Oh my goodness. So all of this anger and exclusiveness is to make me feel pride in myself? Every time I hear a white person say that, I am insulted. I’ll tell you why, I was taught by my parents to take pride in myself, and I was also taught a history they do not tell you in schools. That history made it so no one else would ever have to speak for me.
When I was a young girl, my grandfather said that racist whites used to say, “wanna hide something from a nigga? Put it in a BOOK.” Now, you may have never heard that, but it is starting to become the trend with ALL people of ALL colors. No one wants to do the research anymore that will tell you all you need to know about the history of Folk Magic in this country. There is research that explores all of the elements and influences of Hoodoo. There is research about Black people who were not slaves, and white people who were. When the evidence is presented, no one believes it because that was not what they were “taught.” Then the person who tries to educate them is a racist revisionist. Stop, just stop.
I can use my own genealogy as an example. Caeli and I have been researching my family tree, and I am quickly finding out that the oral tradition of my family injects a lot of fantasy into the reality of things. This reality is supported by public records. You know, that stuff that helps researchers find out the truth about things. Long told I was part Native American, my DNA does not say so, nor does my family tree. It’s funny how things get shaped according to how people want their reality to be.
So let’s look at the reality of assimilation and racism in America. Neither whites nor Blacks wanted to acknowledge their participation in Conjure Work (specifically Hoodoo) for quite some time. In fact, many Black intellectual Christians wanted as far away from it as they possibly could. To the point where some of my own people will tell me that I am doing “the devil’s work.” Others would sneak to get work done so their church members would not see what they were up to. How do I know this? Well I grew up Black in America. I witnessed it FIRSTHAND, and I still do today.
These people who denied their history to assimilate know nothing of their relationship with gods and spirits of Africa, and they did just as much damage to the practice as anyone else because they looked at you crazy, like they did not know what you were talking about when you tried to mention Hoodoo to them. When catalog Hoodoo came into play, it shamed the “good,” Black Christians who would have none of that. It did not help that the characterization of many of these products was made spooky and exotic by the merchants in order to sell it to Blacks and whites alike. With the Great Migration north, Blacks wanted to put all of that behind them. They were made ashamed of their spiritual practices by the oppressors who tried to wipe all traces of them off the map.
So, this helps to answer the question of why you never heard of non-Blacks practicing Hoodoo until now, a time where the Internet is opening doors and dispelling myths. We find out that OH MY GOODNESS, some white folks were slaves, some Black folks owned slaves (they all were not relatives whose freedom was purchased either). We were told that we separated by race, when in fact there is countless scholarship by Blacks and whites alike that proves otherwise. This scholarship is in many cases OLDER than me, but you scoff it because YOU never read it? Well EXCUSE ME. I have news for lots of people, there are A LOT of white folks and mixed race people in my family tree, and somehow I still remain 76% African. Looks are deceiving, as I am always mistaken for a mixed race person, so remember everything is not as it appears.
So many of my relatives knew how to read and were free men and women, but folks are always trying to tell me there was NO WAY any European influences melded into our culture because there was no way Blacks could read about them. And there sure as hell was no way that Black folks and white folks mingled like them. Then you show them pictures and records that PROVE it, and people treat you like you Photoshopped that shit? (If you don’t believe me, watch Henry Louis Gates “African American Lives.” So many lies about us and our history in this country are proven to be flat out WRONG. Look at the image here (oh I can post many) that aimed to prove how Blacks and Irish people were sub-human apes. Do you think that is made up too? Does the fact that other people suffered and were slaves take away from the fact that so many Black people were slaves? Does the fact that whites practiced it along with us take away from the fact that Blacks were the majority of the practitioners? NO. So why do people keep doing this? To me, this endless battle (without information to back up claims) about who did what does nothing to create racial harmony, it creates all of the bitter arguments you’ve seen today, it hurts us all as human beings, and it certainly does not help me as a Black Worker.
You also do not hear about whites practicing Hoodoo for the same reason Black folks tried to run it underground. Do you know what that is? Christianity! Everyone keeps posting this dichotomy that Hoodoo is Christian, but you IGNORE the very foundations of African religion in the practice! Both Irish and Blacks were treated as though they were sub human. As SOON as the Irish were able to assimilate, do you THINK for ONE MOMENT the Irish were going to share their slavery history and “heathen practices” with their children? NO! EVERY ONE WAS MADE ASHAMED OF WHO THEY ORIGINALLY WERE BY THE OPPRESSOR.
That shame, like many things, was not based on color, but the oppressor continues to make it so because Black people cannot assimilate, and they need someone at the bottom so they can stay on top. Honestly, has never been my desire to assimilate. I am proud of who I am and where I come from. This nonsense, however, is a distraction used against poor people everywhere and they continue to be been victimized by big money. You want to know why they killed Dr, King? Because he was about to start THE POOR PEOPLE’S campaign and start protesting about poverty and against the Vietnam War. That’s right. The CIA saw ALL the POWER that could come from the oppressed if they SIMPLY UNITED, and they shut. that. shit. DOWN. And they really don’t have to do it to us anymore, because we constantly do it to each other. The very community that is supposed to help heal the ills of mankind are the same folks that are doing everything in their power to keep us from uniting. Ain’t that a bitch?
People keep talking about people stealing this and that from each other. But really, how much of it did we just give away because we were so busy trying to sweep it under the rug? Kids today don’t know what Conjure is. That’s silly superstition to them. Walk up to most Black people (even the older ones – I do it all the time.) and mention Hoodoo to them. Please. Tell me what reaction you get. You have a FRACTION of our population online hollering and screaming about what they own and they cannot give it away in their own communities! Miss me with this foolishness!
Not every piece of scholarship is accurate. Not all oral traditions tell the truth. No one person is the end all be all to Hoodoo. Some of the people who collect this work trying to save it for our sake cannot even remember what they wrote and constantly contradict themselves. As Public Enemy would say, “don’t believe the hype.” Don’t take everything you are told to believe as fact until you have REALLY sat down and done the research. Don’t believe lies told so many times that they become the “truth.” Read, read, read some more, talk to really, really old people, look at public records. Find the consistencies, and THERE you will get closer to the truth.
Even though people think they are, when you make generalizations about culture, are not respecting the tradition or the Ancestors who created it. I don’t need anyone to make me be proud to be Black, “protect” my magical practice, or insult and exclude other people for my benefit. I can defend what I need to all on my own. It is patronizing and disgusting. Instead of causing the problem of furthering the divide among cultures, maybe we could all start examining history and find out just how much we really share.
That would be amazing, wouldn’t it?