April 07, 2016

No excuse for Ralphie May's rant

A Facebook discussion of Wreck-It Ralphie's diatribe against Indians. It occurred before we knew exactly what May had said:

I'm waiting to hear the context that makes this acceptable.

Sounds like he adds a coda at the end of his rants. Maybe something like, "But really, folks, hating people is bad. Don't be like the people who say these things." That's not nearly enough "context" to make the previous rants okay.

You can't have a stereotype-to-explanation ratio of 5-1 or 10-1. If anything, it should be the other way around. You can repeat a stereotype if you spend enough time explaining why it's wrong.That is basically what he is saying on twitter, he is saying that the entire joke is him imitating racist people who were mad about goodfellas losing to dances. I have seen his act before, and i can actually accept this because blatant racism isn't usually part of his act. However, he still needs to own those other comments that are just as ignorant.Okay. Sounds a lot like hipster racism to me. Like, "Someone else is racist, and I'm just repeating what they say. Ironically, that is, to mock them. And I had to go on ranting for three minutes to show how racist they are."

Why it's still wrong

Who cares who won the Oscar 25 years ago? It's not relevant to anyone today. It's ancient history.

May chose to build a routine around racist beliefs. He provides a fig leaf of an excuse, then spews a bunch of racist comments. And his cover is, "That's what someone said 25 years ago."

As you said, his Twitter comments show how he really feels. His real beliefs aren't far from his "ironic" beliefs--if there's any difference at all. He sort of understands that something bad happened to Indians, but that was long ago and now they're to blame for their problems.

And after his so-called apology:

As I said before, a single punchline is no excuse for what comes before that. He didn't even say he was imitating others who were upset at Dances with Wolves. Rather, he said he was upset about it.

So again, how does this 25-year-old "grievance" justify a racist rant? A: It doesn't.

Some questions for Ralphie

When Delores Schilling sought questions to ask May on her Native Trailblazers radio show, I e-mailed her the following:

1) May says he's been doing his Dances with Wolves joke since 1992. This so-called joke sounds like a pretext to do a racist rant about Indians.

If the subject of the 1992 (actually 1991) Oscars isn't outdated and irrelevant already, when does it become so? In 50 years? A hundred? Why shouldn't listeners assume what I just said: that May is inventing an excuse to vent his spleen against Indians?

2) Has May heard of hipster racism? It's defined as doing or saying something racist, then claiming it was ironic, satirical, or a joke. How is this any different from what May does?

"Indians are drunk losers," he seems to be saying, then "Ha ha, just kidding." Well, why should we take the "just kidding" part more seriously than the "drunk losers" part? Racists have a long history of dressing up their beliefs as fiction or humor. Why shouldn't we assume May is telling us what he really believes in the guise of comedy?

3) If May's so-called jokes depend on his reaching the punchline, isn't that a comedic failure? The jokes are insulting, insulting, insulting until the punchline, which magically renders them not insulting? What if listeners feel the punchline doesn't work? Or they miss the punchline because they leave in anger?

Isn't May's "thinking" here rather shallow and stupid? Isn't it like saying, "We had to destroy the village in order to save it"? Does he seriously claim he has to sling horrible vulgarities to show how others sling horrible vulgarities? Is he such a pitiful comedian that he can't think of another way to make his point?

4) May's tweets indicate he's still blaming Indians for the poverty and alcoholism they suffer. Which is just about what he said in his racist rant. Why should we believe there's a difference between his "jokes" and his beliefs when they're so similar?

Rob Schmidt

April 06, 2016

Ralphie May's rant against Indians

A round-up of articles about Ralphie May's anti-Indian rant:

Comedian Ralphie May Creates Twitter Firestorm After Rant on IndiansThe extracted audio clip of May’s comedy routine is from a CD entitled "Stealing the Sun Back." from the hip hop group Savage Family. In the video/audio clip, posted on YouTube, May goes into a rant about Indians.

“F--k a bunch of Indians. I am sick of hearing about it. Are we supposed to boo hoo over goddamn Indians that sh-t that was 120 years ago? F--kin’ get over it. Nobody 150 years ago was making you drink now. Dry up’ you buncha alcoholics and go get a real f--kin’ job.”
And:May further explained on Twitter that the comedic rant was extracted out of context and that the rant was based on the fact he was angry that Dances with Wolves beat Goodfellas for the best picture Oscar in 1992.

Sanford Center taking heat for booking comedian after video surfaces

Bemidji cancels gig by shock comic Ralphie May
YouTube rant against Indians is cited as the cause.

