So there’s this dudebro over at Polytheism Uncucked (it feels gross to link to it, but I’m being a belligerent and want to make a point*) who has recently been talking in circles trying to defend the “need” for a whites-only Norse paganism. He hasn’t come outright and said it (that would be far too direct) but the stance he has taken with regards to race and the argument he has made about the ancestors would seem to imply that, somehow, the presence of people of color in Norse pagan spaces undermines the veneration of predominately (but, as we’ve already established, not strictly white) Norse ancestors. As this has apparently become an ongoing thing which I have gone and gotten myself all wrapped up in (by the gods I would be a disgrace if I made a declaration like I did in my original post and didn’t follow through at least once) I will take some time to look at this utterly befuddling notion and how the very values of the Vikings fail to support such exclusivity in a modern practice.
To begin: how would the presence of people of color in the sacred spaces of Norse paganism threaten or undermine the validity of white people in that space venerating their ancestors? In short: it wouldn’t.
Just like legally allowing for people to marry their same sex partners has not and never will undermine the validity or sanctity of heterosexual marriage, welcoming people of color into Norse pagan spaces wouldn’t undermine the validity of the ancestor veneration happening there.
Just like legally allowing for trans folk to change their sex on applicable documents and to undergo applicable/desirable medical procedures, and just like those same trans folk expecting to be referred to by their chosen name and preferred pronouns does not undermine the gender identity of cis people, welcoming people of color into Norse pagan space wouldn’t undermine the validity of the ancestor veneration happening there. Whoo, that one was a mouthful. (I would like to remind you, oh gentle reader, that the AFA has made it very clear that sexual orientation and gender identity go hand in hand with race when it comes to their discriminatory practices and stances.)
Just like allowing safe and legal access to abortions does not undermine or in any way effect the decisions or desires of women who chose to carry their pregnancies to term, welcoming people of color into Norse pagan spaces wouldn’t undermine the validity of the ancestor veneration happening there.
Just like paying women equally for equal work doesn’t mean that men are paying less and doesn’t negatively affect men at all, welcoming people of color into Norse pagan spaces wouldn’t undermine the validity of the ancestor veneration happening there.
Just like allowing same sex couples to adopt a child much in need of a home and loving family doesn’t undermine the legitimacy of families with heterosexual parents—or single parents, for that matter, or parents with multiple partners—or effect those parents’ ability to raise their child in the way they see fit, welcoming people of color into Norse pagan spaces wouldn’t undermine the validity of the ancestor veneration happening there.
To quote my beloved hag of the Ironwood in Völuspá: would you know yet more?
This ongoing insistence by people in positions of privilege (white, male, hetro, wealthy, etc.) that the permission of people not in positions of privilege will somehow undermine the validity of their practices, beliefs, or whatevers is an old and tired one. Black children were relegated to a poorer education because white people didn’t want them mingling with their white children. Black families were barred from moving into white neighborhoods, relegating them to poorer neighborhoods, something which has had lasting effects on the segregation of many American cities today. For years if homosexuals didn’t keep their homosexuality a closely guarded secret (read: made known that they were sharing spaces with heterosexuals) they could be detained, hospitalized, arrested, or killed depending on the region in which they were living (this is still true in some parts of the world, even here in America when you take into consideration hate crimes). Today the prevalence of bi erasure in the queer community has left many bisexual folk feeling pushed out even of spaces where “queer” is supposed to be safe. Some people who report being pushed out of the community have told me that they feel that the community either has been or in the process of being hijacked by people of traditionally greater privilege, their language and spaces being co-opted in a way that leaves bisexual folks even more marginalized (I wish I could cite a source for this, but all of this has been communicated to me in personal conversation, not through an article or essay). There are still a number of clubs and groups exclusive to men and dozens more which require membership fees that limit membership only to the wealthy.
Furthermore, going off of Uncucked’s recent post, the desperation to create a whites-only space is a continuation of a tradition of people of privilege getting a little too uppity when traditionally marginalized peoples either create a safe space for themselves or are provided with one. Consider how many white dudes whine about supposedly being hurt by affirmative action or the bizarre “where’s white history month?” trend or the even more bizarre recent “Straight Pride”…thing, whatever you want to call it.
I genuinely don’t understand (don’t think I ever will) why people in positions of privilege insist on feeling so threatened by marginalized people just doing something for themselves and their community. It’s truly bizarre, considering that these things do not actually undermine people in privileged positions, they don’t take anything away. Which is why I cannot help but scoff when whatshisname says shit like, “But those people over there are using the Out of Africa theory to create exclusively black spaces!” Yeah? So? Big fucking whoop—it has no bearing on the lives of people who have already claimed/been claimed by the Norse pantheon and the exclusivity of others is hardly an excuse for your own exclusivity (consider this a crash course on personal accountability: no one else is responsible for the decisions you make but yourself).
The claim for a desire to make an exclusive space for white people to do their white-people-worship thing is little more than the continuation of a long tradition of claiming that exclusivity is the only way to remain safe or protect esteemed values, beliefs, and practices. In this particular context, this desire for exclusivity actually undermines a closely held value of the Vikings: hospitality and graciousness. (http://public.wsu.edu/~kimander/hospitalityvikings.htm) Back in the day this meant welcoming weary travelers into your home and providing them with food, drink, and shelter regardless of their financial state or point of origin. It isn’t difficult in the least to see how this would be applicable in the modern world to people who are contacting your religious organization out of curiosity or a pull toward the Norse gods. According to this important value, those people should be welcomed with grace and care, their curiosity tended to as you would feed a hungry man—regardless of their genetic markers or the way in which those visibly present (I’m talking about skin color, folks).
I’ve already talked in length about the ludicrousness of claiming some mythologized “racial purity” in the Norsemen and women, and I’ve elsewhere made the point that tribalism does not equate exclusivity, even historically. Considering the actual values of the Vikings, those ancestors these people claim to be venerating, it appears all the more out of line with any sort of actual honoring of the past or the ancestors who lived those values as an honor to themselves and their gods. If I haven’t stated it plainly enough, let me reiterate: exclusivity and discrimination in Norse paganism is not about honoring the gods or venerating the ancestors. It is not about protecting a sacred space. It is about ensuring a white-only space, an act driven not by love for the gods or the ancestors but by deeply rooted prejudices which are the true threat to practicing an honorable faith.
And on that note: until next time, keep it real, folks. Don’t be a passive aggressive douche canoe and keep that scholarship tidy. (No one likes and untucked scholarship.)
*The point being about how you can let someone know you’re continuing the conversation by linking to them, thus giving them a pingback instead of being weirdly secretively about it despite also being public about it. Whodathunk.
On Passive Aggression
In Veneration of the Ancestors