Category: Race


I decided to pass on posting The Arts! today for this teeny saga. Let’s start from the top:

A person on Tumblr, Child-Priestess (now changed to “Boy-Priest” since our convo) asked me to look at a site called “Blacks for Satan” – despite the fact that:

A) I’m not a Satanist

B ) The vast majority of Satanists I have ever met, I never liked. I have only met one (1) that was agreeable. That dude is the walking definition of “outlier” and “anomaly”.

C) Again, I’m not Satanist, I’m Pagan. They’re not the same. One is related to Christianity and the other existed way before Christianity (that would be Paganism who existed before Christianity, for the stupid ones who can’t follow.)

The site looked pretty terrible and full of hatred. Like, for a site that is “supposed” to be for Black people, it sounds penned by a White person from all the vitrol spat at Jewish folks. This isn’t to say that Black and Jewish communities don’t have rifts but it’s not “Holocaust denying” levels. Black people tend to not side with Nazis since they murdered us as well in the Holocaust. All a Nazi is to the eyes of a Black American is just a German-flavored Klanner. Same M.O., different place and language.

Originally, I wrote in the first draft, “Here are some screenshots, because I’m not linking this site. If anything, it needs to be taken down because it feeds into hateful beliefs which, in turn, inspire people like Dylan Roof or Rodger Elliot to commit mass murder.”

I got the sites taken down, three of them. More on that later. But here are the screenshots taken because I need to really go into why this site is super abhorrent. (And why site server, Lycos, shouldn’t have dragged their feet to take action.)

Wait, before I do, let’s look at this site called the “Dangerous Speech Project“. It explains how vitriolic words eventually become vitriolic actions.

Be sure to watch the vid, references to it will show up later and throughout.

But let’s begin with the hate sites and why they are perceived as such.

Let’s Start!

The website seems to not really talk about “What is Satanism” or anything, just “These are the people we hate.” Though Anton LaVey is a total joke to me, the site should have mentioned him at some point since he kicked off Satanism.

“Foundation”, eh?

This is a diamond point if you ever have to wonder if you’re running a hate site: if you have to pen “is [site] racist?” to defend yourself from the start, you probably are. By the way, the “Joy” site they are mentioning is pretty much the same as you see here, eye-bleeding layout and all.

There is a lot of misinformation on this site, especially in this blurb

The stupid, it burns

I think just about every Satanist I have ever met always had a nasty bone to pick with Christianity but couldn’t think outside of the rigors of it. This site is no different, but it can’t tell the difference between Satanism and Paganism because, if you go by (very incorrect) Christian rhetoric, there is no difference. This is due to the Christian gaze, where every religion that is not Christianity is demonic, therefore Satanic. This erroneous belief tends to come from the same people who think that Catholicism is a separate religion from Christianity when really it is an incredibly obvious denomination of Christianity.

Satan was never a deity, not even in Christian rhetoric. Angel, yes, deity, no. Angels tend to blindly obey God, angels that didn’t were considered “fallen”. Lucifer happened to be one of them. Still not a god, though.

Pagan deities were never demons, every one of them. Yes, there were deities for good and bad but that’s because nature has both good and bad and neither side is absolute. Then you have the fact there are thousands of these varied deities from countless cultures, it is both erroneous and insulting to just call them daemons/demons. Which is a really Christian thing to do. For one, it puts the Pagan deities at a lower status because godhood is not recognized. For two, the gods are there to do their own thing, not guide humankind – there are countless mythologies out there where the story basically boils down to “a deity got bored/annoyed/whatever and decided to play kickball with mortal lives for the lolz.” Entities are more inclined to work with humans but even then, it’s not in a servitude way. You gotta do something to get the help and the second you rip them off, things get pretty crappy. And somehow the backblown attempted scammer finds their way into my inbox, demanding spellwork like I’m a candy machine.

This version of “Satan is god” thing sounds very LaVey on the surface, but really, it’s a blurb that preys on the weak and vulnerable-minded, those who feel pushed around and want power but don’t know how to obtain it. That’s a problem. Fear is a very strong motivator because fear creates want from insecurity. Insecure want creates a hole that craves to be filled and if the person doesn’t care how it’s done, that can walk them down a pretty destructive path. That seems to be what this whole site is pitching.

The parts that are really troublesome are the links. Here’s a snapshot:

Yikes – Exhibit A

Yikes – Exhibit B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So much Yikes. All the Yikes

And there’s more I didn’t screen grab: “The Lie of Christianity and Islam”, “The One True Enemy” and most alarmingly “Blacks and the Jews” (wait a minute – anti-Black content on a site supposedly for Black people to brew anti-semitism? How unsurprising). Anything that “exposes lies” about some random religion – especially religions that commonly are misconstrued, such as Islam and Judaism – it’s a dog-whistle approach to scapegoat.

Now, I mentioned Dangerous Speech a bit, as a snippet/reminder, here is “what is Dangerous Speech”, pulled from the site:

Any form of expression (e.g. speech, text, or images) that can increase the risk that its audience will condone or commit violence against members of another group.

Importantly, the definition refers to increasing the risk of violence, not causing it.

In the Dangerous Speech Project guide, it outlines how dangerous ideas such as hatred towards historically marginalized people can go from web space to actual spaces.

They outline the five ways this works, all cited in brief from Dangerous Speech Project:

Dehumanization: By describing other groups of people as something other than human, or less than human, speakers can persuade their audiences to deny other people some of the moral consideration they give to those who are “fully” human (Leader Maynard and Benesch, 2016, pp. 80-81). Dehumanizing targets prepares audiences to condone or commit violence, by making their targets’ death and suffering seem less significant, or even by making it seem useful or necessary

Accusation in a Mirror: The term comes from an anonymous manual for propaganda and recruitment found in Butare, Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. The document advises attributing to one’s enemies the very acts of violence the speaker hopes to commit against them. “In this way,” the author writes, “the party which is using terror will accuse the enemy of using terror” …. To believe that you, your family, your group, or even your culture faces an existential threat from another group makes violence to fend off that threat seem not only acceptable (as dehumanization does), but necessary. …. In Nazi Germany, for example, anti-Semitic propaganda repeatedly and relentlessly accused Jewish people of hatching a Mordplot (murderous plan) to eliminate all non-Jews (Streicher, 1934, p. 1). This assertion was especially preposterous since the Jews had no military or guerrilla force at all, yet it was apparently convincing.

Threat to Group Integrity or Purity: By portraying members of the target group as a threat to the audience group, this type of message reinforces fear. Moreover, these messages indirectly (and sometimes directly) instruct people to rid their group of the supposed contaminant, to preserve the health of their own group.

Assertion of Attack Against Women and Girls: Related to the previous hallmark is the suggestion that women or girls of the in-group have been or will be threatened, harassed, or defiled by members of an out-group. In many cases, the purity of women symbolizes the purity, identity, or way of life of the group itself…[I]t is difficult to ignore a warning of violence against members of a group who are traditionally viewed as vulnerable and needing protection. For most societies, this includes children (especially girls) and women; almost universally, men are instructed to protect women and children at all costs, up to and including killing an attacker.

(BW Note: Good ol’ racist strawman “feminism”, about as authentic as the concerns bigots actually have about women and girls – not at all)

Questioning In-Group Loyalty: Though Dangerous Speech usually describes members of the out-group or target group, some of it never mentions them, instead characterizing members of the in-group as insufficiently loyal, or even traitorous, for being sympathetic to the out-group.

Under all the links I mentioned, they all put sole blame on Jewish people. If it isn’t Jewish people, it’s Muslim people. Also, a thought struck me – a lot of Black folks are Muslim and Islam has benefited Black culture and identity several times in our history from politics to music. It’s deep-rooted, why did the webmaster think the average Black person is going to just super willingly walk that away? But they’re not looking for the average, they want the unhappy and downtrodden.

