June 29, 2015

Obama's "n-word" controversy

The GOP’s secret “n-word” politics: What their latest Obama outrage is really about

In the Age of Obama, conservatives continue their tradition of racial slurring—without actually saying the word

By Chauncey DeVega
The faux-controversy over Obama’s use of “the n-word” in a discussion about white supremacy and racial animus in the United States is one more example of how conservatives have hijacked anti-racist language and concepts such as “colorblindness,” “discrimination” and “racism” in the post-civil rights era. Instead of abiding by the original intent of such language, as offered and used by progressives and liberals, the White Right has twisted those concepts to serve white privilege and protect entrenched systems of white supremacy.

Now, racism (what is, “power” plus “privilege”) is distorted as “reverse racism” (an oxymoron, a type of newspeak, as to reverse racism actually means that there is in fact no racism). The concept is rooted in the bizarre notion that it is white people who are the actual racists; rather, it is black Americans and those others who dare to talk about white privilege and white supremacy that are guilty of that sin. Similarly, when White America is asked to no longer use a racial slur, it is the former who are now somehow victims of “anti-white discrimination” and “unfair” racial “double-standards.” The ultimate effect of the right wing’s deft rewriting and reworking of the language of race in America is to fuel a white victimology and grievance industry, of which Fox News and the Republican Party are the main purveyors and beneficiaries.

The ugly irony of this latest fake outrage is that Fox News, the Republican Party, and the white right more broadly have been calling America’s first black President a “nigger”—normally in all but name, but sometimes even in plain speech itself—since his candidacy for president began, close to a decade ago.

While some conservatives and their defenders will immediately object to such a claim, the reality is that there are in fact many ways—deployed throughout modern history—to call a black person that word without ever saying it outright. The word itself came into common usage in the 19th century, as an “evolution” of earlier words used by white people in the context of white-on-black slavery, rape, violence, and the Maafa. Language has symbolic power. Words can be inherently provocative and violent acts against the minds and emotions of those individuals they are directed at. (The law even acknowledges such language as “fighting words.”)
Some of the hundreds of examples for those unclear on the concept:Examples of such “dog whistles” include words and phrases such as “welfare queen,” “black crime,” “black pathology”; and references to black people’s bad culture,” “broken homes,” “dependency,” “laziness” and lack of “work ethic.” This language has even expanded in recent years to include such phrases as “makers versus takers,” fatuous distinctions about “real Americas,” as well as Mitt Romney’s infamous claims about “the 47 percent.” In the Age of Obama, the Republican Party, Fox News, the right-wing echo chamber, and movement conservatives have provided a litany of examples in which they have invoked racist attitudes toward Obama without actually having to directly utter that six-letter word.

Barack Obama was subjected to a racial litmus test known as “Birtherism.” His legitimacy as president of the United States was questioned because of a deep belief that he is some type of foreign Other, incompatible with what it means to be a “real American.” (Read between the lines: A white American.)
Comment:  For more on conservative racism, see Conservatives Can't Handle Roof's Racism and Black Professor Criticizes White Men.

June 28, 2015

Vague ancestors aren't a free pass

Sherman Alexie offered a great quote on Indian wannabes. It was partly a response to the Rachel Dolezal controversy swirling in the air:

Blow-Your-Mind Quotes On Race By Sherman Alexie And Tonya MosleyAfter this, one of you white people is going to come up to me, and you're going to say, "My great-grandmother was something." You're going to say it to me. Even though I am pre-mocking you. You are so deaf to your own privilege that you're not even hearing me right now saying this to you.

I have Scottish ancestors. I would never go to Scotland, walk up to somebody Scottish and say you know what, you and I have a lot in common.
Someone asked what she should do if she really was part-Native--1/8th, 1/16th or whatever--and wanted to join in. Couldn't she go up to Alexie then?

My response:

First I'd document your Native ancestry so people couldn't question it. And I wouldn't lead with it in a conversation. Sherman Alexie doesn't need to know your ancestry to acknowledge you.

In my case, I have no Native ancestry. I don't ask or expect people to accept me because I have a Native great-grandma somewhere. Rather, I demonstrate my awareness of Native history and culture through my writings and postings. Then people can accept me or not as they choose.

I'd say the people who start off talking about their great-grandmas are just trying to get approval or attention. Problem is, they haven't earned a place at the "Native table."

They should listen, study, and learn about Natives first. Then people like Alexie will acknowledge them--because they've earned it.

