

    I think that there are a lot of people who need educating, but Pantheacon needed it less than other places. I felt personally hurt and horribly rejected by the rejection of the ribbon I carried. It was hard. And I’m the victim of two hate crimes/incidents because I am a Pagan. I have kindred and coven members who are POC and we need more people to understand the movement because once they do we will know the real racists. I volunteer as a chaplain in a prison, and I have seen and interacted with criminal white supremacists and seen how ugly they can be. I’d not wish that, or my experiences, on anyone.

    The rest of my con I was watching my grandson, or presenting the workshops i offered. So I hope next year to have more time to do things. But a two year old needs to keep moving and his Mommy was on tech staff. I can say that the organizers and staff I know ( I know a lot of them, mr friends run griffin and Tech) are not racists. And they would forcefully eject someone who acted that way.

  4. Pingback: Pantheacon, Bringing Race to the Table, and Racism | The Blog Of Immanion Press & Megalithica Books

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  6. Elena Rose

    Thank you for this, Shauna. It was lovely to connect with you this year, and I hope we get to work together again soon!

    As one of the co-coordinators of the Pagans of Color suite and related events, I want to add a couple of small clarifications. First, in response to Lisa Cowley Morgenstern, I saw you posted this: “the other time I didn’t have my grandson, they were closed to my ethnicity.” The Pagans of Color hospitality suite was at no time closed to members of any ethnicity–while our focus was on providing a welcoming, safe space to people of color, we had many white people come through and join in conversations, share meals, and participate in events there, and to my knowledge never even had to remove someone for bad behavior as in previous years. There were a few short periods during the conference when the suite was closed while those of us staffing it were attending other events, and there was one closed session Saturday night where the four of us running the suite had a meeting about the events of the conference so far. I hope there was no time where you were made to feel unwelcome, and I know we all appreciated your visit Friday morning.

    While I didn’t witness out-and-out shouting at the hospitality suite as mentioned in Shauna’s post above, I certainly heard a number of people hiss remarks from the doorway and then bolt, or stand in the hall right outside and have (I think deliberately) audible conversations about how they thought the suite was “racist” and shouldn’t exist. Every few hours a white person would wander in, stare at everyone in the room as though expecting to be attacked, and then say something like, “I just would like to know if I’m welcome here” in a confrontational tone. Inevitably we’d explain that of course they were, offer them a snack and a seat, and continue our conversations, and usually they would just sort of stand there for a minute and then march out again. Honestly, considering the accounts I’ve heard of shouted arguments on the lobby floor and in other suites about these tense conversations on race in our community, the Pagans of Color suite really did its job as a haven.

    I am so appreciative of the work of so many–on staff, at the suite, among staunch allies–to address the painful and unpleasant realities written about here as we learn together how to love each other better. Taking each other into our circles of care and facing our problems with joined hands makes all the difference.

    Elena Rose
    Co-coordinator, Pagans of Color Caucus

  7. Jolene Poseidonae

    Reblogged this on Strip Me Back To The Bone and commented:
    Reblogging this, because. I’ll be finishing up “Bringing Race to the Table” this week and reviewing it for EHS, but I have to tell you, the book has broken my heart, and reading this does it even more. Important, because the topic *should* break our hearts, and drive us to fix what is broken.

  8. Tom Swiss (@tom_swiss)

    Thanks for the clarifications, Elena. This was my first Pantheacon, and I wasn’t sure what the deal with the Pagans of Color hospitality suite was…heck, I’m used to camping events like Free Spirit Gathering and Starwood, so I was new to the whole “hospitality suite” concept! I did see that there was at least one “women only” space and wasn’t sure if this was the same deal. If I can try to offer a constructive suggestion, explicitly saying “all are welcome” in the program guide listing could help confused newbies like me. 🙂

    Which I guess is part of the issue here, isn’t it? We white folks have to do a better job of saying “all are welcome”, in situations that are a lot more high stakes than dropping by a hotel room for a cup of coffee. (Without then falling into being patronizing or exoticizing.)

