Jack of Many Trades

Here, Have A Cookie

Originally posted: 2012-10-31

So I was browsing Pagans of Color today and I couldn't help but think about how common it is becoming for white folks to ask permission from POC before working with deities from POC cultures, even when they preface the question by saying that they feel they're being called by those deities.

I've always been under the impression that if a deity calls you, well, you're called. Doesn't matter if you're African-American and Odin wants you or you're a white Kemetic. That's between you and your gods; Isis doesn't need anybody's permission and neither do you. If you want to work with a deity the way they're asking you to work with them, there's nobody in the world that can stop you.

See, there's no Investigating Committee of pagans of color. Nobody's sneaking into your house to look at your altar or showing up on the astral plane with an astral search warrant. Nobody's going to discover that you're secretly worshipping Oya and write about it on the internet.

If people know you're a white person having opinions about a deity from a minority culture, it's because you're sharing them. You don't actually have to do that. Lots of bloggers talk about their work without mentioning names. I talk about Mara because she's not widely known and only has a few worshipers, most of them in Latvia. She likes being talked about. But it took me a long time to get to a point where I was comfortable with that. I only occasionally talk about my work with Kuan Yin or other Asian deities, because I don't feel that's my place.

If you're asking permission, you're not really asking permission to talk to that deity. That's between you and the deity. What you're asking for is ally cookies. You want permission to publicly worship, talk about, or otherwise draw attention to your opinions on that deity without getting called out for doing so. But there's no such thing as "Official Permission from People of Color." You can't control what other people will think about you.

What you can control is how you present yourself. Educate yourself; do your homework. Don't be ignorant. If someone calls you out for something you say or do, seriously consider their words, be honest with yourself, apologize (for real, not a fauxpology) and move on. Don't do it again. This isn't that hard; it's much easier than living with institutionalized racism.

And if you're worried something you're doing is racist? That's a good sign to stop and think about it some more. Maybe it's not, but it's better to err on the side of not hurting people, isn't it?

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