Someone else had a similar response:Alexie does not need to give cookies to people who trot out their family myths to him, who primarily identify and live as non-Indigenous.

A vague ancestor does not confer being Native on a person. Why are folks not embracing OR redeeming their mostly white ancestors? I have a Scandivanian ancestor, whose last name I hold, but I do not run around claiming to be a Viking. That is not my experience. Being Native is not a costume one can put on when it's convenient. Don't be co-opting Native identity while you divorce yourself from our struggle.
More on the subject

Then I tweeted this comment:

A Cherokee ancestor isn't a free pass to a secret society of Natives. Your beliefs and actions are what gain you admittance, not your blood.

Followed by:

A Native great-grandma is one of dozens of ways you can start a conversation about becoming a Native ally. Like a white person who grew up on a rez. Or Richard Nixon's playing for a Native football coach. Or my doing Native comic books.

Then you can spend a decade or so looking, listening, and learning. And then you may be qualified to join a conversation on Native issues.

But no, your possibly mythical ancestor doesn't let you bypass all the work and become an instant Native. If Johnny Depp and Elizabeth Warren didn't get a free pass, neither do you.

So don't trot out your legendary great-grandma and expect to join the club. Nobody wants you because of a relative who may or may not exist.

Some related thoughts:

Fake Black Folks, Fake Indians, and Allies: The Native Roots of the Rachel Dolezal Saga

For more on Rachel Dolezal, see Rachel Dolezal = Indian Wannabe and Churchill, Depp, Warren, and Dolezal.

June 27, 2015

"In Defense of Pocahontas"

The following posting raised a ruckus on the Internets. The headline says it all:

In Defense of Pocahontas: Disney's Most Radical Heroine

20 years after the movie’s release, its character and premise still feel notably progressive.

By Sophie Gilbert
Pocahontas was something different entirely. The success of Beauty and the Beast spurred studio chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg to push for another romance, and directors Mike Gabriel and Eric Goldberg wanted to pursue a story that had its origins in early American history, while also incorporating the Romeo and Juliet-esque elements of two people from very different backgrounds falling in love. But unlike the naive and uncertain Ariel and Belle, Pocahontas would be far more confident—“a woman instead of a teenager,” as supervising animator Glen Keane put it. As the producer Jim Pentacost says in Disney’s 1995 documentary about the making of the feature, “Pocahontas is the strongest heroine we’ve ever had in a Disney film.”

The main problem with Pocahontas—as expressed by several Native American groups, including the Powhatan Nation, which traces its origins back to Pocahontas herself—is that over time, she’s come to embody the trope of the “Good Indian,” or one who offers her own life to help save a white settler. “Her offer of sacrifice, her curvaceous figure, and her virginal stature have come to symbolize America’s Indian heroine,” wrote Angela Aleiss in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times. Aleiss goes on to criticize how female Indian characters are defined by their male relationships, are “tossed aside by the white man” for a woman of his own race, and have nothing in their appeal beyond their “on-screen pulchritude.”

But Pocahontas as a character is much more complex than Aleiss allows. She does throw herself on John Smith as he’s about to be executed, emphasizing the value of human life and the destructive nature of war, but her move is reciprocated minutes later, when Smith then positions himself between Pocahontas’s father and the furious head of the English settlers, Governor Ratcliffe, and gets shot in the process. The injured Smith decides to return home, and begs Pocahontas to go with him, but she chooses to stay with her tribe in her homeland. Instead of sacrificing something for love (like Ariel giving up her voice, or Belle her freedom), Pocahontas puts her identity and heritage first. It’s a bold ending, and one that deliberately subverts real history, which saw the real Pocahontas marry a different Englishman, John Rolfe, and travel to London with him, where she was feted as an example of the “civilized savage” before dying at the age of 21 shortly before her husband was due to sail back to Virginia.

Powhatan Nation has a page on its website in which it also criticizes Disney for propagating the “Good Indian/Bad Indian” theme and basing a movie on what is largely believed to be a lie told by John Smith to enhance his own mystique. “Euro-Americans must ask themselves why it has been so important to elevate Smith’s fibbing to status as a national myth worthy of being recycled again by Disney,” the page says. “Disney even improves upon it by changing Pocahontas from a little girl into a young woman.” But an animated feature about the relationship between a 10-year-old (as Pocahontas is believed to have been at the time she met John Smith) and an adult male would presumably have horrified audiences. “We had the choice of being historically accurate or socially responsible,” Glen Keane said.
So other than being historically inaccurate, it was a great movie? Okay!