Ralphie May's Bemidji concert officially canceled despite apologetic video from comedian

April 02, 2016

Malheur standoff = white supremacy

A good analysis of Ammon Bundy's occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January:

White Supremacy and Property Rights: Tamir Rice and the Oregon Standoff

By Anne Bonds[T]he significance of recent events in Oregon extends beyond this obvious example of the differential treatment of racial groups by the state. We argue the events at the Oregon wildlife refuge are representative of what Arlo Kempf describes as a “colonial moment,” one that bolsters white supremacy and violence against people of color, as well as the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. settler state.

The concept of settler colonialism emphasizes the ongoing occupation and privatization of Indigenous territories and the systems of race necessary to sustain the displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples. From this perspective, colonization is not an event of the past, but rather an enduring process that continuously unfolds across the landscape. Colonial moments normalize white domination and the racial status quo by obscuring histories of racial violence and exploitation and by reinforcing largely unquestioned assumptions about white settler property ownership and entitlement to stolen lands.

For some, the Bundys–both Ammon and his father Cliven–have become folk heroes for their efforts to reclaim federally owned and regulated land and for resisting the overbearing, ‘tyrannical’ federal government. However, as the chairperson of the Burns Paiute Tribe, Charlotte Rodrique, has explicitly stated, the Paiute peoples had been living on these lands for thousands of years prior to the arrival of white settlers. Deep ironies abound as the militia members demand that the federal government return the land to ranchers, loggers, and miners after claiming the federal government had usurped their rights.

Though it’s quite easy to dismiss the Bundys, their followers, and other white militias in the American West as a “radical fringe” group with a poor understanding of U.S. history, we believe that to do so would be ill informed. Not only is the Oregon standoff part of a much broader political, economic, and social movement rooted in individual private property rights and undergirded by white supremacy, the event–and popular reactions to it–sustain particular understandings of whiteness and land ownership that render invisible the displacement and exploitation of people of color that enabled white settlement and the acquisition of federal lands in this area in the first place.
Comment:  For more on the Bundy bunch, see Malheur Occupation Shows Toxic Masculinity and Bundys Hold Paiute Artifacts Hostage.

April 01, 2016

"Hostile tribes" illustration in Portland Monthly

An Apology From Portland Monthly

The combination of an illustration and a headline in our April issue caused justifiable offense.

By Zach Dundas
Recently, Portland Monthly published a short essay on the subject of school choice, accompanied by an illustration that adapted the standard school-crossing sign to show its stick-figure humans armed with arrow-like weapons. The headline—written by editors, not the freelance writer who contributed the body of the article—used the phrase “hostile tribes” to describe the social tensions arising from the issues discussed in the piece that followed.

Since the illustration and the article title appeared in our April issue and on our website, we have heard from numerous readers and Native American community leaders that this combination of words and images is offensive and derogatory, evoking negative stereotypes of Native Americans.

We erred in publishing this image and title, particularly in combination. We did not intend to offend any person or community, but in this case intention is beside the point. We have heard clearly that we caused pain, anger, and confusion among readers and communities we care about, and we are sorry.

As a first step, the image has been removed from the online version of the article, and the online headline has been changed. We’ll address the situation in print at the first opportunity afforded by our publication schedule, which will be our June issue.

Some thoughts from SorryWatch (!) on how well the Portland Monthly apologized:

Against all odds, another excellent apology, good heavens

March 31, 2016

Students protest UNM seal

Protesters: Native American-made seal not native enough

  • The students are accusing the school of racism because the seal shows a frontiersman and a conquistador, but not a Native American.

  • The seal was designed by Theda Douglas Rushing, a Native American.

  • By Anthony Gockowski
    Students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) are protesting their school’s official seal because of its implicit discrimination against Native Americans even though the seal itself was created by a Native American artist.

    UNM’s student activists are accusing the school of racism because the seal depicts a frontiersman standing alongside a conquistador but fails to portray their historical counterpart—indigenous people.
    And:“The UNM [official seal] celebrates genocide and conquest—both are violations of basic human rights and belong in a museum of a bygone era,” said Nick Estes. “It’s 2016 and UNM is still celebrating crimes against humanity—colonialism and genocide—and Natives are still underrepresented at all levels at the University.”

    However, UNM awarded Native American artist Theda Douglas Rushing a Meritorious Service Medal in 1994 for her outstanding contributions to the school, among which was the creation of the school’s now discriminatory seal.


