My colleague Crystal Blanton recently issued a challenge to the (mostly white) Pagan community at large, asking why we have (so far) been so silent on Ferguson, on Eric Garner, on the ongoing, unfolding violent nightmare that is all around us, swamping us, and the courageous protesters that refuse to allow business to continue as usual. “Do you see us?” she asked.
Why have we been silent?
I’m going to make a general statement about the white Pagan community, as I’ve experienced it through Patheos Pagan and other websites this past year. And it holds true for myself as well: we like to write from one of two places: learned and earned wisdom/expertise or direct personal experience.
Faced with the truth of Eric Garner, or Mike Brown, or Tamir Rice or Trayvon Martin, or … how long this list should be and how limited I am for word count…as the horror unravels before us, around us, the violence, the death—even targeted slaughter seems an appropriate phrase—the white Pagan community can, most of us, claim neither expertise nor direct experience.
We stare, we gape, we fall to our knees, we try to provide witness, some of us, but we do not know.
What then can I say. What is given me to say. What is left me to say.
I try to see you. I try to hear you. I will continue to try. Maybe this is not enough.
In my Soul Work class this semester, we have been encouraged to move away from language toward image. Away from statement toward question. Away from closure toward opening.
Opening. And then opening some more.
We started drawing mandalas and sharing them with each other. They are as individual and imperfect as fingerprints. As the iris of the eye. My own have evolved into blue and white studies of light and dark.
The act of drawing a mandala has become–for me–a potent practice of listening with my pen: drawing out the shadow(s), allowing the darkness to merge and emerge into and out of a design to inform it, make it beautiful.
This is a time of exploring the shadow. So let’s just say this: for centuries, we white folk have projected a lot of our shit onto Black men and women. WE have created a monster, we have pasted that monster onto the faces of others, and we have reacted—for centuries—with fear to our own creation. This is true for people of color in general but particularly right now we are called to witness injustice against Black men (and how this plays out against Black women, in turn).
Ferguson is what happens when for centuries, on a cultural scale, we do not face our own shadow.
So although I do not write from a place of expertise, or a place of personal experience, I can say this much: I call on my friends and colleagues, my peers, my neighbors, my family, no matter your race, ethnicity, class or politics or background: don’t look away. Don’t justify. Don’t fill the airwaves with defensive noise.
Let us listen, as deeply as we can, to the voices already lifted in protest, in anger, in witness. Let us amplify those voices with our own work. Daughters of Eve. Black Girl Dangerous. Urban Cusp. These are three I seek out regularly and share with you today.
And let us not look away from the dark places within ourselves. Anger, fear, insecurity, childhood trauma, resentment, deep sorrow, abandonment, abuse…there is so much we stuff down over the years.
We will never become a just society without doing the deep internal work, one by one, each of us.
Although I am not a Christian, in this Advent season I find profound wisdom and challenge in the example of Mary, a young woman who listened deeply to what her God asked of her, and answered, simply, Yes.
There was nothing easy, or comfortable, or status quo about what was asked of Mary. She had to move into a place of greatest vulnerability, a place where the self changes fundamentally, a journey that could never be turned away from, once begun. Still, she answered Yes. And because of her Yes…the pattern changed.
I name this radical receptivity. And it is radical in both senses: taking us down to the root, and also extreme. It is the power that comes from giving up power.
So, Yes. In this season of advent and protest, horror and love, anger and resolution. Yes to my gods, to my friends, to my colleagues, to my neighbors and family and many many loves.
I do not know if I hear You, but I try to open myself to hear You. I do not know if I see You, but I try to open myself to see You. I will keep trying, and keep opening myself to Your truth, and my own.