An unrelated posting inadvertently echoes some of Gilbert's arguments:

17 reasons why Pocahontas is the best Disney film

Natives respond

Many Natives didn't like this full-throttled defense of Pocahontas. Debbie Reese posted the first response I saw in her American Indians in Children's Literature blog:

A Native Response to Sophie Gilbert's Article "In Defense of Pocahontas"Gilbert is doing the same thing Disney did. She is promoting this dishonest and self-serving myth at the expense of the Powhatan Nation and all the people who are led astray by the narrative of that film.

By focusing on "female agency" and an "environmentalist message," Gilbert is throwing millions of people under the bus.
Reese linked to the Powhatan Nation's statement on the movie but didn't go into it. Her point, if I read it correctly, is that a Native viewpoint should be central to any critique of Pocahontas. You wouldn't critique Birth of a Nation without noting its racism against blacks. This is the same kind of thing.

A roundup of responses included the one below from Kenzie Allen. She goes deeper into the issue of a white frame vs. a Native frame:

Does Disney's Pocahontas Do More Harm Than Good? Your Thoughts

Sophie Gilbert found the film progressive and feminist. Readers feel it whitewashes a horrific past. Perhaps it’s both.

By Chris Bodenner
I’ve struggled with Disney’s Pocahontas as a source of pain and stereotype. Both Pocahontas and Sacagawea are often held up as heroines in the Western perspective, their stories reduced to kinder details rather than serving the interest of the dominant culture. Yes, there is visibility in telling their stories, but it is a tainted visibility, a false reality rendered through the dominant culture, which seeks to ameliorate, always, the horrific methods by which they came to occupy an entire nation’s worth of landmass.

Nobody wants to feel like a settler. Disney’s Pocahontas gives just enough of a flogging to the “real” bad guys to leave the non-native viewers coming away feeling as though they’ve done the good work of recognizing their own faults, while the pain of forced assimilation and erasure continues for the Powhatan Nation and others.

It is the Western lens that sees a progressive narrative in the way the settlers of Disney’s movie are mocked (but eventually befriended), the way Pocahontas rejects a voyage overseas (but was in reality kidnapped—and in the sequel, even this part of the story is made family-friendly and song-worthy), and the way she chooses family over love (when in reality her “choice” was anything but).

Disney goes so far as to try to turn the narrative around by having the Powhatans call the settlers the “savages,” but it’s only done half-way. Much like coverage of mascot issues often features white voices in the interest of “fair and balanced coverage,” the movie ends with the two groups considered even, with no indication of the devastation yet to come.

If Disney’s choice was between being “accurate” or “socially responsible,” my question would be: socially responsible to whom?
Native Barbie doll

These critiques touch upon portraying Pocahontas as an attractive young woman rather than a preteen girl. An old posting discusses how phony Disney's representation of her was:

Representations of PocahontasGertrude Custalow, a Powhatan Indian, remarks, “The real Pocahontas was a child, not a voluptuous woman. And one thing’s for sure—she didn’t own an uplift bra (quoted in Tillotson C8)” (Edwards 154). This stresses the sexualized nature of representations of Pocahontas not only in art but also in children’s movies. This also addresses Disney’s indifference to what Pocahontas actually looked like. Instead, they make her into a “brown-skinned Barbie Doll” (154).

The artist who created Disney’s Pocahontas concerned himself less with recreating what Pocahontas must have looked like in reality and more with creating a generic racial other. He literally combines women of various non-white races to generate a very sexualized representation of Pocahontas. Edwards states, “Pocahontas becomes an historically-impossible multiethnic body—an anachronistic image composed of ‘aesthetically-pleasing’ body parts drawn from American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Caucasian models. Disney animator Glen Keane describes his Pocahontas drawing as ‘an ethnic blend whose convexly curved face is African, whose dark, slanted eyes are Asian and whose body proportions are Caucasian’ (qtd. In Tillotson C8). In addition to historical representations of Pocahontas herself, the visual models of various ethnicities that Keane used for his drawing included Irene Bedard, the American Indian actor who provides Pocahontas’s voice, American Indian consult to the film Shirley ‘Little Dove’ Custalow McGowan, Filipino model Dyna Taylor, black supermodel Naomi Campbell, and white supermodels Kate Moss and Christy Turlington” (151-152).
Okay, Disney animator Glen Keane. Thanks for letting us know how fake your version of Pocahontas was!

