If you're like me, you've spent the past 2 weeks watching video clips, reading stories and personal accounts, having hard conversations and heavy emotions, leaving once-loved friends and family in the dust of their willful ignorance, listening, and learning.
I've got a very tiny platform within a community of weirdos, ghost hunters and occult practitioners and researchers, witches and spiritual workers. *While I'd spend an entire blog typing out and addressing every definition and title of the people who make up the "paranormal community", I'll just address it that way from here out.* The thing about many of the people who comprise the paranormal community, is that we're quite noticeably white.
[July 2021 update: The term "white", in this blog, will now be in lowercase lettering. I've tried to source everything I can on whether or not to capitalize it, and out of all I've found, a profound amount of mid-1900's racist literature, has "white" capitalized for their emphasis and importance. Even if the AP is distinguishing these two groups formally now, with capitalization, I just don't feel right doing that.]
I see myself and my skin color reflected back to me in nearly the entirety of the population of people who call themselves any of the things I mentioned, and who I see and interact with on a regular basis in person and on social media. Why? Because I am a white person, and the system - all of it, everything - is designed to benefit white people, and it was designed that way on purpose.
It's not just the algorithms of our favorite social platforms burying the voices of Black people (that is real, and insidious), it's because I exist within a bubble of white people echoing back to each other a whitewashed and gentrified paranormal because of its safety, convenience, and the normalcy of the white supremacy narrative in the United States. There many weirdos of Color, and I'm guessing, if you're like me in lack of melanin, you've gone mostly or entirely without their presence in your journey through the Strange and Unusual unless they're mentioned in the slave stories of a haunted location. You never hear haunted tour guides cite their sources on those stories, do you? You never hear anyone on the tour ask if there's archives of information on those stories either. You just believe them. We all have.
*"Weirdos" is a term of endearment, and for me, an inclusive term to those who are occult-leaning in some way, broad or niche. I don't imply it as an othering.*
While current events have provided the ability to see some vocal anti-racist weirdos in the social media world, what's been utterly inescapable throughout this time is the profound silence from most of the white paranormal community. As in, a resounding echo of crickets from paranormal celebrities, researchers, authors, light workers, empaths, tarot readers, investigators, mediums, youtubers, teams, societies, witches, crews, "demonologists", psychics, etc. S i l e n c e.
There are methods of investigating, interpreting and applying the paranormal and New Age, that have been co-opted and appropriated from BIPOC culture and people. There are both overt and subtle systemic ways in which white voices have been the dominating voices within the realm of the weird. An overt visual example is paranormal television. You may have noticed all your favorite paranormal celebrities are fairly pale. You may now be thinking, "But what about "Ghost Brothers?" I'm not going to try to unpack everything about that show here and now, but I am going tell you that Discovery Network's/Travel Channel's attempt at diversity is commendable, but extremely late, and might possibly ring of tropes. Just how much the 3 main cast members are in control of their own presentation is a mystery to me and every other viewer. We have to see this as an objective picture though - Discovery Networks are the folks that create and promote the show Ancient Aliens. That show is racist, and you can Google it, Becky or Karen or whoever, because your phone's in your hand.
TL/DR: White people have been the loudest and most visible voices and faces of the paranormal and occult in m̶e̶d̶i̶a̶ everything, including mainstreaming it as it ebbs and flows in popularity, for ever. *A really intense and stunning example is zombies. Google William Seabrook's The Magic Island from 1929. Just the year of publication should give you some rich idea of what you're in for.*
There are a multitude of psychic mediums, investigators, authors, youtubers, light workers and healers, empaths, Reiki practitioners, basic ghost hunters, and spiritual/life coaches who proclaim, and teach, love and respect for all, but are some of the most selfish, gatekeeping, racists within the paranormal community. How in the name of every deity humans have ever worshipped can you proclaim "love and light", and mean it - really, authentically, fully, in your soul and true self mean it - if you are prejudiced toward fellow human beings based on skin color, stereotypes, myths, lies, and the systemic racism you were brought up in, and are consciously or unconsciously upholding now?
You cannot give 'Love and Light' if you are harboring hate and racism.
To the white healers: Does your empathy and ability have a ceiling, a limit? Is it based on the lives of only those you've deemed worthy of healing? Does your empathic and/or healing ability reach a limit your sense of safety and comfort feel compromised by the type of person you're interacting with?
To the white ghost hunters: Does your communication with the alleged dead include an expectation of speaking with the spirits of those who lived their entire lives enslaved? Spirits of the countless Black People who have been murdered for what they look like? Do you "love the history" of these haunted places, but not know about the Black Histories or the potentially wrong and whitewashed histories of these places? Does your intent and do your methods reach a limit when your sense of safety and comfort feel compromised? Do you hear all your EVPs in what you'd identify immediately as a white person's voice? Are your ghosts either all deceased white people or Black slaves?
To the white psychic mediums: Does your ability to speak with or for the dead, or Spirit, include an expectation of speaking with or for the spirits of Black People? *(I've never personally witnessed a white medium speaking with Black Vernacular or a racist vocal inflection for a mediumistic display, but I'll bet it's not wildly rare.)* Does your ability to be a medium for the dead reach a limit when your sense of safety and comfort feel compromised?
If you've been discomforted by any of these questions, or feel defensive reading this, ask yourself why, and sit with that.
The paranormal in itself is skewed; its foundation is Judeo-Christian, and it is so due to the way our society has functioned giving Judeo-Christian and post-Puritanical ideology the forefront and the grace of normalcy. We're missing innumerable diverse faiths, cultures, work, research, voices, stories, histories and lived realities that actually comprise the quest for understanding the mysteries of our universe and the human experience within the unexplained.
We have a lot of work to do as white people in the paranormal community. We have a lot of work to do to change how we perceive the paranormal in its true and full and diverse capacity, and to change how we go about seeking the truth, and how we behave within its parameters to include the Black voices and Black lives that have been silenced for centuries, and to make that the norm. There is a lot of privilege in being a white ghost hunter, and I am realizing more and more of the entrenched parts of this privilege and how it shows itself in what I do, and in the field/hobby/interest I love. I do not have all the answers to all of this, but I know listening, and holding Full Dark and other white paranormal community members accountable are a place to begin.
The paranormal community proclaims inclusivity constantly, but right now that is a bold-faced, disgusting lie, because the voices of BIPOC have not been, and are not being heard.
Black Lives MATTER.
Thanks for reading,
Amy Bennett, NY
EDIT: 6/10: There are SO many topics encompassing race, ethnicity, history and the paranormal. If there are other's blogging to speak out about this, comment or DM and link that shit up!