May 01, 2009

Rob shouldn't judge Natives?

In Wassegijig Doesn't Respect "Redskins," reader Kalisetsi took me to task (again) for criticizing a Native. In Rob Shouldn't Criticize "Redskins"?! I addressed the first part of her complaint. Now I'll address the second part.I'm curious why you are so invested in the issue of Native authenticity and your interpretation of political correctness to the point that you sometimes belittle, dismiss, break apart, and disrespect Native people's feedback to you on these very issues?I covered why I write about Native people and issues in Why Write About Native Americans? Read it and get back to me if it doesn't answer your questions.Not to say your voice isn't important or you shouldn't write about Native things, but you need to respect that our experiences are not yours.I never said they were. Now who's talking down and being condescending?

When is it okay for me to write about Native issues and when isn't it okay? Apparently it's okay only as long as I don't offend, upset, or annoy a single Native. If I disagree with a Native, it's more important for me to keep quiet and respect his or her experiences than to speak.

Suppose a Native writes a movie or comic book, tells us about Robinson Crusoe or Star Trek, or theorizes about the origins of Indians. Suppose he couches these in terms of his experiences. According to you, I can't criticize anything he says. His "Indian-ness" means whatever he says is "right" by definition.

The problem with this is that Natives will never agree 100% with my position. There will always be a Native who thinks Quileute werewolves are cool, "redskin" isn't a slur, and Johnny Depp is as authentic as Sitting Bull. Therefore, you're basically telling me to stop writing about Natives.

That isn't going to happen. So I suggest you make your peace with my choice of topics and styles. It's a waste of time to tell me I have no right to criticize any Native. If you don't like it, you're free to leave.

Rob doesn't know Natives?You don't know what its like to be us, and the WAY you write about some of these things is offensive to Natives, just by virtue of the fact that you are an outsider."Offensive" in your opinion, you mean. Several thousand Natives disagree with you, since they've continued to read my work without complaint.

In fact, the vast majority of Natives have always supported what I do. I haven't seen any change in that percentage since I began in the early 1990s.

So who are these Natives whom I've allegedly offended? Cite and quote their claims of being offended.

No surprise if you can't or won't do it. As far as I can tell, you're just making up these charges.

Moreover, who says your experiences are the same as those of other Natives across the land? If my employer and friend is a Pechanga Indian and you've never talked to him or his people, it's ridiculous for you to claim you know his experiences better than I do. That's your arrogance speaking: that your mystical Native intuition means you know best.I have been reading you for years, and watched you debate and rather arrogantly dismiss numerous individuals and tribes as inauthentic.I've been writing myself for years, and I have an excellent recall of what I've written. Let's review it.

In general, I've erred on the side of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness. About the only individuals I've dismissed are (alleged) frauds like Ward Churchill and David Yeagley, New Age wannabes, and hobbyists in Germany and elsewhere. Virtually the only "tribes" I've dismissed are a few unrecognized Cherokee splinter groups around the country. Like most people, I accept the 560-plus federally recognized tribes and their members as Natives.

Again, these positions are the same as the positions held by most Natives. My position reflects theirs. Repeat: I'm not making the policy, I'm repeating the policy I've read and absorbed from thousands of Native sources. Only once in a great while do I take a position that differs from the standard Native position.

So again, where's the evidence that I've dismissed "numerous" individuals and tribes? What do you call "numerous"--two or three? I'd say numerous means a number in the dozens, at least. If that's what you mean, you're wrong.

Rob dismisses the Pequots?!(I am Cherokee by way of Kentucky, and my husband is 1/2 blood Pequot and 1/4 blood Shinnecock, so I read your dismissal of Johnny Depp and the Pequots with much interest).That you think I've dismissed the Mashantucket Pequots when I've done exactly the opposite is scary. I've defended this tribe dozens of times in my blog and website. If you don't know that much, you have no business expressing any opinions on what I've written. You literally don't know what you're talking about.

As for Johnny Depp, you're right. I've dismissed him because most Indians dismiss him as an Indian. Deal with it.

I spelled out my criteria for who's an Indian in "Actual Indian" Defined, and one criterion is acceptance by one's Native peers. If you think you can show that most Indians accept Depp as something other than a white man with a little Cherokee blood, go ahead and do it. If you succeed, I'll revise my opinion accordingly.

But don't tell us you know all about Depp's Indian-ness unless you actually do. Again, facts and evidence are the only things that matter here, not unsubstantiated opinions. Your opinion that your opinion is better than mine is worthless unless you prove it.However, I didn't realize until recently that you aren't NDN. I saw your picture, but just assumed all this time that you were Native until I recently read your bio.That's revealing. For years, you accepted my opinions because you thought I was Native. My opinions were sound enough that they passed for Native.

Now you've learned the identity that I've never hidden. Suddenly I no longer have the right to express the opinions I expressed before. They're exactly the same opinions, but they've magically changed from acceptable to unacceptable.

Sorry, but I don't buy it. I support all my positions with as much knowledge and expertise of Natives as possible. If these positions were valid before, they're still valid. Nothing has changed except your perception of my "right" to take them.

Rob decides who's Native?I don't think its your place to decide who is or isn't Native.So I should just accept anyone who claims to be an Indian as an Indian? Every (alleged) fraud like Ward Churchill and David Yeagley, every New Age wannabe, every hobbyist in Germany and elsewhere? Rubbish.