And here is this doozy:

My reaction:

Not gonna lie, I legit blue-screened when I saw that

That’s a problem. A major problem. Like, “Nazi Detected” problem. There is so much falsehood here I almost don’t know where to begin. Let’s try from the top and work our way down.

Christianity and Islam are not “evil” and “horrific” and they certainly are not “programs”. Yes, bad things happen in the name of these religions but it’s usually because some guy wants power and will twist the words of a holy text a la Man-behind-the-Curtain/Wizard of Oz style to get it. The same religion that gave the world Hitler also gave us Dr. Martin Luther King. The same religion that gave the world Osama bin Ladin also gave us Malcolm X. It’s not the religion that is the problem, it’s how it is used by people with power. To destroy or to help. And they’re religions, not “programs”. To call them “programs” implies that these religions are not real, it’s all a clever ruse. Here’s the thing: if they are “programs”, so is this site’s Satanism. Satanism is connected to Christianity so if Christianity is a fabricated program, then Satanism is a fabricated program, too. Otherwise, the logic would fall apart. I may have negative feelings about Satanism but I’m not going to start calling it fake. However, this site low-key did in a roundabout way. Religions aren’t programs, everyone.

Jewish people are the enemies of no one. They don’t hurt others. As a lot, they’re relatively decent. This whole, “Jewish people are eeeeeevil” is really getting old, it’s wrong to paint with a really wide brush like that. Are there bad Jewish people? Yes, because being a bad person is a pretty general trait. There are good ones as well – because it is a general human trait. You’re going to find bad and good people in every religion, that’s a fact of life, whether you like it or not. And how it is obvious this is Christian-based anti-semitism? They use the same tired lines of “they wanna take the world’s money, they wanna take over the world, etc etc”. Jewish people are not trying to become God, heck, they censor the name of God for the same reason Muslims do not portray the face of Allah: because they consider themselves under the purview of God, not on the same level. It is an act of showing respect to their divine creator and to not upset said divine creator. Duh.

The rest of that site is complete bull – and gone – so let’s jump to the next part.

Remember when I said in the beginning that I was pitched this site by Child-Priestess/Boy-Priest on Tumblr?

I tried to talk with the person and that went over pretty poorly. I’m not going to showcase the whole convo but there are some very glaring parts that I would like to talk about.

Blurred out the link, but I also notified the website’s abuse team about it. That’s ongoing.

Yeaaaaaaaah, this is considered minimizing, as if A) What they preach does not induce deadly real world actions and B ) as if it is just … venting? Here’s the thing: content like this is how you get mass murderers like Dylan Roof (hated Black people thanks to bunk he read on the internet) and Elliot Rodgers (hated women and minorities (including himself, who is biracial) thanks to bunk he read on the internet). Then there is the synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh, PA that happened in October 2018, six months ago. That left eleven dead and many more wounded. This guy was posting Anti-Jewish dribble on the internet and then went, “Gonna do the thing.” And if he was posting it, you bet he was definitely reading it. Oh, and let’s add the recent New Zealand mosque mass shooting. How did he get radicalized? Reading bunk like this on the internet. The dude even referenced American hate politics in his manifesto, he’s Australian.

How this type of speech works is that they just about never explicitly say “kill/murder this group of people” but they heavily imply it from saying things that carry the emphasis of “wouldn’t be nicer if [this group] wasn’t around?” That’s a problem.

There is an article online titled “The Online Radicalization We’re Not Talking About” where it discusses the ongoing instances of extremist radicalization in the Western world of White supremacist beliefs. The article hits on some very good points but my disagreement:

It’s been talked about for decades. White Supremacist extremism has long been a topic … in PoC/non-White spaces. From Nazis to the Klan to beyond and prior, it’s been a discussion topic. Just because you willingly had your head in the sand, doesn’t mean everyone else did. If anything, it’s like purchasing a bomb because it had pretty colors and everyone said “it’s a bomb!” but you waved it off with “Oh, everyone is so sensitive. It’s called decor,” and became awestruck when it exploded. Because you bought a bomb.

That aside, again, the article hits on some salient points, even though it is a bit clonky at times – the article referenced “NEET”, which is a Japanese concept. Japan doesn’t have mass shootings from NEETs, these mass shootings are a Western issue. Either way, it does point out how this stuff is pervasive:

These disillusioned men are perfect targets for radicalization, and it’s a surprisingly short leap from rejecting political correctness to blaming women, immigrants, or Muslims for their problems.

It appears here that Boy-Priest is under radicalization and thus spreading stuff that they think is true. They feel disenfranchised so this is what they think is apt.

They’re not White, they say they are biracial and that somehow, Nazis were/are cool with that. That history is way off kilter, but guess what? It is all learned from these sites and displayed as truth. Despite the fact that it’s not true or incredibly slanted, this kid (and many others) ate it up anyways. If anyone thinks Nazis were okay with people of different backgrounds if it was under the same cause, here’s some real history: Japanese soldiers were also sent to the camps if caught behind German war lines, tattooed with numbers and all – by the way, Japan was one of the nations tag-teaming with Germany during World War II. It’s really saying something when you yink your own allies because you’re that dedicated to nationalism. I’m no military strategist but you probably shouldn’t kill off your allies, at the bare minimum.

So, when I took down the first site “Blacks for Satan”, that took a phone call to the server host. I still remember telling the dude the web site name and how he remarked, “Welp, sounds like we’re off to a bad start.” He looked it over while I was on the phone and said, “Let’s get this trash off the internet.” And lo, it was done.

*cackles*

And I told Boy-Priest so:

Boy-Priest was not too happy about this and even told me that the webmaster was a Black woman – which I don’t care about. If you’re preaching the same hateful stuff I hear from White folks, we’re not on the same team. Not all my skinfolk is my kinfolk and that definitely applies in this situation. Besides, I piss off bigots pretty regularly, what’s one more to add to the pile?

Boy-Priest then started giving me all these links as a show of “ha, we’re still around.” Everyone, that was a bad idea, because it saved me so much time for curating. Like, I didn’t even know about the “Blacks for Satan” site until they showed me and then I got it shut down because of what I saw. Thanks for the assist?

Like, I said, I’m not posting the whole convo (the kid didn’t piss me off that bad, they’re just brainwashed) but here is how it ended before they blocked me and changed their name from “Child-Priestess” to “Boy-Priest”

Yah, not surprised

Exit Boy-Priest, Enter Lycos, because they actually tried to defend this drivel.

A little backstory about Lycos: they are a former internet giant, older than Google, I think. I remember when they first started and they were where you went to for lyrics, web searching, and music. Their logo is a black dog, a reference to the RCA dog, I believe. Their downfall is probably what Google and Facebook listens to when they want to hear a scary story. Now, Lycos is down to a teeny staff and owned by Korean company Daum/Kakao (which surprised me – I use Kakao, they have great games.) Though small again, this still is no excuse for their behavior.

It took me three weeks just about to shut down all three sites, the Lycos/Angelfire sites being hardest. I sent an email to Lycos Support and Lycos Abuse on Feb 24. I think they never check the Abuse inbox because no one got back to me, despite the fact the auto email said I would hear from someone in “24 to 48 hours”. Never happened. I sent another email to Support stating that I’m being ignored on March 5. In less than a day, I got this response from Lycos:

O rly?

My reply:

 

And I proceeded doing exactly that, including citing their ToS, which says:

Plainly says so on their site. Also, nothing in the ToS states the rules don’t apply if you’re a paid member. Their lawyers should probably check that.

It was about several pages of quotes and links I pulled from the sites, as well as remarks of my own. I ended it with:

This is just a smattering. If I get another “Eh, this doesn’t break the rules”, I’m just going to send even more of this to you guys…. Also, if this doesn’t count as “hate content”, what does? I’d like to know (heck, you can have one of the lawyers explain it to me) so I can point it out on these sites exactly.

And I got ignored by Lycos, again. I contacted on Twitter, nothing. Contacted on Facebook, nothing.