  9. Lailoken Scathach

    This is horrible that POC felt threatened?!

    “I heard that many people of color at the convention felt unsafe just walking from one workshop to another through the halls and had set up a buddy system of escorts. I heard that white people walked by the Pagans of Color hospitality suite and would shout, “Racists!” implying that by making a safe space for Pagans of Color, those POC were somehow racist against white people.”

    We must stand up for this! How can people possibly feel unsafe at P-Con?! We need to find out who these people are that are making POC feel unsafe and eject them. I could not possibly imagine feeling unsafe at P-Con.

    Are there any ideas or camera footage of these people mkaing others fel unsafe? Do we need to ask for security patrols for P-Con – does anyone have any evidence of an attack or stalking or something that we can use to bring police involvement?!

    I am seriously questioning my own safety now.

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  11. carlos melenfez

    The reality of racism is not limited to whites racism against people of color. Minorities sometimes exploit and are racists towards whites.

    However I don’t think anyone wants to be a victim of racism either way. I ask only the readers look at the whole picture through peer reviewed studies. I was at Pantheocon and racism is alive and well. Ignorance of racism is no excuse for exploitation or suppression. If you really want to know…the reasons for racism are not all solid colors..they are 50 shades of grey coming from both sides.

  12. Elena Rose

    If it eases your heart any, you should know that conference staff took these issues very seriously, and were wonderful about responding to safety concerns and showing up in support. Where there is knowledge of specific actors or usable evidence, to my knowledge those events have been reported in official channels. Additionally, members of the Solar Cross Temple, Coru Cathubodua, and other groups showed up as backup and support numerous times. It’s not the same as none of this bad business happening at all, but there are a lot of good people working on this, and I know we’d welcome even more joining the effort.

    We began offering the Pagans of Color caucus session and hospitality suite because there was a stated need to get together and talk about what we were facing, share information, strengthen the bonds among us, and offer support and encouragement and a brief safe haven. It has grown each year. The racism we’re now seeing discussed broadly in the community isn’t in any way new–we’re just finally, finally, talking about it and trying to address it, and that always generates backlash and tension. That said, these issues aren’t specific to Pantheacon; they’re endemic in our whole community-such-as-it-is, and facing the task of building something better will take time, effort, dedication, and strong alliances. I believe we can do it, especially if enough caring people recognize the problem and come together to work at it.

  13. Chris Hughes

    Lailoken Scathach:

    While I appreciate your fervor and shock, I just wanted to offer you a gentle reminder that police involvement will not neccessarily make Pagans of Color feel safer. #BlackLivesMatter, of course, has its origins in police shooting black men and, to bring it local, I suggest you investigate SJPD’s history on race relations, especially as regards the very large Latin@/Latinx and Vietnamese populations (San Jose has more Vietnamese than any other city save Ho Chi Minh City, by the way).

    a white pagan

  14. Shauna Aura Knight Post author

    Thanks for the continued comments here. Just as an FYI, you won’t see me commenting much because I’m still on the road and heading to Convocation tomorrow. I also like to let things sit for a few days before I dive into comments. I’ll approve comments on this blog as fast as I can while I’m at Convo, though I may only have access once a day. For the moment, I’m planning to let through any comment, even the ones I disagree with, unless someone starts to get particularly nasty in which case I’ll block them, though that, too, may take me a day or so to see.

  15. Helen/Hawk

    Point of information: you mentioned “one white man stood up to speak and–even in what I believe was a genuine desire on his part to find out ways to make his organization less racist and discriminatory–spoke in a way that took up too much space and was triggering and derailing to the conversation at hand. He was asked to sit down.”
    As an ally (and in the spirit of White folks educating each other), I’m the one who 1st asked him to pass on the mike so others could speak.

  16. aediculaantinoi

    Thanks for posting this, Shauna. It was great to meet you and speak with you a bit!

    I’ll be posting on Monday’s events soon on my own blog, with further commentary on this…I was going to yesterday, but I’m needing to make a few tweaks and revisions now that an “official” apology has been posted by the PantyCon perps.

