Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

There have now been hundreds of Black people killed by police in the USA. The militarization of the police has continued and expanded since the Ferguson protests over the killing of Michael Brown.

I have mainly been posting about the protests on my Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Black people are much more likely to be killed by the police in the USA than white people. Compare the percentage of Black people in the population (12.6%) with the percentage of police shooting victims (about 40%). Horrific. And that doesn’t take into account people like Sandra Bland or Eric Garner, neither of whom died by shooting. The statistics clearly show that Black people are disproportionately likely to be shot by police in the USA:

Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States seems to only be increasing, with a total 429 civilians having been shot, 88 of whom were Black, as of June 4, 2020. In 2018, there were 996 fatal police shootings, and in 2019 this figure increased to 1,004. Additionally, the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 30 fatal shootings per million of the population as of June 2020.

The statistics for Canada are also very worrying. Black men living in Toronto are 20 times more likely to be shot by police than white men. Indigenous people are 4.8% of the population of Canada, but 15% of fatal police shootings. Black people are 3.4% of the population of Canada, but 9% of fatal police shootings. Add to that the systemic racism experienced by BIPOC people (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour), the huge numbers of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, the forced sterilization of Indigenous women, the ongoing theft and exploitation of Indigenous lands, police brutality towards BIPOC people, and the failure to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the calls to action of the Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people in the UK are also impacted by systemic racism. Recent examples include the shooting of Mark Duggan in London, the Hostile Environment for migrants, the deportation of the Windrush generation, the horrific fire in Grenfell Tower, and the disproportionate number of BAME people who died from COVID-19.

So what can would-be allies do to help?

Right now there are lots of bail funds for protesters, funds being raised for the families of police shooting victims, and calls to defund the police and fund community initiatives instead.

Here are a few articles that list ways to help (don’t worry if you don’t have any money, some of them involve sending emails or signing petitions):

If you have an Instagram or Twitter account, look at the #WitchesAgainstRacism, #WitchesAgainstWhiteSupremacy, #WitchesForBLM, #AmplifyMelanatedVoices, and #BlackLivesMatter hashtags. Follow and retweet Black people, Indigenous people, and People of Colour on Twitter. On Instagram, use Regram or Repost to share and boost Black and Indigenous content. Always attribute the content to them and link to their accounts. If you post a black square, don’t tag it with #BlackLivesMatter as that hashtag is needed for community organizers to share information widely. Amplifying BIPOC voices means sharing their content (with attribution of course), not just going silent.

Learn as much as you can about the history of Black, minority ethnic, and Indigenous people where you are.

Show up to protests for Black Lives Matter, solidarity with refugees and migrants,  and Indigenous rights. Obviously, stay safe and wear a face mask if the protest is during the pandemic. 

We do not have the option of being apolitical or neutral. Neutrality is a political position. As Desmond Tutu said, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu. Sign in the window of a cheese shop in Carden Street, Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

As Pagans, we need to avoid tropes and memes like “the Earth doesn’t need humans”. This is not true and is often used as an excuse for eco-fascist positions. It is worth reminding people that 80% of the biodiversity on Earth is in areas of land controlled by Indigenous Peoples.

We need to avoid marginalizing BIPOC Pagans (for example by assuming they are all into the religions of the African Diaspora, or that they cannot be interested in Pagan traditions that originated in Europe).

As workers of magic, we can lend our support to the protests by magical means.

These were my suggestions for the global Black Lives Matter solidarity ritual on 5 June, but we can continue to do these actions on a regular basis:

  • Make a bind rune or sigil to empower BLM and protesters and keep people safe.
  • Light candles for those killed and say their names.
  • Stir justice and love into the cauldron of the collective unconscious.
  • Bend a twig or a bow to represent bending the arc of history towards justice.
  • Pledge a specific action or donation to bail funds for protesters and BLM

Ibrttt highly recommend reading the book Bringing Race to the Table: Exploring Racism in the Pagan Community by Crystal Blanton, Taylor Ellwood, and Brandy Williams.

The book explores some of the issues encountered by Pagans of Colour, and suggests ways the rest of the Pagan community can do better.

Witches and Pagans are still being marginalized and persecuted in some places. However, the issues we face in the Western world are minor compared to BIPOC people. If we are white Pagans, we can easily hide by looking “normal”. BIPOC and other racialized groups do not have that luxury. We should have empathy for, and show solidarity with, BIPOC people.

A reading list on race. Kallisti.