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Archive for the ‘race/racism’ Category

30-Day Challenge: Day 3 — Your Least Favorite Character

This is going to be wildly unpopular, so let me preface this by saying that I do not hate this character for the essence of what he brings to the game. I honestly find him enjoyable.

 

Now then, moving forward. My least favorite character is Zevran.

An olive-skinned elf man with shoulder-length blond hair.

(more…)

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Pop-Culture and Passing

“Passing” has always been a touchy subject for me. As a mixed-race person I have always felt as though I lived in a rather “damned if I do” place with regards to how I identify. My life experiences and upbringing were very much centered on my Native American heritage. My appearance, however, always made the acceptance of that by both myself and other people very difficult. It’s not easy to present as differently than you identify because there will always be plenty of people to tell you how you should identify. I am constantly reminded that because I present as white to their eye then I should accept that I am in fact a white person. There are two problems with this: I am not a white person, and it is not the decision of anyone outside of myself to decide how I get to identify. There is no proper way to present as a person of color/non-white person, and for anyone else to press a definition of what is or is not properly “of color” is unacceptable.

I don’t recall a ton of pop culture that deals specifically with the politics of being mixed race or presenting differently than you identify. It is one of the reasons that when I picked up and played Dragon Age II that I was so startled and taken with some of the missions surrounding the character Feynriel.

A screencap of a very pale young man with fair hair, light eyes, and very thin features, including a slender nose, and shallow-set eyes. He is meant to look half-human and half-elf, and should appear all human.Feynriel is a half-human/half-elf young man that you meet when his mother is distressed because he has come into magic in a way that has caused him to possibly become a danger to himself. A funny thing about Dragon Age is that the writers, most notably I imagine being David Gaider who wrote the novels where I noticed this lore most heavily played upon, have given us a situation where a person born of mixed-race origins will always present one way. In this case, a child born of one human and one elf parent will always present as human, and in a world lacking DNA science, there is no way to tell otherwise. Dragon Age provides us through the course of two novels and three games with two fairly prominent characters who depict this background. One I will not spoil for you if you are not aware of it or do not consider it canon (though to me it is completely obvious that this is in fact exactly his lineage and quite intentional). The other is Feynriel. They do, however present very differently.

Both are men, and one is the very picture of a stereotypically “ideal” looking man, while Feynriel looks far more elven. He has the narrower features, flatter forehead and more shallow set eyes of the elves in DAII. He is more fair and thin. I even found his ears to be slightly pointed. I found it interesting that both characters seemed to prove my basic idea that no mixed race person will every look exactly a certain way.

I wish that BioWare had taken a slightly less Caucasian approach to presenting a face of a mixed-race person, but in my mind the variation in features provides a little bit with me to work with that I might almost be willing to let that pass. Almost.

Feynriel’s second largest problem is that he doesn’t feel like he fits in anywhere. When he lives among humans he feels as though he stands out as obviously an elf (a point I found odd given that half-human/half-elf children should always look human, until I thought about it more). Considering that elves experience extreme levels of racial hatred and discrimination this is understandably an uncomfortable place for him to have lived his entire life. His first largest problem being that he is also a mage, subjecting him to hatred and fear above that status. Feynriel wants to live among the Dalish Elves, a nomadic clan of elves, and when (if) he is there, despite finding some help with his magical woes, he feels, again, that he stands out due to his human parentage.

Wow. Can I relate.

Feynriel made me feel a little like I could relate to that situation. Not quite ever belonging in one place or to any one people because no matter where you were someone was going to see you as the other. Additionally, his situation made me re-examine the thoughts that pounded instantly into my head when I watched his woes unfold before me. My initial reaction of “Hey! He looks awfully elf!” really hit home when I realized that that assumption is the very thing that I get upset with people for. I loathe people for telling me that I look very white, dismissing my Native background, and I had just done the same thing, albeit to a pixelated character, but done it all the same.

Chally at Zero at the Bone has written many great things about this topic, and I recommend this part three of a series she has written: The Privileges and Pains of Passing.

Late Night/Early Morning Migraine Babbling…

I’ve never had a migraine I couldn’t sleep through… but this one is determined to make a liar of me.

I am reading. On a bright screen because migraines seem to make me not think clearly either. Wev. I am catching up on all of the internet that goes on when I am productively writing, and forming things over in my brain, which I am pretty sure is staging a coup against my skull.

