Solutions: How to Avoid Negative Cultural Appropriation of African and Diaspora Belief Systems

Which brings us to the differences in practices in Africa and the diaspora.  No African priest/ess I have yet encountered has faulted anyone in the diaspora for doing what was necessary to survive, or for adjusting the belief system to their local or ancestral needs.  Not one.  All will correct someone if something they are doing is disrespectful or unsound in any way.  I have seen some criticism of many things, and condemnation of many things, but I have never seen anyone claim that a new world incorporated Orisha whose origins may be Native American or even Chinese, doesn’t exist or that people should stop worshiping them, for instance.  Also, even though many would not do this themselves, I have never seen an African priest/ess actually condemn a Lukumi or member of another diaspora system that is influenced by Christianity, for having saints or angels.

It is wrong for members of one diaspora system to look down on another for the adjustments they made for survival.  By extension, it is wrong for you to ignore, deny, or disrespect your own Ancestors, in an attempt to erase your history and replace it with African belief systems.  One of the principles of Vodun is to honor one’s Ancestors.  If someone tells you to forget your Ancestors, it may feel convenient if your Ancestors made mistakes and did bad deeds.  However, “those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.”  Your Ancestors are with The Ancestors now, so they are being dealt with by Nature as all are in the end of this human life.  Don’t come to African belief systems to escape.  Come to us to improve, that is, if it would improve you.  If you already have something that works fine for you, then just respect-check whenever you incorporate an African deity into your personal pantheon, with an African priest/ess.

Update March 1, 2021: Qoteps.

Every once in awhile there are waves of people posting bad faith questions in ATR groups and forums around whether or not it is okay for “white” people to practice whatever African or diaspora tradition or sect. Before 2015 or so, these were usually agents attempting to entrap “ethnic extremists”, but now they are mostly Qanon or Q adjacent “hoteps” recruiting members to their separatist groups. They’ve seen how successful the purveyors of “white” supremacist disinformation were in capitalizing on “white” American paranoia, and have decided to mimic them to recruit trauma informed African Americans who don’t know enough about real ATR’s to smell the fraud.

Some posters running around hyping this issue aren’t even Black. They’re “blackfishing”, pretending to be African or African American online to dupe people into buying their t-shirts or proving to a group of “white” supremacists that “white genocide” is real.

If you see such a post or thread developing, don’t engage them, just report them as spam. It may take awhile for social media to catch up or take it seriously since conflict = cash for them, but it is best not to get into an argument with them. They are either not well mentally or they have an agenda. Probably both.

The made up concern that most of these people are trolling with is the idea that someone could “steal” African traditions. It’s moot because what is public is public and what is private nobody outside their group (which is family by blood or blood level bond) will even know about much less steal. No secret practices have ever been stolen from Africans. They’re still secret. It is impossible that an outsider, even a very dedicated one, would have an idea of them unless or until they reached a level that they would drop dead before revealing anything. People who would die before betraying their egbe or ile are not the ones to be worrying about stealing anything.


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K. Sis. Nicole T.N. Lasher

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  1. Pingback: Solutions: How to Avoid Negative Cultural Appropriation of African and Diaspora Belief Systems | Vodun

  2. There are a lot of really important points here, thank you for posting this. This topic seems to be on everyone’s mind lately, legitimization and appropriation are truly slippery areas.
    Ashe and blessings, Lilith Dorsey

  3. Pingback: Solutions: How to Avoid Negative Cultural Appropriation of African and Diaspora Belief Systems | Soul Mind Body .net

  4. Can I have a conversation with you? I need advice.
    African Spirituality is laying heavy on me and my religious upbringing is Christian that i no longer practice.

  5. hi, I would like to ask if I can translate your article into Italian and publish it on my personal blog, naturally with the link of the original article, because I find this article important for understanding cultural appropriation in spiritual practice. thank you

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