I've just gotten back from Pantheacon. It's been a transformative weekend, with new acquaintances made, friendships deepened, and good conversation and spiritual work done. One of the events I was proud to be part of was the Bringing Race to the Table Panel, where we discussed the recent anthology Bringing Race to the Table. Unfortunately, before the panel even began, a situation occurred where a racist joke was released in a satirical newsletter. The newsletter wasn't an official pantheacon newsletter, but something done by individuals as a way to humorously comment on the proceedings of the convention (Its the Pantycon newsletter). In this case however, there was nothing funny about what was written. If anything, it highlighted exactly what people of color deal with everyday, and the fact that this occurred at a Pagan convention shows that racism is a reality no matter where you go. The joke in question was a fake workshop:
“Ignoring Racism: A Workshop for White Pagans Large Umbrella Pagan Group
Isn’t all this talk of social justice and racism just tiring? Don’t you wish you could just ignore it and put out meaningless statements of pure pablum? We’ll discuss how to ignore requests for consideration by pagans of color, cover up racist actions of high-ranking members, and pretend that you don’t understand the resulting outrage. Remember, #AllLivesMatter, except when it’s uncomfortabe or inconvenient. Large Umbrella Pagan Group has been around for long enough that they think they can get away with this stuff.”
This joke is tasteless. Regardless of what the intention of the person or people writing it was, the result was that people of color felt triggered once again. This joke was a form of harassment (to put it mildly) and of racism.
Pantheacon has an anti-harassment policy. The head of programming showed up to the panel and made it clear that Pantheacon didn't endorse or approve of what had been written. Additionally they had a cancelled workshop on Monday and made sure a follow-up session was made available of Pagans of Color and other people interested to discuss what happened and what could be done to make conventions safe. I was unfortunately not able to attend because I had to catch my flight back.
At the end of the Bringing the Race to the Table Panel, one of the attendees, Luna Pantera, who has contributed to Shades of Faith and Shades of Ritual got up and expressed how she was triggered by what had been written in that newsletter. The pain in her voice, the rage, the hurt, the fear is something that I as a white person have never had to experience. Then she asked all of us what we were going to do to take action, to make change, to stop letting this be an everyday reality.
What she expressed struck me to my core. It reminded me of the privilege I have, the white bubble I live in everyday. I take it for granted. But a person of color can't take it for granted anywhere. In Shauna Aura Knight's post she shares how an escort system was set up s0 Pagans of Color could feel safe and how people would walk by the POC hospitality Suite and yell Racist because the Pagans of Color wanted a safe space.
On Sunday night, after I'd finished up with the Immanion Press panel, I walked by the POC hospitality suite. They were going to have a closed door meeting, just available for them and what I noticed is that they were redirecting people coming to it, to go to another location. I didn't follow because it wasn't my business to, but it struck me how a space that was supposed to be safe no longer was because of racism.
Luna asked all of us what we were going to do to change this. I can't answer for anyone else, but my own answer is to continue to call racism out, continue to take action to support people of color and to support causes that perform a similar function. We can only stop racism if we don't allow it to flourish in any form, but instead recognize how it causes inequity, how it reinforces a system of oppression and how it diminishes all of us. What will you do to take action?