  17. mrclmind2013

    I’m still not clear about what the actual threats were to people of color. That is what is most disturbing to me. If their actual physical safety is at risk at a pagan conference, that is something that needs to be dealt with first before anything else. I hear innuendo about it, but nothing concrete. Were people actually threatening people of color? If so that is something VERY serious in my opinion.

  18. Ariel Gatoga

    I’m still not clear about what the actual threats were to people of color. That is what is most disturbing to me. If their actual physical safety is at risk at a pagan conference, that is something that needs to be dealt with first before anything else. I hear innuendo about it, but nothing concrete. Were people actually threatening people of color? If so that is something VERY serious in my opinion.

  19. Ariel Gatoga

    I’m discovering that unconscious and unintentional racism can be the most destructive kind of racism there is. I’m very sorry to any of my friends of color who have ever felt unsupported by me, or felt that I was part of the problem rather than the solution.

    Many of us white people don’t realize we are racist, because we don’t have any clue what it’s like to live in black skin. I don’t know what it’s like, but I do know it can be terrifying to be black in the presence of white folks who don’t want you alive. It’s happening all over the country.

    Being a white male from Orange County, CA, I have a sense of privilege that I am not aware of most of the time. It’s like not realizing that you have eyelashes because they have always been there. Black lives matter is more than just a slogan for me. I really believe it. Any of my friends who have ever called me out for being a racist, I thank you. You are right. And each time I get called out on it, I get better at looking at the world differently.

  20. Jonathan Tapia

    While I appreciate the white allies, deepest appreciation, I have just decided that I will NEVER attend Pantheacon. It is not safe when guards have to be posted, when escorts have to be provided, when people feel empowered enough to challenge/bait a PoC to react negatively. PoC can and will and I am sure do stay away from the areas where racism is openly accepted. It is unacceptable for racists to bring the racism to the PoC.

    I am Hispanic, with enough Native American in me to be on my tribes census. The reporting of these events just makes me sad and disappointed.

  21. Kitty

    MM All,
    First let me state categorically that “Pantycon” is NOT – nor has it EVER been – created/published by PantheaCon staff. I know – because I have been on staff since year one. While the person who is the main impetus behind “Pantycon” is a long time attendee and friend/acquaintance of PCon staffers – and may have been at some point a PCon presenter – that person has NEVER been staff.

    By way of explication (NOTE: I am not condoning what was done, my purpose here is to give some background on “Pantycon” from a Staff perspective): “Joke” issues of at-con newsletters have a long-standing history at SF&F Conventions, usually appearing on the last – or next-to-last – day of the Con. Previously, many staff and long-time attendees and presenters have looked forward to and enjoyed the satirical jabs that “Pantycon” has taken at the Con, the community, etc. From previous years we are familiar with the type of humour and satire that “Pantycon’s” creator employs. This is the first year that “Pantycon’s” creator has really blown it. Most of us “got” that the ridicule in this piece was specifically targeted for and directed at “White Pagans”, NOT at People of Colour, but we were also simultaneously appalled at it anyway; I could immediately see so many ways that POC could feel offended by and targeted by the piece. As soon as the flyer was discovered/brought to staff’s attention, many of us made serious “sweeps” of all the public areas to make sure that all copies of it were removed.

    The day after this issue of “Pantycon” was published, I saw at the back of a crowded elevator some of the persons whom I know to have in the past been responsible for “Pantycon”. I am assuming that several of us had already taken the persons aside and explained to them just how badly they had blown it – but that for whatever reasons they were not ejected from the Con. I assume that since I saw no further copies of it around the Con, that the perpetrators fully understood and took to heart just how grievously they had overstepped the bounds of what is “OK” at PCon – and in our greater community.
    -Kitty “MomKat”

  22. Kitty

    The issue was a piece of printed satirical material purporting to be an announcement of a panel at PantheaCon; there were no verbal or physical attacks or threats made to individuals at the Con.
    Since it appears that you might have not read the original piece in question, here it is:
    “Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans
    Large Umbrella Pagan Group
    Isn’t all this talk of social justice and racism just tiring? Don’t you wish you could just ignore it and put out meaningless statements of pure pablum? We’ll discuss how to ignore requests for consideration by pagans of color, cover up racist actions of high-ranking members, and pretend that you don’t understand the resulting outrage. Remember, #AllLivesMatter, except when it’s uncomfortabe or inconvenient.
    Large Umbrella Pagan Group has been around for long enough that they think they can get away with this stuff.”