Then the New Zealand mass shooting happened. I saw the news and then I sent the same lengthy email again – this time emailing every single department Lycos had, from Abuse to Legal to Media to Permissions. I even included departments who have no part whatsoever in website content. If you worked at Lycos, you were getting this email.

On March 18, I got this email:

Sick Backpedal, Lycos!

Either way, the sites are down thanks to Lycos unbelievably shabby and obstinate team:

Isn’t there a saying about houses without foundations can’t stand?

Oh, and it didn’t take “A moment”, it took several days and several tries for Lycos to actually apply their Terms of Service as appropriate.

It blows my mind genuinely when companies, businesses, universities and jobs side with very problematic people. No one is perfect, sure, but there is a difference between someone who makes mistakes and someone who is just awful. Just like there is a difference between “We genuinely didn’t know” and “We genuinely didn’t care”. The latter of both cause more headaches, lawsuits and problems than fixes. Because enabling doesn’t make problematic people less harmful, it gives them a pass. Many websites wouldn’t have to go “Is the news gonna mention us?” every mass shooting if they handled the problem like a problem. These sites radicalize folks (usually White, usually male folk – which is partly why the problem is not effectively addressed) into committing grand atrocities. These sites infect minds with blatant hate as salves for their personal problems. It turns harmless individuals into living threats.

And that’s a problem.

I have talked a fair amount about having Dissociative Identity Disorder in the past. Several times. It is still a pretty commonly stigmatized disorder – how many times have you heard of “multiple personalities” in online jokes and media (the most recent one being “Split”/”Glass”)? Though I want to say “Despite aplenty resources on the disorder…” there is a lot of distracting bunk out there that still calls DID “Multiple Personality Disorder” (at term that got retired in 1994 because it is not a personality disorder, it is a trauma disorder (the different identities are dissociated identities from trauma, hence, “dissociative identity disorder”)) and even the bunk that doesn’t call it MPD still have nonsense in their writings.

I have seen everything from “magical beings” to “new race of human evolution”.  To the former, I think that’s ridiculous even for an occult practitioner such as myself. To the latter, nice to know to “evolve” a person, just add R. Kelly/ Michael Jackson/your local serial child abuser – like a horrific pokémon evolution stone. I don’t think that’s how evolution or magick works, everyone.

Then, overlapping that big problem is the fact that DID also has the same problem the depiction of mental illness has: it’s seen as very exclusively White. Outside of a Korean/Chinese drama with the exact same plot (Korean: “Kill Me, Heal Me”/ “킬미힐미”, Chinese: “Seven of Me”/ “柒个我”) annnnd the Nigerian penned book Freshwater, DID is usually seen as something only White people have. Only recently have there been another non-White DID character in media, Crazy Jane in Doom Patrol. After that, it’s a bounty of snow all across the screens and pages. Also, in regards to Doom Patrol, the creators of the show as well as the actress, Diane Guerrero, really did their research and both the show and the character portrays the mechanics of how DID works very well.

Not only does these issues make getting a proper diagnosis harder because racial barriers and deep cultural ignorance in Western psychology but it also makes it difficult for a non-White person with DID to find material and people to relate to. This also causes rifts in the DID community because it appears no one really wants to “talk” about racism because it’s a trigger (it isn’t in this sense ) but are fine with engaging in it – which renders the “racism is my trigger” argument moot. That and neurotypical (individuals without disorders or mental disabilities) White people have the exact same problem – the slightest discussion of racism makes them fall to pieces but doing it is perfectly fine.

There are unique traumas and issues for people of color/minorities who have dissociative disorders (DID, D-PTSD, OSDD, etc) such as structural racism, racism in general, police violence, being forced to be raised in violent, neglected communities, the list goes on and on. If DID centers itself on Whiteness, that ignores a lot of traumas that can also create dissociative trauma disorders like DID. That means there are a lot of people walking around with the disorder, don’t know that they have it, don’t know how to deal with it and no idea where to begin because “Well, I’m not White”.

I recently made a facebook group called “PoC w/ DID” for this very reason. It is currently small but it is there.

Looks like this

 

When I announced the group in a DID FB group I’m in (Not Alternation, I got booted out of that group and its respective Discord server for the exact subject of this post. So now I’m in a different DID group) it went about poorly as could be expected. I got some new members but here came the bevy of “you’re being divisive”, “this is [somehow] racism”, “Why can’t I join?” and other pretty frail and agitating reasons. Y’know, all the reasons why the group exists.

As for the PoC w/ DID group, it’s pretty simple to join: just be a person of color who has a dissociative trauma disorder.

Unhappy Answers

It appears I am running into a lot of people who don’t seem to get that there is a difference between getting “no answer” and getting “answer they don’t like”. Recently, it’s been about race (who would be surprised, White folks use the “huh? This is rocket science” – sometimes by actual STEM people – defense a lot) but it reminds me of when I would do palmistry and other forms of divination (which is part of why I tend not to do it as much) because it’s really astounding how people turn their brains off when they’re emotionally rapt within a situation.

Before we go further, let’s look at the difference. “No answer” means exactly that. In divination, this is a near impossible to me because you always get output but “no answer” is exactly that: there is zero answer. When discussing issues of race, it’s someone not replying and Google coming up with zero results. “Answer you don’t like” means you got an answer but it isn’t one that gives you fuzzy feelings. In divination, this was pretty common. I seriously don’t know how many times I’ve made folk go from “this is faaaaaaaaaaake, I’mma get my hand read and she’ll be wrong” to shouting at me because I zeroed in on a major issue or secret with disturbing accuracy or straight up crying. Then they want their reading done again because they didn’t like the answer they got, there must be another way. It’s why I adopted the adage, “if you didn’t want to know, don’t ask.” I still remember one person actually disturbed my class while I was taking a final because they wanted their palm read again. My college professor was none too happy. In race discussion, it’s basically the form of a White person going, “why does this situation make me the bad guy? I do not want to understand, please make this not make me sound bad. I am White, I am not supposed to be the bad guy.” They don’t like that reality isn’t not so pretty and want to ignore it. It’s not that they didn’t get an answer, they just got one they didn’t like.

Here’s the thing, if you get an answer, even one you don’t like, you got an answer. No need to badger the person or pretend to play “devil’s advocate” or “what if” scenarios. If you gotta do the two latters, do it by yourself. You asked, they answered, end of story.

I find it both annoying and stupid when I have to do merry-go-round discussions. I get why they happen, folks don’t like the fact that life is not a fun festival of joy and abundance. However, it is agitating when you have to be on the informing end of this. It’s actually to the point that when I get asked the same question again, I tell them I already answered it. If they go “wait, this thing you said? I don’t like that answer,” I just say that it’s an answer.

Everyone, doing the same thing over and over and expecting something different is not the definition of insanity, far from it. It’s the definition of stupidity.

Snow Trails

Recently, I have noticed an influx of White … readers? I have no idea if they are, but what I do know are the stats my FB fan page gives me and that’s one thing I have notice. And that’s a touch concerning for me.

I do have some longtime readers who aren’t Black. They’ve been pretty nice and supportive. They’re not problems and that is nifty. It’s the recent influx that has me more concerned. I’ve been on the internet long enough to know that good people trickle in, they don’t arrive in droves. However, problematic people come in swarms and when it comes to issues like race, it gets potentially agitating.

Here’s the thing: this blog’s primary audience is Black Pagans. I wouldn’t be surprised if it skewed more female than male but Black Pagans are who this blog is for. The thing about getting White attention is the problems that it brings. For one, there is stronger likelihood of content theft. It’s a pretty prominent problem where Black creatives make something and it gets whitewashed for profitability purposes. (See: Fortnite dances and HuffPost “Black Voices”, those are two glowing examples of something Black centered but Whitewashed as soon as there was money to be made). I’m not at all a fan of the idea that I post something, some White kid sees it, rips it and doesn’t really credit at all. It may sound absurd, especially since I don’t think I pen super ground-breaking material… but it does happen to others and I don’t think of myself so special that it wouldn’t happen to me.

