Archive for racism

For all the non-black Vodouisants

Posted in Social Justice with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2014 by cheshirecatman

I almost didn’t post this but then a link on an acquaintance’s Facebook page clearly indicated this needed to be said. The link was to one of those articles about a white person being killed by police with the remark that apparently white lives don’t matter (as in white lives don’t deserve media coverage, protests, etc). The implied comparison to the events in Ferguson is problematic to begin with, but I was really dismayed that it was posted by someone in the Vodou/Voodoo/Hoodoo community.

If you are reading this, then presumably you are a Vodouisant or have an interest in Vodou. Good. It’s a beautiful, amazing religion and I’ve never regretted walking down this path. I believe the Lwa call to people throughout the world. As my mama says, “Vodou includes, not excludes.”

However. HOWEVER.

I don’t believe in freebies—in taking without giving back. To do so is selfish and is cultural appropriation at its worst.

So, if you are not Haitian, have little to no African blood and are a Vodouisant–or even if you “just” take elements of Vodou into your own eclectic practice–then you owe a debt. If you live in the US of A then you are in a position to pay this debt at a very critical time in our history.

Surely you are aware of what’s been going on in Ferguson, the death of young Michael Brown and the fact that his killer has thus far gotten away scot-free, in spite of some glaring big holes in the case. If you don’t care, or spend more time criticizing people for protesting and rioting than you do thinking about how we arrived at the point where it’s okay for “law” enforcement to gun down unarmed teenagers, then now would be a good time for you to either  turn away from Vodou or start doing your homework. Peaceful protest is a nice idea, but in this case it’s proven wholly ineffective. I would ask you if you really believe that Haiti would be an independent nation if the slaves peacefully protested against their oppressors? The idea is laughable.

I am going to say this very bluntly, if you are a Vodouisant and don’t care about how black people are treated—how they are oppressed, misrepresented, targeted and killed—then you have NO business being involved in any faith that has African origins. And if you do care, then DO something. It’s easy to think it’s not your problem if you aren’t black but, trust me, if things continue in this vein the violence and the oppression will end up on all of our doorsteps.

As to WHAT you should be doing? At the very least, you should be educating yourself and others about black history (and be sure to include resources created by black people themselves), voting for candidates who are pro-active about civil rights issues, and supporting black people in whatever way you can (listening to their experiences without inserting your own; giving time, support or money to organizations supporting black lives; and, if you are white, learning to recognize your own privilege and how to use that privilege to promote equality). Let us not waste this opportunity, born of tragedy, to break this toxic pattern that results in the loss of young black lives.

Also try to be less sensitive when black people vent their frustrations at white people (resist the clichéd cry “But not all white people are like that!”). Your hurt feelings cannot compare with the grief of parents who have lost their children to racial violence. Attempting to replace “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” may seem like a good thing to you, but to black folks and other POCs (people of color) it looks like an attempt to shift the focus away from the deadly profiling of black people. White lives have always mattered more than POC lives in this nation, and there is no history of Jim Crow laws against white people. So seriously, STOP SAYING THAT. At best, it’s disrespectful and reveals an appalling ignorance of history. At worst, you’re going to be seen as racist. Yes, racist.

May you find peace, Michael Brown, with the ancestors in Ginen.

Highly recommended reading:
What Have YOU Done for Black People Today?


When I don’t like Halloween: Universal Studio’s “Bayou of Blood”

Posted in Vodou with tags , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2014 by cheshirecatman

Generally I like this season, but I am not crazy about bad ethnic-themed costumes (aka black/red/yellow-face), or this nonsense which reminds me of last year’s messed up “American Horror Story.”

Black Savagery and “Voodoo” Horror at Universal Studio’s Bayou of Blood by Saumya Arya Haas

I am racist, and so are you.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 18, 2014 by cheshirecatman

Sharing this because recent events have brought so much denial and ugliness to the surface. This is something EVERYONE serious about Vodou should read. And if you can’t handle this, then Vodou, with its roots in Africa and Haiti, probably isn’t the right faith for you.

Being Shadoan

And the sooner we both acknowledge this, the sooner we can begin to address the problem. So let’s talk.

“Wait just a minute here, Rachel. You’re like, the least racist person I know. You’re always sharing stuff about race and racism. You couldn’t possibly be racist.”

