Cracks in the Cauldron: Covenant of the Goddess Wrestles with its Role

Covenant of the GoddessSAN BERNARDINO –In the forty years since Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) was formed, its members have been on the front lines of battles for equal rights as prison chaplains, as veterans, as parents, and as people. The organization has helped to define the Wiccan and wider Pagan communities, has weathered the Satanic panics and the infamous Helms amendment, which threatened to remove tax-exempt status from “occult” churches, and endured the more recent attacks launched by such luminaries as George W. Bush and Bob Barr.

However, in recent months, this venerable collective of covens and solitary practitioners has faced an internal upheaval, which has since become quite public, and could be one of its most difficult struggles to date. The spark which ignited the firestorm was the very current ignition point: race.

Early in December, Pagan and polytheist individuals and groups issued statements of support and calls to action in response to the treatment of people of color in American society. As the Wild Hunt coverage at the time noted, its own columnist Crystal Blanton was the catalyst of this show of solidarity. CoG was among the organizations that released a statement, which began with this paragraph:

We, the members of the Covenant, acknowledge and share the concern that many in our world and within our Pagan communities have voiced regarding inequalities in justice. We find that all life is sacred, and as such, all lives matter.

To say the statement fell flat is an understatement. Critics quickly noted that it avoided any reference to specific events, such as the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri or Eric Garner in New York City. The statement replaced the viral phrase “black lives matter” with the more inclusive “all lives matter,” which was interpreted by a number of Facebook observers to be code for white privilege.

In that social media venue, comments ranged from people decrying the “whitewashing” of systemic racism to others who took great umbrage at the idea that broadening the scope was inappropriate. A similar debate was also taking place, out of public eye, on one of the Covenant’s internal email lists. These lists were not made available for review due to the expectation of privacy by members.

Tiffani Thomas Parker

Tiffani Thomas Parker [Courtesy Photo]

In reaction to that first statement, several members resigned from the organization in protest. CoG Member Tiffany Thomas Parker, who was not one of those to leave, offered her own perspective. She provided further insight into what led to such a strong pushback:

First of all, I will say that I am happy of some of the things that CoG has done for Pagans as a whole. But with that said, I was very disappointed with them with the statement they originally gave.

My first initial reaction was to reread what I read. Then came disappointment and anger. I was thinking to myself “Of all people, Pagans as a whole should know what it is like to be stereotyped and singled out. They should be behind the movement to ensure that ANYONE doesn’t get targeted like this.”

They should have consulted, asked, or even suggested to get opinions from those of color (regardless of race) to get a better understanding of what was going on to get a better perspective. It may not have happened to those who are the head of the organization, but it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. To simply ignore an issue such as this was a slap in the face.

Furthermore, I do think that if they had acknowledged the issue, it would have shown the Pagans of Color that they have our back and it would have given them a light of hope that they felt supported and could have joined CoG. CoG isn’t as diverse as I would have liked it to be, and it would have been a HUGE opportunity and they blew it.

Yvonne C. Conway-Williams, an assistant to CoG’s National Board, also felt the statement came up short, and said so on the internal CoG list. However, Conway-Williams understands the limitations of the organization’s consensus-driven process, saying that “. . . there was a sense of urgency, which is why I think they did not send it to a committee and instead chose to deal with it as a national board.”  She added, “My stance has long been that we are not truly hearing from a vast majority of CoG members on the private elists. One person is required to be on our announcements list per member coven. Other members of a coven might wish to subscribe… Even fewer people are signed up for our discussion and debate elist. What this means is there’s only a select few who are having say and input on these issues. By doing so, I personally do not feel all members are being heard. I think it would be great if more members were involved at a deeper level with national activities such as this statement.”

Public Information Officer Gordon Stone echoed Conway-Williams’ concerns about how representative an e-list can be, saying, “I think it is also important to mention that not every member of CoG is on the e-lists. This is why CoG does not set organizational policy through email discussion.”

Outside of the organization, the board’s statement was also attacked as generic and meaningless. Devotional polytheist Caer said:

The only way we can win this fight is to actively engage in it. We must commit. As above, so below. As without, so within. We can’t just say the words and make the gestures and leave them both hanging there, unsupported. That won’t accomplish anything, brings us no closer to our goals. We have to acknowledge the problem, clearly state our intent, and we have to move from problem to goal by actively doing something.

Longtime CoG member Marybeth Pythia Witt, also known as Lady Pythia, commented more recently about that initial statement, saying in part, “We also learned too late that the all lives matter hashtag is used by a conservative anti-abortion group, ergo, the original post was incorrect for more than one reason.”

Lady Pythia during an event doing outreach for CoG in 1987 [Photo Provided by Pythia and published originally in the Independence-Ledger of Kentucky, © August 15, 1987]

Lady Pythia during a Wiccan event in which she did media outreach for CoG [Photo Provided by Lady Pythia and published originally in the Independence-Ledger of Kentucky, © August 15, 1987]

The discussion appears to have continued on, largely unabated on the Covenant’s internal debate & discussion e-list. Members of the national board recognized that a different approach was needed to address these widespread concerns. According to First Officer Kasha, after the initial statement was published,

We immediately received feedback from individuals inside and outside of the organization and began to reconsider the content of the statement and its impact on our members. On December 11, we issued an apology, published on our internal announcement list, to those members who were hurt by this statement, explaining that the original statement was created in an effort to express the opinion of our diverse membership, and we realized we had missed the mark.

At that time we solicited members for a committee to draft a new statement to be released internally and then potentially approved at our National Meeting in August. In the following weeks, Gordon Stone, our Public Information Officer, and a committee of volunteers developed the new statement.

That revised statement was released in draft form on Jan. 20 with a note of explanation about the process for formal adoption. It stated, “In order to allow the membership of CoG a chance to have input on this new statement, it was released internally on our organization’s e-mail list last week. The membership will have the opportunity to review, revise, and adopt it as a statement made by the entire organization at the annual meeting in August 2015.”

Peter Dybing

Peter Dybing

However, any fanfare that might have accompanied this new draft was deafened by a blog post written by former First Officer Peter Dybing and published the day before. Writing under the title An Indictment of Covenant of the Goddess, Racism Exposed, Dybing lambasted his fellow members, asserting that his comments on the private list had been censored as part of a wider effort to silence dissent over these issues. He further claims that one of the individuals guiding the discussion was known to use racist epithets in casual conversation.

Let me be clear, there are many great people in CoG that I have worked with over the years. What this post represents is an indictment of the power structures that at all costs will engage in ensuring that the organization does not change. When truth is spoken to power the result is oppression. It is evident that those engaging in these behaviors have little insight into their actions, yet it remains that their actions are sheltering racism within the organization.

Not surprisingly, considerable outcry resulted with some taking to social media to applaud Dybing’s words, and others claiming he had breached CoG’s code of ethics. The two points of that code which appear to speak most closely to that questions are, “All persons associated with this Covenant shall respect the traditional secrecy of our religion” and “Members of this Covenant should ever keep in mind the underlying unity of our religion as well as the diversity of its manifestations.” Dybing maintains he has not violated ethical standards because he has not named anyone.

Whether Dybing was “censored” or “moderated” is also a matter of internal debate. The organization does have a policy covering e-list discussions, and Kasha said, “We did apply our policy uniformly. Many Members were warned about inappropriate posts and, rather than removing members from the list, those not complying with the Net Coordinator’s (Netco’s) requests for civility were placed on moderated status. Posts that continued to violate the Netco’s request for civility were not put through to the list. After 2 or 3 days, when calmer conversation and cooler heads prevailed, the moderation of all subscribers was lifted and the discussion list was reopened to courteous discussion of all topics.” The policy actually allows the Netco to remove offenders from the list entirely, pending an appeal to the national board, but that allegedly did not occur.