    The authors of the piece subsequently stated that the satire was directed at white pagans and a specific group for their lack of public support for Black Lives Matter. The authors apologized on another blog for their lack of sensitivity in publishing the piece and not recognizing that PoC would be adversely affected by it and thus feel unsafe at the Con.

  23. Ariel Gatoga

    Thank you Kitty. I had indeed read that piece of satire. I was just under the impression that there had also been threats of physical violence to PoC. Thank you for clarifying that for me.

  24. Shauna Aura Knight Post author

    Kitty, I’m unclear if your comment was directed at me as the author of the post, or at another comment on the thread. I did indeed read the piece of satire, and the text is contained within my original post. Also, just because the piece was defended as being satire, and just because the authors apologized (anonymously), doesn’t mean that harm wasn’t done and that POC weren’t triggered.

    As for whether or not there were verbal threats to POC at Pantheacon, I’m unclear as to specifics but I do know that several POC spoke at the Monday meeting about how unsafe they felt, and some made mention of phone calls or things said outside the POC suite. I’ll have to ask some of the POC suite organizers for clarifications once I’m back from Convocation.

  25. Kitty

    Shauna: Sorry for the confusion. I am very new to social media and blogging and am unfamiliar with the way in which comments, etc., are handled in this forum/medium; I thought it would be clear that my response was to a post made by Ariel Gatoga – who had expressed unclarity as to whether there had been actual physical, etc., threats. Ariel has since replied to me and thanked me for my post. I had heard about the negative comments made by some passers-by to the POC suite and am appalled at such actions by members of PCon. I am truly sorry to hear that there were actual threatening phone calls. This PCon has been enlightening in many ways – I only wish that my at-con work schedule had allowed me the time to attend the panels, etc., related to these incidents.

  26. skywatcher888

    Thank you so much for this post. I attended Pantheacon this year, too, and have to admit most of this flew under my radar — as it may have for many participants at the con. I just don’t understand how or why others judge people by what they are, instead of who they are, and it concerns me greatly that anyone should feel unsafe there.

    I’m not a huge fan of the hospitality suites, but for others it’s a highlight of the convention, but did see the suite for POC and respectfully stayed out, not being sure if I’d be welcome or not.

    I do think it’s important for our community to discuss cultural appropriation, and hope we’re mature enough to separate it from racism. European, Africa, and South American belief systems can be quite different, even within what are considered current “races.” While it’s true that white people worshiping the orishas may cross race boundaries, Celtic vs. Greek deities would not yet both must be a part of the same conversation. Then again, outside of Paganism, it is quite common for some races to worship the deities of other races, so I’m not entirely clear about the nature of the issue, while trying to remain sensitive to other people’s cultural heritage.

    Peace be, blessed be.

  27. Thexalon

    My basic rules for being a decent ally:
    1. Shut up and listen unless asked to speak when the issue under discussion is privilege and discrimination. As a straight cisgendered fairly well-off white guy, I’m approximately the last person to have any real expertise on negative discrimination.
    2. On the flip side, don’t demand that whoever happens to be around that identifies as the less-powerful group represent everyone in that group. Non-privileged people are as unique and varied as privileged people.
    3. Put yourself in situations where you are the minority, and in those situations do your best to conform to the subculture you’re visiting rather than expect them to conform to you. You’ll learn about the subculture that way, and also get a taste of the fish-out-of-water experience that many oppressed persons experience every day.
    4. Don’t even think about leading the effort if you’re in the privileged group. See rule 1.
    5. If you get a sense of “Well, that’s happened to me too” the right reaction isn’t “Those people are overreacting, it’s not a big deal” but “Oh, so that’s what that feels like – I didn’t like it when it happened to me, I can only imagine what it’s like to have it happen all the time”

  28. carlos

    A brave announcement to be sure in what I see as common orthodox institutional racism by some groups. There are page groups who are not providing helpful solutions to dissolve racism.

