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Love and Light and Racism: The Real Paranormal

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, 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.

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 late and following so much of tried and true TV methodology that it's also a little lazy, imo. Discovery Networks are the folks that create and promote the show Ancient Aliens. That show is problematic on several levels so it's difficult to see what the network's intention is with much of their work. White people have been the loudest voices in the paranormal and occult, 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, ghost hunters, and spiritual/life coaches who proclaim and teach love and respect for all, but are some of the most 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 if you are prejudiced toward fellow human beings based on skin color, stereotypes and the systemic racism you were brought up in, and are consciously or unconsciously upholding now?

To fellow 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 or segregated? Do you love the history of these haunted places but only have the whitewashed versions of these them? Do you even know if you do? Does your intent and do your methods reach a limit when your sense of safety and comfort feel compromised? Are your ghosts all deceased white people or...?

If you've been discomforted by any of these questions, ask yourself why.

The paranormal in itself is skewed; its foundation is very mainstream Judeo-Christian, and it is the direct effect of white men having the authoritative voices over it for so long. We've revisioned or dismissed innumerable diverse faiths, cultures, work, research, voices, stories, histories and lived realities to fit safely and quietly within the most powerful narrative, or, to not threaten it. The marginalized areas of the occult actually comprise the full human experience within the unexplained, and this field barely scratches the surface of any of it, the inclusivity is not present.

There's so much work that can be done as white people in the paranormal community. We could widen how we perceive the paranormal in its true and full and diverse capacity, and to alter how we go about seeking the strane, and how we behave within its parameters. Our frames of reference are white, so we see the paranormal as predominantly white. The people we include in our histories are white as well. Is this really accurate to the paranormal or just a reflection of our own perceptions as who we are? There is a lot of privilege in being a 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 paranormal community members accountable are a place to begin.

Thanks for reading,


I'm Amy L. Bennett, a writer, multimedia artist, recovering archaeologist and YouTuber from Upstate, New York. I've been invested in all things strange and unusual since my dad gave me the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy when I was way too young. Along with my fiancé, Ryan, we've explored countless haunted locations in the US and abroad in search of the Weird.
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