Saturday, 10 September 2011

The 'R' word

A week or so ago I had the dubious pleasure of having a run in with a racist on my f-list over on Facebook. And not just any racist, but a racist who is identifying as a Celtic Reconstructionist.

I've been hanging out on a few groups on Facebook lately, and that's where I met the person in question. This wasn't someone who I knew very well - he'd posted a few questions on a group, as someone new to CR and trying to figure a few things out, and I offered some opinions here and there. At this point there were no hints of racism - it was never brought onto the groups - and after a while we did the whole Facebook friends thing. Then came the racism...Post after post after post on his status updates, some of which were trying to articulate a point, others of which were just the same racial slur repeated three or four times in one sentence, mostly aimed at 'Paki's' and Muslims, and how they're 'taking over Scotland' (or will do, within the next 50 years or so. Forcing Shariah law on us all etc).

After I suggested that perhaps he could refrain from engaging in such ignorance and offensiveness (that would be a polite rewording of what I said), he defended himself by saying he didn't see it as racist at all - he was just stating the facts - and that was that. Unfortunately it didn't stop any of the subsequent replies to the post arriving in my inbox, so some of his friends stepped in and agreed with him - it's not racist, defending your culture, especially when it's under attack from religious extremists. Close the borders! GAELIC PRIDE WORLDWIDE!

And of course, obviously I just don't know any better, wallowing here in my self-hating, liberal, politically correct white guilt.

Somebody obviously hadn't read up on CR and what it stands for, and this is what's really irked me about the whole thing, and that's why I've been stewing about it for a bit. It's not like there isn't a whole website dedicated to exactly that, or anything...Or in the CR FAQ:
People practicing or endorsing racism are not accepted as a part of CR any more than KKK members are accepted as a part of mainstream liberal Christian denominations. We work hard to expose people using CR or a link with Celtic culture as an excuse for racism and condemn them for their prejudices and acts of discrimination.

And, seeing as racism and homophobia and all the rest tends to walk hand in hand, let's not forget:
Knowing that humanity originated on the African continent, we believe that we are all of one blood, all one human family. CR as a whole is strongly anti-racist and welcomes people of all races, ethnicities and colors who wish to follow Celtic deities in a CR style.

CR firmly and absolutely rejects racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination that divide people into warring camps.

It's sad that things like this need to be restated. It's sad that things like this even have to be said at all, but there you have it: It does, and may be the only thing that can be hoped for is that such people will decide that CR isn't for them after all.

As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for racism, and there's certainly no excuse for jumping into a religion so it can be twisted to give a veneer of spiritual justification for racism and ignorance, or to reinforce a twisted sense of cultural superiority. The sources we look to in the process of reconstructing our practices show that ignorance and lies are something to be reviled. Being inhospitable or ungracious towards your guests is considered to be utterly offensive. Racism and bigotry encompasses all of these things. It has no place in Celtic Reconstructionism at all. It has no place in Scotland either, and I'm glad that the nationalist party who are currently running the show at Holyrood feel the same. The same can't be said for the BNP. Or the EDL. Or the SDL. But I digress, perhaps.

As far as I see it, at the heart of Celtic Reconstructionism - in all its many expressions - what makes you a part of CR is what you do, how you act, the gods you worship. Skin colour, blood, sexuality, place of birth...These have nothing to do with making a person eligible or ineligible, better or worthier as a reconstructionist, and nor should they.

Thankfully these kind of bigots are very much a minority, but therein lies the problem, in some ways. Perhaps because these problems with racists are (generally) few and far between, racism and bigotry isn't something that's talked about as much as it should be within the community as a whole. In this instance, for example, it seems that at least one person didn't get the memo, anyway. Then again, there are always going to be some who jump in first and then read later, so there will always be a few who will probably ignore the obvious anyway.

A lot of the time it's the negative things that stick in people's minds rather than the positives, and the only way to try and counter them is to speak out against them. Even though it might be just a small minority, any racists or bigots that are given free rein could potentially damage the community as a whole, and mire CR in a seedy image of bigotry and white supremacy (and some people would say reconstructionists have enough of an image problem without being seen as a bunch of racist bigots as well). Without speaking out, they can go round spreading lies, and their racist agenda under the guise of religion, and then it's a black mark against us all. I'm not saying that the person I had a run in with is doing this, by the way. But I do think it's a potential risk that folks like this might take it upon themselves to do so.

It has to be said, the CR community as a whole has a pretty good track record on speaking out. It doesn't tolerate this kind of thing, as people like Steven Akins will know (never claiming to be a reconstructionist, though, because he could go one better, oh yes - an anciente druid manuscript with a stunning pedigree, surviving through the ages in the hands of pretty much every prominent occult personality in the history books, with nary a mention anywhere during the course of hundreds of years or so. Until it fell into the hands of a white supremacist with a dim view of Jews, homosexuals and queers, and reconstructionists in general, of course...).

If there's one thing that all kinds of CRs can agree on, whatever part of the umbrella they might shelter under, it's that racism and bigotry have no place here. Labels are a slippery thing; anyone can go round calling themselves a Celtic Reconstructionist whether they fit under that label or not, and they can go round saying what they like. One thing I hope people understand, though, is that this is not something that's tolerated by the community as a whole. And anyone who might be labouring under the misapprehension that it is tolerated, or even celebtrated, well...I think it's safe to say that there's no place for you here.

55. Tell him, let him be merciful, just, impartial, conscientious, firm, generous, hospitable, honourable, stable, beneficient, capable, honest, well-spoken, steady, true-judging.