Please stay with me, the profound part is coming up:

I don’t want the world and everyone in it to stop conceptualizing race, gender, sex, ability, creed, etc. I don’t want them to “only see people” and not pay attention to those things about people, because the descriptors that apply to me in that list (and the ones that I’ve forgotten) are part of me. They are part of who I am, who I have become, and what has shaped the person I am, for better or for worse. If we stopped seeing those things we would be bland, boring people and I am willing to bet all of the parts of humanity that bring us the creative wonders that make us truly awesome, the Original Meaning, not the new one that means socks and hot dogs, would cease to exist.

What I want to happen is for other people to stop thinking of those of us who live at intersections of those descriptors as less-than because of those things. I want people to stop ignoring our voices because we can be described by those words. I want people to stop dismissing our needs as “special” because we can be divided into categories under those words.

These things are part of who we are, and the key to equality and getting along isn’t ignoring them. It isn’t even in spite of them. It is loving and accepting because of them. Because these things are uniquely human and are what make us whole.

I don’t want someone to not consider a part of who I am when they think of me. That isn’t thinking of me, but rather, thinking only of the part of me that is more convenient for you.

But There’s Just No Oversight!

There are those who (wrongly) believe that when the Chippewa/Ojibwe, Huron, and Pottowotome tribes retained their treaty fishing rights from the State of Michigan as was laid forth in the Treaty of Ghent at the conclusion of the War of 1812 in 1814. In it, all that the tribes who allied with the British was to be restored to them, and since part of what was restored to the States was lands which would become known as the State of Michigan, and there were certainly Natives who lived here, who fished the Great Lakes, this was understood. But that certainly wasn’t what happened, and in 1836 the Natives of what is the Eastern Upper Peninsula and the Northern third of the Lower Peninsula wound up ceding their land rights in order to keep their sovereign fishing rights, though in an earlier post I mentioned that this wasn’t exactly the way of it.

A common misconception is that sovereign fishing rights will provide a way for tribes to dwindle fishing supplies down to nothing, because they go unchecked since there is no one who looks over their shoulders. It isn’t as if Natives haven’t fished their own lands for about 12,000 years or more before they had the White Man to make sure they didn’t eradicate their environment, and in fact prior to the settling of North America by American settlers the people of the Chippewa/Ojibew tribes existed on roughly two cycles of living, one where they fished as a larger village from Spring to Autumn, and one where they hunted through the winter, allowing both to replenish as needed. As large commercial industry fishing took over outlets of the St. Mary’s River, which affected Eastern Superior waters, they learned to accommodate that schedule to adjust for fish preservation.

Even now, tribal fishing boards work with the Department of Natural Resources to make sure that fish levels are maintained, with fishing seasons strictly adhered to. Because every person who exercises their tribal rights must have a tribal-issued license complete with registration number it is easy to track every person using a legal license. Any person caught without a license is subject to the same penalties that a non-tribal angler would be. If that angler is a net user, their registration number must be affixed to their nets, and the location of those nets must be on file. You are required to keep track of where you lay and leave your nets, which only makes sense for finding them. It helps both the fisher find their nets and the tribal board and the DNR watch for poachers.

The DNR is very strict in assessing their control. The lead “sinkers” that are used to weigh nets, and the anchor buoys used to keep them in place sometimes will drift, but they must be affixed with your registration number. If they drift, or if a storm were to toss your nets to a location where your nets don’t belong the DNR has full authority to seize control of your nets, equipment, and catch, and pull it. Because your reg. number is also affixed they will also come to your house and fine you for the infraction (and if you are tribal, which net users are, the tribal board can as well, but not the State itself). Your catch is sold off, or donated to a State or County home.

This has happened to us on more than one occasion, even though we do stick very carefully to the letter of the laws. Things happen.

But the DNR, even if it maintains otherwise, is a State agency at its lower level, and there is a long and heated history of tension between Indian and non-Indian fishing and those who believe that one side is being favored. In an area that is so dense with tribal fishing, and having people who have the exceptions to the “non-commercial” policy of treaty fishing rights around, the DNR has been known to keep an “extra vigilant” eye on net fishing. It isn’t hard, because Lake Superior fishing is almost (if not exclusively) that of the solely of the tribal fishery. If they go out and poke around a set of nets, odds dictate that they are going to pull of a gang owned by a tribal fisherman.

Things have become better in recent years, or so I am told, with the authority handed down by the State police to “deputize” local tribal police to watch out for non-tribal on tribal crime, but I don’t know if this has been affected. I do know that it has long been a tense situation, and if my impression of the DNR is colored by this, it is not without reason. Spawning season can be a long and hard couple of months without steady income, relying on frozen stores to get by in a good year, and to have your first nets of the season confiscated can be a tough pill. There is nothing saying the State doesn’t benefit from paying an inordinate amount of attention to tribal fisheries, but that doesn’t mean that tribal fishers don’t screw up.

