That might sound strange coming from the writings of a white man; but I divorced myself from the mainstream years ago. I divorced myself from it when I began my walk with the orishas, creating an inseparable chasm between myself and my Caucasian peers of privilege when I sat on the pilón and my godfather put Obatalá on my head. All bridges with the past were burnt, and gladly. I am now a member of a minority group, that of orisha worshippers; and I couldn’t be happier.
But I digress: I have the second draft of my current manuscript, “The Sacrificial Rites of Cuban Santería,” complete through chapter one. While working on the research to rewrite and tighten up chapter two, I got the urge to go back to my introduction. Initially I was pleased with this; it was an anecdote about my experiences with the religion’s culture and the practice of animal offerings.
After reading it, the work didn’t seem appropriate.
It is a beautiful essay, well-written and thoughtful. Still, there are enough works out there that speak of the beauty of the practice. In spite of those works, others attack our practices on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. We find ourselves raided by the police even after the CLBA Supreme Court case. Some of us go to jail: many of us fight criminal charges in judicial courts. Every piece of road-kill, every dead dog, every animal found butchered in a dumpster becomes fodder for the media as they pump up the hysteria against us. In spite of decades of anthropological research and writings, dozens of court cases, and multiple television documentaries, we are still branded as something barbaric and brutal. All of us.
Obatalá moved me last night to rework my introduction, and I’m beginning my book by calling all these things what they are – part of the racist agenda.
Our faith is both beautiful and practical; it is a spirituality nourished by the Yoruba in what is now modern-day Nigeria. We’re not a small fringe; we are global, and we have rights equal to any other religion. The core issue of it all is not the fact that we use animal offerings for the orishas –society offers billions of pounds of meat every year; these are offerings to their own mundane appetites. There is nothing spiritual or humane about their meat-laden diets, clogged arteries, or ever-expanding girths. The core issue here is that our faith comes from black people; we worship the black gods of the ancient Yoruba, and we grow geometrically every year. That, people, is racism at its core. Privileged white society only values its own ideals; in their culture (for,truly, it is not ours), the black experience is seen as lesser and primitive.
So I’m beginning my work with the issues of racism and racialism. As my friend Radiah Nuñez of the H2O Network says, “It’s time to call it what it is -- a spade is a spade.” Being apologetic and weak is settling for mediocrity, and settling for mediocrity is an offense to both our immortal souls and the orishas we serve.
This book is going to shake people to its very core. I’m done being apologetic. I’m claiming the spirituality that is mine, and ours.