CoG member Daryl Fuller, a participant in those e-discussions, publicly published a point-by-point refutation of Dybing’s post, calling much of it “half-truth and rumor-mongering.” In that response, Fuller took particular exception to the allegations being tossed around about another unnamed member. He also admits to being moderated himself, adding “No one is currently being censored on any COG email list.”

When asked about this controversy, NPIO Stone said, “I would respectfully request that your readers bear in mind that these two CoG Members were speaking as individuals rather than as official representatives of the organization. CoG also has ethical standards outlined in our bylaws, and all members are expected to know and adhere to these standards.  I encourage your readers to make a decision about what CoG stands for by speaking with several of our Members, or contacting the nearest local council for more information.”

The second statement, a draft, has also received considerable Facebook attention, and again, reactions were mixed. Comments range from gratitude to expressions that it doesn’t go far enough to complaints that saying that black lives matter discounts the struggles of other groups.

As part of a lengthier commentary, Cat Chapin-Bishop observed, “I am in no way surprised to hear statements from CoG members that seem to deny and minimize the reality of racism today. From the ‘Irish people were discriminated against, too,’ to ‘I don’t see color,’ the whole range of well-meaning white cluelessness is on display. But I’m not surprised or shocked by that, because I have come to understand, since the events in Ferguson this past summer, just how out of touch I, and other white people, truly have become on this subject.”

Penny Novak, a former Second Officer of CoG, acknowledged that there is surely racism within the ranks.  She said that “any organization without a political filter on it has racists in it.” However, she characterized Dybing’s behavior on the e-list as “really off the wall” and “very obnoxious.” What he failed to understand, Novak thought, was that many older people with racially-biased world views are unaware of that fact. “Give them a break, Peter, they don’t even know!” she said. While some of her contemporaries haven’t exactly kept up with the times, she didn’t believe that his “kicking and screaming” approach was likely to change hearts and minds. She explained further:

I’ve been thinking about the many ways in which language around the issue of race has changed during my lifetime. You may feel it’s obvious but it really isn’t. It isn’t even obvious between the generations of the Black Community.  Believe me, when I was young calling a person Black was disrespectful …  Those of us who were white and didn’t want to further the blot of what had been done to those of African-descent in our communities were very particular about the language we used…  

I’m not excusing the use of disrespectful language but when social use of language changes rapidly from generation to generation there will be bleed-over and sometimes what was socially acceptable positions become anathema. If you’re not keeping up, if you don’t keep an eye on the young folks you’ll miss when things start switching …You need to be very careful and you need to step lightly. 

More significantly, Novak thinks that, while questions over race caused this controversy, the issues run far deeper, saying that CoG “has basically been ruined by a few people who want power, and it’s ridiculous because CoG is an organization without power.” The decisions lie with local councils and member covens, she explained, and the national board has little sway. “Look what happens when they try to make a statement like big organizations do,” she said, “complete wimpdom.”

It still remains to be seen what kind of statement this organization will finally release on the subject and how it will move forward with tackling the accusations of racial inequality and systemic racism within the organization. Consensus must be achieved, and that won’t happen until the national meeting in August. That’s what Novak means when she says that CoG has no power.

This is a thread picked up by Kirk White, a former co-first officer who wonders about the covenant’s future. He said:

Rev. Kirk White

Rev. Kirk White

Part of the underlying problem is that CoG is adrift in its purpose and seeking to regain its relevance. Its foundational purpose was “to increase cooperation among Witches and to secure for Witches and covens the legal protection enjoyed by members of other religions.” Back in 1975 it was hard to connect with other Witches, get ordained, and we were still establishing our rights as a valid, legal religion. It was easy to rally the members around clearly Witch issues but now these battles are mostly won, ordination is laughably easy and we have the internet. So there is a struggle in CoG over how to restore relevance and attract younger members. The few younger members we do have and the more liberal members want CoG to be more activist to regain relevance.

But without clear Witch issues, the political polarization of our secular world is invading CoG’s inner processes over which causes to support. Environmental issues, women’s rights, gun rights, and racial inequality have all been split into “liberal” or “conservative” views by today’s media and CoG’s membership, being politically diverse finds itself unable to find consensus — which is how CoG operates — on just about anything. Thus, issues like #blacklivesmatter — originally seen as a “liberal” cause — are almost impossible to agree on quickly, if ever. This is frustrating to those more activist members, and combined with some bad blood left over from previous conflicts, has led to the recent resignations and bitter fighting within some of the more vocal parts of CoG.

Others see hope for the organization’s future. NPIO Stone said:

CoG as an organization is strengthened by the dialogue of our diverse membership. Sometimes that dialogue is easy and sometimes it is challenging; however, in my view, it is always educational. All Board members maintain an open door policy, and members are welcome to email the Board directly when they have concerns or questions. The appropriate Board Member will reply, usually in a relatively short time frame. Keeping that dialogue going is one of the best ways for CoG to insure that the organization will continue for many years to come.

While describing the process of examining issues such as social justice and the path to membership, First Officer Kasha said, “Clearly, the needs of CoG’s membership have evolved over the past 40 years, and our go forward plan is to continue to assess our needs, and ultimately, potentially revise our mission …In a consensus driven organization like CoG, this can take a long time, but our committed membership has been through several tides of change and will weather this one as well, being stronger for the work.”

“CoG is ready to evolve,” said Lady Pythia. “We’re not Witches for nothing.”

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164 thoughts on “Cracks in the Cauldron: Covenant of the Goddess Wrestles with its Role

  1. Racism is rampant through all humanity, no matter the ethnicity. The harder we try to bring everyone together, the further apart it drives us all. I grew up in a house which swung widely to both sides- one strictly racist and the other completely accepting. I chose to accept all. My family refuses to accept and has limited contact with me. Actions speak louder than words can ever do. It is a truly sad day when anything that is said is construed as racist.

  2. Considering all that CoG has been through and has done for pagans – this should be a learning experience to possibly,y restructure the decision making process. #BlacklivesMatters is a very hot and sensitive topic that I support, but to condemn and punish CoG severely for not taking a stronger stance seems excessive.

    • To condemn the statement “All Lives Matters” is insane. Yes there is racism but we need to work together to ultimately remove racism vs all peoples collectively. Working only one racial group at a time will breed contempt because as history repeatedly shows that the oppressed can easily become the oppressor.

      • I think you’ve missed the whole point of #blacklivesmatter. No one is saying that all lives don’t matter, no one is lifting up one race over the other; we are asking for acknowledgement of the systemic racism built into the justice system and into our whole nation, that makes it possible for blacks to be incarcerated at three times the rate of white for the same crime, that allows cops to kill blacks and face no charges, that shows cops to kill black children and face no charges.
        Yes, other groups have issues with justice; however, in this country, blacks face more systemic racism than most other groups,AT THIS TIME. That is changing, regrettably, as the western part of the nation rages against Latino/a people and parts of the whole nation are taught to fear anyone resembling a Middle Easterner.
        My hope, at least, is if we can FINALLY deal with our intense, deep seated, systemic racism towards blacks, we can learn and NOT do to other groups what we have done to them.
        Nan Edwards Boyster
        Not a COG member, and now not likely to ever want to be one again, although I am a witch.

      • No, I’m afraid it’s very sane. To say “All Lives Matter” is to say nothing of any real controversy, and it is to completely gloss over (whitewash?) the fact that it is lives of color that are being lost to excessive use of force by American law enforcement. While reforming the way America polices itself has the potential to benefit everyone, I find myself horrified by the fact–not anecdote, but fact–that a young black male is twenty-one times more likely to be shot by police than a young white male.

        I am further shocked by the lengths white Americans are willing to go to to avoid confronting this sad reality, and committing to change it: everything from pretending that acknowledging the problem is an attack on police as a class, to claiming that it is racist to identify the systemic racism behind the statistic, to just horrible attempts to somehow rationalize the violence against black men.

