Race Matters, But Not The Way You Think
Some time ago, I made a post stating that I feel that modern Heathenry is largely racists who don’t know they’re racists arguing with racists who know they’re racist about who is more racist. Now, I think I will expound further on this.
From what I can gather, there are two main groupings of Norse/Germanic Heathens/Asatruar:
The first would be Universalists, or what I tend to call the average-liberal-heathen/pagan, who generally believe that Heathenry is equally for anyone who wants to be heathen, regardless of race, nationality, or practice. They usually have a very leftist political affiliations and harp strongly on equality and being inclusive.
The second would be Folkish (or some flavor of that), or what the first group like to call racist/nazi heathens. Generally, they seem to believe that to be able to be included in Heathenry or be able to be a “real heathen” one must be…..some kind of white person, preferably of Norse/German/“viking” descent.
I believe both groups are wrong about why race is or isn’t important.
To begin, I don’t think anyone will argue that culture doesn’t exist, or that cultures aren’t different (cultural diversity and all that). And what is religion/spirituality if not a part of and a reflection of the culture from which it emerged? And can we not all agree that in order to fully understand a religion, we must also take into consideration the cultural context?
Culture itself is formed over time by groups of people through shared experiences because of events through history and geographic location. Is it unbelievable then, that people who perhaps had a family who has lived in that culture for generations would not have a deeper understanding of the culture’s spiritual beliefs? And is it unbelievable that those groups of people would not have evolved over time to favor certain traits that would allow them to survive better in that context?
This then, is the genetic component. The sensitive topic that Universalist Heathens don’t want to touch. If there is a person whose ancestors lived in a situation where, say, independence was a more favorable trait for survival, then the children of those who survived would have a higher percent chance to be a more independent person (not to mention if they grew up in that culture, that trait would be praised, developed, and encouraged).
But, this is not 100%. It is not foolproof. Humans are individuals, who could be born and develop with a number of combination of traits, not to mention anomalies and mutations. Therefore, one could not say that ALL people of Northern European descent are fit to be or even inclined to be Heathens. Nor could one say that ALL people who are not never have it in their nature.
I am ethnically Chinese, almost 100%, but I can not relate to Chinese culture or the way most of them think on a fundamental level. This is not only because I was born in the U.S., a western country. My father who was born in Taiwan also has many stereotypically “western” traits in his way of thinking (among other things) as well, and we are considered “weird” by other East Asian people. I suffered ostracization and bullying from other Chinese or East Asian children growing up because I was different. Imagine how my life might have been changed, or limited, had I been born in China, surrounded by only Chinese people, and you might start to see a concrete example of how ancestry does have an impact on the average person of a certain race.
However, because I grew up largely around Chinese people, there are also things I understand and know intimately about Chinese culture that I am often surprised to find is not common knowledge to the average white American. And the more I visited Norway(the place I feel most at home), the more I realized being American and growing up in American culture, even if I disagree or feel uncomfortable with a lot of it, has shaped me differently than if I had grown up in Norway. I still responded to my surrounding influences, either for or against.
Therefore, I am compelled to take that into consideration in my practice, in my Heathenry. I have to acknowledge that I am not Norwegian, or Icelandic, and that I am not even an American of European descent (whose families still have traditions that echo those of the old world, however faint they may be). That is my starting point. A different context of understanding the world.
The past shapes the present and the future, whether it’s nature or nurture, and we are so afraid to admit that to ourselves, often even on a small scale. We wish to distance ourselves from our own past foolishness, or our parents’ or ancestors’ mistakes, so much so that we want to believe that our past has nothing to do with who we are now, but the effect is there whether we acknowledge it or not.
I conclude that an average person of Norse or Germanic descent would be a better Heathen than an average person who is of a different descent. However, we are not average people. We are individuals, and any one individual may find something in particular stirs their heart for one reason or another. I only ask that we all examine where we came from, and where our paths of choice come from with honesty, respect, and a desire to Know.