Rob's reaction

I liked Pocahontas, but I knew her real story. I took the movie as a fantasy largely divorced from reality. Like The Hobbit but with characters who vaguely resembled historical figures.

In fact, I suggested that Disney should've changed the characters' names to show audiences this wasn't history. Make the characters generic Anglos and Indians, or even generic fantasy figures--e.g., dwarves and elves.

Of course, that would've ruined Disney's marketing plans, so no way was it going to happen. But it was the kind of solution I would've liked.

As for the question of how progressive Pocahontas was, I'd say it moved the dial from near zero, in Disney's older movies, to maybe 25. That's only 1/4 of the way to a goal of 100.

So you could say the glass was one-quarter full or three-quarters empty. But ignoring the three quarters for the one quarter isn't exactly responsible writing. It's like saying the Titanic's initial voyage was great except for the iceberg.

For more on the subject, see Pocahontas Bastardizes Real People.

June 26, 2015

Redskins mascot = Confederate flag

As the Confederate flag came down, people wondered about the Redskins nickname and logo. Many made the obvious connection between one racist symbol and another. For instance:

The Confederate Flag, the Washington Football Team, and the Owners Who Love Them

If the Confederate flag is seen as poisonous, then products bearing the Washington football team name should be regarded in similar fashion.

By Dave Zirin
It may be literally the least they could do, but it’s a victory for human decency that the Confederate flag will no longer be available at Walmart, Amazon, Sears, and eBay. Even though it is heartbreaking that it took the murder of nine people to get ghouls like Nikki Haley and Lindsay Graham as well as their corporate masters to see it as a public-relations liability, it also raises a question. If the Confederate flag is too toxic to sell, then how can Amazon and Walmart continue to peddle the merchandise of a Washington football team that bears the name of a racial slur? How can they stock the blood-red profile of a Native American chieftain’s head adorned with feathers and a brand—no matter what revisionists argue—that celebrates their violent death?The Racial Wallpaper of Slavery and Genocide

By Tara HouskaIt is monumental to see people recognizing and tearing down racial wallpaper; to witness progress in some of our most divided regions. Here in Washington, D.C., however, racial wallpaper is not even recognized as such.

Every day, I walk down the streets of our Nation’s capitol, through the halls of Congress, past statues of celebrated American leaders. And every day, I am subjected to pinpricks of racism directed at Native Americans.

Jerseys, hats, bags, umbrellas, bumper stickers, miniature flags, giant banners, even paper towels–all proudly displaying a caricature of a Native American with a dictionary-defined racial slur as its moniker.
Native Americans Look At Confederate Flag Controversy And Ask: What About 'Redskins' And Other Racist Symbols?

By Ismat Sarah Mangla“Our country is having a national debate over symbols, and we should take an honest look at those symbols that don’t promote inclusivity but rather promote bigotry,” said Joel Barkin, vice president of the Oneida Indian Nation and spokesperson for Change the Mascot, a national campaign for ending the use of the word “redskins” as the mascot and name of the NFL team in the nation's capital.

Just as defenders of the Confederate flag have argued that it represents pride in Southern culture and history rather than racism, supporters of team names like the "Redskins" have insisted that they actually honor Native Americans. But activists say parallels between the two controversies are worth noting. Even if the intention behind the usage of such symbols isn't to harm, Americans should recognize that minority groups are harmed by them nonetheless--and eliminate them as a result.

“Proud tradition does not negate the racism of a flag associated with the enslavement of a people, nor does it negate the racism of a moniker that dehumanizes and slurs a people who underwent attempted eradication,” wrote Tara Houska, tribal rights attorney in Washington, in the Indian Country Today Media Network. “Despite empirical studies demonstrating psychological harm, numerous tribal resolutions, lawsuits, and protests spanning decades, the r-word still remains widely accepted.”
Are they defending the Redskins name or the Confederate flag?

By Washington PostWhich brings us, perhaps inevitably, to the closest thing the world of sports has to the Confederate flag: The logo and nickname of the Washington Football Team.

Many will reject this comparison for obvious reasons, pointing out that a scientific poll has shown Native American support for the Redskins name, that football should not be compared with politics, and that it’s entirely unfair to link the name of a sports team with such a weighty symbol as the Confederate battle flag.

