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I believe what the system tells me about itself. I have full faith in its capabilities to replicate, uphold, and enact violence here and globally, which is all it has ever sworn to do since its inception.

by Briana L. Ureña Ravelo This midterm season I have seen a lot of speculation about the cynicism of young (potential) voters, why it is, who is to blame, and what to do about it. Among younger progressives especially, there’s even more discourse that sympathizes with the cynicism, addressing issues such as voter suppression and purges, historic and current barriers to voting including the barring of those with felonies from representation, and the shit-show of the past two years and the inability for us to ameliorate the gap between how communities of color vote, especially Black communities, and how white people vote. But that isn’t me. I am not recently made cynical, tired, or exhausted by the political system of the United States, nor am I apathetic. I am harmed and disenfranchised by the electoral system, yes, and I am also a part of it. I am from groups historically kept from electoral politics and other realms of civil, political, and social spaces. However, my heart was never broken by it because it was never placed in such a precarious and dangerous place, in the thicket of oppressor harm and statist hegemony. Chalk it up to being a middle schooler and teenager of color in the Midwest during the Bush years, through 9/11 and the beginning of the War on Terror. By the time I was 14, I had gone to my first anti-war protest and was more regularly organizing and going to protests throughout the next year. By the time I was 18, when Obama was running in the first election I could vote in, I was ranting with a friend about our annoyance with people assuming we would, as two young Black girls, would be voting for the Black man. We knew about what his positions were on gay marriage and the war, and I had already made my decision to be a conscientious non-voter. There’s nothing that could conceivably ever inspire me to vote, much less ignite a vigor or faith that was simply never there. There’s no way to mobilize me to an end goal that I never saw as a solution to the issues I see and experience daily. This is not so as to attack other QT/BIPOC people's cynicism or sense of defeat, and the real hurt, sadness, or anger there, or to belittle them for their demands and expectations. And if anyone feels that way, it is the system’s fault, not their own. It is oversimplification to view all non-voters, especially those conscientiously choosing to not, as injured, sad, and hurt. As only waiting to be consoled and woo’d so we can fall back in love with electoral politics and the US system overall. A system that does not love me. Quite the opposite to deflated or cynical, in fact, my belief in the system’s history, role, apparatus, and intended results are fully enthusiastic. I understand what will happen. I know full well! I trust it entirely when it tells me about itself, day in day out, regardless of the bent of its participants, politicians, and moneymakers. Thus, I refuse to engage or invest in the fallacy of electoral politics as its own act.
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The roots of Black and Indigenous spiritual practices and witchcraft carry Sabrina's narrative and many other white witch-centered narratives. 

By Briana L. Ureña-Ravelo This essay contains spoilers for “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” When I first saw the trailer for Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” before it was released last week, it piqued my interest. Though I haven’t read the comics the series is based on, I grew up watching “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” and reading the Archie comics in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s. I’m not a huge fan of horror, as I find many creators in the genre cannot ultimately escape the monstrous trappings of dominant culture in their storytelling and I could tell the show was going to be a considerably darker departure from the characteristic telling, but it caught my attention nonetheless. It looked like it would deliver a more diverse cast and potentially feature smarter, more intentional, culturally, and socially rich storytelling than the high school horror/supernatural “Magical Chosen Girl” lore I had grown up with. I was also intrigued out of pure cynicism, knowing the show would do what most shows and media featuring young white female witches or even supernatural female characters do. These narratives take up the legacy of the Salem Witch Trials and other historical instances of non-European, non-Pagan, African and Indigenous spiritual practices and the religious repression and violence the practitioners experienced at the hands of European colonizers. In doing so, they falsely represent and conflate varied complex practices with “devil worship”. And “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” does exactly this.   [caption id="attachment_50197" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image: Netflix's "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina"[/caption] The underbelly of a lot of this misrepresentation and space-taking lies with a fundamental misunderstanding of the history that much of the story it relies upon, namely that of the Salem Witch Trials. It does so because it is easy for white storytellers to envision a descendant of European witches who fled to the new world to escape religious persecution as the champion of such a story. In reality, it was not merely witchcraft that sent the town of Salem into a Christian religious panic and doomed many of its citizens to execution by hanging, but specifically the practice of non-European, non-Christian, Black spiritual traditions. Central to this was the accusation that Tituba, an enslaved, likely Afro-Indigenous Barbadian, woman captive in Salem, was seen engaging and even teaching these practices to others. She was ultimately spared the cruel fate her enslavers and other slave-owning settlers chose to enforce on one another and sent back to the Caribbean where she was from, but only after she gave a fantastical, and likely carefully crafted, confession to satiate the rabid witch hunters. I wonder how it must have been for someone like Tituba, to have survived the bloody aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials alive, in a world where the life expectancy for enslaved people was barely three decades, if that. ...the conclusion of Tituba’s remarkable confession, marked a new chapter in the witchhunt episodes of New England…Tituba’s confession is the key to understanding why the events of 1692 took on such epic significance.” - Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies In spite of this history, time after time, in tellings of the happenings of Salem in horror and supernatural lore, this fact is obscured and writers continue engaging in the decades-long mischaracterization of the panic as merely being gendered. The panic was a both gendered and racialized product of white colonialism, but ignoring this allows white women, their experiences, and their perspectives to become the representatives for all of us. This omission plays itself out in the series over and over in the objectification and mistreatment of characters of color and the way stolen aspects of our practices are represented or used to drive plot. It continues the erasure of long histories of many communities of color, chiefly Black and Indigenous peoples of the Americas, who have had with the repression and banning of our spiritual practices, with the women in these communities experiencing the most violence and silencing of their traditional practices and ways. It deepens the painful characterization of these practices, these people, as evil, as dark, as “Bad/Black Witches”, echoing how settlers criminalized them to justify violence against them, and the policing of their bodies, communities, and cultures. While I have a literary and spiritual love and affinity for all things witchy, demonic, dark, and even heathen, I understand that the Indigenous practices of my ancestors and other communities of color were not those things, and to conflate the two is dangerous, colonial, and bigoted. Not only that, but our cultures and lore, even as we share experiences as global south people or people of color, should not be lumped together in any way. And to reduce us to mere objects to summon upon or things of terror, which is exactly what three white witches do in the episode six to perform an exorcism, is a gross disservice. We call forth the witches from the shade. Those who came before us and died so that we might live,” Sabrina begins. Then, the other two join in, “Visit us, Sisters. Intercede on our behalf.” Among the names called are Tituba and Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. But the women of color called up in this exorcism, and more “witchy” Black and Indigenous women, were just trying to exist and fight against the anti-Black system of slavery that found them or their people forcibly bound. They are not the spectors of malice or witchcraft at beck and call to be summoned by white witches. They are not Sabrina's sisters, ancestors, or foremothers. When we understand these facts about Black and Indigenous histories and experiences with racialized religious violence, witch hysteria, and demonization, we see how inextricable the story of Salem and witch panic in the West is against the backdrop of white supremacy and colonialism. We can see how the Girl Power bent of these media narratives in truth get their influence from the matriarchal practices of Black and Indigenous peoples which spit in the face of the patriarchy traditional to Christian Europeans. We can also very easily see parallels to people of color’s current experiences with these systems of oppression, cultural and religious repression, and demonization, and how this is all unfortunately mirrored and replicated throughout Sabrina.
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