(Yes, I said IAT, not IOT, sorry, sorry).
Many Heathens of European descent are mortified at the prospect of being called racist – regardless of their political beliefs. This is understandable; the Nazis tainted the reputation of Heathen mythology and who wants to be associated with Nazism? Well, I suppose some people do, but I would like to think that if they’re Elhaz Ablaze readers then maybe they’re hip to the possibility that they’ve got some exciting growth opportunities (e.g. away from all that Hitler crap) when it comes to politics. Here’s a hint of how getting away from fascism might be good for Heathens currently enamored of it or its echoes:
“I have in this War a burning private grudge – which would probably make me a better soldier at 49 than I was at 22: against that ruddy little ignoramus Adolf Hitler… Ruining, perverting, misapplying, and making for ever accursed, that noble northern spirit, a supreme contribution to Europe, which I have ever loved, and tried to present in its true light.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, outside of Heathenry, folk of European descent also tend to be mortified at the prospect of being accused of racism. Who can blame them? It’s a dirty word. Or wait…maybe there’s something about long histories of violence and inequality that persist right through to the present day. Oh yeah, we wouldn’t want to be seen as having anything to do with that.
And no, I’m not trying to invalidate all the kinds of suffering and even structural inequality that white people also experience. If you’ve known suffering, how about experimenting with the fine art of finding empathy for someone else’s? You might find it healing for you as well. That’s what they call solidarity, and it’s what our capitalist masters have been busily working to constantly undermine for a very long time now.
I’m sarcastic perhaps, and perhaps a little unfair. The reality is, racism has been a huge force in the world for a good few centuries, a central component of imperialism and colonialism, and of the gradual unfettering of the capitalist class as it inches its tentacles across the globe (but note that it doesn’t seem to have had much to do with Heathenism…). (Marx predicted that the exploitation of the proletariat would reach its apogee in the ruthless domination of developing world economies by Western corporations, and he was spot on). And there are plenty of European descended folks who are genuinely disturbed by this continuing legacy.
But I digress. European-descended Heathens are afraid of being called racist, and to some extent that’s very reasonable, particularly in light of the events in Europe in the 20th century. It is also very reasonable because some of us actually are racist. A few are hard-core, card carrying haters, but let’s set them aside for a moment and acknowledge that it is hard not to allow broader racist social narratives affect one’s mindset. Mainstream media – Fox News, CNN, etc. – makes a vigorous habit of pumping racist BS into our minds (though I would like to think that even conservative Elhaz Ablaze readers would be too sensible to muck about with the likes of Fox News!).
So this isn’t an article in which I wish to point the finger in a shrill, moralizing sermon (any more than I already have?). What I really want to do is quietly, soberly ponder the realities of racism in contemporary Western societies. And I want to invite myself and my readers to withdraw all projections on the issue. I’m not asking you to change your mind, or anything like that. Projections can be accurate or inaccurate, but either way we always have them (they’re the basis of our consciousness) and it is worth our while to withdraw them, to hold them out and evaluate their weighting and momentum, to evaluate the ways that they contort and construct our perceptions.
Isn’t it worthwhile to reclaim one’s mind from social conditioning, especially the banal and miserly conditioning that predominates these days?
If we can bring this kind of sobriety to the question of prejudice, we are first freed of the indignity of making excuses. For example, folkish Heathens on the racist end of the spectrum will try to say they are not racist simply by disputing the definition of racism. I have often seen, to pick a common scenario, the invocation of that magic phrase “separate but equal.” Such folk seem to forget that such language provided the scaffolding for Jim Crow, South African apartheid, and ultimately for the Holocaust as well.
So even if they genuinely do not wish to express a racist sentiment (I’m giving the benefit of the doubt for the sake of the argument), they might like to know that “separate but equal” is so steeped in histories of racism that it only makes them look worse, not better. And I feel genuinely embarrassed on their behalf.
Since it is clear that the issue of race (and, actually, many others too) makes Heathens of European descent go loopy (regardless of their political views), I would like to propose a quick and efficient tool for settling the question of where projection begins and ends. It is called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). It won’t solve all our problems, but it will give some constructive grist for the mill.
