And I hate the fact that I need to make such a declaration.
Last month, three people were killed at a shooting at the Overland Park Jewish Community Center in Kansas. Soon after the shooting, it came out that the main suspect, Frazier Glenn Cross, identified as an Odinist.
It’s bad enough that one of my traditions often carries the image of people playing Viking (remember when Dan Halloran ran for political office in New York?) but worse still is that the traditions honor the Aesir and Vanir can so easily be co-opted by people who will use them to claim superiority based on skin color.
And yet it is happening. Happening so much that there are articles and a book on the subject, and renewed discussions of racialist paganism (direct audio link) happening within our greater community.
At this point I cannot even start to cover the range of issues which this subject entails, and if I were to try, I am afraid my passion would overtake me and I do not want to make this post into a big rant. What I do want to do is share material to demonstrate that Asatru and Heathenry are not automatically religions of racism and separatism. Nor is it just contained to honoring of Germanic deities. There are also people claiming such separatism in the name of Celtic, Finnish, and Russian deities. Perhaps there are more but so far I have not come across it.
I will tell you where I stand on the matter of who can/should be honoring the Aesir and the Vanir. Those who are called. Period. This is not a religion for everyone, but I also don’t think any of the monotheisms are meant for all people (as much as those faiths might differ), nor is Kemetic religion (my primary faith), Hellenic, Baltic, Near Eastern, African traditional (full disclosure: I do serve the lwa and at some point plan to initiate as a hounsi in Vodou), or any other you might name. But as far as I am concerned, the Gods and spirits will get to sort that out. And even if you do think there is a certain color line which may not be broached when it comes to pre-Christian religions, remember that most Black people in this country (since that seems to be where the a certain faction wants to declare said line) do not have exclusively African ancestry. Think about that the next time you want to talk about metagenetics. (If you decide to search for that word, you’ll find an essay which I admit I cannot even stomach the idea of reading.)
We’re not living in a “post-racial” society just because we have a bi-racial, Black president. When there are people using the N word to describe him and selling stickers with that word and his image, we still have a big problem with racism. And even in Heathenry, we thankfully have people who are getting a national platform to state that we are not a religion of racial superiority.
We also have Heathens spearheading a fund drive to benefit the victims of this horrible shooting. There are only a few days left, so if you feel so moved, I encourage you to contribute.
If you want to get involved in anti-racism work with polytheists, you can check out Heathens United Against Racism and Caorann – Celts against Racism. If you know of any other related groups, please share in the comments.
And to leave this post with a little humor, here is Jon Stewart talking about racism on the Daily Show last month, in light of the then-recent Donald Sterling racism talk and Cliven Bundy’s “let me tell you what I know about the Negro.”
We have made enormous progress in teaching everyone that racism is bad. Where we seem to have dropped the ball is in teaching people what racism actually is. Watch this clip to see Klansmen talk about having Black friends and not being racist.