        For CoG to get on the “All Lives Matter” bus is honestly far worse than remaining silent. If silent, we’d only know that they were not addressing the problem. By forwarding the “All Lives Matter” agenda, we have reason to believe they are willing, as an organization, to be complicit in denying the existence of racism, and complicit in permitting systemic racism to flourish.

      • If I needed any evidence that “All Lives Matter” is a privileged attempt to derail an uncomfortable conversation, it would be there in how easy it is for people to toss off “All Lives Matter”. “All Lives Matter” is, in comparison to “Black Lives Matter” (especially in the context of bad policing gone berserk), an immensely more radical, more world-upending phrase. Do all lives matter? Plant ones? Animal ones? Does a molester’s life matter? What does it mean to “matter” to “all lives matter” people? *I* can’t say “all lives matter” with conviction, not without a government bill’s length of caveats. I certainly can’t just toss it off without thinking through the enormity of the implications, but I’m willing to bet most of the people espousing that haven’t.

        Think about this… it’s ACTUALLY EASIER for people to say this than to allow that it matters that Black people’s lives are taken from them in the most unjust ways by a society that’s clearly decided it collectively doesn’t give a damn. That right there tells you everything you need to know about why that phrase matters so much. It’s like someone put a “look away” spell on racism in the US, people go through increasingly bizarre contortions to not only have to combat it, but to even *talk* about it frankly and openly.

        • Lupa has had more luck getting Wild Hunt readers to support her in various ecological causes than Crystal Blanton had in getting her peers to acknowledge that racism exists in America. Frankly, from where I stand it looks to me like for this audience #wildlifematters more than #blacklivesmatter.

      • Agreed. And I champion you for saying so. Ignore the ridiculous privilege crap that no doubt will be shoveled your way.

  3. The Wild Hunt deserves credit for professional reporting on this subject. Some on the internet have chosen to make the issue about the credibility of those making statements on both sides. Sadly, I found myself drawn into such discussions and had to moderate myself. This article focuses on the core issues of racism and CoG’s struggle with evolving into an organization that remains relevant within the context of a modern Pagan movement. Well Done!

    • Peter, I am reluctant to point a finger here. But I didn’t see you drawn in so much as initiating the attacks on others’ credibility. Perhaps I have misread your blog, but that has been my impression.

  4. I find it very interesting that the comment “all lives matter” being criticised for not being “black lives matter”. Interesting because I read that to include Black, Native American Indian, Asian (Indian/Pakistani), Hispanic, South-East Asian (Korean/Vietnamese/Thai), Chinese, Japanese, and so on. Don’t all these other races matter, or should we just focus on one just now?

    • Do all houses matter when one house is on fire? Do all children matter when one is found to be experiencing abuse? Obviously all lives matter, but #alllivesmatter arrived after #blacklivesmatter which was created directly to address the disproportionate murdering of unarmed black men in the USA by law enforcement. What use was there in shifting the discussion to all lives? Obviously not someone who wanted to focus on what has actually be taking place. Obviously someone who wanted to shift the discussion away from what is actually happening right now.

    • It’s a regurgitation of the ‘white mans burden’ trope, which I object to because it implies a level of permanent victimhood and inability to help themselves on the part of blacks.

    • i agree Brook. When reading “all lives matter” i didn’t see white…i literally pictured every group of people of the planet. Yes, black lives matter, but so does every other person on our world. Singling out one race over another is a form of prejudice. I hope we all work to make “every life matter.”

      • “Singling out one race” to recognize an injustice done them, when that race is being treated with bias and violence, is not the problem. Instead, it’s identifying the problem: racism. While it sounds good to be “color blind,” in practice, what is really going on is being “racism blind.”

        Every group of people on the planet is not being subjected to the mistreatment that people of color, and particularly black people, are subjected to daily. If we refuse to recognize that, we are refusing to change it. That’s a problem for me–precisely BECAUSE I value all lives. You see?

    • Native Americans and Latinos are also disproportionately likely to suffer violence at the hands of the police. An addition to the statement to recognize that fact might be appropriate; however, the Black Lives Matter hashtag marks a movement that deserves recognition and solidarity in its own right.

      Certainly, diluting the power of the movement with a non-statement like “all lives matter” is not a reasonable direction to go in responding to the current wave of violence against people of color. As K. Armand notes, all our houses are not equally on fire, so let’s send the firetrucks where they’re needed, rather than on a feel-good parade of white neighborhoods… metaphorically speaking.

      Basically, this is a cry to recognize and combat racism. We need to respond to it as such.

    • Saying “all lives matter” is so self-evident that it’s meaningless for an organization to say in a statement. The problems of racial justice in this country are rooted in some very uncomfortable truths and history and will require some very uncomfortable dialogue and action to even begin to resolve. For an organization to offer up such a safe, non-committal and empty statement as COG did is worse than saying nothing at all. It is dismissive and insulting to those who actually are trying to engage it. If organizations can’t or don’t want to find a strong and meaningful voice on the subject, they should just stay out of it entirely.

  5. Even this well-written article doesn’t do justice to the jaw-dropping clusterf*** that ensued after CoG not only moderated anti-racism posts but also outright banned discussion of the statement-fail and/or anything else related to racism on its primary e-list, stating that such topics should move onto the “Social Justice” list that was hastily created in the midst of the turmoil. A number of members objected to the sudden appearance of a “separate but equal” e-list, refused to take the discussion to the back of the bus, and eventually prevailed – but the utter organizational obliviousness, along with the stunning high-def middle-school interpersonal drama, was a real eye-opener.

  6. To all those who want to replace “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives
    Matter” wherever it’s used: Are you familiar with the SNL character
    Penelope, played by Kristen Wiig? The one who keeps interrupting
    everyone else to one-up them, no matter what the topic? That’s what you
    look like to me when you pull this stunt. My gods, can we not even let
    Black folks take ownership of their own suffering without horning in on
    it? I mean, I get why white people stole their music, because their
    music is awesome, but this? Instead of saying “me too”, try saying
    “what can I do”, and go from there.

    • Rob, for the first time, I have actually seen why it is that I took a shine to you at the PPD meeting. You make me proud to be in Michigan with you and say I know you.

    • My friend, while it is absolutely true that other people of color are subject to racism and violence by police, the “all lives matter” slogan is being used to dilute awareness of racism toward black people, not to raise it toward Latinos and Native Americans.

      No one is saying that African Americans are the only minority that matters. However, by refusing to identify race as an issue in addressing the problem of unequal justice, we continue to act, as a society, as if only the white majority matters.

      Let us find other ways to acknowledge racism toward other people of color–ways that don’t read as a denial that racism is a factor in modern life at all… when, in fact, it is quite literally killing people.

      Sound reasonable?

      • I’ve been flamed about this several times, including previously on this site.

        I’m not saying “all lives matter,” I’m saying human lives matter. There aren’t “black rights” or “women’s rights” or even “pagan rights.” There are just human rights. It’s not a right unless the other guy has it too. There’s been way too many demands for “rights” that are actually privileges that come at the expense of other’s rights.

        I’m tired of these games. I’m tired of tracking which group has attacked what other group this week. And it starts when we start slapping labels on other people.

        Talk to me when it’s about human rights. I will fight for human rights. I’ll oppose special privilege. It’s the same thing I’ve said & done for years.

        If you think I should jump higher and shout louder because the victims happen to be “black,” I’m not going to be “reasonable.”

        • What you are saying erases the specific problems that specific groups encounter. That’s what it is. “Human rights” are not under attack — the rights of LGB people, trans people, black people, brown people, and more are. Your position erases what is actually happening.

          • Of course human rights are under attack.

            I said that it’s not a right unless the other guy has it too.

            Look at what happened in the COG mess. It wasn’t enough to take a stand against prejudice in the name of common humanity, something we all shared.