There is oversight, though. We have our own boards and license commissions. We are required to file for a license through that bureau like non-tribal members. A license is held for life, though, and can be willed or handed down, even sold if you want to another member. My grandfather will probably give his to my brother who will benefit from it more than I would. I think there are even circumstances under which you can lose it, if you misuse it or abuse it. You also have to stick to treaty waters, waters governed by your own tribe, etc.

My tribe was lucky, and they fared better than those of the Pacific Northwest tribes in Washington State, or those in Minnesota, who had their rights poorly translated when disputes arose, but they weren’t come by easily. Of course, many can argue that no tribe has come by any of their rights easily.

But that is something for another day. The concept that tribal fishers are just not well governed is hogswash. Tribes are uniquely placed to know how many members they have and to cooperate with the DNR on the number of fish that can be safely harvested, and what measure will need to be taken to preserve it. It doesn’t do anyone any good to chase the last fish into a net, though I don’t hear too much talk of opening hatcheries and farming from leisure anglers, only that we treaty-rights anglers are taking up all the resources and getting so much “special treatment”.

Some History About Tribal Fishing…

For the purposes of this post, “Indians” and “Native Americans” will be used fairly interchangeably, as is indicative of my region and the history of which I am dealing. Also, “Chippewa” and “Ojibwe” or “Ojibway”, even though that is not always the case. Thanks for your leeway for giving me room to use our own words with our own history.

I love having the opportunity to get my grandfather in a chatty mood about things from my family’s heritage, and tribal fishing rights is as much a part of that as the blood that flows in our veins. It is a tradition that has been notched with contention and surrounded with controversy for literally over a century.

As far as my own tribe is concerned, tribal fishing rights were secured as part of the treaty of 1836, between, among some, the Ojibwe people of the Eastern Upper and Northern Lower Peninsula of Michigan as well as those the First Nations of Ottawa and the United States. A major motivating factor behind this treaty, for the U.S. government was to gain ceded land rights, since it stands obvious in our stellar history that the U.S. could not keep a promise to Native Peoples and First Nations Peoples. “Motivating factor” is less honest than “primary objective” really. They wanted the reserved land back, and it stood to tell what they were going to be willing to do to get it back. The State saw this as a “removal” treaty.

The sovereign nations native to the Great Lakes region secured for themselves rights to the entirety of most of the Great Lakes for fishing (and if I am not mistaken, hunting as well) “with the other usual privileges of occupancy, until the land is needed for settlement”.

Then, in 1971, a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community was cited for pulling up a mere handful of lake trout in his herring nets, because instead of violating what he held sacred and wasting the fish, he kept them. It was said that he violated State fishing regulations, which he said he would not recognize under Treaty Law, which was to be supreme. The State was having none of this, you can be sure, saying that the Chippewas had ceded their sovereign rights to fishing when the land was settled, even though the treaty allowed otherwise, and even though the man in question was in no danger of upsetting the preservation of the lake trout population. (more…)

Tearing Ourselves Apart and Erasing People Outside the Narrative…

The Lappy is back from the doctor and ready to take on the abuse I inflict with having no less than two browsers and thirty tabs open at one time.

The feminist blogosphere hasn’t been the most friendly of people who don’t fit into a particular narrative. This isn’t exactly news for most of us working in social justice. The White, Straight, Able-bodied, Cis people (and I am forgetting to add some modifiers, but I know you get the point) tend to dominate the conversations in most spaces and on most of the Big Blogs.

Most of them.

There are a few exceptions, and it is difficult to break into those spaces and start conversations that go against that narrative, especially if you are a voice that is not part of that paradigm. Breaking into these spaces and altering the conversation to something that is relevant to you and your interests is difficult, it is work, and it is something that should be applauded.

As a non-white woman who wears many other hats, I have been a part of that and have see other non-white women do the same thing. As a non-white woman I have also felt the lash of people harshly criticize us for daring to take our voices and try to amplify them in spaces that are not predominantly that of non-white people. It is hurtful enough to defend discussions and ideas against a group of people, say, for example white or able-bodied people and convince them that they are not seeing something or that they are dismissing my work and erasing my life experiences because I am not part of the mainstream.

It is altogether another thing to have other non-white people tear you down because you dared to work in these supposedly White Spaces.

