Thursday, May 26, 2016

Talia Felix's Race and Ethnicity



I'm not sure what the deal is lately, but I have just in the last month or so been getting a lot of inquiries regarding my ethnicity and race -- some of them rather rude, too. So, let's just put this out there for everyone:

My family is really into the study of genealogy and as a result I have a good knowledge of my ridiculously complicated ancestry (and yet, an ancestry which is probably a more typical human lineage than folks seem to want to admit.) No joke, we have the family lines traced all the way back to Ancient Egypt. But as far as the last 200 years go, I'm basically English, German and Spanish (American). Got that? Okay. 

I am not black, I don't think I could be called black by any means; but I do have black ancestry courtesy of an experiment that went on about 1,000 ago called Moorish Spain (DNA tests say my markers are North African, Benin and Togo.) I only bring it up because that knowledge means I cannot claim not to have black ancestry; but as far as we know nobody in the family's been black since before the time of Queen Isabella. 

When I'm given a form to fill out that needs me to mark my ethnicity, 75% of the time  I'll check the box that says "White/Caucasian." I might tick the "Hispanic" box if it's a situation where it doesn't seem like doing so will produce any expectation that I speak Spanish or have illegal immigrants for parents. 

Culturally, I'm pretty much Anglo. Grew up at the beach in California. Got picked on when I was sent to a school of majority hispanics of "my own race" in my teens, because my accent was different and I was the only non-Catholic in the place (which made me a "devil-worshipper." This was during the Satanic Panic of the '90s, so even the teachers believed it.) 

Now, that said, anybody who wants to write me to threaten me that "God will punish [me]" for studying and practicing hoodoo without being black can get to fuck. I doubt those folks are trying to be nice, but they don't seem like they understand that it's as rude as saying black people shouldn't be allowed to perform classical music because it's not "their" music, or shouldn't be allowed to convert to Buddhism or Judaism because it "belongs" to another culture that they're incapable of understanding due to their birth. Nobody is happy to be told that their race is a reason to be expelled from an activity they enjoy or a belief they believe in, and the ideal in present-day American society is that nobody should be. 

Furthermore, contrary to the publicity many websites and books are giving hoodoo as being an "African-American practice" (and which I'll admit I parroted early on in my writings, since that's the information I was taught) by the time the word hoodoo actually appears in the English language, the practice was already half European in its rituals, and in modern popular practice is even moreso. (The mojo and gris-gris bags are just about the only remaining purely African ritual in common use, and even those are very corrupted with European and Native American influences at this point.) By the time the word hoodoo came to be, both blacks and whites were practicing it. I'm not saying it's not black, but it's not non-white or anti-white. In fact, it probably really is the only spiritual practice that's "racially suited" to someone like me who has about 57 different "ethnicities" over time, thank you very much. 

Voodoo/Vadou/Vodun is another matter. If you are practicing the religious form of it (which I haven't studied in depth and I do not practice) then there could be something to racially segregating it; I've read arguments to that effect, but really I don't know and it's not a subject of much interest to me at this time. I only ever claim to practice voodoo in deference to a general public that doesn't always know the difference between voodoo and hoodoo, and I endeavor to see that it's stated in a context that quickly makes clear that what I really practice is the hoodoo folk magic.

I think that's all I need to say on this matter to address the concerns that have lately been raised about my background.

-TF