            No, it had to be broken into special victim groups. And some victims were more victimized than others. That was straight out of Animal Farm. And now we’re redefining the language so that racism includes sexism. That’s the doublespeak and doublethink of 1984.

            Let’s take a hypothetical here. “A child was killed.”

            Now, does it matter if the child was a boy or a girl? Raised by a single mom or a gay couple? “Black” or “Cherokee?” With one hand or two? Jewish or agnostic?

            How do any of these labels add to the tragedy? How do any of these labels take away from the tragedy?

          • Recognizing the prejudice is the only way to fight it. Denying that it exists, which is what you’re doing, perpetuates it. That’s why you’re a racist.

            If you actually want to fight racism, you should go learn more about it. Instead of just being fucking racist.

          • Let me tell you a funny story.

            Back in my Corporate Clone days, there was a young lady I didn’t hire. She happened to be “black” and she sued me and the company for discrimination. So I had to meet with the investigator. I told the investigator to come with me and took him into my department. The charges were immediately dropped.

            Half my department was Navajo, you see.

          • Doesn’t make you not racist. Doesn’t even make you not racist against Native Americans. Most certainly doesn’t make you not anti-black. Just means they thought they couldn’t win in court.

            The things you are saying ARE FUCKING RACIST. Which makes YOU a FUCKING RACIST.

          • Usually in internet comment threads, when one person starts name calling, it’s because they can’t think of anything else to say.

            The same is true offline.

            When you’ve calmed down and have something worthwhile to say, I’ll answer.

          • You’re not interested in a real conversation in any case. You already proved that. So I won’t bother trying.

            I will, however, call out racism when I see it. And you are racist.

            Oh, and by the way, only racists think it’s name-calling to point out racism.

          • I think that when someone starts calling you racist and keep doing so repeatedly, they just don’t really want to have a meaningful conversation anymore.

          • I’d be willing to have a meaningful conversation if NeoWaylund was. They obviously aren’t, so I skipped to the bit where I just kept making my point.

          • Dantes is always quick to jump in and point out when people are being unfair to racists by pointing out their racist statements. Such devotion to a level playing field is to be commended. Or at least noted.

          • Great anecdote. But it doesn’t do much about the fact that actual discrimination exists, and that you are comfortable ignoring it, since you’re not actively perpetuating it or experiencing it.

            People of color do not have that luxury: they live in a world where, your department aside, a white felon can obtain a job as easily as a black man of similar age and education without a criminal background.

            If I tell you your neighbor’s house is on fire, is it enough to respond that you didn’t start it? Or will you be wiling to help put the fire out–given that it’s not your world that is burning?

          • I’ve a saying I usually trot out against the People of the Book.

            “Why does your enlightenment require my sacrifice?”

            You don’t know me, you don’t know what I’ve said and done, yet you persist in lecturing me as if I don’t know the world and have willingly and deliberately ignored injustice and prejudice.

            I’m not going to be responsible for your guilt.

            I think I can do better by treating people as people and not singling out “blacks” as a special victim class to be protected.

            If you don’t like it, you don’t have to respond to what I say. Here’s another of my sayings.

            “Because FREEDOM demands more than black and white.”

          • I don’t think that’s necessarily true at all, Mad Gastronomer. Nor do I think that’s the point: there are a lot more people who are in denial that racism exists than are actively and consciously bigots.

            No, NeoWayland is stuck, as a lot of us are, at the sincere belief that if he ignores racism (by ignoring the fact that different races are treated differently) it will go away. He’s probably sincere–and, unfortunately, complacent.

            He’s also quite wrong. “Color blindness” is a privilege (yeah, there’s that word–don’t get shirty about it, NeoW, hear me out) that white people have. We, for instance, don’t have to have “the talk” with our kids about why policemen may not be their friends, and why being polite and guilty of no crime may not save their life one day. (As, for instance, it did not save Tamir Rice’s life.)

            Because we don’t see active racism or acts of violence or blatant discrimination against African Americans, many of us have been able to tell ourselves that racism is effectively over. That’s a lie, but it’s a lie that it’s convenient to believe, because it lets us off the hook of actually working toward justice. It’s painful to realize that “not being racist” and “not seeing race” are not in fact, the best route to protecting the human rights Neo W wants to see extended to all.

            After a while, we well-meaning white people face a choice, however: recognize the reality that all people of color live with every day–that they are not treated in a manner that ever allows them to ignore race, and so, it is arrogant of us to do so–or willfully remain in denial.

            The amount of time it takes for truth to seep in can be long. But I think it’s wrong to presume that the person who is still laboring under the delusion that “not being racist” or being “color blind” is enough is doing so willfully. Some are, some aren’t, and only time will tell who is who.

          • It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference whether NeoWayland is “actively and consciously” a bigot. They are saying racist, harmful, bigoted shit. That makes them a racist. Not calling them a racist just because they put on a show of ignorance — and they’ve clearly been told before that what they’re saying is racist, so it’s not actual ignorance — doesn’t actually serve any purpose at all.

          • We are upset because you are a bigot and you may make our friends uncomfortable. We intend to expose and challenge your bigotry and you have no control over that. Nor are you likely to get any in the near future.

          • >there are a lot more people who are in denial that racism exists than are actively and consciously bigots.

            At what point does it become clear that “denial that racism exists” is merely a polite fiction used to hide active and conscious bigotry? Every time this topic comes up, NeoWayland tries to hijack it with posts about how white-shamed he feels by all this, how unfair it is that he is judged as a racist, etc. Are his efforts to drown out evidence to the contrary, including evidence from People of Color, merely the sort of cluelessness and narcissism we’ve come to expect in the Neopagan community? Or is he crying “I’m not a racist” because of his guilty conscience?

          • What is more important? To call New Wayland a name, deserved or not, or to give him a reason to change his mind?

            I do know people who have changed their minds, who once said things very similar to these. I’m way less concerned with labeling racists than with confronting racism, because I think there’s more hope for change in the second approach than in the first.

            Neo W may or may not be determined to hang onto racist views. But another reader of these comments, who may hold similar opinions, may be open to seeing things from a new perspective. That, at least, is my logic. 🙂

          • I know people who would not change their mind for all the cool-headed niceness in the world — but did stop to reconsider once people started getting mad and mean, and started using words like “racist” and “misogynist” and “people are fucking DYING because of the same position YOU’RE ESPOUSING” because people being nice meant to them that this was a matter for intellectual debate, but people getting mad and loud told them that there was skin in the game, and this was a matter of life or death. I have, in fact, changed minds by calling people racists and misogynists, and doing it long and loud enough. Your way of convincing people is not the only way that works.

            But more important, as far as I’m concerned, is that some oppressed people may be reading this who feeling really unsafe commenting in a space nobody is willing to call a racist a racist, where white people debate other white people only in the nicest terms, because their experience tells them that in those spaces, nobody will stand up for them if a racist attacks, and that if they are the ones to tell a racist that they’re a racist, they may be attacked by other white people. I’d much rather try to make that person feel safe by speaking truth than to try to be nice to racists in the hope that they might someday change. You can make your own choice, that’s fine, but telling me not to call racists racists is just going to get you a big FUCK YOU.

            Racist is as racist does.

          • You’ve hit on an ENORMOUS problem in the community at large. When the Kenny Klein affair broke there was one guy who became notorious for posting rants about how white heterosexual men were under attack, reminding rape survivors that false rape reports were a crime, screaming about “FEMINAZI BITCHES” etc. I compiled a list of his links and some of his greatest hits. Then, when he showed up on Patheos commenting on a post dedicated to child sexuality, I provided readers with a link to those hits so they could see for themselves what they were dealing with.

            And that comment was deleted by Patheos mod Kristina Hoff Kramer, who felt providing documentation on a serial harasser was a “personal attack” and that I was just “trying to stir up trouble.” Because while it’s important to protect the vulnerable from assault, we can’t warn them about potential threats. And reposting misogynistic and racist rants is just bringing up someone’s past and mud-slinging.