The IAT was developed by Harvard psychologists and has been adapted to study all kinds of unconscious preferences (so there are actually many different IATs, depending on the subject at hand). They’re simple web based tests, and they rely on reaction speed to access the underlying preferences that surface once the conscious mind is distracted or overloaded. They’ve been robustly researched and validated, and if psychology can sometimes be rigorous and sometimes a farce, they’re definitely up over on the rigor end of the scale.
There are IATs for various aspects of racial, religious, gender, sexual identity, ability/disability, etc. prejudice. They’re a great tool for expanding one’s self-knowledge – even if we might not always like the answers!
I did 8 of the IATs tonight. Turns out I think Muslims are alright, prefer African Americans to European Americans, and I see Native Americans and Asian Americans as being more “American” than European Americans (being a European-descended immigrant to the US myself, this last result doesn’t seem so surprising). I found out that I have no preference in any direction when comparing young folk and old folk, but I do have a slight prejudice against disabled people, which is useful information and points to an opportunity for my own growth. Yes! I’m not afraid to admit my shortcomings.
I also found out that in a comparison of my views on Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, I was very positive about Hinduism and Judaism, somewhat positive towards Islam, and very negative toward Christianity (but not as negative as I expected). I’d still like to be free of all bias, even against Christianity. The false comforts of prejudice are much less valuable than the possession of true perception.
SO! Instead of mouthing weasel words about how you aren’t a bigoted Heathen, why not step on up and take the tests. I suspect some universalist Heathens might be embarrassed by hard-to-admit prejudicial peccadilloes , and more than a few folkish Heathens might be forced to wonder whether their racial or other convictions really are so rational after all. The best of both groups will aggressively pursue the question of how to grow and change, regardless of the results they score.
Since my results were pretty consistent with my progressive politics, I learned that I need to consider conservative opinions more carefully – not that this means I have to become politically centrist, but that I need to consider my bias and strive to see truly. If I really believe my way of seeing things is correct then I should not need to fear that exposing myself to other points of view might prove me wrong. “The prover proves what the thinker thinks” is a threat regardless of the content of one’s beliefs.
Take the IAT challenge! Most of the tests will not only tell you where your prejudices (if any) lie, they’ll tell you also what the general American population’s distribution of attitudes is as well, so you can situate yourself in the bigger picture. Sorry, its rather American-centric, and as a non-American I found some of them a bit tricky to make sense of at first. Yay cultural hegemony. But don’t let that ruin the fun they can nevertheless offer.
Maybe Death in June and their ilk could do the IAT for us all. And maybe so could their detractors. Maybe Steve McNallen could put his money where his mouth is and do a few IATs, since he still insists he isn’t racist no matter how many politically stinky bombs he drops. Maybe Heathen United Against Racism members would be willing to take the IAT and perhaps even have the courage to admit if they too have work to do on shifting prejudices.
This test won’t “prove” or “disprove” whether a person is “a racist” or “not a racist,” (a number of champions for racial justice have flunked IAT tests looking at racial prejudice, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t done important and worthy work), but it certainly grants a powerful reality check, and it would certainly help separate out the lovers from the haters.
Look, I’m writing flippantly because the reality of prejudice in the Heathen community is enough to make me want to cry. I’ve seen a few haters, but also plenty of unconsidered projection and unconsciousness. I’d love to see en masse completion of the IAT, and en masse honest reporting of the results, and en masse commitment to step up and work on changing whatever prejudices and blind spots are revealed. Maybe we would end up with a more honest and (here’s my own bias speaking) more inclusive community.
Do it for social justice, for honor, or just for the sake of your own intellectual honesty or curiosity. Seriously, life is too short to let unconsciously held beliefs shape the course of our lives (whether those beliefs be politically charged or no). Just click the link and get cracking, and be willing to share your results (even if just with a few trusted friends) and what you’re willing to work on, whatever your prejudices turn out to be:
Do you really own your own beliefs? The IAT gives us a tool to help stop our beliefs from owning us.