Archives For W.E.B. Du Bois

Whiteness is dead. James Baldwin proclaimed it back in 1972, prophesying ominously that there would be “bloody holding actions all over the world, for years to come.” The holding actions have gotten bloodier and bloodier with the rise of Trump and the self-described “alt-right,” but these are death throes of a doomed egregore. Whiteness is damned not by progress, but by entropy, by the truth that “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.” It’s become cliché to state that “race is a social construct,” but from an occultist’s perspective, that which was birthed through sorcery can and must be killed by the same means.

Loyalty to the land, the black and brown and anti-racist ancestors, the gods and spirits [It’s Going Down].

Whiteness is dead, but we do not live in a color-blind society. To understand that whiteness is an egregore, a collective thought-form, is not to diminish the lived experience of black and brown people, but rather to contextualize it. I’ve quoted W.E.B. Du Bois on this subject before:

The badge of color [is] relatively unimportant save as a badge; the real essence of this kinship is its social heritage of slavery; the discrimination and insult.

Those experiences and that kinship are real, and the “badge” encodes those experiences, but the experiences themselves are anything but natural. The fact that, in the United States, “blood quantum” laws are used to determine federally-recognized Native American tribal membership while the “one-drop rule” has historically been used to define blackness show the flexibility of racist ideology in the interests of the white ruling class. And for many white-passing people of color who witness insult to themselves and their kin, it is obvious that the “badge of color” is not what is important, but rather the “social heritage.” Whiteness is also a set of experiences, but they are the experiences that result from allegiance to the egregore and the rejection of other forms of kinship and solidarity.

Whiteness is dead, but I see self-proclaimed anti-racists trying to resuscitate it. Personally, I don’t want to see any more groups of white people gathering for the purpose of talking about their whiteness, about their white guilt, about their white ally-ship. All that does nothing but reaffirm and reify whiteness. I want to see aspiring race traitors, aspiring accomplices, aspiring ex-white people.

Whiteness is dead, but it has always been an undead entity, and it must be staked through the heart if it attempts to rise again. Furthermore, its dead weight and toxins must still be drawn out and purged by each and every individual it has poisoned, including many black and brown people. There is work that must be done.

Devils

“Had I as many souls as there be stars,/I’d give them all for Mephistophilis./By him I’ll be great emperor of the world.” Faustus, Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Whiteness is a classic Faustian bargain, bartering souls for power, accepting severance from ancestry in exchange for white identity. Whiteness was created in the plantation system, a lie used to break the potential for solidarity between indentured servants of European descent and black slaves, an attempt to mitigate rampant desertion to maroon and indigenous communities.

Time and time again, waves of European immigrants—the Irish, the Italians, the Polish—were offered this same bargain: abandon one’s ancestral customs, align with anti-blackness and the theft of indigenous land, and receive a few pitiful scraps from the table of power. Time and time again, the bargain was accepted—not by all, but by enough that the boundaries of whiteness shifted to accept its new recruits. The original pact has been reenacted over and over again.

A similar though not identical bargain is offered to some non-European immigrants, especially those from east Asia. These immigrants are faced with the choice to align with anti-blackness and become a “model minority,” or to reject assimilation and face the consequences thereof. Full whiteness is still out of reach, though recently some segments of the far-right seem to be more open to collaborating with certain Asians and white Latinos, especially when commonality can be found over the defense of patriarchy and so-called western civilization.

The Devil and Dr. Faustus [Wellcome Library].

To make a pact with a devil is to become aligned with it, to become unified with it in one’s actions in the world. Malcolm X was right when he said: “Anybody who rapes, and plunders, and enslaves, and steals, and drops hell bombs on people…anybody who does these things is nothing but a devil.” The Boxer Rebels who blamed Christian missionaries and converts for a brutal 1890s drought in northern China also referred to European and American imperialists as 白鬼 (báiguǐ) or “white devils.” I bring up these historical examples in order to focus on the devilish choices and actions, however, not to attribute any inherent evil to pale skin.

To those readers with “white” ancestry: get thee to a crossroads, go. Break the compact that your ancestors made with whiteness, at whatever point they did so in the last five centuries. Your ancestors who came before that point in time did not see themselves as white, for that concept did not exist. Perhaps you need to go back further to find ancestors you can relate to, before monotheism, before patriarchy. However long it takes, reconnect to the old lineages, the lineages that stretch back to the stars. As Finnchuill reminds us, however, make sure that you do not confuse genetics with cultural or spiritual ancestry. Do not leave a power vacuum, for nothing is more characteristic of whiteness than the claim to be a tabula rasa, than allegiance to the Nothing, than the severance of old ties without the cultivation of new relationships. And when you leave the crossroads, whatever else you do, do not look back.