Then there’s the annoying questions because reading is not as fundamental as I thought. I get questions from people thinking I do hexes and curses because they didn’t bother to read that this blog is called “Black Witch” because I’m a Black person. As in, from the African diaspora. And the fact I just about never mention jinxes or hexes doesn’t deter the stupidity that winds up in my inbox. At all. And I have a search bar on the top of the site, it is not a case of “how was I supposed to know?”

Thing is, I have learned from my experience with the White Pagan community is that, in many ways, it pretty much resembles Klannish ideals, just with a lot more sage and dream catchers involved. They still think Paganism should be as White as possible, even if the practices the use aren’t. They still think PoC/minorities in Paganism are better off as tokens and not equals – and tokens that can be put to use, either to deflect accusations of racism or to mine more spiritual practices to crudely hijack. And that’s White folks in Paganism. In general, same thing, just remove the sage and dream catchers.

Annoying race questions or comments, I don’t get them as much as other Black blogs (yay for that) but they still happen. Here’s the thing: this blog isn’t intended for really anyone outside the primary audience. That’s why I don’t waste a whole lot of time explaining slang/aave I use (I’m about to bring up the AAVE I get in a sec), cultural ideals or anything like that because I assume the person reading should already have enough knowledge to know what I am saying or referring to. If they can’t translate it, then it probably isn’t for them.

I don’t get a lot of mushmouth-pretend AAVE (also known as “How White people think Black people – even ones with degrees – talk…because they still go with 1880 vaudeville ideas”) but I have gotten enough to know that it is a pretty quick way to make me get pretty caustic in my responses because while the person saying it may not think so, a neon “Racist” sign is blinking over their head. If you’re not a Black kid from the hood, I expect you not to talk like a terrible mimic of one. I already get enough nonsense in my inbox, I would prefer to not have to deal with someone who sounds like they watched too much Family Guy or as if they were Donald Trump’s liberal nephew or niece, complete with a Bernie Sanders’ shirt.

So far, I haven’t gotten too many problems – outside of the dude who tried to give me a death threat (despite being half the US away from me, blue collar beyond belief and – if his HR took my complaint seriously – jobless). There’s also the smarmy lawyer in California who thought I would post a trash article they penned on their site. It’s supposed to look like it’s a concerning article about social media and mental health, it’s just an ad for the lawyer. But it always makes me cock an eyebrow anytime I get an influx. Because it means annoyances and issues are soon to come, normally in the form of some White “ally” commenting how they personally aren’t racist and should totes get a pat on the head for it. Or some person who confuses me for a genie or their personal druid simply because I have an email address and FB messenger.

I was featured earlier this week on a podcast called Alt-Black Podcast! I talked how music got me into my faith, why I think dabbling is annoying, my experience with Afro-Punk and more! Give it a listen! I like that they gave me Baltimore Club bumper music!

 

Burning Cross of Thorns

I got a comment earlier this week, in response to my post Blackthorn Teas: Whose Culture Is it Anyways?, and it was a long litany from a All Lives Matter type. I spent so much time writing a response to it, I figured it warranted a post of its own for all to see very visibly. And so I can include the Racist Bingo board. That board is my buddy. Oh! And a new board: The White Privlege Board because this comment is soaked in it.

 

” Hoodoo is neither a religion, nor a denomination of a religion—it is a form of folk magic that originated in West Africa and is mainly practiced today in the Southern United States.

The Whole Bushel-
Hoodoo, known as “Ggbo” in West Africa, is African-American folk magic. It consists mainly of African folkloric practices and beliefs with a significant blend of American Indian botanical knowledge and European folklore. It is in no way linked to any particular form of theology, and it can be adapted into numerous forms of outward religious worship. Although it is not a religion, there are elements of African and European religions at the core of hoodoo beliefs. Teachings and rituals are passed down from one practitioner to another—there are no designated priests or priestesses and there are no divisions between initiates and laity. Rituals vary depending on the individual performing them; there is no strict approach that one must adhere to. Today, hoodoo is mainly practiced in the Southern United States, and most people who practice hoodoo are Protestant Christians.

Hoodoo tradition emphasizes personal magical power invoked by the use of certain tools, spells, formulas, methods, and techniques. It ascribes magical properties to herbs, roots, minerals, animal parts, and personal possessions. Some spells even make use of bodily effluvia and detritus (menstrual blood, semen, urine, spit, tears, nail clippings, hair…you get the picture). Hoodoo spells are typically carried out with accompanying Biblical text, usually from The Book of Psalms, but they are generally not performed in Jesus’s name. The intention behind hoodoo practice is to allow people to harness supernatural forces in order to improve their daily lives.”

Isn’t what you’re doing as far as saying Blackthorn can’t/shouldn’t be using the word Hoodoo very similar to the days of “Whites Only” restrooms and drinking fountains? Should anyone be able to practice Christianity, or call ourselves Christian, seeing as how Christ was an Isrealite? Take anything that uses a name or technique that originated from a different race or culture. Should someone not of the originating culture be allowed to use that name or technique?
Go back and re-read the first half of the second paragraph of the pasted section about herbs, roots and minerals. I think, by definition, Blackthorn’s teas are exactly what that paragraph says.
I cannot speak to the way she handled your criticism. But, I can say that what you are saying about her using the word Hoodoo is every bit as racist as you claim she is being by using the name.
We are all human and we all bleed red. Don’t be part of the wedge that divides us. Be part of the glue that holds us together.

 

Before I begin my breakdown, let’s bring out the Racist Bingo Board!

So close to Bingo!

And because there was absolutely monumental fail, let’s crack out the White Privilege bingo, just for this!

First ever debut on Black Witch! W00t!

Now, my response. Anything I add that wasn’t in the original comment block will be in a different color:

Oh, look! A racist appeared!

That’s a nifty quote but I’m an actual Black person who works in libraries and research! And knows about Hoodoo and Voodoo from both a research and cultural perspective.

Let’s breakdown the bull because there is so much fail here in this comment.

“Hoodoo is neither a religion, nor a denomination of a religion—it is a form of folk magic that originated in West Africa and is mainly practiced today in the Southern United States”

It’s is a cultural practice. Some practicioners actually see Hoodoo as a form of spirituality and religion given that there are deities and spirits they do work with. Hoodoo was born from the extremely restrictive terror that slavery produced as a resistance to the psychological mind-breaking tactics commonly applied, such as ripping culture and history from someone. It has some Christian components to fly under the radar of slavers and overseers but held on to many different West African components (that varied because there were different tribes in West Africa) so they could retain their history while dealing with torture conditions. Either way, it doesn’t reduce the importance it has to a culture. Dia de los Muertos is not religion based but it is definitely Mexican culture and nothing else – and should be respected as such. Ditto with Hoodoo.

Addition: Speaking of Dia de los Muertos! Disney thought the exact. same. thing. The Latin community considered it quite loco and were loud about it. Academic expert in Latin representation in media William Nericcio said it best: “[Hollywood’s] attitude towards culture is like a pelt hunter from the 19th century. They need the skin that people recognize and value in order to sell a project that will yield predictable profits.” Blackthorn is doing the exact same thing. And it isn’t “value” in a good way, it’s just something to snatch up and profit off of while still holding damaging beliefs of the group you took from. Like Black slang and dances. 

Now, Disney withdrew the trademark and rightfully should, given their long, long, loooooooooooooong history of portraying racism throughout their many films. Even the “diverse” shows on the Disney channel have racist and colorist underpinnings (Name me three Disney shows with dark-skinned lead characters in the last ten years. Extra points if they’re girls). Blackthorn should do the same. And the film that Disney was making? It was Coco. They would have done super okay without the legal colonizing, the film did well by itself. Dia de los Muertos isn’t just a fancy backdrop for an animation film, there is history and culture there and those need to be respected. 

“Isn’t what you’re doing as far as saying Blackthorn can’t/shouldn’t be using the word Hoodoo very similar to the days of “Whites Only” restrooms and drinking fountains?”