    A Facebook discussion of this key point: Students protest a UNM seal that shows a frontiersman and a conquistador, even though a Native woman designed it.

    I wonder if she was given free rein or a strict mandate. Kind of hard to believe someone thought a frontiersman and a conquistador were great ideas in the 21st century.

    Apparently the redesign was back in 1980. I can understand that some people, including Natives, might not have thought about the problems much back then.

    But I'm surprised it hasn't been protested out of existence since then. A frontiersman and a conquistador don't have anything to do with education. If anything, they're anti-education.

    The message is nothing but, "Europeans founded this state and school. Europeans made us great." How is that not glaringly obvious to everyone--not to mention embarrassing?

    They're even holding a gun and a sword. It's a pure conquest message--with Indians and their land as the implied booty. There's no educational message whatsoever.Yes. All that's missing is an equally in your face motto. "We exist because these guys spilled blood."Oddly, their school motto is "Lux Hominum Vita (Life, the Light of Men)." I guess because "Veni, Vidi, Vici" was taken?

    For more on government seals, see Whitesboro Issue Increases Awareness and Flipping the Whitesboro Script.

    March 28, 2016

    Powwows are "magic" at Dictionary.com

    Dictionary.com: A Pow Wow Is An Event Where Indians Practice 'Magic'

    By Simon Moya-SmithDictionary.com, a popular website of definitions and synonyms, defines a pow wow as an event where Native Americans—wait for it—practice "magic," ICTMN discovered Monday.

    In its official definition, the website writes that a 'powwow' is "[among North American Indians] a ceremony, especially one accompanied by magic, feasting, and dancing, performed for the cure of disease, success in a hunt, etc."

    The discovery of the curious definition comes weeks after a heated debate surrounding author J.K. Rowling's latest series, "A History of Magic In North America." In it, fictional Native Americans practice witchcraft and wizardry. Rowling is the author of the widely-successful 'Harry Potter' series.

    Sarah Ortegon, a jingle dress dancer who is currently studying fancy shawl, told ICTMN Monday that although the beauty of pow wows can "cast a spell" on viewers, it is not magic in its official definition.
    After a couple of days of online complaints, the problem was solved:Dictionary.com Agrees to Drop 'Magic' From 'Powwow' Definition

    By Simon Moya-SmithOn Monday, ICTMN reported that Dictionary.com, the world's leading digital dictionary, defines “powwow” as an event where Native Americans practice “magic.” Since then, Native Americans and others have taken to social media to express their disapproval over the antiquated definition.

    Within 24 hours, officials at Dictionary.com responded to ICTMN stating they will change their definition of “powwow,” and that they will effectively remove the word “magic.”

    “The word ‘magic’ does not appear in our revised definition,” Stephanie Cooley, spokesperson for Dictionary.com, said in an email.

    “After reviewing the entry for ‘powwow’ we concluded that the definition did not reflect the history and usage of the term, and so we’ve drafted changes to reflect this. We plan to reach out to a professor of Native American Studies as part of our editorial process. With almost half a million entries, sometimes outdated or erroneous definitions can go overlooked and we depend upon our dedicated users to let us know if they come across any entries in need of review that we’ve missed,” she wrote in an email.
    Comment:  Why would anyone think a social event like a powwow had "magic" dances? Because non-Natives think all Indian dances are meant to call spirits or whatever.

    According to the prevailing stereotype, Indians aren't normal like other people. They're otherworldly, with supernatural powers that let them talk to animals, control the weather, or summon demons.

    Needless to say, the definition is silly. Not only because of the "magic" reference, but the whole thing. Curing disease, insuring a successful hunt...these are ceremonies done within a tribe on religious occasions. Not dances done among tribes on social occasions. Other than the concept of Indians dancing, the two have little or nothing in common.

    For more on the subject, see Fictional Potterverse vs. Real Native Religions and Rowling Colonizes and Vanishes Indians.

    March 23, 2016

    "Indians bring firewater" in All in the Family

    In The Little Atheist episode of All in the Family (airdate: 11/24/75), neighbor Irene Lorenzo attends Thanksgiving at Mike and Gloria's house. She enters with a bottle of wine, saying: How! Indians spend Thanksgiving with Pilgrims, bring firewater.She's wearing a full-length dress that looks like it could be Navajo. Also necklaces of turquoise, silver, and other beads. You can see the bit at the 14:17 mark:

    It seems like Irene has some knowledge of Indians and is trying to honor them. She's pretty clearly doing an Indian thing. But the fake "How!" greeting and the "firewater" crack...ugh. Stereotype alert!

