At the end of my work day on Tuesday, I was fired from my position of the last five years (nearly to the day). The reasoning doesn’t really matter to this post, but it was because I had made a large mistake in a data pull. Look, I’m only human, I do make mistakes, but as I said, that is not relevant to this post. In talking with several of my now ex-comrades, a thread of declaration started to ring out from their statements – kindness, willingness to explain without talking down to people, respect. These words came through in several statements, which I appreciated.
Currently the college is in its second year of working through the process of Achieving the Dream. This organization, and its resulting process, assists colleges in trying to balance the scales where people of color – or minorities in the vernacular that some folks utilize – are concerned. This is very important, particular in service areas where whites hold a strong majority of the population, and an even stronger majority in salary ratios. In a manner of speaking, the program is about trying to treat everyone fairly, no matter what their ratio to the overall population shows to be. That concept of ratios where ethnicity and race is concerned is extremely important, but I find that there is an easier way to deal with the issues related to this than creating a study to find where policies fail to reach appropriately. Respect.
The Pagan community goes through this from time to time. Sometimes, the self-examination we do for ourselves will create knee-jerk reactions, particularly in (and concerning) groups that actively exclude people of color. I am a firm believer that every group of Pagans should be able to determine their own criteria of what constitutes their particular group. I am very Libertarian in that attitude, including the need to take responsibility over whatever criteria gets set forward, especially in terms of criticism. You set the rules, you take the heat for those rules, particularly where exclusion takes place.
From my singular perspective, I find no differences between those seeking their Path within Paganism. Whatever age, skin color, eye color, political perspective, gender, who they choose to love or how many – none of that matters. A Seeker is a Seeker is a Seeker – they are trying to find whatever footing appeals to them the most within the Pagan community, or if they really belong in the Pagan community at all. I remember the time when I was a Seeker, all the bewildering choices and directions that opened up before me. I remember where I was treated with respect for my desire to look into a Path, and where I was treated with contempt and derision over some minor aspect of who I was. When I meet a Seeker, I see all of that from where I had been, and try to treat the Seeker with the respect that I had been treated with or what I wish I had been treated with.
Every individual wants respect in their lives. They want to be treated in a manner that does not belittle them. And every single individual deserves that. I do not have to agree with a Trump supporter whatsoever to be able to treat them with the respect and dignity that any human being deserves. I can disagree without being nasty about my disagreement, even if I don’t get the respect I deserve in return. I am more than happy to return respect until the insults become personal or physical. After that, the other individual has crossed a line that I personally cannot abide by. But that’s a post for another time.
No Fan of Exclusion
I am not a fan of exclusion, whatsoever. For me, Paganism is something that is open to anyone, at any time. If you are seeking your own Spirituality, be drawn towards that. But I do have to remind some folks, Paganism in any form is not for every single individual. Sometimes the monotheistic and more traditional Spiritual Paths are better suited to some folks. I am not one of those – obviously – but I do grok that those Paths are specifically well suited to others.
For instance, I have a draw towards the Spirituality of First Nations peoples here in North America. I am not of the First Nations peoples, and honestly what I practice does not draw on their ceremonies or rituals – just two of their Gods that have laid Their claim on me. When I first started with Crow and Coyote, it was made very clear to me that following the Spiritual Path of the First Nations peoples would be a very slim part of what I would be doing. My own Path is where I belonged. No ceremonies, pow-wows, or First Nations rituals would be observed or practiced by me. There would be no “Dances With Wolves” moment for me where I would be accepted into the First Nations rituals. I was to follow the rituals of my Path within Druidry. Essentially I share a connection with their Gods, nothing more. But I digress, and have posted about this recently as well.
I feel that excluding folks from a particular Path within Paganism essentially waters down the wonderful aspects that diversity of experience would provide. Even the most neophyte individual brings aspects of their life’s experiences to their presence within a group. I completely grok the perspective of men-only/women-only aspects of Pagan practices, and I applaud folks who follow these particular aspects of their beliefs, but I do wonder about how much is lost when the other half is not incorporated into more generalized aspects of practice.
Now I am a solo practitioner, I only have to worry about one individual – myself. But just because I follow my Path with my own foot-falls, does not mean that I exclude others. Rather it means that I live much further away from others to be an everyday part of their lives, setting the wonders of the internet to the side for the moment. I do not; however, feel a need to be exclusionary of others when I do practice within a group. In fact, the best groups I have participated in as a guest, have been those where the diversity of being Pagan really meant the most.
Concluding With an Eye on the Future
Thinking on the future of Paganism, where the term falls to a much wider encompassing umbrella concept, the practice of diversity is already there. When one drills down into the more singular aspects of the Pagan Paths, there can be a lot of push-back on the inclusiveness for a wide variety of reasons. Understanding that kind of push-back is easy, except where people get excluded because of the color of their skin or their genetic makeup. That is where the sticky meets the bun. As I said, my concept of a Paganism going into the future, is where we respect others and their individual Paths – even where we do not fundamentally agree. But to be completely honest, I do have trouble being completely respectful of those Paths that exclude on the basis of skin color and genetic makeup. From where I stand, those Paths are missing out on some truly great individual experiences and perspectives. Just my two quid worth….