If you want to embrace every huckster, fraud, and plastic shaman, every wannabe who has a drop of Indian blood, be my guest. Start your own blog and welcome the all the phonies and pretenders you want.

I'm not going to do that here. I'll continue to operate based on the standard I've articulated--the one used by most Indians. If you don't like it, tough.

For more on the subject of including people who are part Indian, see Rob Doesn't Understand "Mutts"?For you to do that, as a non-NDN, I think its just as destructive to us as some of the stereotypical images that you post up on "stereotype of the month".A lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. You have no evidence that anything I've said has harmed anyone. You're making up wild charges out of thin air.

Again, I'm reflecting what most Indians say and think. I'm not doing anything they don't do. My opinions can't be more destructive than theirs because they're the same opinions.When you think that you are such an expert that you are more right about anything Native than Native peoples themselvesI haven't said and I don't think I'm an expert. I've said my positions reflect the positions held by most Indians. Which part of this are you having trouble understanding?

I think you've made your position clear. For about the fifth time, you've attacked me by saying I've made up positions that aren't held by most Indians. For about the fifth time, I've corrected you. I've told you that in most cases my positions are the positions held by most Indians. Example: Most Indians oppose "redskins."

Would you like to make it an even half dozen? Why don't you tell me again that I shouldn't express an opinion about Native issues? Because that's what your position amounts to. If a single Native on the planet disagrees with something I've written, I should "respect" her feelings and stop. Even if the rest of the Native universe agrees with me.

A few = "numerous"?well, that sounds a little like a "Hobby Indian" telling us how to sing our songs the "RIGHT way".That sounds like a stupid analogy to me. In fact, it sounds like you don't know what the hell you're talking about. You've mistaken disagreeing with a few Natives and disagreeing with "numerous" or many Natives--two very different things.I'm just asking you to give my words some serious thought.For the last time, I hope, I read and absorb dozens of Native opinions every day. That's hundreds of thousands of Native opinions over the course of my career. In the vast majority of cases, my opinion reflects the consensus of these Natives.

Given that I try to reflect Native positions as often as possible, what exactly do I need to rethink? The offensiveness of the word "redskins" to Native people? No. When I've accurately restated a Native position, I don't need to rethink anything.

If you want to rethink anything, rethink why you're defending an ethnic slur against your own people. Tell us why it's okay for Sheena Wassegijig to call Indians "redskins" even if many consider it akin to "nigger." Good luck with your'll need it.

For more on the subject, see Rob the Presumptuous White Man? and Wrong to Point Out Stereotypes?

Below:  If some actual Indians are Cleveland baseball fans, I can't tell them Chief Wahoo is racist and stereotypical? Because their "experiences" trump my opinions? Stupid, illogical, and wrong.


Stephen said...

"I covered why I write about Native people and issues in Why Write About Native Americans?"

And you also spouted a lot of nonsense in that piece for example here you claim that libertarians and conservatives are the same:

"Since the '60s there's been a conservative backlash against this outpouring of change."

When in fact there have been libertarians who've opposed Bush and the patriot act. And no it's not a synoym for anarchism or conservativism.

"People in Palestine"

Ah yes the myth of the palestian 'nation':

Not to mention Israel has far more freedom than Iran (which you haven't mentioned since you seem to focus your anger on the US and Israel).

"The police employ racial profiling"

The idea that there's a nation wide policy of racial profiling is a myth:

Yes we have some racist cops in this country, but the idea that police forces employ draconian racist methods is a myth.

"Problems like racism, intolerance, and selfishness aren't aberrations, they're enshrined in the fabric of America."

Except that struggles against racism and injustice are also revered in America.

dmarks said...

"Virtually the only "tribes" I've dismissed are a few unrecognized Cherokee splinter groups around the country"

You've also (and quite rightfully) dismissed "tribes" that were nothing but wannabes, New Agers, and "play Indians".

"offensiveness of the word "redskins" to Native people?"

I wonder how many of those who defend that word actually go around and use it to refer to Natives in conversation? If so, why not, I wonder...

Stephen: Great points. I have strong disagreement with Rob on what I can call "the partisan issues"

Stephen said...

"Stephen: Great points. I have strong disagreement with Rob on what I can call "the partisan issues"

Thanks. Of course it isn't actually the first time Rob's posted something idiotic, for example this little gem:

"Do you seriously think that American filmmakers, like Americans in general, aren't prejudiced against Middle Eastern people?"

If Americans in general hated Arabs why would the vile group CAIR need to inflate their hate crime stats?

Some more info:

But I guess it's too much for some people to do their homework before flapping their lips.

Stephen said...

Whoops I meant to post this TROP link:

Dunno why it got cut off like that. *Shrugs.*

Stephen said...

Huh weird it happened a second time.

Stephen said...

dmarks said...

CAIR is a quasi-Nazi (antisemitic agenda) front group that mainly serves to funnel money to terrorists.

Stephen said...


Mimbreno said...

This is hilarious. If I understand all this correctly, you have carefully studied many natives and our opinions in order to carefully construct a majority-based stereotype. You then faithfully ape this stereotype that you've created, and somehow this gives you some sort of street cred through which you can criticize actual natives for straying outside your stereotype or implying that your act is less real than the life experiences of natives. And you do this while acting self-righteous about it. Hilarious.