Dear white Witches: Saying “Dark/Black Magick” is Racist!
(pre-p.s., I say white witch as in causcasian practitioner of magick… chill before you spill)
Back when I was in Boston, my friends and I would frequent trips to the local bookstore to check out the latest developments in the YA/NA fantasy. One friend in particular is a harsh judge of books, so when she tossed a novel aside for its use of the words “dark magic,” I grew skeptical. I didn’t understand why she was so turned off by a phrase that was only used to describe a craft that specializes in hexes and demonology. She told me that “dark” and “black magic” are terms built on racism and colorism because they associate darker shades with deeper evils. She also said that “light” and “white magic” are built on the same foundation: demonizing deeper shades of colors by associating them with negative qualities, and romanticizing lighter shades by associating them with positive ones, was racist.
I dismissed her answer, rejecting the idea that literal colors and the meanings behind them had anything to do with race. Frankly, I still don’t believe that the metaphors of colors originally had anything to do with people of color. The color black had been associated with death because of the grayness of one’s complexion after they bit it. Yellow/white had been associated with goodness because of daylight, and the crops that were able to grow in the rays of the sun. These metaphors exist all over the world! However, I am not ignorant to the fact that white people now benefit from such metaphors and they’ve taken advantage of them by visually portraying bad guys as dark and good guys as light.
Also, when it came to magick, I always saw it as a neutral force that could be manipulated into influencing good or bad outputs. So, even though I dismissed phrases like “dark” and “light” magick, I did it under different terms and I wasn’t so strict and bitter about it. I just prefered “dark” and “light” witch instead.
That all changed when I watched a documentary about witchcraft on Hulu (or YouTube?).
Some old guy was recording a documentary about witches and he started his international film in the UK. I had found this doc. online after Googling “unbiased witch documentary” (because it seems like every film about witches is just some Christian Jesus-freak ranting about devil worship), so I was pleased to find that the narrator was being pretty neutral about the subject.
He’d been recorded going to a witch expo in England and he reported how sweet and friendly the witches were. He had one-on-ones with them as he asked about their craft. He asked them if they were evil, if they were good, and what they thought about what the Bible has to say about witches. They mentioned Wicca and how they’re all about peace and love, just like Christians are [supposed to be].
Then, the narrator asked about a recent crime that the police said was done under occult influence (a mutilated dead body was found in a river). All the witches seemed oblivious and claimed it was against everything they believed in. When the narrator asked the investigators about the crime, they said that it must have been voodoo witches because Wiccans don’t do that kind of stuff. The police called them “witches that practice black magic,” as he constantly referenced voodoo.
The narrator proceeded to travel to Africa, or as he called it, “the dark continent”, to learn more about “black magic”. Clips of people in the midst of worship flashed across the screen as creepy sounding music grew louder on the TV. If you know African paganism, you know that they shout, dance, and holler as they invoke their gods. It’s popular for people to invite their deities to take hold of their bodies as a form of offering. When the narrator discovered this, he used words like “dark arts” and “possession” to describe their religious practice. He called their gods “devils” and totally slandered their beliefs. It was clear the editors only used clips of people who said nasty things about Afro-paganism. People who were of Abrahamic religions spoke their trash almost as much as the narrator had, because they were the primary focus of interviews. They claimed witches had cursed their families, sacrificed their children, and stole their cattle.
When the narrator spoke to the police, they were glad to report that “anyone spotted practicing black magic would be severely punished”.
The only witch they interviewed was a man who often went on trips to the pagan marketplace. The narrator followed him there and proceeded to only record sellers who were marketing “macabre” items like shrunken heads, animal blood, and poisonous herbs. They even had the nerve to throw in a clip of a woman holding up The Devil tarot card!
I was outraged, and finally realized the ugly behind the terms “black” and “dark magic”.
It’s not just about specializing in curses, demonology, hexes, and necromancy. It’s the fact that every time someone thinks of voodoo, they they don’t think of healing and rootwork and using such powerful witchcraft for good. They think “black magic!” and “dark arts!” because they associate Afro-paganism with curses, demons, hexes, and the dead while Wiccans and European witches get credit for using magic for good and gods that aren’t even theirs.
I mean, how likely was it that a vodoun witch in the UK murdered someone for a spell..? Why would they blame an African-esque witch? Because they associate them with “black magic.” Because a “white witch” would have never done something like that. *rolls eyes*
(p.s, I really want to know what you guys think. Why do you think dark/black and light/white magick/witch are okay terms to use? Why don’t you?)