            Paganism: where the Polite will always take precedence over the True.

          • Yeah, I caught some of that.

            I will often give someone I’m not familiar with several exchanges to demonstrate whether they’re willing to actually have a conversation before I break out the nukes, but I’ve been an activist in various capacities for a bit over twenty years now, and I have a decent sense for whom I’m going to be able to get through to using pretty words at the moment, and I won’t waste pretty words on them once I’m convinced that they’re not listening. It does me no good, and it does the people I’m trying to help no good.

            “Politeness” exists primarily to serve those who have power, as most social conventions do. There are times when it can be made to serve those who lack power instead or in addition to, and then it is good and useful, but the moment politeness serves the privileged at the expense of the oppressed, it is another tool of oppression, and fuck a bunch of that.

          • I see your concern for well-meaning racists and I raise with my concern for Pagans of Color who have to deal with NeoWayland and his ilk. Sure, NeoWayland’s feelings are hurt when he gets called a racist. Pagans of Color are hurt when their lived experiences are denied and their complaints dismissed. Do their #blacklivesmatter or they expected to sit back patiently while clueless and bigoted statements go unchallenged?

            Frankly, I think the greatest challenge facing the Pagan community today may be its endless ability to prioritize the polite over the true. If it has feathers, webbed feet, a bill and goes “quack” we’re not being big meanies from planet mean when we call it a duck.

          • Labels matter in understanding and addressing the human rights issues actually happening in the world. They matter, unless you can demonstrate that these problems affect everyone equally and randomly. If, for example, white billionaires (or even middle-earning white suburbanites) were seeing their children shot down with impunity over the most trivial matters at the same rate as impoverished blacks, you might have a case.

          • There is a simple idea I call parity. Christians cal it the Golden Rule, calls it the Ethic of Reciprocity.

            The best reason I can give for not injuring that guy over there is because you don’t want him to injure you.

            The color of his skin doesn’t matter. His name doesn’t matter. His creed doesn’t matter. It’s wrong to hurt him because you don’t want to be hurt.

            I don’t really care about groups, I’m not into collectivism.

            I care about individual people. I don’t want them hurt.

        • What MadGastronomer said.

          Even if your intentions are pure, your words are encouraging those whose preference is to ignore (or exacerbate) racial discrimination against people of color. Maybe it’s time to be open to changing the “same thing you’ve said & done for years,” since in those years, the problem of racism has been growing while you’ve been reassuring yourself that “slapping labels” is the real problem.

          Because “color blind” generally means “racism blind” in the real world, whatever it may mean in your individual imagination.

          Smell the coffee, if you really care about human rights–not just the same white rights that have always been better protected.

          • Because the labels are perpetuating racism.

            At it’s simplest, there’s an assumption there. They can’t be a “real, adult” person because they are “label x.” They can’t be held responsible. It isn’t their fault.

            I don’t buy it.

            “What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are wormeaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!
            — Frederick Douglass

          • Oh, hey, using a quote from a famous Black person to justify racism! Classic racist maneuver.


          • I appreciate those who aren’t “drinking the kool-aid”. Thank you for being another voice of reason.

          • Also racist. Noted.

            Oh, and that metaphor is fucking foul. Yeah, people talking about the realities of racism is just like drinking a poisoned beverage because you’ve been brainwashed.

          • And you have the luxury of not buying it, Neo W, because, after all, it is not your life at risk.

            Consider moving to a less complacent, less self-interested position. Come on in, the logic’s fine…

          • > Even if your intentions are pure

            Presupposes facts not in evidence. When somebody repeatedly comes into a discussion about racism in the Pagan community and does his damnedest to stifle that discussion, his intentions are far from pure. At best, he is uncomfortable with the idea of challenging his own racism and his privileged position in American society. At worst it suggests he’s the kind of bigot who’s too polite to tell racist jokes in public.

          • Is that what matters, here? Is there some advantage to truth in labeling, even if we can simply presume willful racism on Neo W’s part?

            Or is taking apart the illogic of the argument itself perhaps a more useful place to put our energies?

            I’m afraid I do not see any gain to the movement in assuming any particular motives for participants in an online discussion. I’d rather stick to the logic of the case, because, actually, many people have thought for a long time that their “color blindness” or “race blindness” was a moral high ground. It takes some thought to understand why it might not be, and a little processing time, as well.

          • There is advantage in recognizing that your opponent is not debating honestly. There is also advantage in realizing that you are writing not to them but to those who might be taken in by their willful misstatement of facts and their air of aggrieved victimhood.

          • I’m afraid I do not see any gain in assuming any motives at all. Fortunately, the label “racist” applies to someone who takes racist actions, including but not limited to saying racist things, and requires no actual evaluation of motives. Granting that someone has good intentions does not serve logic at all.

        • “Human rights” in the abstract are utterly meaningless. We can go to the perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses in the world, including here at home, and get them to sign a statement unconditionally supporting “human rights.” They would happily do that by the end of business today if we could reach them all. Most of them, or their government superiors, have already done so.

          It means nothing unless and until you engage human rights abuses where they are actually happening. That means getting into the context of who the abused are. In every instance everywhere in the world, that means ethnic, racial or religious minorities or those who are otherwise disempowered by poverty, legal and social traditions, what have you.

          Human rights violations do not strike people randomly like Multiple Sclerosis. They affect specific people because of who and what they are. That means the fight is about, for example, gay rights in Russia and womens rights in Pakistan. It is about black rights here.

        • > I’ve been flamed about this several times, including previously on this site.

          But yet you return to this subject like a dog returns to its vomit and wave your arms in an effort to derail the discussion and draw attention to yourself. Why do you suppose that is?

    • I am not going to tip toe around what I think on the off chance it may offend someone.

      No, you’re going to wave my thoughts around for everybody to see like a flasher exposing his penis on a subway train. And when people complain that said thoughts are shriveled, limp and unsatisfying you’re going to whine about how we are only attacking you because of your anatomy.

  7. i see nothing wrong with the original statement, all lives do matter, and are precious. Life is full of conflict and always will be.

  8. There is no such thing as black on black crime being a phenomenon of its own. It is crime. The book that refers to it was a study meant for research and discussion. But to even make the designation that it is a separate thing means that there is a strangeness of white on white crime, which happens, and that it is also a phenomenon of note. The issue is crime. And that issue is meant for criminal justice discussion in the context of society as a whole. If we are going to ignore the historicity of the racial reality of this nation and focus only on the criminality of certain segments, then that is nothing more than a diversionary tactic, and is disappointing.

    • “Black-On-Black Violence: The Psychodynamics of Black Self-Annihilation in Service of White Domination” is the book that was the catalyst for the bastardized catchphrasing.

  9. I wouldn’t be surprised if the COG First Officer, Kasha, was the one who penned the initial statement that started this. It sounds exactly like something she and many of the people she surrounds herself with would say.

    • Is it necessary to attack a specific person? It seems to me that it’s far more productive, whether you are right or wrong, to focus on the issue at hand: how is it most appropriate for a large organization like CoG to respond to systemic racism.

      There is enough substance to discuss that personalities seem to me to be truly irrelevant. Ad hominem attacks aren’t just unpleasant, in this case, they’re a form of derailing from the more important matter at the center of the controversy.

        • And in the case of CoG, there are many people who hold those reins. Arguing the issues still beats attacking the individuals–whether or not your reading of the personalities involved is correct, which is, frankly, something I doubt many outsiders would know or care about.

          However, the issue itself matters, and should the membership of CoG be persuaded of that and it’s leadership not be, the leadership will change in August.

      • While I oposed the origional statement, I agree with Cat, there has been to much” attacking individuals” on public threads. I have been encouraged that the conversation seems to be moving in a direction of a more serious diologue, lets all support keeping it that way.