Still, it’s hard to deny that defenders of both the team name and the flag have sometimes used very similar language to state their cases. This quiz asks if you can tell the difference.

1) “It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect.”

Confederate flag

10) "We are not racists. We despise racism and bigotry. And we think the people who are creating this ‘cultural cleansing’ are the real bigots in this story."

Confederate flag

12) "Most--by overwhelming majorities--find [it] to be rooted in pride for our shared heritage and values."

Confederate flag

14) "Heritage, Honor, Pride, Not Racist."

Confederate flag

More on the subject

A couple of weeks later, pundits were still making the connection:

What the Nazis, the Confederates and the Redskins All Have in Common: Symbols That Deserve Burial

By Steve Benson"No business wants to look old or dated or be seen as being behind the times. But on this issue, that's exactly where we find Snyder and his team, stuck with a bad 20th-century name in an attentive 21st-century world."

Snyder will eventually cave and go back to his cave.

The Nazi swastika, the Confederate flag, the Redskins logo--all rancid relics of bygone days. One by one, they're marching to the beat of their own funeral dirges, trudging toward a well-deserved and long-overdue final resting place atop the ash heap of history.

And not a moment too soon.
As Confederate flags fall, ‘Redskins’ defenders buck tide of progress

By Donn EsmondeThe nickname undoubtedly represented strength and pride to generations of Lancaster students. Unfortunately, few pondered the term’s deeper meaning. Or placed it in the context of the grim history of Native American annihilation–or, later, the “assimilation” on reservations and in white-run boarding schools, where native culture, language, customs and pride were forcibly extracted from a people.

“You’re appropriating an image or a nickname from someone else’s culture for your own use, without understanding what it truly means,” said John Kane, a local Native American activist and radio talk show host. “While it may represent pride to those people, to us it conveys dominance over a race, a superiority. It’s not a happy connotation.”
And:It’s not political correctness. It’s society pulling off its racial/ethnic blinders. Into this headwind of cultural common sense, the pro-“Redskins” crowd marches on.

Whether it’s the nickname, or the “Stars and Bars” flag, there’s a deeper truth that can’t be ignored. Trying to turn back the clock merely leaves you stuck in the past.
Comment:  In this context, "mascot" includes the Redskins name, logo, and the associated beliefs and actions of team officials and fans. It's a concept, a package of ideas, not a physical presence.

The team doesn't have a physical mascot who appears at games and so forth. Not since Chief Zee the unofficial mascot retired, anyway.

For more on the Confederate flag, see Confederate Flag vs. Other Flags and The Confederate Flag Must Go.

June 25, 2015

Confederate flag vs. other flags

For some reason people continued to make derogatory comments about the Confederate flag. First, noting the circumstances that created it:

Comparing it to another symbol of white supremacy:

But what about the Germans' pride in their brave soldiers?!Retweeted Tim Wise (@timjacobwise)
Conservatives who say removing ‪#‎ConfederateFlag‬ = purging history -- Is that what u said when Berlin Wall came down? Or swastikas in Germany?
Stars and Bars vs. Stripes

And finally comparing it to the world's greatest flag:

Didn't Southerners lead some of the attacks and massacres against Indians? And Northerners tolerated slavery as official US policy for about 70 years. So nobody is without blame here.

In the same vein, the Onion posted a semi-satirical comment:

U.S. Flag Recalled After Causing 143 Million Deaths

Then there was this:

White power! White men killing "savage" animals and people--that's pretty much America in a nutshell.

It's just "funny" to me how the hunters draped an American flag over their kill. Even better would be a Confederate flag. Both Americans and foreigners would get the message: that this is the epitome of America.

Leave it to Russell Means to spell it out:

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

June 24, 2015

The Confederate flag must go

The biggest outcome of the Charleston wasn't new gun-control laws, or a reexamination of America's racist past. Apparently it was the removal of the Confederate flag.

