“Inclusive” Isn’t Enough

I refuse to be friendly with people who think Heathenry is only open to the “right” kind of people. I refuse to be civil with people who advocate for harm to marginalized racial, ethnic and religious groups. I will not tolerate anyone supporting an ideology that endangers LGBT+ people, or who think gender roles are a rigid and non-negotiable truth. (Because they’re not.) I have absolutely no patience for people who cannot accept that disability is going to be something they’ll just have to deal with seeing in their lives. They’re in the wrong faith anyway, with our one-eyed and one-handed gods.

But it’s not enough to just say so. An inclusive stance is a reflection of your ethics, and any ethical stance without a standard of behavior and action to back it up loses its legitimacy. This is literally a fundamental rule of ethics. A non-prescriptive philosophy is an inactionable philosophy, and therefore useless.

Which is to say, you don’t simply make that announcement of inclusivity, or sign Declaration 127, and call it a day. Any kind of real change takes more time and work than just saying you’re safe. It’s a start. But you have to prove that. If you want to be trusted, you have to accept that people will distrust you until their concerns are satisfactorily addressed.

And I’m not saying you have to go physically fight people–diversity of tactics has a vital place. The point is, do what you are capable of, but do something.

We have a responsibility, as inclusivist Heathens, to vet people carefully. And then keep paying attention. It’s tiring. It takes time and effort. I keep an eye on people for several days or dig through months worth of their content before I reach out to them. I’m more obsessive about it, because I didn’t trust my judgement before. But it’s not unreasonable to spend 10 minutes skimming someone’s online trail to see what turns up. It really does need to be done.

It’s not just the Asatru Folk Assembly and Odinic Rite contributing to the problem, because not every racist or hateful Heathen is affiliated with them. Some of them are still hanging on in organizations that would love to think they’re progressive. And not all contributions to a problem are morally equivalent, either. Idealogical Puritanism is a destructive mentality that shuts out imperfect but promising allies, and misguided people who could be easily redirected. But it behooves us to know what’s going on, and what people’s concerns are, so we can address them effectively.

And the big thing is white supremacy. If we don’t learn to recognize it, we let them network unchecked and continue to use Heathenry as a weapon. And it’s vital to remember that white supremacy is a value of the dominant culture and we all get trained to participate–if we don’t examine our own selves, and each other, we will end up perpetuating it. If we unwittingly broadcast that message, not knowing the underlying meaning, we help the more obviously aggressive and dangerous white supremacists do this. If we do not take the time to consider the source of our information, and we repeat standard white supremacist rhetoric, we become an active participant.

And people cannot trust us, though that’s among the lesser of our problems.

People won’t want to be part of our supposedly inclusive faith if we don’t work to make sure they feel welcome. If we boost messages from the racist contingent, intentionally or not, people won’t be able to tell who can actually be approached. If we let racists into the same spaces and events as marginalized people who are curious about, or already practicing our faith, we are enabling the former and endangering the latter. If we don’t make the effort to prove that we don’t tolerate that behavior, we can only blame ourselves if people don’t trust us. If we make it about ourselves, we’re failing to walk our talk.

When we create Heathen spaces, we take on the role of hosts. Our job is to set a nice table and give visitors somewhere comfortable to settle in.

Inviting people in without meeting their needs does not include them. It ultimately imposes upon them. And that’s bad hospitality.

Do better.

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Inclusive Heathenry is Accessible Heathenry

Go figure, stanza 71 of Havamal is my favorite:

A limping man can ride a horse,
A handless man can herd,
A deaf man can fight and win.
It is better even to be blind,
than fuel for the funeral pyre;
what can a dead man do?

From the Jackson Crawford translation.
Continue reading Inclusive Heathenry is Accessible Heathenry