Lately, there has been a fervent set of discussions around the recent events in Ferguson MO, and New York regarding police use of force in the deaths of two black men. I'm not rehashing the details of the cases here, there's plenty of blog space and news articles. I'm not even discussing the protests, and what part Paganism has to play in it. That's for other posts. I want to focus down on a very specific point being thrown around in the pagan community and that is the subject of privilege.
The privilege argument, in its most basic form, says that by virtue of one's skin color, ethnicity, wealth, gender or sexual orientation, a person enjoys a different kind of treatment that conveys advantage or preferential treatment. The argument also contends that privilege is invisible to those who enjoy it, but cannot be ignored by those who don't.
I can accept the fact that privilege does exist. I've seen it happen where I've been the beneficiary of privilege and also the victim of it. Growing up in Miami in the 70's, I attended a catholic school where I was often the only non-Hispanic in the class, and being white and nerdy and outside the language/cultural orbit, I was often excluded by virtue of it. It makes it easy for me to see privilege at work, and I do what I can to champion those who are unprivileged.
What disturbs me deeply, is the label of privilege being used as a label to inspire guilt in people who disagree with the political motivations of far left of center pagans. In the past months I've read numerous statements about how the hashtag #blacklivesmatter is the “correct” statement to combat privilege, and that only bigoted, privileged white pagans would avoid it for #alllivesmatter. As if being “privileged” was equivalent to being a bigot, and what scares me more is something I hit on recently.
Privilege, is the Leftist Pagan word for “sin”.
Part of what attracted me to paganism was being able to walk away from the mind-trap of sin. Sin is the flaw in one's character that taints every action a person does. It destroys the good in any act, it blinds the sinner to the effects of his own sinful nature, and can only be undone through recognizing it exists and begging for Gods forgiveness and grace. Under the grace of God, Christians believe thy can be spared the ravages of their sinful nature, and have any hope of being forgiven.
Now the Leftist Pagans don't believe in sin, they believe in privilege. Privilege is a flaw in one's character which taints any good they do. It blinds the privileged person to the privilege itself, and can only be addressed by confessing privilege publically and begging the forgiveness of the community. Only they can they be embraced as truly penitent of their privilege and be accepted.
Now here's the difference. Privilege is an accusation that can be applied to anyone in any position of power who is any one of the following things: White, male or heterosexual.
It's a special kind of sin, because it is applicable upon the race, gender or sexual orientation of the “victim”. Whitey make you mad? Accuse him of privilege, EVEN IF THE ACCUSER IS WHITE. And the pagan community is overwhelmingly white, one never runs out of accusational ammo.
The ironic thing is the label of privilage is used in a way that should make the accusers blush. In an attempt to get past labels and colors, it cuts right to the heart of being a racist/sexist or homophiobic-phobic term. It uses the very language of racism to allegedly combat racism.
The core of #blacklivesmatter is this idea that “black lives” exist. They don't. Only human lives exist.
But to the LeftPagans, they adopt the idea that a person's life is defined by the color of one's skin, the plumbing of their genitals or the kind of sex they like. Bogus.
It is patently racist to think the only defining characteristic, the only value a person's life has, rests solely in biology. Melanin, or hormones.
It dismisses the individuality of a person, his/her thoughts, choices, values, and experience. It ignores the individual perspective, laying any accomplishment, perspective or challenge at the feet of an accident of genetics.
That is racism/sexism.
The last point I'd like to address is simple: one cannot use the tools of racism to combat racism. It is logically inconsistent, and suicidal to limit any lives' value to pigmentation. You cannot accept I small part a practice that promotes evil to fight evil.
You cannot use racist terminology to fight racism
This is the simplest way I can explain why I reject the #blacklivesmatter hashtag, for the clearer, non-racist #alllivesamatter. I've toyed with #individuallivesmatter, but that gets too weighty.
I would strongly suggest my Pagan kin rethink both the use of such racist terminology, and using it as a litmus test for the percieved racism of their fellows.