exactly that

Posts tagged ‘Native Blogging’

Your Infinite Wisdom

While I was experiencing some technical difficulties I got a most interesting comment in my mod queue for this post. My first inclination was to delete it, but instead I decided that I would write a post about it, because there are some points about it that need to be addressed.

Also, it should stand as a warning, that anything sent to me could be potential mockery fodder, as per my comment policy.

This problem is only with Whites…We see this in the Black community. Blacks passing for White??? Ugggg, they are white. We don’t have Chinese passing for White? Filipino’s passing for White. Wherever White people land their boates, they convert their ethnic background. You look White because this is 90% of your genes. Did you ever see a Native American? One close to full blood. Sorry, you don’t resemble one. They are not even close to European looking. Their features are related to Asian. You look European and this is what you mostly are, get over it. people closely mixed with Native American, are the most exotic least looking Whites I’ve seen.

Oh, so many things to say. I swear there are people all over Bloglandia crying “BINGO!” as I type. I can’t possibly address everything…but I will take a few points down.

The first thing I have to say: The only person who gets to choose a person’s racial identity is that person. There is no way for a person outside of a body to know their story, their background. The stereotypes with which people base their assumptions of what a particular racial group should look like are not the only defining factors that make a racial group. Race is made of so many components. History, blood, family…it doesn’t come from a passer-by shouting your identity at you.

The only point that is true in the screed is this: Wherever White people land their boates, they convert their ethnic background.

The systematic whitewashing of indigenous people has been responsible for practically demolishing their cultures and histories. We who try to grasp on to it are within our rights to hold on dearly to that which was violently torn from our ancestors. Your insistence that we assimilate into that which was forced upon us is not going to change us. I suppose the next time I go home to the tribe I grew up with I will just tell them all to give up? That we can just forget about holding on to any of our past because you said we just need to accept that we aren’t Native enough for you?

Did you ever see a Native American? One close to full blood.

Did you know that people are different? Did you know that there are hundreds of indigenous tribes in the U.S. and Canada alone? There may just be a slight variance in how those people look, first stereotypically according to your preconceived notions, and second due to years of systematic whitewashing, cultural decimation, and societal change. People from Northern tribes will look very different from people from Southern tribes for many reasons. I hate to rip your world asunder, but human beings have variations in them. We aren’t all copied from coloring books. Close to full blood is rare today. It is estimated that about eight in ten indigenous people in the U.S. alone is of mixed blood because of colonization. Wherever White people landed their boats they decided that they had to save us savages by intermarrying with us to make our children whiter. The lighter the better, right?

You look White because this is 90% of your genes.

You are wrong, and you could not possibly know this. Why? Because you are not me, nor are you my family. Plus, your maths are absurd. How can I be 90% of anything? It boggles me, truly. I will not and should not have to prove my racial identity to anyone. It is mine and mine alone. The only person who gets to label me is me.

You base all of this on one photograph. Good for you, being so awesome that you can gather all of that infinite wisdom from a quick glance. I wish I had your powers of intuition.

Excuse me now while I go weep at not being exotic looking enough for one drive-by commenter.

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She doesn’t “Look Native”…

Over at Shakesville, Elle did a rather nice post on the use of an appropriated image by the Navajo Trucking company.

She pointed out that the woman depicted had blue eyes, and continued to list off some reasons why an image of a supposedly Navajo woman w/ blue eyes would be used.

The OP itself had little to no problems.  Rather, I felt that Elle even pointed out some things that I didn’t think about, if you follow her links.

What really irked me, though, were the comments.

That’s really appalling. And for the record, as far as I can tell, no part of that image remotely resembles anything Navajo. I grew up in the Southwest (although I am not Navajo or Native American at all), so I can usually recognize the appropriate cultural markers.

That woman has features that look very European, and northern European at that; I doubt she has any Navajo ancestry, and if she has any Native American ancestry it’s not particularly apparent in her phenotype. 

She doesn’t look like she’s Native American to me, the only part that kinda makes her look Native American are the generic headdress thing and coils around her neck. 

That woman doesn’t look vaguely Navajo to me and I’ve never even been to the Southwest. What she *does* look like, especially with the particular hue of those blue eyes, is an actress from an old Western movie.

Yeah… nothing about her looks even remotely Navajo.

I grew up and currently live in a town that is a “sister city” to the Navajo Reservation. I teach many students from the Navajo Reservation. I assure you, that woman does not look Navajo, either in physical attributes or attire.

Not one of these people commenting are actually Native or speak from the voice of someone inside the Navajo Nation, or any other Native Nation.

Fine, this woman pictured doesn’t look like the stereotypical “Native” or “Navajo” woman.  She doesn’t possess the traits that people who admittedly are not Natives themselves deem appropriate to be authentically native.  She has blue eyes.

She may or may not be Navajo or even Native at all.

