From Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot
The Personal IS Political.
What we experience and how we move through the world is inextricably entwined with a larger socio-political reality. Our lives are informed by the intersections of race, class, gender and politics. As a white woman, it is my responsibility to actively educate myself about the structures of patriarchal white supremacy, and take action in every area of my life to dismantle it’s grip (also, to open a dialogue with white folks about our responsibility to use white privilege to increase visibility for marginalized people).
This becomes of increasing importance in so-called “spiritual” circles of all varieties, where spiritual bypassing allows for avoidance of difficult conversations about the realities of racism, transphobia, ableism and cultural appropriation. There is a ton to unpack here; in a community that engages with the invisible, magickal realm there is a glaring tendency to avoid looking at the concrete reality that is manifest in our day-to-day experience. Today in Amerikkka, POC are policed, killed and incarcerated in staggering numbers. Transphobia rears it’s ugly head and is reflected in legislation that prevents differently-gendered people from access to the same liberties as cis folks. Ableism lurks in nearly all mainstream media, and has since it’s inception. I am confident this isn’t news to anyone reading this post.
However it is my (and many others who have wrote extensively on the subject) belief that the time is now to integrate intersectional* feminism into the fabric of our magickal practices. To actively decolonize our witchcraft, our altars, and our lives.
* 1. intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. The basic premise states that “a person’s experience cannot be understood separately, each category and context must be examined together to see the interactions of different identities. Basically, intersectionality studies the intersections of forms or systems of oppression, domination and discrimination”.
As a white person living on stolen land, I believe it is wise to begin by unravelling the presence of cultural appropriation*(4) in these circles.
3. “Cultural appropriation is the process by which a member of a dominant culture takes or uses (appropriates) aspects of another culture (often a colonised culture) without that culture’s permission and/or without any understanding of the deeper cultural meanings behind the appropriated item.”
An article on nativeappropriations.org (*2) smartly outlines the realities of white oppression of the Native Peoples of this land since Columbus’s arrival and the initiation of colonialism. You can observe this in the colonial outlawing of the right of native peoples to engage in their spiritual practices, or use of their ceremonial items, until it was overturned in 1978 (google the American Indian Religious Freedom Act for more information), made even more painful by capitalism swallowing up sacred practices such as smudging with white sage and selling it to white audiences via avenues such as Sephora’s Starter Witch Kit seen below.
*2. Sephora has since pulled this product from the shelves, however its presence in 2018 outlines the deeply entrenched and devouring nature of capitalistic cultural appropriation
I grew up in a household that used white sage for smudging purposes and it has only recently come to my attention that this is a blatant example of appropriating native cultures. Now that white sage is available at establishments such as Whole Foods, it is entering the public sphere– and with increasing visibility comes increasing consumption. This is a perfect example of why continually checking yourself and updating behavior is key. Don’t become so engulfed in guilt (read, white fragility) to apologize, and change. There are other herbs to burn that aren’t held in sacred regard by a marginalized people, and maybe you can even connect with your own roots and discover plants sacred to your ancestors. (Liz Migliorelli of Sister Spinster compassionately outlines ways to decolonize your craft and i highly recommend her podcast episode on DFB, see sources *3).
This is only one example of the destructive presence of white supremacy on native peoples in Witchy/spiritual circles. As people who purport to make sacred daily life on this planet, and support interactions with nature and the great mysteries, it is our keen responsibility to dismantle the patriarchy within our own practices. This is not an escape from the “real world”; there’s no sense in practicing magick if you can’t expand justice for all people in the process. An enlightening article by Toshia Shaw explores her experience at a very white, spiritual event as a Black woman who is also a spiritual practicioner. The experience of being “othered,” questioned and disbelieved even as white folks around her regurgitate elements of a culture not their own.
From Cristy C. Road’s Next World Tarot
From her article, (*4) “New Age spirituality just like religion has a racist divide. It amazes me that the people who are writing books, manuals, and how-to’s about being at peace, do no harm, and unconditional love are not referring to my spirit, only that of someone who looks like theirs.” This really delves into the heart of the issue. How can one speak about being “spiritual” and be a “healer” when their words are only meant for a white audience? It doesn’t line up. We have to actively question and discredit voices that refuse to dismantle patriarchal white supremacy in these communities.
In so many spheres, there is a pronounced absence of the voices of POC, non gender conforming folks and differently-abled people. Next time you are attending a workshop, conference, event, class etc. and notice a pronounced absence of different kinds of people, speak up. Lets try and make these healing spaces as welcoming to people of all backgrounds as possible. If we want to dismantle rape culture, white supremacy and all the oppressive constructs that affect our lives, we need to start looking in our own backyards.
One of the most eloquent and to the core pieces I consistently turn to for enlightenment on this topic is one article by Layla F. Saad (*5) titled, “I need to talk to spiritual white women about white supremacy (Part One).” In it she details the experience of working with the healing/witchy community and seeing the presence of a disconnect from the overarching issues of social justice.
“You did not create white supremacy. But you benefit from it every day because of the white skin you were born in. Even if you don’t want your privilege, you still have it, because white supremacy exists and is the dominant paradigm of places like the US, the UK, Europe and Australia. As a white person, you have the privilege of being able to say, ‘high vibes only’ and ‘I don’t follow the news because it’s too political’ and ‘I just want to focus on love and light’. This is not okay. And it’s up to you to do your part to dismantle white supremacy, *5)
One reason I consider myself a Witch isn’t for the fun aesthetic, the buzz, or to name an experience of not fitting in in grade school… I practice because it’s an empowering stance to take towards life. It uplifts the experiences of femme people and provides tools to practice self inquiry and to heal ourselves of traumas endured in this challenging human incarnation. It is about female power, reveling in our differences and celebrating femininity and the intuitive lunar essence that is so often othered in our linear, patriarchal, capitalist society. But this kind of a lifestyle isn’t compatible with a “look the other way” mentality. We are living in a world that is facing the uprising of a new wave of Neo Nazis. Black and Brown folks, and Trans and differently gendered people are being systemically oppressed and killed in our communities. Any and every measure we can take is absolutely essential to the dissolution of these scary power structures.
It’s time to shift the image of “what a witch looks like” to include folx of all orientations, races, abilities and backgrounds. We are all here, in every iteration, and want to shift this global experience to a more just and hospitable place for us all.