NOPE! It isn’t. Blackthorn is hijacking a word that is not from her direct culture and history. She’s White, she comes from a group of people that made it so that Hoodoo hadto exist. It’s just another form of colonization, she’s taking something that isn’t hers and was created specifically because of prejudiced people like her. She would have been fine-ish if she was engaged with any part of the Black community, (I know her and met her, she’s definitely not) but instead, she’s hijacking. She doesn’t even practice hoodoo.

It’s not the same as “Whites Only”. Jim Crow rules like that primarily existed to benefit White people and uphold supremacist thinking through de jure laws. I’m not trying to uphold supremacy of any sort, I’m telling White supremacy to get it’s hands off of snatching other things. She isn’t part of the group, she’s just using the name baldly for money making purposes. It’s racist to do so.

“Should anyone be able to practice Christianity, or call ourselves Christian, seeing as how Christ was an Isrealite?”

“Ourselves”? What is with the “Our?” I’m not Christian and neither is the core audience of this blog. Christianity – especially Western Christianity – has a looooooooooong history of imperialism and forcing others to practice Christianity for hundreds of years. It’s actually part of why Islam and Judiasm has a bad rap in Western nations, because Christian influenced media depicts them poorly. This means the point you just raised is super moot. You can’t say “should people practice Christianity” when it’s been forced down so many throats – it’s even how Hoodoo, Voodoo and even good chunks of Santeria came about. Because Christians don’t know how to leave other people alone.

“Take anything that uses a name or technique that originated from a different race or culture. Should someone not of the originating culture be allowed to use that name or technique?”

Not if they absolutely plan to hijack it as if it’s just a nonsense word like “Pepsi” or “Swiffer”. Or use it to evoke stereotypical beliefs already established (Hoodoo has a lot of stereotypes due to White culture and beliefs creating those stereotypes.) Then no, they need to keep their hands off of it. She could have named it Blackthorn Celtic Teas (which is more of what she actually practices) and the name could have been just fine. If you can’t be respectful as an outsider, then don’t bother at all. Especially when all they’re using it for is to make money. Which is what Blackthorn is doing.

“Go back and re-read the first half of the second paragraph of the pasted section about herbs, roots and minerals. I think, by definition, Blackthorn’s teas are exactly what that paragraph says.
I cannot speak to the way she handled your criticism.”

A) We’re not in a college class
B) You are not a professor
C) You really want to be mindful of your words here, this is my spot, not yours. Don’t sit here and be abrupt with “Go back and read…” as if I’m too stupid to comprehend what I read in the first place.

I know aplenty about roots, herbs and minerals. I also know that different roots, differnt herbs and different minerals have different and respected meanings that varies throughout many different cultures because of their varied histories. Anyone practicing magick for longer than a few months would know that. Blackthorn showed no care or concern for that and a vast majority of the teas she had were not exclusive to Hoodoo roots and herbs. I’ve seen green teas (That’s Asia), for example. “Hoodoo” in her brand name is strictly that, a name. No connection to the actual product in a way that makes sense.

It doesn’t matter what you think about how she handled her criticism. She did that to herself, that was her own choice. She wants to be racist and defend it, that’s on her 100%. I have no sympathy for that.

“But, I can say that what you are saying about her using the word Hoodoo is every bit as racist as you claim she is being by using the name.”

How is it racist to say, “You’re hijacking a word from a marginalized community you’re not apart of and it is not right. Especially since you are from the community that does the marginalization”? Racism doesn’t occur in a vacuum. You’re just being stupid by saying that. It’s not racism to defend your culture from racism. It’s plain and simple defending from further colonization and prejudice. She wanted to make that simple-minded choice for herself, that’s what she did. She should have known it was going to cause a problem – unless she thought her buyers were going to stay White. White folks tend to be actively blind to prejudice that thoroughly benefits them, just like what you are doing now.

“We are all human and we all bleed red. Don’t be part of the wedge that divides us. Be part of the glue that holds us together.”

This is such utter crock. I’m a Black human being. I have a history and a culture and an idenity that is unique from other histories and cultures and identities. I’m also female, do you think women shouldn’t have access to menstrual items because guys can’t use them? Here’s the thing, you may want to ignore it but we’re all different humans. Painting with a broad brush is a nonsense argument. We’re not judging people by blood type (though I feel like you don’t research how racism even impacts medicine – including how people give blood) people are being judged by their skin tones and the darker you are, the worse it gets – to the point that blood does get spilled and at a lot greater rate than their far lighter counterparts.

” Don’t be part of the wedge that divides us. Be part of the glue that holds us together.”

You should tell Blackthorn that, she needs to stop being divisive by being so racist. You, too. You’re not preaching to the Klan here, you’re on a Black person’s website.

Black Voices and Copycats

Recently, it was discovered that Huffington Post’s Black Voices section doesn’t have any actual Black voices in them. Revealed by Lara Witt, here is the line-up:

Not a single Black person in sight. Apparently, there is just one Black editor but Huffington Post need to do a lot better than provide a token and call it such. Even Slate uses Black writers for The Root, a Black-centered publication. Read more about it on The King of Reads.

This is intensely problematic and a good representation of when I bring up that just a White person can be liberal, that doesn’t mean that they are not racist or prejudice. Their more conservative counterpart may stab you in the front but White liberal thinking is intended to stab you in the back and call it a back rub.

If it looks like a major jump of logic, let me break it down:

Huffington Post likes to present itself as forward thinking, and progressive liberal – they are the ally to the White ally. They are the New Republic’s less intense sibling, and Slate’s half-relative. Here’s the thing: they tend to spout  such rhetoric (and personally, I find anything “progressive liberal” hella suspect but that’s also because I lean Independent and find progressive liberals as wayward) but it all boils down the same: White is right, no matter what. Everyone else is just the extras and rail grease for the plot wheels of their personal life story, not people or individuals. They pass around and trade imagery of Black people being murdered, harmed, violated or just treated negatively like baseball cards and with a dehumanizing interest, like they’re watching a really long play of The Wire and Treme. They want to feel involved in such action – without getting seriously hurt and somehow maintaining the place of “narrative-setter”, of course – that it makes sense they would want to write the perspective and narratives of others that they don’t understand in a more human way. As far as they are concerned, it’s pretty easy: take a Black person – one that preferably can’t speak well and resembles as close to a possible Black caracture as possible (options are coon, zip coon (the educated coon), etc, etc) – add violence (preferably police violence or Trump/Nazi-related violence), add a clickbait title with a picture and there you have it, racism-induced yellow journalism at its finest. It’s the Huffington Post way. And the way of plenty other publications but Huffington Post is the one that got caught here.

Another problem is the fact that this white-washing of writers and writing means that worthwhile Black writers aren’t getting hired to write content. Not even about their own lived experiences, which means the info is always going to be secondary. Always. It doesn’t matter how many Africana Studies classes you take or even how many times you see Black Panther, that doesn’t make you any less racist or any more knowledgable of a Black person’s lived experience. And this is the thing that Huffington Post themselves would whinge on when others do it.

It’s not surprising that Huffington Post hires a crap ton of White-writers. They’re the exact same people thought this picture from Executive Editor Liz Heron and said “Notice anything about this HuffingtonPost editors meeting?” was an example of “diversity”:

I notice it looks like a Women of the Klan meeting, plus a couple tokens because “model minority”.

Granted someone will say “Hey! There are some Asian people in that room. You have to look a bit to find them but they are there.” That’s because White liberal thinking loves the “model minority” myth of Asianess (quiet, demure, won’t cause a fuss) so it really makes sense that there would be some in there, especially as human deflectors of “This room is not diverse! This place is not diverse!” It’s a popular go-to.

Actually, some people in HuffPo have noted this:

“[The Huffington Post] has taken a strong editorial stance in favor of diversity, but this diversity is not reflected among the staff.”