        • There’s no attack. It just always seems that in cases like this the actual individuals responsible are “shielded” behind the curtain of the organization.

          Leaders are not held accountable for their actions or their words and are free in move on to the next group, the next project, the next blog, the next student, etc and continue to spread their vitriol further into the community.

          Then, of course, those who would stand up and say, “Hey, there’s a problem with this person/these people” get shushed because of what I can only figure is either the importance of not disturbing the status quo or being PC.

  10. I absolutely love their original statement. All lives matter, no matter what shade you are, all lives matter. Michael Brown was a criminal, a criminal who robbed a store before he was shot. His hands were not up, he was not shot in the back. The whole Black Lives Matter is based on a complete fabrication and denial of reality.

    • Thank you for proving the very point this article was trying to make. Good job.

      • A black man committed a crime and had to be shot because he attacked a police officer. A good cop is out of a job now because of a criminal made into a martyr. It’s absolutely disgusting. Facts are facts and they are there for everyone to find out. And it’s shameful that blogs like this and other sites are not telling the truth about Michael Brown. We do need a response to racism. But this wasn’t racist!! It was a police officer defending himself from a violent criminal. Key word, criminal. The whole movement, again, is based on a lie! A complete fantasy made up and that has so far spun out of control that they can only double down. All lives matter, exactly what other people have said…Native, Brown, White, Black or whatever other shade of awesome human being you are…all lives matter.

        • But clearly in this very post of yours a cop’s life matters more than a criminal’s. And then you follow that up with “all lives matter”. This is what I just said above, “all lives matter” if really taken seriously is world-upending. I said in fairness that I can’t attest to that, and you just proved that you can’t either. “All Lives Matter” revealed as the hollow, facile bit of flannel that it is.

          • Oh please. When an innocent life is in danger, deadly force is permitted to be used. Criminals are not innocent. All lives do matter. If you commit a crime, yes you run the chance of having deadly force used to protect society. I’m betting if your life was in danger and someone used deadly force, you wouldn’t have much to say would you. Didn’t think so.

          • All lives do matter. Some people forfeit their lives when they threaten others. If you’re gong to crit me, I’d love to see you crit our soldiers too. Say to the face of our men and women in military uniform that taking the life of a criminal is a wrong thing. I dare you.

          • I didn’t say that, I said *you* obviously can’t say “all lives matter” without a list of caveats. I suspect that’s true of most people. I know it’s true of me, I’ll outright admit I put some lives ahead of others. But you just rattled it off without a second’s thought, because it was easier than admitting that it matters that Black people are disproportionately killed in the US. When I think about that, it’s heartbreaking.

          • Except they’re not. And that is the salient point. I don’t put anyone’s life ahead of others. If deadly force need not be used, great. If it has to be used, that sucks, but that’s life. That life still mattered, and they forfeit it. Check the news and for once see ALL the other shades of people every second of every day that are killed. Notice the scores of white women that are raped by Black men every single year…over 30,000. How may Black women are raped by White men? Less than 10. Start seeing other colors and the facts.

          • So does the rape statistic have any relevance to the question of racial justice in policing, or was is just one of those sideways counterpoints aimed at reminding white folk “how them people really are”?

          • Facts are facts, man. If you can’t handle them, you should get out of this discussion because I won’t let you escape them. Of course it’s relevant! I’m showing you that black folks are not disproportionally killed or harmed by anyone, police or otherwise! Your reply is akin to, “No don’t look over there at that appalling fact about what black men do to 30,000 white women a year! No, no focus on this issue over here! Because we can’t allow anything to tarnish our message.” I look at every situation for what is. If I say, “Black men rape more white women per year that then white men rape black women.” I’m racist or a detractor. But if this entire blog focuses on one issue based on a lie, Ferguson, oh well then that’s justice. Give me a break. Like I said…all lives matter. And don’t you accuse me of judging all black people as “them people” I don’t. I judge facts, and this Ferguson and Black Lives Matter is based on lies. Racism is real and needs to be addressed. This movement is the wrong way to do it. Example: A Black Lives Matter held a protest in MN, at the Mall of America. Private property. You do not have the right to protest on private property. What did they do? Barged in and did it anyways. Causing businesses to lose money, which they were caught on tape admitting that such was their goal, and creating tons of unnecessary racially charged tension in a large crowd. They have no respect for the law, private property, they feel free to break the law where they see fit (not surprising considering their poster child Micheal Brown was a criminal) and then have the gall to cry racism when people press charges against the group. It’s bs.

          • Well, look, my bad. If black men really are that rapey, they’re still getting more than their share of justice if a few of them get executed for petty misdemeanors or because they gave a cop attitude….

            Just curious, do you think MLK and his supporters should have never protested segregated businesses? Were they just criminals as well?

          • Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Either you’ve been lied to, your have trouble separating truth from fiction, or you are deliberately disseminating racist lies for reasons of your own.

            I am reposting an excellent debunking of your stats here. I’ll allow your logic in the rest of your comment to stand (or fall) on its own merits, but I do want to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to see deceptive “facts” taken down.


          • Excuse me, but your statistics are bogus. They appear to have their origin in statistics put forward by David Duke and other extreme right wing groups, like the Racial Nationalist Library, but they are easily debunked:

            Find actual, sane interpretation of real data here:

            Or enjoy the David Duke racist distortions here:

            Or the white supremacist Racial Nationalist Library version of the bogus stats here:

            Danielle, either your Google-fu is extremely weak, or you have been collecting your information in some exceptionally dubious places.

          • Those serving in the military face a very real risk of prosecution and imprisonment if they kill unarmed civilians or otherwise shoot someone against the rules of engagement. When a white cop shoots a black man in the U.S.,however, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion at the outset of the “investigation” that no charges will ever be considered, let alone pressed, regardless of the circumstance of the shoot.

          • Say to the face of our men and women in military uniform that taking the life of a criminal is a wrong thing. I dare you.

            Don’t you DARE speak for those of us in uniform, as if you are our spokesperson, or as if we all have the same opinions.

            I’m in military law enforcement, have been for 20 years, and I find the recent killings of black men a tragedy, based in racist attitudes.

          • “If you commit a crime, yes you run the chance of having deadly force used to protect society.”

            That chance is much, much higher if you are a person of color.

          • Right. Which is why black men are 3–4 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white men, despite being _less_ likely to use the stuff. (Sentencing is also significantly harsher. I’ll gladly provide statistics upon request–they are not ambiguous.)

        • The whole movement a lie? So you’re saying the 12-year old boy shot to death the second cops rolled up on him was also a “criminal who had to be shot”? And Eric Garner? Well, of course he was a criminal. He was selling loose cigarettes on the street, and if that doesn’t merit lethal force, what does?

          If there is any justice in reincarnation, you will be re-born as a black man. In 2015 America.

          • The whole movement is based on a lie. There absolutely needs to be a response to racism. Michael Brown and Ferguson was not racist. An officer used deadly force against a criminal who attacked him. The Black Lives Matter took off in response to Ferguson, that’s why it’s based on a lie.

          • No. Its your reality thats based on a lie. Every subsequent comment you make is just more and more offensive. Really, just stop.

          • Regardless of what Mike Brown may have done, he did not deserve to die. Would you agree to that statement?

          • You’re welcome. This issue we’re discussing right now is complex, messy and ugly, but that at least is true enough.

          • Don’t forget 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, shot by SWAT officers when they broke into her grandmother’s apartment as she lay sleeping. They were just there to deliver a warrant–to a different address.


            (I will agree that Mother Jones is a left leaning publication, btw. They simply have the most succinct summary; facts are all verifiable through court records and local newspapers. I am depending on MJ only for brevity and clarity here.)

          • It’s not even just that. It’s also a culture of systemic abuse and incompetence, and an ever-more rooted cult of the cop:


            British Citizens are 100 less times likely to be shot by their own police forces (As reported in the Economist). One can’t tell me that three police officers in their own station couldn’t handle a 17 year old girl wielding a knife. Not a firearm. Not a stick of dynamite or a grenade. A knife.