Oaths

“Wish me luck now, I have to leave you/Bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao/With my friends now, up to the city/We’re going to shake the Gates of Hell.” Chumbawamba, Bella Ciao

Treason to whiteness opens the road to new possibilities, new loyalties, new kinship structures. As it turns out, the ritual forging of new bonds of kinship is a very old practice indeed, found in many traditional cultures. The Chinese warrior Guan Yu, who died during the violent collapse of the Han Dynasty (220 CE) and was later deified as Guan Di, was famed for having sworn brotherhood with Liu Bei and Zhang Fei, and for his unwavering loyalty to that oath.

Liu Bei, Guan Yu, and Zhang Fei [public domain].

Prasenjit Duara writes that Guan Di later became a god who oversaw oaths in secret societies:

For the rootless bandits and rebels of secret societies, the oath of loyalty that Guan Yu upheld gained an unparalleled salience. All rites and ceremonies among the Triads, for instance, including those performed at the initiation of recruits and the punishment of traitors, took place before the altars of Guan Yu and the founders of the secret society. (782)

Furthermore, for the criminals and rebels who worshiped Guan Di, “the oath symbolized loyalty to brotherhood, not to the state that had been their enemy” (790). Fictive kinship is also widespread in queer communities, in initiatory magical and religious lineages, and in gangs. For outcasts and outlaws, it is a survival mechanism. And to become a traitor to whiteness is to declare allegiance to those who have always been outside of it.

Michael J. Enright argues in Lady With a Mead Cup that Germanic and Gaulish war bands used rituals involving the serving of mead by the warlord’s consort, who was in ancient times a prophetess, to construct and continually reaffirm the artificial kinship of the war band:

Communal drinking, which had the purpose of creating fictive kinship, must also be viewed as having some of the aspects of a cultic act. It aimed at creating a non-natural bond of loyalty, and liquor was used because liquor was the medium through which one achieved ecstacy and thus communion with the supernatural. (17)

Oaths were sworn over the mead cup, witnessed by the prophetess, the warlord, the assembled warriors, and the spirits. The role of witnesses, both corporeal and incorporeal, is crucial to the act of swearing an oath. The oath-witnesses are the ones who will know if an oath has been broken, and who have the ability—indeed, the obligation—to hold the oath-breaker accountable. And even when no oaths are being sworn, the spirits are always watching: a person’s actions, especially when they think they are not being watched, show their true loyalties.

Loyalties

“The gods of my tribe have spoken. They have said, ‘Do not trust the pilgrims. Especially Sarah Miller.’ Wednesday Addams, Addams Family Values

In America, the indigenous and black and brown dead, whose bones form the land, whose blood and sweat and tears have watered it, are ever present, ever close, ever watching. No deeds can be performed, no words spoken, no oaths sworn without them taking notice. To those of us who are loyal to them, the colonial settler government is, was, and forever will be illegitimate. In these times of violence, chaos, and suffering, new kinship structures will have to be formed, new oaths sworn. Those who cultivate right relationship with the land and the black and brown ancestors will survive, those who do not will perish.

“Putrefactio” from J.D. Mylius, Philosophia Reformata, engraved by Balthazar Schwan, 1622 [public domain].

Whiteness is dead. Its grave is unmarked, its demise unmourned, its crimes unforgiven. A new day is dawning. The black sun is rising, the black sun of alchemy, the black sun that reveals hidden shadows, the black sun that heralds the putrefaction of whiteness and fascism.

A false king is dead. New sacral kings arise to meet the battle, queens who know the meaning of sovereignty, who know their loyalties and responsibilities to the land, the black and brown ancestors within the land, and the gods. The anti-racist holy war is here. Let the black flags fly, let the black flame cleanse the face of the earth. In the words of the anarchist Heval Demhat, who was martyred fighting against Daesh in Syria, “this is a fire that may have started here but it can, you know, candle elsewhere.”

Let the warlike ones come, let the howling ones come, let the pure ones come. And may the rattlesnake that is the embodiment of the black and brown ancestors come and heal the air and the water and the earth.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.