Here’s the deal. Racism isn’t just guys in white robes and Paula Deen shouting racial slurs. Racism is subtle, racism is insidious, and our culture is so deeply steeped in it that it’s impossible to grow up in the US and not be racist. It’s a kind of brainwashing: a set of default configuration files that come with the culture. It’s a filter, built up from birth, that alters our perception of the world. (Literally–racial bias makes people see weapons that aren’t there.) Racism isn’t just conscious actions; it’s judgements that happen so fast that we may not even be aware of…

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Thoughts on Avatar and colonialism

Posted in Movies and Media, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 5, 2010 by cheshirecatman

Warning: The following post contains spoilers about the movie “Avatar.” Do not read if you have not seen the movie or are easily offended by articles discussing racism, which is not erased in spite of efforts at political correctness. While none of this directly relates to Vodou, it does relate to colonialism, which in turn relates to Haitian history.

An online discussion with a friend last night prompted me to write this post, just to express things that need to be said. While James Cameron’s film has good intentions, some of its underlying themes are less than impressive (as well as the general storyline).

There are some things I like about the film. It’s a lush production with stunning visuals, interesting character and creature design, and a nature vs technology storyline. The first hour or so is a lot of fun. Largely this is due to the main character’s process of discovery as he downloads his consciousness into his alien avatar body. We get to experience a new planet, people and culture through his eyes. It’s pure escapism, appealing to our longing for spiritual awakening and a deeper bond with the natural world, as well as our individual desires to leave past mistakes behind and reinvent ourselves. Who wouldn’t like to be stronger and faster?

The second part of the movie falls into your standard and predictable action movie climax, with guns, planes, explosions and a one-on-one fight between our hero and the main bad guy. Not surprising, but disappointing after a strong start. Oh well, that’s merely the superficial part of this film’s flaws. Like other popular stories such as Crocodile Dundee, Tarzan, Madame Butterfly and the “Native American” epic Dances with Wolves, Avatar has underlying colonialist themes which, for those of us unable to ignore such things, are rather annoying.

Wikipedia actually has a pretty good definition of the type of colonialism I’m talking about:

Cultural imperialism is the practice of promoting, distinguishing, separating, or artificially injecting the culture of one society into another. It is usually the case that the former belongs to a large, economically or militarily powerful nation and the latter belongs to a smaller, less important one. Cultural imperialism can take the form of an active, formal policy or a general attitude. A metaphor of colonialism is employed: the cultural products of the first world “invade” the third-world and “conquer” local culture. In the stronger variants of the term, world domination (in a cultural sense) is the explicit goal of the nation-states or corporations that export the culture. The term is usually used in a pejorative sense, usually in conjunction with a call to reject foreign influence.

Cultural imperialism rears its unattractive head all the time in media representations of minority groups in some really irritating ways:

  • Stupid notions of beauty.  If you are not super thin (if you are a woman especially) or tall (if you are a guy) you are not sexually attractive. If you have certain types of hair you are not attractive. If you have a wide or long nose, you are not attractive. This was brought home to me in a personal way by the movies Romeo Must Die and The Replacement Killers. In both of those movies, you have mixed raced couples in which the male is Asian. In both of those movies, the Asian leading man never gets to even kiss the leading lady let alone (gasp) have sex with her. Seriously, how often do you see that in your average R-rated action flick? Also worth noting for its ridiculousness is that Dances with Wolves has a white leading man and white leading woman in Native garb.
  • Changes or misinterpretations of a group presented as fact. Oh, the joy of stereotypes. I hear bad things about the new animated movie “The Frog Prince” and its representation of Vodou. I haven’t seen the film nor do I intend to (unless it’s on TV when I’m drunk).
  • Incredible leaps of believability.  See comment on Dances with Wolves in the first bulleted paragraph above. Or really, if you were an Omaticayan, would you trust a fake dreamwalker person who was spying on you, even if he attempted to redeem himself?

Movies like Avatar and Dances with Wolves remind me of one of my favorite poems by Sherman Alexie, titled “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel.” Using select quotes from said poem, let’s examine Avatar, shall we? My comments are in brackets.

The hero must be a half-breed, half white [or human] and Indian [or Omaticayan], preferably from a horse [or horse thing] culture.

If the hero is an Indian [Omaticayan] woman, she is beautiful. She must be slender and in love with a white man [human].

Indians [Omaticayans] must see visions. White people [humans] can have the same visions if they are in love with Indians [Omaticayans]. If a white person [human] loves an Indian [Omaticayan]

then the white person [human] is Indian [Omaticayan] by proximity. White people [humans] must carry an Indian [Omaticayan] deep inside themselves…If the interior Indian [Omaticayan] is male then he must be a warrior [Marine]….

You see the parallels. These patterns are hard to ignore when you’ve been seeing them all your life, even when they are disguised as science fiction.

Okay, this is the end of my rant. I promise the next post will be more directly related to Vodou.