Being a Pagan of Color- Cultural Appropriation in Kemeticism

Hi ladies and gents and those in between, I’m back! For a while I’ve been trying to figure out this thing called life and religion, so my blog has run quiet for a while now. I’ll try and be more up to date, but I make no promises. I got this idea today to write about being a Pagan of Color, specifically a Black Pagan, since that is my primary identification and experience. If you have any suggestions for posts, feel free to ask and I will get back to you.

Today, however, I specifically wanted to talk about this accusation of cultural appropriation in Kemeticism. I really hate white people telling me what to do, but I hate it even more when they ignore my existence. See, in the community, especially on Tumblr, it seems like we have at least one person trolling some newbie Kemetic’s blog and telling them they’re racist and appropriating because they’re white. Or rather, because it’s assumed they’re white and that only white people are trying to be Kemetic. Um, no, for one thing I and many other black people exist in this community thanks.

Second, you can’t culturally appropriate from Ancient Egypt (modern Egypt, on the other hand, is a different story). Here’s why: first, Ancient Egypt was an open culture. They were so open a jumbo jet cargo plane could do loop-de-loops through it and not hit a closed door. Any closed doors were closed for reasons other than what culture you were from (like educational level). Second, Ancient Egypt didn’t have a modern concept of race. You were either foreign or you weren’t, and if you did the legal citizenship thing you were Egyptian. Sometimes you didn’t even need to do that, just assimilate enough of the culture and bam, Egyptian.

Let me just pause to make a particular point. The Ancient Egyptians were not black. Technically speaking, no one born and/or raised in Africa is black. They’re African. This is a very important distinction and the terms African and Black are NOT interchangeable. I am Black, I am not African. I will never be African and will always be black. My family tree stops at plantations and native tribes, with two branches reaching into the Philippines and Germany. I will never know my African heritage or anything about those ancestors, that is the legacy of slavery. I have been severed from that continent and can never connect with it again, not as an African, not even as a black person. What would I connect with? How? Africans may experience racism when they move to America, but they are not black. Their experience with racism and blackness is separate. They and their families didn’t go through slavery and the stripping of their culture and history, at least not at the hands of American slavekeepers. They cannot connect with Black culture the same way. Further, Africa has thousands of cultures and identities within it, you erase those when you equate Africans with Black people, just the same as you erase the heritage of Black people when you call them African. This is why most Blacks call themselves such, instead of African-American. If you meet an African immigrant or the children of said immigrants, you had better mind yourself and ask them what country/tribe/identity they hold and call them that. Do not insult them and erase their heritage by calling them Black. You’re proud of your Italian or Irish selves, they’re proud of their Yoruban, Eritrean or Nigerian, etc selves.

But the Ancient Egyptians were not black. Besides the fact they didn’t have the same concept of race, genetic studies have shown that they weren’t very different from modern Egyptians, who are Arabic and Semitic and otherwise Mediterranean. During ancient times, they were considerably mixed, due to their open culture and imperialistic ways (kind of like America, we’re a melting pot partly because we keep invading other countries and forcing them to assimilate our culture) as well as their relations with Nubia, parts of Europe, the Ancient Near East and parts of the Middle East. On the by and large though, they were Arabic and Semitic, just like they are now. Claiming cultural appropriation on these grounds is just ludicrous. They wanted their culture spread and weren’t black, no matter what Afrocentrists say (newsflash Afrocentric people, you’re not actually afrocentric you’re just obsessed with Egypt. There are thousands of supremely awesome cultures, both ancient and modern, in Africa that actually had what we would today consider of African descent, like Nubia, just to start with. You’re trying to erase history and a modern culture, and take something that was never yours, while ignoring and erasing the rest of the continent. Knock it off. Look up Shaka Zulu or something).

Next, Ancient Egypt is a DEAD culture and DEAD religion. It would be one thing if some part of the culture or religion was still alive, being used by modern descendants, but the culture died out in its entirety and was replaced. Extinct cultures are more eligible for use by modern people of all stripes. Further, the people of Ancient Egypt were not subject to modern issues of racism, oppression, imperialism and colonialism. It isn’t stealing and spitting in their faces, treating them and their culture like a commodity, a shiny thing, a unique thing to be used like paint to spruce up your life or be special. It isn’t ignoring their protests, their history, their suffering, it isn’t exercising privilege and disrespecting and discarding what they have to say and how they feel about their culture, or how their culture is viewed and used. It isn’t stereotyping and simplification, it isn’t stripping their identity down to a couple points and wearing it like makeup. Especially since their culture was open and imperialistic, meaning they wanted it to spread.

Lastly, there are black Kemetics! There are Kemetics of other races! It ain’t just white people looking for some shiny thing they can stick their hands in. It is true that we have some white members of the community who are racist and act grossly, but on the by and large white co-religionists do their damndest to be respectful and socially aware.

I’d also like to make a comment on this accusation that we’re disrespectful to our gods because of the Kemetic Fandom. Mind. Yo damn. Business. We don’t have hubris in Kemeticism. Our gods can defend themselves. And have you seen the Ancient Egyptians? They put puns in their hymns and prayers. They literally threatened the gods. They bribed them and identified as them for spellwork. They would identify each part of their body as a god to be even more powerful. Dick jokes are everywhere. They drew porn on walls for fuck’s sake. They were banned from practicing law in Roman courts because they weren’t serious enough and made too many jokes. Leave us the fuck alone and mind your fucking business. Why don’t you focus on your own divine relationships and religious practice instead of wasting your time trying to boss us around? Keep in mind that just because you see a lot of jokes doesn’t mean we’re not serious behind the scenes, or that we don’t take our gods and religion seriously. We do, but we’re not obligated to show that to you or tell you about it, especially when you barge in bossing us around according to your standards and disrespecting us and treating us poorly. You aren’t the be all, end all of religions and piety. You don’t have a right to define anyone’s practice or judge whether someone is “serious enough”. Handle your own business and we’ll handle ours.

So that’s my take. Questions, comments and concerns are welcome, and if you have suggestions for other topics (keep in mind that I am primarily black and will not write about other races and their struggles as pagans, nor will I comment on lgbt issues as a straight passing bisexual) say so!

 

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