The Movement has a good article about this. It’s good that someone noticed but it doesn’t change the fact that no one further up the food chain listened. The quote and article are from 2016, it’s 2018 and nothing has changed. That and for some place so progressive, they have to fuss and gather just to get a union.* Huffington Post just can’t walk their talk and appear to have zero desire to do so. How can a place have a strong editorial stance in favor of diversity but not where it counts, in the hiring? That’s not a very strong editorial stance if the editor can’t look around their room and go, “Something is amiss…why does everyone here look just like me?” That is a willful blindness. And one that is getting them into problems more than once and over the same thing – Huffington Post’s non-commitment to diversity.

Omake!

This post posted early while still in WIP mode (sorry! I didn’t know). However, a comment by Ashlesha J was made:

Yea I noticed that about two years ago and spec following them. They were posting a lot of content about white women and bm ww interracial relationships, then attacking the commenters. It was obviously not a black person behind the account.

The poster alleged to be biracial but if that was their political stance, then idk…Seems like they were just white

Nothing surprising here, frankly. Actually, this version of “virtual Blackface” is pretty common more and more because everyone is more anon online buuuuuuuuuut there are usually dead giveaways that someone is not part of a particular social/racial group. The dead giveaway: they don’t actually know how real Black people think and talk, just whatever idea they picked up from media (which rarely, if ever, caters to anything outside the White gaze).  I’m not surprised that it happened. It’s almost like they want to shoehorn in their ideas while looking like they are presenting something else. 

*I had to get that dig in there, it’s just progressives are not that progressive. They’re just foolish and forget that the world is not Woodstock and Cochella combined.(I’m not a fan of progressive types, I am going to super self-disclose that. They just are not a reasonable lot.)

There seems to be a mini movement in pop magick – called such because it is very surface and fluffy bunny – where brujeria is getting the same treatment that voodoo, hoodoo and smoke cleansing/smudging gets: everyone wants to do it, no one gets actually what it is.

Let’s start with the facts: Brujeria is “witchcraft” in Spanish. That’s it. There are so many different forms of actual brujeria such as Dominican Hoodoo, Santeria, etc etc etc. There is more than one kind. And involves a wholly hell of a lot more than sage sticks and very threadbare, culturally appropriated flavors of feminism.

I want to call it “orientalism” because that’s what it sounds like but I’m certain there is probably a version of the word for Latin culture getting the same treatment.

Orientalism, for those that don’t know, is the “well-meaning” racist practice of treating a culture (usually the far east) as if it is window dressing to Western existence. It’s Buddha heads, “mystical” practices of feng shui or tai chi, saying one believes in the yin-yang but a) pronounce it wrong and b) doesn’t really get that it’s far more than “there’s good and bad to everything”…things like that.

Now, it’s Latin America’s turn and with people who honestly have no idea what they are doing.

I first was asked about it by Everyday Feminism. I was genuinely confused as I never mention brujeria at all on my blog (because I don’t generally practice it – I’m Afro-Caribbean American, not Afro-Latin American) but I’m being asked pretty in-depth questions about it as if I have. The article never got posted as far as I know. I think the person asking was hoping I’d be more “grrrrrrrrrrrrrl powwa! Sage away Nazis! Rawr!” than I have ever portrayed myself in the history of my blog but I gave the usual “here’s some info” that I portray more. It weirded me out because I saw inklings around Tumblr but I just thought people were…y’know, not taking it seriously. Or letting Latinx folks having their space. Newp.

Here’s the thing: I don’t mind cultural practice, it’s bullsh*t that concerns me more. If it smells pop, it probably is. I’ve now seen more people (non-Latin, not-Hispanic, nada espanol anything) toting it about, even other minorities/PoC who never touched anything remotely Latin outside of a midnight run for Taco Bell. It’s odd to go from one end to, now, all of a sudden wanting to work with Spanish magick…or just magick with a Spanish name because it sounds different – even if the practices they use are about as White or non-Latin as all get out. That’s a problem because Latin magick and witchcraft is an authentic and varied practice with a lot of backgrounds (*cough*and deities*cough*) but it’s getting condensed into stuff that is more fitting on American Horror Story when they had the witchy season (I have never seen the show but I always see it floating about, or at least its aesthetics when stuff like this gets mentioned). That’s not good.

I am not a fan of snatching someone else’s culture and parading it as your own because it sounds different. Brujeria is very general, and it sounds supportive of minorities but not really. It’s just a thin sheet of “we don’t know what you are because we don’t and we still want to take from you so here”. This is what happens all the time when folks lump indigenous practices together (“These stem from the native americans” – which one? Lumbee? Blackfoot? Sioux? There’s a lot of various tribes. We haven’t even gotten to Latin indigenous tribes like the Aztecs and Mayans) and act as if that is being inclusive when really it’s not. Spanish culture is already super different and diverse, so would be the magickal practices. Someone who is Chicano will have a different history from someone who is Puerto Rican, who will have a different history from someone who is Dominican, who is…you get the point.

Long story short, it sounds magnificent on the surface but you don’t have to get that far past the surface to see that it is something that it very much isn’t. It’s better to do your research than plow head first into being a foolish person that just wants to dabble and feel cool.

Race-Blinders

Ah, a group I was in had kittens over a complaint I had about lack of diversity. They simply booted me out without known warning. I didn’t think the response would be that bad but then, again, this is what happens pretty common in White dominated spaces, especially the ones that try to present themselves as “forward-thinking”.

They go “we don’t tolerate prejudice. We don’t like racism, sexism, etc etc” It’s usually a hint to what they will accept if it can be subtle. And not even super subtle, just simply omit the usual words that make it brash and they’re fine. In White dominated spaces, this is super true about racism. Saying the “n-word” is (sorta) not okay (I say “sorta” because it doesn’t stop them from trying) but using AAVE/ebonics and doing verbal Blackface is consider fine despite them being forms of racism. White dominated groups think they’re fine if they just avoid the usual slurs and that the Black person noting that it is not is a “troublemaker”.

When I brought up the whole “hey, this place has a diversity problem”, one person brought up that the subject of racism is a trigger for them (it’s a space for people with trauma disorders so the term “trigger” is appropriately used here) but here’s the thing, well, two things: a) the talk of racism is a trigger but acting it out is not? b) I’m usually okay with people having odd triggers because the traumatized brain works very, very odd (I explained this in a previous post) but a White person saying racism is their trigger is like Warren Buffett saying investing and money is his trigger. In a way, it is a bit odd because how could a White person be more troubled about racism than a Black person to the point it’s a psychological trauma trigger? They’re not killed as a result of it, they have far better opportunities in life from the existence of it, it really helps them out immensely. Not to mention, if anyone should have a trigger about racism, it should probably be the Black person. They’re the one that has to worry if the police officer on their street will turn into a cold-blooded murderer. They have to worry if a White person won’t try to mow a group of their peers down in a car or air out their business, place of worship or school because they feel entitled to do so. They have to watch videos and pictures of ice-cold murders or acts of prejudice of people who look exactly like them be circulated on the internet like trading cards. That is traumatizing. That could easily create a trigger for a Black person because it is a repeated enough trauma to very much count. To say that simply the subject of it is triggering but to engage in it all the same? That sounds less like an actual trigger and more like a “this makes me uncomfy as a White person”, especially since I hear this from other White people who also engage in racism and don’t have trauma disorders. They just don’t call it “triggers”, they just say something equally stupid like, “this causes bad vibes” or “ we don’t tolerate racism, you’re just blowing it out of proportion”. I know this because this is what I commonly run in to in White-dominated groups.