            American citizens are prejudging their fellows as being guilty and, more importantly, *deserving of death* for their actions. The Constitution gives everyone the right to a fair trial for their crimes and NOT summary execution before they can be judged.

          • In Norway, Police used to go unarmed at most times, but they are now introducing a new law that will have them carrying guns. All of this because of this damn Terror

        • > A black man committed a crime and had to be shot because he attacked a police officer.

          A police officer shot a fleeing suspect. Because, you know, he had to be Judge Dredd. The only language those people understand, don’t you know?

    • It looks like you’re saying “all lives matter” in one sentence and then “Michael Brown’s life does not matter because he stole cheap cigars” in the next sentence. Do you see this as a contradiction?

      • You know he attacked a police officer right? He was shot because he attacked, not because he stole cheap cigars. But that’s ludicrous that you’re defending a criminal! My gods what is the world coming to! See my other post about deadly force and when it’s appropriate.

        • I know the police officer’s report, which contradicts other witness reports and was only corroborated by a witness who turned out to be perjuring herself, given my understanding.

          Even still, I do not agree that deadly force is acceptable against an unarmed suspect, and I think the lives of people who commit petty crimes have worth and value. There are many people who are capable of rising above living lives of committing petty crimes and contributing to their communities, but not when they are shot to death.

          You did not overtly answer my question, but given this comment I guess you are saying that the lives of petty criminals do not matter and you do not care whether that contradicts your stated belief that all lives matter.

        • > See my other post about deadly force and when it’s

          Five police officers should be able to take down one unarmed man without using deadly force. The fact that they did not do so suggests they saw Michael Brown as a rabid dog to be put down, not a disturbed citizen to be restrained and given medical care. And the fact that you keep harping on this suggests that you agree with their assessment.

          • Slip of the keyboard indeed. However, looking at Dr. Wikipedia’s entry on the Michael Brown shooting I see:

            Wilson’s gun was fired twice during the struggle while it was inside the vehicle, with one bullet hitting Brown’s right hand.[33][34] Brown and Johnson fled and Johnson hid behind a car.[35] Wilson got out of the vehicle and pursued Brown.[12] At some point, Wilson fired his gun again, with at least six shots striking Brown,[7] fatally wounding him. Brown was unarmed.[33][36] Less than 90 seconds passed from the time Wilson encountered Brown to the time of Brown’s death.[37][38]

            Taking that account at face value, it puts paid to Danielle Amourtrance Verum’s repeated comment that Wilson had to shoot Brown because he was “in fear of his life.” He shot a suspect who was trying to escape and thereby made himself judge, jury and executioner.

      • The only reason Danielle is getting behind #alllivesmatter is because she knows that nobody here would support her belief that #blacklivesdon’t.

    • While I might argue the facts of Michael Brown’s case, in the end, they are beside the point to the overall reality: Given the stark statistical differences between the treatment of black people and white people, the strengths or weaknesses of one individual case are not relevant: young black men are 21 times as likely to be shot as young white men. (And, while it pains me to have to say this explicitly, there are enough racist stereotypes out there that I need to point out that, no, disparities in crimes committed are nowhere near that order of magnitude–and in fact, in case of some crimes, blacks are less likely to commit them than whites.)

      In fact, the whole Black Lives Matter movement is based on a lived reality of the majority of black Americans, who live with the not unrealistic fear that they will be subject to violence by the police.

      Here’s a link to a story at the Washington Post, to get you started, learning the basics of how the black experience of policing differs from the white experience–assuming you are actually interested in what’s true, rather than what’s easy to want to believe.

      • Have you spoken or read anything from Black folks who are not in support of the movement? Yes, they exist. Just like conservative Black people. Believe me, it is NOT easy knowing what I know about the facts. Stating them for what they are lands you in a heap of trouble. EDIT: Whoops, thanks for the article though.

        • I have a dear longtime friend who was a Black conservative. Held Republican Party office, in fact, as did his parents. He maintained for years that racism was overblown, not that big an issue, etc. He now says he’d rather have the Nation of Islam patrolling his neighborhood than his city’s police. He’s a poli sci professor, he certainly knows “the facts”.

        • Those black conservatives should drop to their knees and thank God almighty that they have a strong White voice to speak for them!

          • How rude of you to assume they’re Christian. Pfft please. That’s all you got? Cya.

        • Neat. I haven’t seen a debater’s tactic of “my black friend says” quite as weak as this one, before. I will add it to my collection. Thanks, Danielle!

        • You really need to stop. You have no idea what you’re talking about, and to say that what you’re putting forth is racist and offensive is really putting it lightly.

    • As a white person, you really have no valid opinion whatsoever when it comes to determining what is a ‘complete fabrication and denial of reality’ on the part of Black people.

      Really, you need to shut up now.

  11. I’m not really sure if calling out CoG is really the right way to handle something like this. Cog is like an umbrella of unified but still individual covens. So…it’s kind of like trying to say the Pagan movement should do something about X. Well, not every Pagan speaks for every other Pagan. So how could CoG even make a statement in the first place is a good question for starters. I suppose really each individual coven should make a statement? I don’t know. This whole notion of trying to social bully people and organizations into stuff like this is nonsense.

  12. This still looks more like massive process fail than outright racism. I’m not completely convinced that other contentious topics wouldn’t have ended the same way. They seem to need 99 committees and half a year to properly produce a statement as an organization. They saw the need to get it out fast (first mistake) and put both feet in their mouths (mistake #2) when they did. This resulted in any mired-in-tangled-bureaucracy organization’s worst nightmare, tons of angry controversy on its communication lists. “Ohcrap!” said the organization, and waded in with heavy-handed moderating (mistake #3) and then said “stop talking about this!” (as if shoving it all under the rug wasn’t going to produce a bump that tripped people, and mistake #4), then said “talk about it on this e-list we produced to let us stop seeing this controversy because controversy scares us!” (mistake #… I’ve stopped counting). I’ve seen dozens of iterations of this with completely different subjects over the years. CoG admittedly hit every square on the bingo card, and I think they should really think through the internal process issues because now everyone can see them. It’s well-meaning-liberal-white-people privilege fail, certainly. Openly racist as an organization, not so much, I think Peter Dybing is making this more purposeful than it really seems to be.

    • You were going strong there about perceived errors of CoG but you lost it at the white privilege line. White privilege is racist, anti-white bigotry.

      • No, it isn’t. It’s what lets white people go most or all of their lives without having to deal with racism or really substantively talk about racism, to the point that it scares the pants off them when it comes up in a way that can’t be neatly sidestepped. It’s that thing that lets me close this browser and stop thinking about racism, if I wanted to.

        • Sorry. Nope. I’m white and I am not afraid to talk about race. And in fact, I too have been a target of racism. So yes, let’s talk about it. Oh but you can’t if you’re white, you’re just a crybaby then. So I’d love to have a real discussion about race. I’d love to chat with folks about the issue of unfair and unjust treatment of blacks by police. But I can’t when they lie about what happened, commit violent acts against innocent business owners and harm other black people in their misguided rampages. But again, their whole movement is based on a lie about what happened in Ferguson.

          • Your evidence of experienced racism is anecdotal and useless in a discussion about cultural and social issues. Any event you allegedly experienced is not a representation of systemic problems within the community at large.

            Thanks for playing, please try again.

          • LOL! You don’t even know my experiences and you write them off. Nice. Sorry, ace. Nice try.

          • The content or context of your experiences don’t matter in the big picture. That’s what you don’t understand. You’re conflating an individual experience with a systemic issue, and it doesn’t fly.

          • The whole movement is just a lie fostered by one-issue agitators and extremists. Let’s see, I know I’ve heard that line before….

            “We have never had a problem in the South except in a few very isolated instances and these have been the result of outside agitators” – George Wallace, 1964.