It's a potentially big moment in the history of American race relations. Some postings on the subject:

The GOP’s delusional Charleston outrage shows just how desperate it has become

From "n-word" handwringing to ludicrous complaints about "politicizing" a tragedy, Republicans have totally lost it

By Heather Digby
On Monday, the horrors of Charleston brought about a symbolic, but meaningful change: Republicans who had previously been unwilling to offend the neo-Confederate faction of their party took a deep breath and recommended the Confederate flag be removed from the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse. It had been flying on the grounds somewhere since the early 1960s when white political leaders all over the South suddenly had an overwhelming urge to officially celebrate their “heritage,” just as African Americans were agitating for civil rights. In South Carolina, it was recently moved from the capitol to the grounds as part of a ”compromise,” and Republicans swore they’d been pushed to the brink and would move no further. But a massacre of nine people in a historic African American church by a white supremacist seems to have made them re-evaluate the value of their 50 year heritage of celebrating their resistance to civil rights.Walmart doesn’t get any credit for not selling the Confederate flag

A handful of major companies and red states are ditching the flag en masse. But this isn't courage. Far from it

By Bob Cesca
Today, in 2015, too many southerners continue to embrace it while refusing to embrace the hellscape; they refuse to own the century-plus waking nightmare that was so much a part of the African-American experience following the war, for which the South was almost entirely responsible. Flying the flag at the state Capitol or selling it in Walmart is a constant reminder, a constant reinforcement and ongoing legitimization of things that should otherwise be, in a sane world, shameful. And that’s exactly what the flag should rightfully symbolize to white southerners: shame.

Worse yet, it required the deaths of nine African-American parishioners in Charleston to finally begin to consider downplaying the flag. It should never have come to this, and every state—every retailer—that waited until after Dylann Roof opened fire before reconsidering the appropriateness of the flag should be justifiably shamed and scolded, rather than applauded.

Ultimately, if the South really, really desperately needs a symbol of its regional heritage, why not a mint julep or a pecan log from Stuckey’s? It doesn’t matter as long as it’s not that flag. The war is over. The Confederacy lost. And now’s the time to finally take ownership of what happened; to own what the flag really stands for. Enough of this childish cowering behind bogus, manufactured symbolism. Let the Confederate flag burnings commence in earnest, and dedicate each one to an African-American man, woman and child who was wronged under the symbolism of that banner.

New/old flag to replace the Stars and Bars in the Confederate South.

The Southern heritage...of white supremacy.

The ‘Southern Avenger’ Repents: I Was Wrong About the Confederate Flag

States’ rights? Heritage? I was wrong: The Confederate flag has always been about race.A 14-year-old black girl attending a pool party in McKinney, Texas, had been manhandled and thrown to the ground by a police officer. ... The overwhelming response was that she was a “thug” who was “no saint” and needed to be taught “respect.” ... It bothered me greatly, probably because at one time I might have done the same thing.Rand Paul: Confederate Flag a 'Symbol of Human Bondage and Slavery'

"And that's okay by me," Paul might've added. "Slavery is the natural result of unrestrained capitalism aka libertarianism, and that's the god I worship."

Fox Panel Debates Whether Removal of Confederate Flag Is 'A Slippery Slope'

Removing the flag is "sterilizing history"? So keeping the flag is meant to remind us that the South's racist rebellion was based on slavery? I don't think so.

Let's remember the white stuff and forget the black and Native stuff!

Get over it, Confederate crybabies!

For more on the subject, see Natives React to Charleston Shootings and Conservatives Can't Handle Roof's Racism.

June 23, 2015

Vans sells "drunken Indian" t-shirt

Vans Removes 'Drunken Indian' T-Shirt From Shelves After Canadian Petition

By Jesse FerrerasThe Vans clothing company has stopped selling a T-shirt that shows a totem pole made out of beer cans over concerns that it promotes a "drunken Indian" stereotype.

Chad Girardin, a Métis man from Vancouver, launched a Change.org petition calling on the retailer to remove the "Wizard Totem" shirt.

He is also seeking an official apology from the company. "This imagery is uncalled for and very hurtful," Girardin wrote.

"By creating this shirt Vans is stating that Natives culture revolves around alcohol and that all 'Indians' are drunks," the petition reads.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see "Siouxper Drunk" T-Shirts at UND and AIM Fights "Runs with Beer" T-Shirt.

June 22, 2015

Natives react to Charleston shootings

Some Natives reacting to the Charleston shootings noted our long history of racial violence:

A day of lament...

By Mark CharlesI lament the words of our political candidates who promise to lead America back to its former "greatness", ignorant of the fact that much of America's "greatness" was built on the exploitation and dehumanization of its people of color.

I lament that today the dominant culture in America is in shock because in the city of Charleston South Carolina one individual committed a single evil and heinous act of violence, while minority communities throughout the country are bracing themselves because the horrors of the past 500 years are continuing into their lifetime.