Here’s the kit and kaboodle, the trauma disorder group I was in usually has people in the chat all day long just going “I’m so gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay/traaaaaaaaaaaaans/queeeeeeeeeeeeer/etc.” Being happy in who you are in the face of adversary is fine but then there is this overdoing it to the point it practically seems like they’re not and they’re joking like cis straight people. That and given their uncomfiness with racism, I think if someone came in there and said “I have so much melanin! My skin is loooooovely. I’m so Blaaaaaaaaaaack,” it would probably make people act shifty. Like, the White folks in the group can chat about their family history heritage but it’s not as accepted to joke about how family history for a Black person is way more murky (I think I only know who’s who in my family up to my great grandparents and relatives on my mom’s side. Up to my grandparents on my dad’s side). It makes White people “uncomfortable” the realities of historical racism and institutionalized racism. Here’s the thing: it happened and it’s not that lava hot a subject unless it’s made to be. Not every time a Black person talks about their lived experience is a construct to induce White Guilt (which is a pathetic and selfish concept in and of itself). We don’t exist as walking life lessons to a White person. We are people also.

It’s really annoying that I can’t participate in the groups I want because if I bring up that there are any issues, it gets iced out as “she’s causing problems for our happy group!” but they also want to say “we don’t have problems and prejudice here and if we do, we root them out”. They don’t, they just root out the person that says, “hey, here is a problem.”

And this is usually a big problem in White dominated spaces. Even official ones. I remember being in a hospital for my disorders and was told that the idea of being afraid of police is an act of paranoia because police officers are here to help and be trusted. If you’re White, this is absolutely true, you get Officer Friendly, here to protect and serve. If you’re Black, you get Officer Jigsaw, here to maim and sever. It’s not irrational for a Black person to see a cop come near them and think, “Great, I’m about to die.” Then there’s the fact that you can’t talk about racism as a trauma because the doctors (who are usually White) get really, really defensive about that, especially if you note that they don’t have diverse doctors at all. Like, if you try, they say you’re getting aggressive, even if you’re calm about it. And if they think you’re aggressive, congrats, you risk getting snowed with pills (unless you’re good at knowing your patient rights) all because you brought up that prejudice does indeed exist and can indeed cause psychological damage to a person.

Having blinders on is acutely annoying, to say the least. Especially since a White person in the group made an all call saying, “Hey, we should have more diverse youtubers about trauma disorders” and it’s accepted politely but I mention, “Hey, we need more diverse voices because hearing White people use AAVE is annoying”, I am booted. Granted a person could say, “your version was harsh” but I don’t think there really is a nice way to say it. And the way said is already “nice” enough. It’s a problem, not a compliment, the basis of the statement isn’t “nice” in and of itself.

Frankly, what is it with White people and they wanting to appear forward-thinking and good but really don’t want to put in any effort to do so? Especially when it comes on the ground of racism? They want a trophy and ceremony for being non-prejudiced buuuuuuut when it is brought to their attention, they have a conniption about it at the person who said it is an issue, especially if they themselves are not White. If this is how groups keep their spaces “drama-free” or “problem-free”, it just builds an echo chamber that deludes itself in thinking that it is forward-thinking because they got rid of all dissenters instead of tackling the problem.

Before getting started, please note! There is going to be an FB livestream chat for the 8th Black Witch anniversary on June 9 at 2 PM EST. In the Black Witch Shoppe, there is free shipping from today to June 10. Huzzah, get 3D printed things, Black superhero icons and hand stitched journals.

Moving on to our regularly scheduled program:

Ahh, I know a problem is a big problem in music when it is from a genre I don’t really listen to and it still floats to me. I am couched firmly in the world of Rock, living my life. When something from a different music world floats its way to me, it’s notable.

Earlier this week, rapper Pusha T had shown a photo of rapper Drake in Blackface during a beef. It caused discord. I wanna talk about it because it seems this is pretty superficial and ridiculous, even when discussing Blackface.

Where to begin, where to begin.

Well, here is the picture in question:

It is Drake here in his younger years wearing classic Blackface while wearing a Jim Crow shirt from Too Black Guys. It’s from a line called “Jim Crow Couture”.

It’s actually a dual picture:

We will unpack this later. But first, let’s consider the source, Pusha T – a rapper that honestly could easily hit on all pins of stereotype without the burnt cork. But we’ll unpack that as we go along as well also.

Actually, we shouldn’t first consider the source (though it is very, very important), we should first talk about what and who Jim Crow is and the same about Blackface. And how you don’t have to smear grease paint on your face to emulate what it is trying to portray, unfortunately.

Alrightie, before beginning, I gotta say this post is going to be depressing so expect kitties.

Let’s get this started, with the assistance of the digital Jim Crow Museum of Ferris State University A great go-to for understanding anti-Blackness in all it’s depressing, humanity-crushing, non-glory!

The Start of Jim Crow, From Character to De Facto & De Jure Laws

Jim Crow was a character created by Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice. At the start, he was a struggling sort-of actor – he only did solo skits between play scenes at Park Theatre in New York, nothing big. He happened upon a Black person singing a song:

“Come listen all you galls and boys,
I’m going to sing a little song,
My name is Jim Crow.
Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”

“Inspired” by this, Rice decided to darken his skin with burnt cork and hop on stage in 1828 as “Jim Crow”. His act was a hit with crowds that he started traveling all over the United States and even in the United Kingdom and Ireland. By 1832, Jim Crow was a stock character in minstrel shows, as well as the counterparts Jim Dandy and Zip Coon. He would act like a simple fool, spoke with a very exaggerated and distorted crude imitation of African American Vernacular English (look at SNL or youtubers like Shane Dawson, Jeffree Star or Lily Singh if you want to hear the modern version of it). Rice sang “Negro ditties” such as “Jump Jim Crow” and the character became a very popular one to mimic among White comedians.

The reason the show was such a smash was because White audiences were really receptive to the portrayal of Black people as singing, dancing, grinning fools, regardless what they’re doing. Just like now. This is part of why psychological horror movie Get Out was considered a comedy (and nominated as such!) by White audiences. Which was extremely horrifying to Black people.

By 1838, the shows helped “Jim Crow” became more of a household word as a slur but that was only roughly half a century. By the end of the 19th century, it was less used as a term to describe Black people and more of a term to describe laws and customs specifically designed to oppress and harm Black people.

This section on the museum website puts this part well:

“Rice and his imitators, by their stereotypical depictions of blacks, helped to popularize the belief that blacks were lazy, stupid, inherently less human, and unworthy of integration. During the years that blacks were being victimized by lynch mobs, they were also victimized by the racist caricatures propagated through novels, sheet music, theatrical plays, and minstrel shows. Ironically, years later when blacks replaced white minstrels, the blacks also “blackened” their faces, thereby pretending to be whites pretending to be blacks. They, too, performed the Coon Shows which dehumanized blacks and helped establish the desirability of racial segregation.”

History website, Black-Face, expresses a similar sentiment:

“White America’s conceptions of Black entertainers were shaped by minstrelsy’s mocking caricatures and for over one hundred years the belief that Blacks were racially and socially inferior was fostered by legions of both white and black performers in blackface.”

Now, I’m sure someone read the fact that Black folks did Blackface, think about Drake and want to screech “Pusha was riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!” I’mma need you to pump your brakes. And put on the Emergency Brake because it is not that simple. We got a lot more to go through. Note that we are still on the first kitty picture.

It didn’t turn out all shiny for Rice. He did become rich and famous because of his minstrelsy but because of his avarice, he died a poor man in New York, 1860.

And nooow, the kitty picture

Drake, His Point, and the Problem of Blackface in Media

The picture was explained by Drake:

He actually has a point. Explained by Black-Face: “White audiences in the 19th Century wouldn’t accept real black entertainers on stage unless they performed in blackface makeup.” It’s like that, even today. They don’t have to have the makeup on, but they certainly have to play the stereotype. Ask Kenan Thompson of SNL. When he was younger and on All That, he had more, varied roles to play that weren’t captured in stereotype such as Pierre Escargot and SuperDude. There was even the show “Kenan and Kel”. Once he got on SNL, they weren’t exactly big on doing the same, which was strongly emphasized in practically all of their “Black Panther” skits. Why, SNL actually had used Blackface on Fred Armisen when they would lampoon Obama in the president’s early years. Their justification? They didn’t have enough or the “right” Black actors to do the job. By the way, this was 2008, not 1888. That was ten years ago.