            Your fixation on Ferguson and your seemingly central agenda of using it to dismiss the race problem altogether tells me that the problem goes a lot deeper in the Pagan community than just a clumsy and un-courageous statement by COG.

            I have not, since the case unfolded, believed that Michael Brown was a model citizen randomly executed by a racist cop. At the same time, that complication in the story does not negate the broader narrative of the routine use of overwhelming and lethal force in policing routine issues in black communities or the well-founded belief by many black Americans that no police abuse against them, no matter how flagrant, will ever be properly investigated or prosecuted.

          • That’s it exactly! Even *if* you can dismiss this case or that case, that doesn’t make the pattern stop existing.

          • If you’re a white person, you’ve never experienced racism. Prejudice, sure, but not racism, at least in America.

            And frankly, the way you speak of ‘their movement’ reeks of unacknowledged racism in itself.

      • WHAT??? White privilege is racist? What are you smoking, and how do you sleep entrenched in such denial?

        Seriously, that’s the stupidest thing I’ve read in a long, long time, and I’m no newbie to the Internets…

      • In fairness, white privilege is a tough idea for a lot of us to take in: it sounds so much like an accusation of deliberate bigotry, or an assumption that the white person in question is some sort of spoiled brat, doesn’t it? And that’s unfortunate, because very few people consider themselves to be racist–most of us will say we don’t hate anyone (and miss the fact that we still may hold very racially biased stereotypes, not supported by evidence, but rather by pop culture, mass media, etc.) and a lot of white people grew up in anything but luxury.

        That makes it sound as if “white privilege” was just a way of calling white people snotty. Who wouldn’t reject that as biased and mean-spirited?

        That’s not really what it means, though. It’s honestly worth a closer look! If you’re reading this, and you are someone who struggles with the notion of “privilege,” but you want to know why quite reasonable people think it’s worth thinking about, check out this article, “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person.”

        For what it’s worth, while I find the idea of white privilege to be very useful, I also find it useful to think of it in terms of a blind spot. My culture teaches me that being white, I know everything I need to know about my culture… while systematically hiding from me the experiences of people of color, and limiting my opportunities to understand and empathize with them. I have a blind spot!

        So I try to do what I do when I’m driving in heavy traffic, and I need to change lanes: I carefully check my blind spot by listening to a variety of voices, including many voices of people of color, when I’m thinking about things connected to the experience of race and racism in America. I take a closer look–because there’s stuff I otherwise would miss. Not because I’m a bad person for being white… but because there are things about how my society treats people of color that I can’t know directly, because I’m white.

      • You are plainly a racist.

        White privilege is the factually documented mechanism by which white people are given preferential treatment in our society. That’s what white privilege is. White people are less likely to be stopped by cops, searched by cops, arrested, convicted, serve time, and, oh yeah, be murdered by cops. White people are more likely to get hired, get promotions, get raises. White people are presented better in the press. White people find it easier to get credit, loans, and housing. White people find it easier to get decent medical treatment. The list goes on and on, and has been factually proven to exist. There’s study after study showing that society treats white people better than black and brown people. It’s simply true. That’s what white privilege is.

        Your claim, that white privilege does not exist and that the concept is racist against white people, is racist.

        • Again, “My egoist anecdotal experiences obviously trumps larger social trends and documented evidence”.

    • My confrontation was of a system. I do not think, for the record, that there are a bunch of intentional racists on the CoG board making decisions. When systems, by their collective actions defend racism, even if they do not intend to it is a real issue in the community. I would really be pleased if the conversation would move beyond who said what on both sides. What seems to be manifesting is a more mature discussion of the issue and that I totally support.

      • Thanks, Peter. I agree with you about systems, too, though I think it matters to distinguish what species of racism-defending is going on– the CoG isn’t the AFA. But that said, I think clueless, ham-handed bungling often does more to cement systemic oppression than overt hatred does, from an unwillingness to confront the dominant narrative. “Oh, I don’t want to rock the boat, deary no, not me. I think it’s just dreadful what happens, but the world just isn’t a fair place and you can’t expect it to be” and so on and so forth. If all the people who sit back and say nothing decided to start objecting tomorrow, we’d be living in the beginning of a very different world.

    • I agree with your general point that this is mostly a failure of process. It actually takes one to three years “to properly produce a statement as an organization” and IMO this is a feature, not a bug. Statements issued from the annual corporate meeting (Grand Council) get worked over until all the delegates are okay with both sentiment and wording, and the people attending the meeting know what the folks back home think. So it’s real; it means something.

      In between Grand Councils, the board of national officers has the authority to speak on behalf of the Covenant, because stuff does come up that can’t wait. But the way these statements are generated is a legacy of the pre-Internet era. AFAIK the Board is not mandated to consult with anyone else; they usually do, but the choice of advisors is at their discretion so they might not hear from all the people they need to. My impression is that nothing formal prevents the Board from issuing a statement in the name of CoG that is ahead or behind where most of the membership is, or is poorly worded, or is about an issue on which the members are not in consensus. This wasn’t a big problem before blogs and social media, because hardly anyone was paying attention.

    • CoG does indeed need to take another look at its process, and for sure, that is a big piece of what has made this so disastrous. (With you on that Bingo board, though!)

  13. I wanted to say that this is a great piece of reporting. While the subject matter is challenging, it felt wonderful to read a nuanced exploration of this issue within our communities.

  14. We live in a time when civil rights that were fought for so long are disappearing rapidly. Possibly we may have to do what happened before and hit the streets. May I remind it was the Black Civil Rights Movement that led the way for all the civil rights movements by teaching the rest of us what worked. We do face one additional danger now that our police are being militarized. What the Black people face right now is exactly what the rest of us will face in the near future. Supporting the Black Civil Rights fight now will help our own fight. Those against civil rights believe they can win by divide and conquer. Which side do the rest of you want to support? It is as simple as that.

  15. In all honesty, there will always be racism. As long as we humans keep perpetuating the hate cycle instead of fostering color blindness (in relation to ethnicity), racism (and elitism as well) will continue rearing it’s ugly head. Come on people it’s 2015, why is race or social standing still a thing? We are emotionally and socially retarding ourselves with this behavior, and it needs to be stamped out! No one person is greater in value than his/her neighbor, so stop wondering who’s grass is greener! As a tiracial parent with children who are quadracial, all hate and the negative actions associated with base behavior should be ommited from parenting. Theach your kids unconditional love, even for themselves, and in one generation this bs will be a past issue 🙂

    • With respect, teaching your child unconditional love when other children are being taught, however subliminally, to expect that African Americans will behave as criminals is not going to get it done.

      The reason color blindness is not a viable approach to racism is because racism is actually quite deeply engrained in our culture. Sadly, love alone will not protect a child of color from people who share, for example, the biases shown by Danielle Amourtrance Verum on this thread. (See virtually any of her lengthier comments on this thread for a quick briefing of the kind of bias virtually all black people encounter frequently in our society: )

      Yeah, parenting kids to understand that racism is wrong will help. But we adults are going to have to educate one another, too, and those of us opposed to racism we won’t be able to set aside thinking about race until those promoting it stop infusing our legal, economic, and cultural institutions with racism. We get to stop worrying about race, in other words, when we’ve taken racism down–not before.

    • “Colorblindness” fosters racism, it doesn’t eliminate it. They don’t work. They don’t fix racism, they just allow privileged people to ignore it and tell people to stop talking about it.

      “Colorblindness” pretends to ignore race, but race is a real part of people and how they experience the world. Race is a social construct, but so are religion and marriage — social constructs are still real things, and they still make a difference in people’s lives. Ignoring that someone is Black or Latinx or Native or whatever doesn’t undo the harm that racism does them, it just ignores not only that racism continues to affect them, but that their cultures and ethnicities and histories make positive impacts on their lives as well.