September 17, 2008

Indians prejudiced against blacks

“Why are you trying to be black when you’re red?”The whole “acting black” label isn’t an unheard one in really any community these days, but I’ve always thought it was an interesting one to hear in my own community, from my own people.

Let me give it to you straight and say I already know how much we have in common; Native/Indigenous peoples and Black/people of African descent. While we might have been born here (although the jury is still out on where we all actually came from) y’all were dragged here, and not by your own choice. And you came from a place with a strong Indigenous identity and spiritual centre.
And:In a perfect world, we would understand this and all work as allies for our common struggles of self-determination and autonomy to live as our authentic selves in this still oppressively bigoted society. We would celebrate our rich heritages in peaceful solidarity, while together honouring the ancestors who lived so courageously to give us those few bits of raw culture we cling on to today.

Alas, that world isn’t part of the real world and what’s happening is rather shameful. In light of hip-hop culture or acting what some might perceive as just plain “cool,” the label you are automatically given if you partake in any of this is of course “black” with all of its stereotypical negative connotation. And every time I hear someone from my community say that, whether it’s because they are criticizing Native rappers or don’t understand why so many Native youth identify with Black culture, it makes me wonder how much they don’t know or just don’t remember where we’ve all come from, or even how we got here.
Comment:  We've seen an example of this prejudice in this blog, when Kiowa writer Russell Bates said (in Why Indians Are Democrats):writerfella is a Democrat but there is no way he ever will vote for a Black man to be President of the USA. Simply because we as Natives TOTALLY will be forgotten by the Black agenda...And (in Mike Graham:  a National Sick Joke?):The Black agenda (and it does exist) will rise to the surface, and it includes NO ONE BUT BLACKS...Below:  How a prejudiced Indian might view a black candidate for president.


gaZelbe said...

This is a really complicated issue. Internalized white supremacy, redirected racial anger, low self esteem in regard to ethnicity all come into play against a backdrop of disappearing cultures, both in practice and actual population.

What I would add from my own personal experience is that it seems to me that Indian teenagers seem to usually latch onto whatever cool/hip scene that best expresses rage for their time and location. When I was young, most of my cousins were into Metal and its culture of generalized rage. Through whatever interesting circumstance, I, along with a couple of others were most into Punk music. The generation following me seemed to gravitate towards gangsta rap. It made and continues to make perfect sense to me. Young Indians are angry. More angry than even *they* know.

My primary reaction to this phenomena is that I wish I could help to cultivate native-centric artistic and musical expressions that embraced the rage that our communities overwhelmingly experience. I think our kids would find such expressions to be a better fit than metal was for my generation or rap is for the current one.

Just a theory. And of course, it should go without saying that there are always exceptions to any generality I make about my own people. But I do think they are true and accurate for the *most* part.

gaZelbe said...

oh and my comments should be read as limited to the youth culture phenomena.

I have no explanation for the quotes of Bates and Graham.

Anonymous said...

There's a "Black Agenda"? I missed the announcement! Can you tell me what it is so I can dress appropriately?

Also, about the "Blackness" of most contemporary rap music, I recommend this always.

Pensmoke said...

You know I have always thought the people saying things like "don't act black, you are Indian" are pretty hypocritical. The ones who say they are traditional but love country and rock music and dress up like John Wayne with cowboy boots and hats. I have an upcoming collaboration on a song with 2 other Native rappers that addresses this issue. The song is by Dine' rapper Mikeless and Supaman (Crow) is also on it addressing the issue. Why is it okay to prefer 'white' music over 'black' music? White music isn't 'traditional' either. But the older generation seems to think its preferable instead of this 'black rap music' that the Native kids are into these days. How hypocritical is that?