But how many times in the lives of a Native American is that person told, “Huh.  You don’t look Native”, or “You’re not Native, you are too white”, or “There is no way a Native has blue eyes” (tell that to my Uncle, who has a higher “blood quantum” than I do, but happens to have blonde hair and blue eyes.  I dare you to tell him he isn’t Native)?  It makes me simultaneously angry and sad at the same time that people who are not of Native ancestry would have so much gall to tell someone else exactly what a Native looks like.

Never mind that Native tribes from all over North America had their Nations torn apart by settlers.  That everyone from the French to the Mormons decided that Natives must be civilized, having their women married off to white men in an effort to make their children look better.  That for years European traits meant that you would be allowed to work or wouldn’t be branded a “lazy Injun”.  That only w/ the popularity of Casinos has being Native even had the semblance of being acceptable (unless someone wanted fish or tobacco).  That even among our own tribes racism has crept in to divide us among ourselves b/c of the governments racist “blood quantum” and “rolls”.  Some families having “more Native” looking traits, and some having “better” blood than others.  Some tribes have naturally whiter skin than others due to the location of their peoples, and some tribes have people that have stereotypical European features b/c they have been systematically bred throughout the years for Their Own Good.

But leave it to people outside of a particular group to tell the members of that group what is and is not acceptable.  How many people have been asked, no, ordered, to prove their heritage b/c they don’t Look The Part?  How many people have been asked for some kind of certificate or form of ID to prove that they are in fact of the background they say they are (and don’t give me any white person Mayflower bullshit, I am not interested in more White Privilege)?

The audacity of some to decided what a person of a certain race or background should or should not look like angers me in ways I can’t compare to other feelings I have had.  If I hadn’t been in the middle writing a piece on my own experiences being told that I was both too white and just a dirty Native I wouldn’t even have the frame of mind to call this shit out in a reasonable manner.  The myths and stereotypes surrounding North American First Nations (b/c I can’t speak to the experiences of First Nations or Aboriginals of other regions) people are damaging, even w/in the tribes themselves, and it is long past time to put it to rest.  If this kind of shit can pop up even in a space that is devoted to making sure people have a safe space from sexism and racism and homophobia then I feel like it is hopeless to even bring it up to the rest of the world.

Think about that the next time anyone out there decides that they want to tell this Native and her Native daughter that they are in fact not Native Enough.

dscn2274

One in Three

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That’s the number of Native American and Alaskan Native women who are like to be raped or otherwise sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Amnesty International.

The staggering numbers of Native and Aboriginal women who will suffer from violence is something I have written about before.  When I read reports, or go to briefs where I am told that domestic violence is something that transcends race I wonder if the people writing and reporting those statistics have ever looked at the numbers.  One in four women will be victims of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault.  Women of Color and poor women are more likely to be victims of DV, but according to the Maize of Injustice (pdf), Native and Aboriginal women are three times as likely as any other minority group to suffer that violence.  I think it is important not to remove race from the issue of DV and sexual violence, b/c it shows us how race and poverty truly intersect w/ womanist/feminist fights.  It also helps us see that it isn’t the equal opportunity offender that some would have you believe.  Where race and poverty intersect you are going to find the levels of DV and SV higher.

We need to work harder as a unified front to help end this travesty.  We need to do more to get law enforcement to respond to reports of DV and SV on reservations and in marginalized neighborhoods.  We need laws that hold non-Native perpetrators accountable when they attack Native women, on and off the Reservation.  Not enough is being done, and it is time we stood up.

h/t to matttbastard via twitter.

A quote for today

Via Cecelia at Ojibway Migisi Bineshii:

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round . . . The sky is round, and I have heard that the Earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours . . . . Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a person is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”

-Black Elk-Oglala Lakota Medicine Man

I love this quote for so many reasons.

First, it sums up the basics of my personal religious belief system.  Everything is connected, and everything exists on a spiral or circle.  The idea that life itself and all of it sources has no beginning and no end is so profound and beautiful to me.  Birth is a re entry and death is only the next step b/f the next beginning.  The cycle of life and the Sacred Spiral in Paganism blend together beautifully.  Identifying w/ this faith system gave me the first real inner peace I had ever experienced.

Also, it drives home the fact that far beyond anything any form of Christianity offered me (personally) my faith and my racial identity could be harmonious.  The love of the Earth and all that she holds all fit together, and we are embraced as a part of it, both responsible to and cared for by her.  The way that Native culture praises the love of the elements fits together inside my soul perfectly.

Lastly (at least listed here in this space), it makes me appreciate the way that I have made friends on these tubes that help me connect and identify w/ my culture and identity.  The things I missed being away from my extended family and Tribe in my teen years are easier for me to connect w/ and appreciate now thanks to friends like Cecelia.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that the friends you make in Bloglandia aren’t as real or as important as the ones you meet in Meat World.

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