    For more on the subject, see Archie Bunker on Indians.

    March 22, 2016

    Seeing is believing in movies

    Someone asked me the following via e-mail:Q--Do you think people believe more what they see in the movies than actual history? Braveheart is a great example of something that played with history, yet is taken as largely factual by people. What are the negatives and positives to this? You wrote a bit about it happening with Apocalypto. Do you know of other examples?My response:

    I think people believe what they absorb from all sources--from movies to TV shows to history books. The problem is that most people have seen 10 or 100 movies and TV shows featuring stereotypical Indians for every book they've read. If the ratio were reversed--10 or 100 history books for every movie or TV show--I think their beliefs would be reversed too. But that isn't the case.

    I'd say this applies to every work of fiction featuring Indians, not just Apocalypto. I've written about it often--in general and in specific cases such as Apocalypto. For example:

    Why people believe movies
    The influence of movies
    Verisimilitude in movies
    Audiences don't want dry facts

    Others have written about this too because it's patently obvious. Movies try to recreate reality with locations, sets, costumes, and so forth. Lincoln was a tall guy with a beard and a hat, not a short bald woman. If everything else in a movie strives to seem real, why would someone assume the Indians are false and unrepresentative?

    Answer: No one would assume that. The fact that is that few if any people think critically about the elements of moviemaking. They assume a Native-themed movie is based on reality because the vast majority of historical dramas are based on reality.

    I hope that answers your question. Let me know if you have any other questions.


    P.S. For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

    Inhuman sanctuary = Indian reservation

    The Parting Shot episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (airdate: 3/22/16) had a pointed reference to Indian reservations. About all you need to know is that evildoer Malick wants to round up the superpowered Inhumans for nefarious purposes:

    ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ Recap 3×13: Pour One OutMalick makes an uncomfortable comparison between what Russia will be doing with the Inhuman sanctuary to what America did in setting up Native American reservations. You know, just in case it wasn’t already very clear that he was grade-A evil.MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Review: “Parting Shot”Malick’s plan for an Inhuman “Sanctuary State” comes into full focus this week, as he convinces the Russian Prime Minister’s own men to stage a coup against him. Powers Boothe is more wicked than ever in the role, as he smugly suggests that Native American Reservations were beneficial for the people forced to relocate to them, and that his own plan will do the same for the new “alien threat.” Which he intends to use as prison camp in order to weaponize Inhumans in a bid for more power.

    March 21, 2016

    Indigenous Chileans in Madam Secretary

    A recent episode of Madam Secretary dealt with

    Madam Secretary recap: 'Higher Learning'

    An agreement between a U.S. mining company and Chile goes awry.

    By Lindsey Kupfer
    Madam Secretary
    Season 2, Ep. 17 | Aired Mar 20

    The show opens in the Andes mountains in Chile. There is a group protesting an American company, Hercutel, for mining gold in their mountains. The protest gets ugly, and someone throws a rock at the American driver. According to Bess’ team, the mining agreement between Hercutel and the Chilean government was completely legal, but now the president of Chile has changed her mind and accused the company of negotiating more than their fair share of profits, sparking the various protests.
    Later:Bess talks to the foreign minister, threatening to cripple their economy, and Chile quickly agrees to reopen the mining operation in the morning. Nothing’s that simple, though. A man named Hugo from the Inhawoji people of Chile reveals in an online video that the mountain belongs to the indigenous people and has belonged to them for 6,000 years. That means that the Chilean government had no right to make an agreement with Hercutel. In protest, Hugo says he’s going to climb the mountain to save it or he will die trying—while live-streaming his climb of course. Welcome to 2016.College protester Brian Andrew Lindstrom confronts Bess, then sues her when her bodyguard "invades his personal space." Bess visits the Lindstrom family to talk Brian out of suing, leading to this exchange:Elizabeth McCord: I think the thing getting lost here, Mr. and Mrs. Lindstrom, is your son's passionate commitment to social justice. Young people rising up against the abuse of power has been a force for change many times in this country, and Brian was right. Not about the mining contract. That was legitimate. But about the larger issue. The brutal legacy of colonialism asserting itself once again in Chile. That turned out to be true. And, Brian, without you guys and the Chilean citizens rising up against what you thought was wrong, the Inhawoji people might not have dared raised their voices, too, and found a world ready to listen.

    Brian Andrew Lindstrom: Thanks, Mrs. Secretary.

    Blake Moran: Madam Secretary.

