Racism in Pagan America

With recent events in Virginia, many people are shocked that in 2017, there are still neo-Nazis, KKK members, skinheads, and white supremacists in large, organized numbers in America. To better understand how this is the case, we need first to know what race is.

Race

In a biological sense, race is the word that differentiates one subspecies from another. Subspecies form when groups of a particular species separate off and over time, they develop their genetic frequencies that have adapted to their regional environment. These different subspecies, however, are still closely related to each other that they can still interbreed without complications. Though, if these subspecies do not interbreed (due to distance, for example), then over a long, long period, they evolve into a separate species altogether. Modern homo sapiens have only been on Earth for a little under 200,000 years (not very long for a 4 ½ billion-year-old planet!), and we have always been known to be migratory.

What separates one race, (with even less difference than a subspecies), of humans from another is what is called, ecoclines (or simply clines). Clines is a series of gradient traits or genetics shared among a population of a species that are different from another population within the same species. So, for example, Caucasians have lighter skin than African Americans because they originated from a region with less sun exposure. Similarly, Asians and Native Americans have an epicanthic fold on their eyes that may have been due to harsh winds that carried frequent sand and dust long ago. But these are generalized, sometimes the shape of a mouth or the setting of a nose can depend on the geographical origin, as well as susceptibility to diseases because one area had more prevalent malaria than another, etc. There are far more similarities in DNA between groups of humans than there are differences. As biologist, Frank B. Livingstone once said, “There are no races, there are only clines.”

As far as physical advantages and disadvantages go, much of it is a misnomer and based on behavioral. Stereotypically, one might think blacks are good at basketball and have a high risk of heart attacks. But in the early 1920’s, basketball was a wide-spread Jewish sport (that’s a double whammy for you neo-Nazis so you might wanna rethink watching the Lakers playing later). Cardiovascular issues occur because over 27% of black families live in poverty (compared to 10% for whites) and so may not have access to healthcare, stress is higher, and fatty foods with high cholesterol are much cheaper than healthier foods. The reason many of these families are more prone to poverty is an ongoing debate, but many theories suggest the American job market, its political system, and the education system; most of which could originate from racism.

Racism

Modern racism most likely stems from the discrimination of Jews in the 14th and 15th centuries and was directed toward blacks and Asians during the Renaissance when trade became more prevalent. White Europeans divided races other than their own between monogenism (that which existed before God and were known as savages) and polygenism (that which could be converted, educated, and cultured in the ways of their society). The latter were then enslaved and taught denigration (which, not ironically, first meant to blacken) and abuse.

I have heard that people are naturally racist because of how we evolved in tribes. But this is also a misnomer; there are no biological facts that explain why a human that belongs to one ethnic background should innately fear or distrust a person from another. This is a learned behavior that is taught culturally, societally, or from the environmental surroundings and upbringings of a child. This can also happen with a particular group of people’s interpretations of their religion, like Odinism.

Odinism

I should first say that Odinism is very different from Asatru. Asatru is a Norse polytheistic Pagan religion structured mostly in Iceland, with the belief that anyone can follow its path. Odinism is like the American cousin of Asatru- though, in 1936, it was an Australian author, Alexander Rud Mills, who established the First Anglecyn Church of Odin, which claimed Odinism as “the indigenous religion of the northern European people.” In his opening liturgical text, he mentioned: “the fall from grace of the White Race by being untrue to the spirit of their forefathers.” And after WWII, Else Christensen (a Danish woman) brought the tradition to Canada, and later America, claiming that the “religion is in our genes.” In 1976, Stephen McNallen tried to establish Asatru in America, but eventually closed his chapter as he felt it was a losing battle to racism. Then the fire spread to the prison system where David Lane who is serving a 190-year sentence for a 1984 murder, has founded his order and stated that “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” And through him, Casper Crowell who is serving 54 years started The Holy Nation of Odin, Inc. which requires you to be white. Other members like Bob Mathews and Valgard Murray have added their white supremacist influences and now incarcerated members of the group are on the rise, and more and more Thor’s hammers are worn in the cells. In Colorado, 100 inmates adhere to Odinism, and in Arizona, the number reaches over 300.

 

Not all American Odinists are racist (roughly 15%), and not all Odinists who are white supremacists in the prison system believe in the Norse gods. It is a form of identity, protection, and brotherhood to them when they may feel isolated, and to accept and solidify their racist views. But it is not Odinism that is racist; it is the individuals who make it so. Just like those who are waving the confederate flag and claiming they’re protecting Christianity, are just defending their bigoted opinions and using religion as a cover up (maybe it’s more convincing that way or that’s just how they were taught). Religion is only an idea; a Rorschach that appears different to each viewer. As a culture, we may always have racism in our country; hiding in the shadows and forgotten by society or just when you believed it to be extinct, suddenly a plethora of nooses appear all over a black school. But we can teach our children that there is nothing to fear from someone who looks different and that we are no better than them.

We can tell our friends and family that there are no races, only clines. We can stop identifying people by their race, but by their sweater or height, or something that won’t cause an immediate mental segregation (unless you’re like, super heightist). But whatever you do, do not be quiet about it. And maybe, slowly, we can start progressing and changing the world, one community at a time. My sister-in-law, Stephanie Stanton, (who is Jewish) said to me earlier, “I am saddened by the events of Charlottesville, and the aftermath, mostly because my child now has to live in a world where neo-Nazis and white supremacists are no longer a thing of the past, but very much a part of our present-day life. But I will continue to teach him that love conquerors hate and we all must rise up above this ugly”.

References:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/30/racism-race-explained-science-anthropologist_n_7687842.html

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/basketball-and-the-jews/

http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/why-african-americans-greater-risk-heart-disease#2

http://www.newsweek.com/why-are-black-americans-greater-risk-being-poor-361543 

https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/1998/new-brand-racist-odinist-religion-march 

Kansas Stanton

Kansas Stanton is a Naturalistic Neo-Pagan who resides in Seattle, Washington. He belongs to, and practices with, a local group of Reform Pagans and blogs at https://leavesontheroad.wordpress.com/. He also volunteers every year at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle and regularly attends various Pagan festivals and events.

He is a full-time student, earning his degree in Environmental Science and a Certificate in Sustainability, after which time he will move on to law school to receive his Juris Doctor in Environmental Law. When Kansas is not in class or working his job in the art industry, he also attends heavy metal concerts both locally and internationally. He is also a vegan outdoorsman who frequents the trails and whitewater rivers of the pacific northwest and loves to spend his time with friends over a cold, dark beer.

See Kansas’ posts

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One Comment on “Racism in Pagan America

  1. Great post. These people are racists first, and then co-opt whatever image reinforces their ideas. They will twist facts to help justify their bigotry, but really all they are are gangs of disaffected individuals looking for a target for their rage. The religions they steal from mean no more to them than the leather and denim look means to a biker gang. Thank you for highlighting the fallacy of “race”. Different breeds of dog are biologically more distinct that any two humans!

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