Satanism has a long history of being misinterpreted, misused, and negatively portrayed. One of the most insidious of these distortions is the alignment of racism with the Satanic. There has been a long literary tradition establishing that which is “dark” as evil and that which is “light” as good and this theme is strong within mythology, folklore, and most major religions, especially Christianity. This color association has unfortunately been exploited to spread hateful and malevolent ideologies and fuel racism and white supremacy well into modern times.
There are many examples that illustrate the light/dark: good/evil thematic. Early folklore describes Satan as a “black man,” and though there aren’t explicit descriptions in the Bible of Satan, other sinful or negative forces are described as being dark or black. Art during Medieval times tended to portray figures of an evil nature as darker than other figures and in Medieval theater actors would wear black masks when they played demons. According to the Black Presence Project, “…by the time of Elizabeth I and the advent of the slave trade, some writers were portraying ‘blackness’ as satanic and sinful, while ‘whiteness’ was purity and virginity, as (supposedly) embodied by the queen. At the same time, however, images of Black people had become trophies – a means of displaying one’s wealth and power, based on ideas of racial superiority.” A work of art entitled “The Devil’s Ball” encapsulates this sentiment of evil and “blackness” that ranges from the 18th century onward. The Black Presence Project describes it as, “…one of a series of satirical cartoons by Robert Cruikshank. It is a vivid example of the gross caricatures made of Black people in the 18th century. Cruikshank portrays the African as a devil with thick lips…” Modern examples of this color dichotomy in popular culture range from Star Wars and its light and dark forces to the more Satanic themes of “The Bible” miniseries which created controversy because the Satan character purportedly resembled Barak Obama, and the movie “The Witch” that made Black Phillip a mainstay in Satanic subculture.
For all the insidious and deceptive influences on Satanism, there have been many positive, anti-racist, and progressive artistic representations of Satanism as well. The reading of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost as an anti-hero and figure of rebellion against tyranny, whether it’s correct or not, lead many artists to depict Satan in a favorable light. Neil Gaiman’s take on the Lucifer Morningstar character in the comic Sandman and his new role on the TV show Lucifer depict him sympathetically. In music, Twin Temple takes a feminist stance on Satanism and the band Zeal & Ardor created a magnificent album entitled The Devil is Fine that asks, “What if American slaves had embraced Satan instead of Jesus?” In an interview with Revolver the band’s creator says, “…it struck me as odd that American slaves adopted the beliefs of their oppressors and masters in their very personal music. If they sung the spirituals truly for themselves, it’s hard to believe that they incorporated Christianity into it. So [embracing Satan] seemed like an interesting form of rebellion, at least in my head.”
When it comes to racism in ideology, the rising of Identity Christianity in the late 1800s, which subscribes to extreme racism, claimed that the devil was black. A later interpretation from Charles Carroll’s 1900 book The Negro a Beast or In the Image of God, states that white people descended from Adam and non-white people descended from “pre-Adamite beasts.” They are adamantly against couples of mixed races, so much so that James Alfred Aho’s The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism, states that identity preachers claim according to the Bible, “the penalties for race-mixing, homo-sexuality, and usury are death.” Some of the most notorious hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Republic Army, Aryan Nations, and the Universal Church of God identify as Identity Christian.
The hypocrisy within Christianity and its views on racism and Satanism are not only apparent in readings and interpretations of the Bible, but in its contemporary preaching as well. In a 2018 article in Christian Living titled “Racism is Demonic” Andrew Menkis states, “When discussing racism, we must not forget Satan…God ‘has delivered us from the domain of darkness…’ Believers are soldiers in the fight against Satan and his evil, including racism.” He goes on to quote Jesus, “When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” The above statements are an example of how these belief systems reinforce the idea that darkness is evil yet attempt to claim racism as Satanic when the correlation was spurred by their very own theistic doctrine.
It is apparent from historical documentation that the false assumption believing racism is somehow Satanic was devised by early supernaturalism and further developed and propelled by Christianity for self-benefit. While it must be acknowledged that Satanism has lacked diversity in its development, The Satanic Temple is staunchly anti-racist and inclusive. In a 2017 Washington Post article, TST’s co-founder, Lucien Greaves, in addition to countering the pious insistence that racism and evil are products of the supernatural or a literal Satan states, “Finally, it must be said that nothing could be more antithetical to modern nontheistic Satanism than racist ideologies. We embrace a large diversity of individuals from a wide spectrum of political and cultural backgrounds, but we’re all unified by our respect for individual rights and pluralism.” TST is continuously working to be as inclusive as possible and ensure all voices are heard. Most recently, the Satanists of Color Coalition was launched within TST “for Satanists of Color to talk about issues, subjects, and experiences that [they] face in [their] communities.” The tenets embrace compassion and justice and part of TST’s mission “is to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people.” There is no place for racism or hate of any kind in Satanism. As Lucifer states in The Sandman, “They use my name as if I spent my entire days sitting on their shoulders, forcing them to commit acts they would otherwise find repulsive. ‘The devil made me do it.’ I have never made one of them do anything. Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for them.”