Black-Face mentions that one of the first Black people to perform in Blackface for White audiences was the man who invented tap dancing, William Henry Lane, also known as Master Juba. He was born a free Black man and a talented and intelligent performer but he was deeply restricted to depicting Blackness the only way his audience wanted: a Jim Crow. A dumb Black person happy to be foolish, enslaved and inferior. Charles Dickens wrote about his experience of seeing one of Lane’s shows:

“…Marshalled by a lively young negro, who is the wit of the assembly, and the greatest dancer known. …In what walk of life, or dance of life, does man ever get such stimulating applause as thunders about him, when, having danced his partner off her feet, and himself too, he finishes by leaping gloriously on the bar-counter, and calling for something to drink, with the chuckle of a million of counterfeit Jim Crows, in one inimitable sound!”

Though a freed man, he had to take on a stage name that implied bondage. “Juba” was a popular name for Blacks in enslavement, a life Lane never knew. But it was a life he had to emulate if he wanted any popularity and stage time. While later in Lane’s career could he perform in his own skin, no blackface needed, it was short lived – Lane died at the age of 27 in 1852. He worked himself to death, literally. He worked night and day, his diet consisted mainly of fried eels and ale, hardly took breaks, it pretty much broke him. This was the norm for Black performers, just to depict themselves. But for White performers such as Rice, they could live in the lap of luxury. (Remember, it was living an over-extravagant life to the point he spent himself poor that killed Rice. And he lived far longer than Lane, who basically died from overexertion.) It still is quite a bit of the norm for Black actors. Spike Lee’s film Bamboozled explores that deeply. Oh, if you’re going to watch the film, just gear up Black Panther behind it. You’re goooooonna need to. Also, Kitten Break!

Things are a teensy bit better but not by much. And it can always slide back.

Let’s talk about the clothes Drake wore, created by Too Black Guys

The picture was not taken for Too Black Guys lookbook but it did feature one of their shirts. It was from the Jim Crow Couture line.

The line started in 2008 and there was a photo shoot featured in HypeBeast about it when it was first released. The current picture on TBG for the line is just Yasin Bey/Mos Def (he’s just wearing the Jim Crow hat, no blackface).

The line was created [reason of why line was created, prolly in HypeBeast] because Too Black Guys wanted to make a statement. Thing is, while these images are hurtful, they are part of the Black identity (more like “brutally attached” but you get my point). They’re Black, they can tackle the concept of minstrelsy and Blackness because it is something that affects them and the Black people around them deeply.

The shirt served a good purpose and focal point in Drake’s picture because that’s pretty much how Hollywood wants to exactly see Black performers. Over-saturated with Whiteness, Hollywood, and theatre in general, doesn’t want dynamic Black actors, they want more, modernized Master Jubas. You could study at Julliard and still, the casting director will try to fit you for a stereotypical, feeble-minded role.

The Problem of Pusha T or “You Are What You Eat”

Ahhhhh, Pusha T. A person who probably never heard of the phrase “he who lives in a glass house should never throw stones”. Because he loaded a ball machine, selected “a million fungoes” and blasted away.

Pusha T being a rapper is not the inherent problem here. Being a rapper doesn’t make you minstrel automatically. Not at all. To assume such would be – you guessed it – racist because of origins of Hip Hop and Rap.

The problem lives in how he depicts himself and his lyrics. Drake was in Blackface for one picture and for artistic commentary about how you have to be stereotypical to be considered if you’re Black in acting (hence the Blackface). Pusha T turned the concept into a career and his reputation. Black-Face puts it best:

“Blackface is more than just burnt cork applied as makeup. It is a style of entertainment based on racist Black stereotypes that began in minstrel shows and continues today.”

This is why I said at the start “consider the source”. Blackface is a whole lot more than having distasteful grease paint on your face. It’s a concept and an entertainment style based on a prejudiced belief about a group of people. Drake is getting static for a picture. But the person saying it, not the same but basically espouses the same thing, just in a more, long form way.

This isn’t to say that Drake is a mindful, rhyming Malcolm X. That dude has miles to go to be even remotely declared as such. But the picture he took shouldn’t be that shocking to Pusha’s general audience – it is a snapshot of the kind of exact media they are used to consuming from Pusha, but the literal Blackface created a knee-jerk response in them. I guess it should have been a tad bit more subvert.

Here’s the thing about Black media, especially media that wades super deep in profiting and continually displaying Black stereotypes: I’m sure if someone brought this up to Pusha T, that he also engages in modern minstrel, he would say, “Hey, I’m just talking about my life. This is real life in the streets.” Because we all know that the hood is where literally everyone is destined to be a dealer, gang banger, thug, or some other type criminal that lives a bleak and gritty life as they harm and/or poison the very community they claim they “care” about.

Believe it or not, it’s not 100% Pusha T’s fault to as why he thinks this way (more like 73%). Black-Face expresses:

“The American minstrel show was effectively dead by WW1, yet some old-timers continued to peddle the same blackface stereotypes later in vaudeville, films and television. It’s one of the interesting twists of history that in the first half of the twentieth century, the main purveyors of the old-fashioned blackface minstrel tradition were Black performers, who’d began in show business wearing the blackface mask — either literally or figuratively — and were reluctant to give it up.

But they also had little choice in the roles they were offered. Until well into the 1950s, Black male actors were limited to stereotypical roles: Coons,… and Toms….Likewise, the only film roles for Black women were maids and mammys….”

It wasn’t because these performers internalized effectively that Black people were the identities they performed on stage, it was because they knew the crowd they were working with and to change and try to be dynamic may very well ice them out of jobs. All they had were the walking stereotype roles. It may not have been fun to do but it was better than doing nothing. Minstrelsy was dead but the racist ideas, audience, and desires that fueled them were definitely still around.

The problem with this is that it also inadvertently created a dunk chamber for future Black generations to come. Because this was the media they saw of themselves, it subconsciously steered them into thinking, “This is Blackness, this is a reflection of the Black identity”. Internalized racism is very much a thing. Think about how many things that are believed to be “Black”/”Not Black” are based in these media depictions. The idea that Black people don’t swim or surf is a good one.

This was depicted in media that Black people are water-adverse (because of our hair, we don’t know how to swim (pulls from the “stupid negro” trope), etc) However, the reality is that Black people were banned a lot from pools out of Jim Crow laws (ahhh, he shows up again). There were even instances of acid being poured on them for being in the pool. But it’s a lot neater to display in White media that Black people don’t swim or surf because they just don’t like water. Instead of “they don’t like water we constantly put acid in so they won’t swim.” The former sounds more “normal” to a White audience, the latter sounds like you’re trying to accuse them of racism, which would be dead accurate.

Kitten Break!

Applying this to Pusha T, he is a product of that dunk chamber. He raps about stereotypical subjects, doing stereotypical things, so on and so forth. Since the targeted listener of modern day hip hop is not Black people but White people, preferably suburbanites, Pusha has a ready audience. He’s not really deriving from what is expected of him, socially, so there’s money there. He can project an effective image of the “Other” in Arabian Nights fashion (To the White suburban listener, Pusha T depicts a tale of an oft-distant land of fast living, fast women and lawlessness with the right amount of griminess.) It honestly would not be a very hard argument at all to say he’s performing modern minstrelsy.

This is why I said earlier to “consider the source”. Yes, the visual display of Blackface is jarring. (I had to see a crap ton of it just to write this post) However, if only the visual display of Blackface is the problem but the performed depiction of it is fine then that’s a major problem in and of itself. It’s a knee-jerk response that thoroughly misses the point. Especially since the use of visual Blackface was an artistic expression of the severe limitations Black people have in entertainment. Blackface, whether presented or performed, is problematic no matter what. It shouldn’t take an application of black grease paint to be the dividing line because it’s far too past where that line should be if the media-displayed denigration of Black people is hurtful or a problem.

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