    Elizabeth McCord: Don't stop speaking truth to power. But, maybe the best way to call upon our better selves is for you to show us yours.
    Brian's parents yell at him to stop complaining and he agrees to drop the lawsuit.

    It's rare to hear a politician talk about colonialism, even if it happened as far as possible from the US but in the same hemisphere. Even a liberal Secretary of State such as John Kerry or Hillary Clinton wouldn't take the side of the people against a democratic ally. That's what makes Madam Secretary such a good show.

    Incidentally, I think the Inhawoji are a fictional group. I couldn't find anything about them on the Internet.

    March 19, 2016

    Fictional Potterverse vs. real Native religions

    What J.K. Rowling’s New Story Can Teach Us About Cultural Appropriation

    Rowling messed up big time. What next?

    By Claire Fallon
    Reading and listening to Native American and First Nations activists, authors, and readers reacting to the treatment of their cultural heritage, certain important points keep emerging: “History of Magic in North America” relied on worn-out stereotypes that erase tribal distinctions, ignore the true cultures and traditions of different nations, and reinforce conceptions of Native American people as mystical beings rather than real people who continue to exist today. The story was shallow and poorly researched, not a detailed and thoughtful exploration of the histories of the peoples who have lived on this continent for centuries.

    Scholar Amy H. Sturgis, who is of Cherokee descent, told me, “Some of her descriptions—the claim that the Native American wizarding community was ‘particularly gifted in animal and plant magic’ for instance—refer less to Native American cultural traditions than to stereotypes of the mystical Noble Savage that have been used for centuries by non-Natives to make Native Americans seem exotic and Other.”

    Regarding the skinwalker narrative, which has garnered particular outrage, she noted that it was particularly troubling to see Rowling make use of a Navajo tradition “as legend, a smokescreen for ‘real’ magical history, and to divorce this tradition from its specific origins and apply it to all of Native America as a whole.”

    One thing’s certain: Rowling didn’t have much idea what she was writing about, and it showed. “I don’t think she has the knowledge necessary to do justice to marginalized peoples,” Debbie Reese, a Nambe Pueblo Indian scholar, told me. (Reese writes the blog American Indians in Children’s Literature, which carefully reviews young people’s literature with representations of American Indians to tease out the often glaring misrepresentations, appropriations, and damaging stereotypes within.)
    The Rantin’ Raven: Harry Potter and the… WTF?

    By Dana CorbyHere’s the problem, as I see it, I said: Ms. Rowling seems to be unaware that the cultures she talks about are real. That there are still living members of these still-living cultures whose cause and position in the real world are harmed by the publication of untruths about them–untruths that are too often unconsciously accepted by those not interested enough to look into them.

    Most fantasy novels are set in an alternate universe, the future, the remote past, or in some other way are not part of the here-and-now. The fantasy becomes a shared game of “let’s pretend” and pretty much anything can go. But as eloquently pointed out by N.K. Jemisin in “It Could Have Been Great,” Rowling’s world purports to be a secret side of our real world, occurring in real time alongside everyday reality. The whole premise is that nobody who isn’t magical knows about those who are–with a few noted exceptions like the families of muggle-borns, of course. What a fun concept! But because it’s set in the real world, extra caution needs to be exercised not to do violence to what isn’t part of the fantasy.

    It’s not just Rowling’s clueless assumption that belief in skin walkers was/is continent-wide rather than strictly a DinĂ© belief, or her saying that “skin walker” is just an Indian word for animagus when in DinĂ© culture they are living vectors of evil. It’s saying that non-magical Native medicine people were/are fakes. She’s talking about people outside her wizarding subculture, and suddenly it’s not fantasy anymore.

    In all the Potter books, she never once so much as hints that Christianity and non-magical medicine might be fake, even when her wizarding characters are being condescending about the amazing ways muggles find to get along without magic. Christianity is assumed and respected in the Wizarding world, if not spoken of much, with crosses in the churchyard—and churches, for that matter—and St. Mungo’s Hospital. If Wizards aren’t Christians, how can there be a wizarding saint? Muggle medicine is shown to work fine for everything except magical maladies. But non-magical Indian medicine people are ‘fakes.’ Indians have been told this by Europeans for 500 years and it’s long past time we stopped doing it and they stopped being expected to tolerate it.
    Comment:  For more on the subject, see Rowling Colonizes and Vanishes Indians and Rowling's Magic in North America. Also see:

    Native People Respond to Rowling

    Why it's more than fiction

    Native People Respond to Jason Aaron's SCALPED and JK Rowling's Magic in North America