February 26, 2009

Identifying Indians with stereotypes

It's not easy being an Indian

Posted By Xavier KataquapitI visited Thailand once and there I was suspected of being Chinese, Japanese or Indonesian.

At the time, I asked some locals if they thought I looked like a Thai person.

They said that I looked like an overweight Thailander which by the way is a rarity.

Once the Thai decided that I was indeed North American Indian they made me feel very special and believed I must have some mystical powers.

I have learned a corny shortcut to describing myself as an Indian.

Most of the time, the best way to get my point across is to perform a Hollywood-style war whoop, pull back an imaginary bow and pretend to release an arrow.

The result is that people always think of the great wild Indians of the American west, who ride bare back ponies, wear loin cloths and kill buffalo.

I then need to explain that I am a different type of Indian, with a unique culture, language and traditions.
Comment:  If I had a buffalo nickel for every claim like this one--that people think all Indians are Plains Indians of the past--I'd be rich. We saw a similar claim in Making Peter Pan Authentic? just a few days ago.

Kataquapit has to explain his very identity over and over. Yet the nattering nabobs of negativism say stereotypes aren't an important issue? That they can't hurt you if you don't let them?

Imagine a Native boy who's constantly questioned, misunderstood, and mocked. You think this would have no effect whatsoever on his self-esteem? Yes, you might think that...if you were totally ignorant about how the human psyche works.

This is why I post items such as "Nothing More Important" than Stereotypes. I'm not a psychologist, but I'd say there's no question that stereotypes lead to poor self-esteem. And that poor self-esteem leads to a host of problems: poor health, lack of motivation to succeed, self-destructive behavior. It's patently obvious and I'm sure psychologists have proved it.

For more on the subject, see The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

Not an Indian?

An Indian.


Anonymous said...

Almost every Indian person I know of has been horribly impacted by the imposition of the all-pervasive "categorical" stereotypical classification upon their basic sense of humanity - so much so that I feel quite safe in declaring that all Indian people suffer a unique form of self-esteem deficiency based solely on the widespread mayhem that Indian stereotypes have caused us since before the Boston Tea Party.

Rob said...

Wow...great quote, Melvin. It's going straight into my page on The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.