It does us not good to tear each other apart in this manner. When non-white people choose to take their work to spaces that are viewed as predominantly white we are attempting to change the narrative. We are pushing against the idea that feminist, progressive, and other social justice spaces are only for certain people, and being told that we are tokens fucking pisses me off. I resent the hell out of that.

But apart from that, being asked ‘who are we fucking kidding’ when we are hurt because we are constantly erased, misracialized, misidentified, and dismissed because the readership in a space is having trouble adapting to the voice of someone outside of the narrative is fucking racist — even if it comes from another non-white person/person of colour.

It burns the hell out of me to be ignored, to be presumed white or not coloured enough to matter in issues that affect people of colour or non-white people until some of us dare try to do things that step outside of the lock step that some people who deem to speak on behalf of all non-white people of the world have set up as the party line.

I have seen non-white people do things in so-called “White Spaces” that are revolutionary. Things that are changing the way that we talk about race, ethnicity, and issues that concern PoC and non-white people world wide. These things have altered the racial conversation from focusing on North America to expanding our knowledge of racial politics in other countries, and I respect the hell out of that. When I say I respect that, it isn’t just empty words either. These conversations have finally taken the discussion beyond Black and White and involved issues concerning other peoples. Not that I don’t believe that the the racial politics between black and white people are important, but that every conversation in some communities turn to “Oh, if you are not white, you must be black!”. I don’t see this as much, and I have certain bloggers to thank for the improvement here.

When we, as non-white people, tear each other down, we hurt ourselves. There is no room for it if we are really trying to make a difference. If we want to improve the way discussions about race and ethnicity and related issues take place, then we have to respect the work of fellow PoC and non-white bloggers and writers who are doing work, irrespective of the spaces where they choose to do that work. It is extremely disrespectful to tear that work down and erase it because it doesn’t fit your narrow definition of what is proper PoC fellowship.

It is also disrespectful and racist to erase the identities of people who work at blogs just because you can’t be bothered to get your facts straight.

I’m sorry, but we won’t fall in line behind someone because they believe they speak for all non-white people.

Love, Anonymously — Racialicious’ First Ever Blog Carnival

Two red ladybugs on green, one mounted up on the other caught in the act. You naughty ladybugs!Back in August I received an email from Latoya Peterson of Racialicious about some thoughts on a piece at Jezebel called A Practical Guide to Popping Your Cherry, along with a host of other people. After reading it, she tossed some ideas around, we all tossed some ideas back, and this mammoth discussion about sex, race, religion, and many, many other facets evolved.

It rolled out like play dough in a fun factory, and Latoya stressed her wishes to broaden the conversation to the many ways in which race plays a huge factor in the way we as non-white people approach sexuality. It was an amazing discussion, but, since I wasn’t really taught to embrace much of my non-white self until later in my sexual experience, or life in general, I found myself lost in that part of the discussion. That was OK by me, because I ended up taking much away from it anyhow. Being in a mixed race/ethnicity marriage/partnership now has caused me to have to look at my relationship from many angles, but they were not things that I had to deal with when I was approaching sex for the first time. Or when I thought I was approaching sex for the first time.

The ideas being tossed around became so varied and so many that it seems that Latoya had this great idea to turn this into a Blog Carnival. The first one that Racialicious has ever done.

So here’s the first official call.  Entries are due November 30th, 2010, and we will start running the pieces in November and December.  Sexual Correspondent Andrea Plaid is co-editing, and we are hoping for a huge mix of participants.

What are we looking for?

Anything really. But for those of you who need a prompt, here are some things like I would like to see:

  • General commentary on sex and dating
  • First times
  • Discussions of abstinence and virginity
  • The construction of masculinity and how that impacts dating, love, and sex
  • Racial stereotypes/perceptions and their impact on your sex life
  • Being part of a “sexless” class and how that impacts dating, love, and sex

Guidelines are the same as general Racialicious ones.

Submissions can be in any format – would love to see poems, erotica, comics, illustrations, video, and audio, as well as straight text. Please include a transcript with video/audio.  Anonymity can be arranged – the best way I can see it to upload your file to a drop.io, send it to team@racialicious.com and just use a fake email address. But we can figure that out as we go.

 

I hope that some of you out there will consider submitting to this. I will be doing a featured piece that will focus on the intersection of disability, but I would like to see more non-white/PoC voices from the disability community be involved if they are willing. I am really excited about this opportunity, and can’t hardly wait to see what comes of it.

Photo Credit:  cygnus921

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