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Posts Tagged ‘privilege’

The West Memphis 3 and the In-Justice System

August 19, 2011 2 comments

CNN is reporting that the West Memphis 3 may be released soon, according to a source close to the case. This is absolutely fantastic news, despite the fuckery of the details surrounding the deal, if true. It’s likely a CYA move on the part of the State of Arkansas to pre-emptively block any wrongful imprisonment suits. Whatever gets these guys out of prison, I guess.

I won’t get into the details of this case; chances are if you’re reading a Pagan blog, you’re already familiar with this particular miscarriage of justice, but if you’re not, Wikipedia and WM3.org are your friends here. The HBO documentaries on the case are also available via Netflix streaming.

At any rate, anyone with an ounce of sense and knowledge of this case knows that those three boys never should have gone to prison in the first place, that they were convicted because they were misunderstood outcasts in an oppressive, conformist, ignorant-ass small Bible Belt town. None of that should be in dispute, period.

But, I do have to say this as someone who has followed this case closely for years and years, when the only people who knew about it were Pagans: I hope and pray that all of the good people who fought so hard for the WM3 remember that, were Damian Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin black, all three of them would have received the death penalty, and all three of them would have been executed years ago, quietly and with little fanfare.

I hope and pray that everyone who followed this case so closely understands that the WM3 situation is more likely the rule than an anomaly for black and brown people in the United States. The same small-town, good-ole-boy, kangaroo, star-chamber system that railroaded the WM3 in the name of mob justice because they were “weirdoes” has done the same thing to black and brown people for years and years and years, with no cause célèbre attached. Few HBO documentaries are made about these other cases (The Execution of Wanda Jean is the only one I can think of off the top of my head, and it should be obvious how that one turned out. Spoilers: she dies).

When I say that my heart bleeds for the WM3, I mean that in all sincerity, with no snark. I was a teenager when the case was first widely publicized in the original Paradise Lost documentary, and began to follow the case through Peg Aloi’s articles on Witchvox. It scared the shit out of me as someone who was first taking steps into both occultism and the Goth subculture, and while I hardly lived in a small ignorant ass town in the South, I experienced a lot of vicious harassment because of my lifestyle and beliefs. I imagine that’s why a lot of Pagans, and alt-subculture people such as goths and metalheads really latched onto this case, each of us saw something of ourselves in the WM3 and wondered aloud if it could happen to us. But more deeply, it also scared the shit out of me because I knew that if I lived in a town like that, and something like that happened, no one would make a documentary about me and come to my defense. Black people are presumed guilty as a matter of course, weirdoes or not, and rarely do people outside our communities care to fly to our defense.

I hope and pray that the WM3 finally receive justice, and that those murdered children finally receive the justice that has long been denied them by a corrupt and incompetent system that was hell bent on making examples of the local town “freaks” and that was more interested in getting an angry mob off their backs than in actually solving a horrific crime. But I also hope and pray that the energy and attention that has been put behind this movement to free the WM3 doesn’t vanish and dissipate, and that people who never gave a second thought to the oppression of the in-justice system until it impacted three young white boys will turn that energy and passion toward the many black and brown people who have suffered as much as the WM3 and never received any attention or help. The Innocence Project is a good place to start.

Update: They’ve been set free.

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Categories: Privilege, Race Tags: , ,

Something about Christian Privilege.

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

So I was thinking about this whole privilege thing, and it occurred to me that Christianity is never really looked at in this way, but–well, in the west at least, and particularly in the US, Christian privilege is alive and well and pernicious in the mainstream culture. It’s a part of the kyriarchal systems of oppression and one that rarely gets unpacked. So I did a bit of googling, and I found this checklist. Sadly, the original site seems to be down, but I got hold of it via the Wayback Machine. So, the following is the work of Dr. Lewis Z. Schlosser, a psychology professor at Seton Hall, who designed and conducted workshops on Christian privilege. It should go without saying that this is very much western/US-centric, as Christians obviously do not share these privileges elsewhere in the world. But just because Christians are persecuted in China, does not mean they are not privileged in the US (a bingo card argument if I’ve ever heard one). I don’t necessarily agree with every point on here, even as a Pagan, but the vast majority of it I can definitely understand and I think it’s good food for thought and discussion.