    A true seeker of light will have compassion. A person’s color is not ever a part of magick or ceremony. Many of us borrow techniques from overt and even secret schools of Africa. Black is a beautiful color and so are all colors to include white.

    Exclusion of individuals because of culture or ethnicity is pitiful. The spirit never excludes in the racist way.

    I recommend boycott of groups having racist agendas.

    Even the masonic fraternity had to apologize and make right it’s exclusion of blacks and people of color.

    However, change must happen on the individual level. As I will always correct someone who is a bigot, even though friendships ended as a result.

    A higher principle of openness is beautiful and though we hold high standards to everyone, our international outreach does not exclude.

    however…introspective have the Pantheocon done enough.

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  30. Mary Anderson

    I admit that this article was deeply confusing to me. Perhaps because I’d never heard of this Pantheacon until today, but also because I’m not seeing how that satirical article was triggering or painful in the way you describe. It was obviously satire, and I imagine some really privileged white people found it painful, but how was it painful to PoC? Because it forced a much-needed conversation about racism in the pagan community? Surely this piece of satire wasn’t more painful or triggering than being ignored/talked over/derided/treated like “the help,” which is something PoC in mostly-white settings deal with regularly. The satirical article just shone a spotlight on the truth, and apparently that truth is upsetting? Please help me understand. I agree 100% that white people need to shut up and listen to PoC when it comes to matters of racism. It might surprise you to learn that PoC have been having these important conversations all along–just without the input of white people.

  31. Shauna Aura Knight Post author

    Hi Mary, quick response from me; I was about to join in a panel discussion on the anthology “Bringing Race to the Table” when Crystal Blanton and several other people of color pointed out the satirical workshop description. They were hurt, angry, and in pain. If I’d read it on my own first, I’d have thought, “Zing! That’s putting a spotlight on white Pagans.” But because I learned about it in context of the people that it directly wounded, I had a different perspective on it. There are other bloggers who have perhaps done a better job of going over some of the issues in this, and I’ll be posting about it (and doing a round-up of links to those blogs) in the near future. I look at my job as to support Pagans of color as an ally as best I can. It’s not POC’s responsibility to post about this stuff and try to educate white Pagans, so I’m trying to do some of the lifting, as it were, when it’s of use.

  32. Mary Anderson

    Shauna, thanks for getting back to me. I agree that there’s a certain amount of ambiguity in your article that makes it unclear what the actual issue was. I look forward to hearing more about this. And I, like you, had a Zing! moment reading it also. Doesn’t make it right or wrong, simply a matter of conflicting perspectives perhaps.

  33. Scott Reimers

    I finished reading this article a few days ago and I need to ask for help.

    There are a few elements of the dynamics of racism that I just don’t understand. I must sadly admit this is one of them. I need help understanding why this triggered people of color more than it triggered racist white people.

    When I read the satirical class description I thought it was hilarious, I saw a mockery of how ignorant and thoughtless to the issue of racism white pagans can be. I saw it as a call out that was well past due. I assumed this was a good thing expressing support for People of Color’s needs being heard. Even after reading this article I still see it as an attempt to be that, and I’m confused as to why it was a bad thing.

    Am I overthinking the issue? Was the satire’s mockery of white pagan racism triggering simply because the problem is so much bigger than even the satire recognized or is there more I’m not understanding?