  1. It is likely that state and federal holidays coincide with my religious practices, thereby having little to no impact on my job and/or education.
  1. I can talk openly about my religious practices without concern for how it will be received by others.
  1. I can be sure to hear music on the radio and watch specials on television that celebrate the holidays of my religion.
  1. When told about the history of civilization, I am can be sure that I am shown people of my religion made it what it is.
  1. I can worry about religious privilege without being perceived as “self-interested” or “self-seeking.”
  1. I can have a “Jesus is Lord” bumper sticker or Icthus (Christian Fish) on my car and not worry about someone vandalizing my car because of it.
  1. I can share my holiday greetings without being fully conscious of how it may impact those who do not celebrate the same holidays.  Also, I can be sure that people are knowledgeable about the holidays of my religion and will greet me with the appropriate holiday greeting (e.g., Merry Christmas, Happy Easter, etc.).
  1. I can probably assume that there is a universality of religious experience.
  1. I can deny Christian Privilege by asserting that all religions are essentially the same.
  1. I probably do not need to learn the religious or spiritual customs of others, and I am likely not penalized for not knowing them.
  1. I am probably unencumbered by having to explain why I am or am not doing things related to my religious norms on a daily basis.
  1. I am likely not judged by the improper actions of others in my religious group.
  1. If I wish, I can usually or exclusively be among those from my religious group most of the time (in work, school, or at home).
  1. I can assume that my safety, or the safety of my family, will not be put in jeopardy by disclosing my religion to others at work or at school.
  1. It is likely that mass media represents my religion widely AND positively.
  1. It is likely that I can find items to buy that represent my religious norms and holidays with relative ease (e.g., food, decorations, greeting cards, etc.).
  1. I can speak or write about my religion, and even critique other religions, and have these perspectives listened to and published with relative ease and without much fear of reprisal.
  1. I could write an article on Christian Privilege without putting my own religion on trial.
  1. I can travel without others assuming that I put them at risk because of my religion; nor will my religion put me at risk from others when I travel.
  1. I can be financially successful without the assumption from others that this success is connected to my religion.
  2. I can protect myself (and my children) from people who may not like me (or them) based on my religion.
  3. Law enforcement officials will likely assume I am a non-threatening person if my religion is disclosed to them.  In fact, disclosure may actually help law enforcement officials perceive me as being “in the right” or “unbiased.”
  4.  I can safely assume that any authority figure will generally be someone of my religion.
  1. I can talk about my religion, even proselytize, and be characterized as “sharing the word,” instead of imposing my ideas on others.
  1. I can be gentle and affirming to people without being characterized as an exception to my religion.
  1. I am never asked to speak on behalf of all Christians.
  1. My citizenship and immigration status will likely not be questioned, and my background will likely not be investigated, because of my religion.
  1. My place of worship is probably not targeted for violence because of sentiment against my religion.
  1. I can be sure that my religion will not work against me when seeking medical or legal help.
  1. My religion will not cause teachers to pigeonhole me into certain professions based of the assumed “prowess” of my religious group.
  1. I will not have my children taken from me from governmental authorities who are aware of my religious affiliation.
  1. Disclosure of my religion to an adoption agency will likely not prevent me from being able to adopt children.
  1. If I wish to give my children a parochial religious education, I probably have a variety of options nearby.
  1. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence and importance of my religion.
  1. I can be sure that when someone in the media is referring to G-d, they are referring to my (Christian) G-d.
  1. I can easily find academic courses and institutions that give attention only to people of my religion.
  1. My religious holidays are so completely “normal” that, in many ways, they may appear to no longer have any religious significance at all.
  1. The elected and unelected officials of my government probably are members of my religious group.
  1. When swearing an oath, I am probably making this oath by placing my hand on the scripture of my religion.
  1. I can openly display my religious symbol(s) on my person or property without fear of disapproval, violence, and/or vandalism.