    I have had angry responses from People of Color in the past when I asked for this help. When I wasn’t understanding what was happening in Florida with Zimmerman (I hadn’t been following the news), I asked some (now ex-) friends to help me understand. I used the words “I see anger and hurt, but I’m not understanding, Could you help me understand?” They unfriended me and banned me. One even reported me. The only response I received was “If I have to explain it to you, then you are part of the problem.” before that person disconnected and stopped interacting with me.

    That the point of my question though… I know I’m part of the problem. I came forward asking to be taught how to stop being part of the problem, and I was banished and punished for it. At this point I often feel like I have no options to be part of the solution other than to recognize that there is a problem which I don’t understand.

    Thus, I REALLY appreciate seeing members of the People of Color Caucus trying to dialog this issue. I honor the strength it takes to communicate with people who are casually abusive after having been a target of that abuse. Thank you for taking the time to help us recognize there is a problem and for being patient as we stumble our way through our cultural biases toward understanding.

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  35. Raven

    So why wasn’t #BLackLivesMatter included at PAGAN (not “anti-racism”, nor “police,” nor anything else that is related, cons?).

    Hmmmm let me think about this. Let me think…

    it would be #1 (the most prevalent reason), BECAUSE IT IS A TWITTER HASHTAG, rather then being something that is not solely Internet- and Twitter-related, and therefore anyone who was using it somewhere other then Twitter would look exceedingly ridiculous,


    Hmmm… might, just might be that fact…..

  36. Chris Hughes

    Raven: I would like to respond to your comments as a white person. I will admit that I am imagining you to also be white on the basis of your statements. I do beg your forgiveness if I am wrong about that.

    As regards your comment #1: #BlackLivesMatter is simply not solely Internet- and Twitter-related, as it is a Twitter/Internet phenomenon reacting to the long history of black bodies in the street. I can tell you that the first name of a Black Life deemed not to matter by white people that I was aware of actually occurring in present tense was James Bird — this despite the fact that as a young queer, I was much more focussed on Matthew Shepherd, who was killed the same month. The first Black Life deemed not to matter by white _police officers_ that came to my attention was Amadou Diallou, killed in New York City a couple of years later. Both of these murders occurred when Google was still new, long before Twitter. #BlackLivesMatter is about those murders, as well as many more I could list, the 1-in-3 Black adult males who have been or are in prison (losing voting rights in the process), and the still-current slave population in this country (California, my home state, has more slaves now than Arkansas did in 1850 — if we were one of the original colonies at the time of the Revolution, we would be the 4th-largest slave-holder). To claim that it is merely an Internet- and Twitter-related phenomenon is to ignore these lives and, further, to claim that those who care about them are lying.

    Also, Twitter hashtags have found common use in numerous non-Internet contexts, as the virtual world and the visceral world have been merging over the last decade. It is no longer ridiculous or strange to include hashtags in contexts as diverse as commercials, sporting event fan-made signs, the sides of buses, graffiti, and even for the name of your business, so it is not strange to include it in a convention like PantheaCon.

    As regards your comment #2: I will admit that I don’t know what your paganism is like. My paganism includes many things, such as ancestor worship, a completely immanent view of divinity (that is, divinity is entirely here, rather than in some other world), hospitality, a dedication to the sacredness of everything, a demand that I work to embody the virtues of both me and my gods, and many other things (including the simple fact that some of my gods come from cultures of color, in relationship to which I have a power imbalance as a white person, and so I need to actively address that to work with those traditions ethically) that mean that #BlackLivesMatter actually expresses something that I would consider very central to my Paganism. Is it different for you? What are your traditions like?

    Even if it were such that my paganism did not have so many reasons for me to care about #BlackLivesMatter (which, I will confess, is difficult for me to imagine), the pagans of color whom I am honored to call friend certainly cannot stop being of color when they walk into a Pagan convention. Thus, I have very selfish reasons to want to address the issue in Paganism — it will make more people I think personally are hella rad more comfortable coming and doing hella rad things with me. My magick is strengthened by having them around me.

    So, perhaps, it just might be those facts that make this a vitally important issue to address at PantheaCon. I eagerly await your response.

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