I lament with every person and community, throughout the history of this nation, who, due to the color of their skin, had to endure marginalization, silence, discrimination, beatings, lynching, cultural genocide, boarding schools, internment camps, mass incarceration, broken treaties, stolen lands, murder, slavery and discovery.

Today I lament that the United States of America does not share a common memory and therefore is incapable of experiencing true community.

Opinion / Making Sense of the Senseless

By Sherri MitchellIn the last 24 hours, I have seen posts that have blamed the NRA for their overbearing insistence that access to guns does not contribute to gun violence; the NRA in turn blamed one of the victims, claiming that his vote against guns in church made the victims less safe; another group blamed mental illness; while their opponents claimed that mental illness had simply become the catch-phrase for avoiding the larger problem, which was clearly psychotropic drugs. We blame, and blame, and blame, because it relieves us of taking any responsibility. The truth is that we are all complicit in the current state of affairs. By some unspoken, common agreement, Americans have chosen to overlook the fact that this country was founded on blood, and that it continues to thrive in blood. War has been the most significant and sustained truth guiding this country since its inception. And, despite all of the “progress” that has been made, American school children continue to be taught that genocide, slavery, and all other forms of subjugation and oppression, though terrible, are acceptable means to achieve noble ends. This is the true root of the problem. Until we are able to enter into meaningful dialogue about this truth, healing will not take place. And, we will all be doomed to repeat these devastating cycles over and over again.White America is complicit: Charleston, Dylann Roof and the country’s real race war

Questioning the motivations of the Charleston shooter is worse than obtuse. It is itself an act of violence

By Kali Holloway
At 21-years-old, Roof had fully absorbed the message his country has taught him, just like terrorists in every other country, in every other part of the world. He clung to the old American idea that white women are our most precious resource to be protected by any means, and felt it was his right as a white man to protect his birthright—this country and his privilege within it—which he saw as being taken from him. We are guns and violence and race hatred and systemic, codified, state-sanctioned terrorism against people of color and that is who we have always been. While our media is certain to attribute Roof’s heinous acts to mental illness (and the cops were careful to take him alive, which even the most innocent of black folks cannot count on), I consider him a particularly apt pupil. Just the latest of many. Though certainly not the last.Even President Obama had an opinion:

Obama rejects mass shootings as 'new normal' in America

"How can anyone call shootings the new normal," Obama might've explained, "when they go back to the Mystic Massacre of 1637?"

For more on the subject, see Conservatives Can't Handle Roof's Racism and Conservatives Make Excuses for Roof.

June 21, 2015

Conservatives can't handle Roof's racism

Having failed to come up with any other explanation for Dylann Roof's assault, they still failed to address his expressed motives:

HuffPost BlackVoices ‏@blackvoices
Fox News twists itself in knots to find an explanation other than racism for the #CharlestonShooting http://huff.to/1H24kHk

Wall Street Journal: Please ignore the Confederate flag on the South Carolina capitol — institutionalized racism “no longer exists” in the South

Dylann Roof murdered nine black people not because of racism, but some "problem that defies explanation"

Why Conservatives Still Won't Admit That Charleston Was A Racist Crime

The GOP’s staggering Charleston cowardice: Why are so many Republicans so scared of admitting the truth?

When it comes to the Republican Party, terrorism in South Carolina will never, ever be described as such

Short answer: Because many of their followers share Roof's views.

‘I know where he got his news': Bill Maher links Charleston terrorist to right-wing media

By Arturo GarciaLewis again tried to argue for religion as a motivation for Roof, only to be cut off by Maher and Reid.

“If you look even at the three flags that this young man adhered to, the Confederate flag emblem on his car, the Rhodesian flag and the South African flag from Apartheid[-era] South Africa, all three of those purported to be Christian governments,” Reid said. “The white Christian government in South Africa, which ruled over the majority-black population; in Rhodesia, the violent white government that ruled over that population considered themselves quite Christian. [Roof] could’ve been completely embraced in what those governments stood for.”
The proof is in

As if we didn't have enough evidence of Roof's beliefs, someone found this:

Dylann Roof Photos and a Manifesto Are Posted on Website

Conservatives immediately announced they're still not sure why Roof acted. "It's senseless, unthinkable, and unfathomable," they said in unison, reading from their white supremacist talking points.

Here's a great summary of conservative confusion and cowardice:

Fox News Goes to Insane Lengths to Underplay Gun Violence

For years, Fox News and conservatives have routinely tried to underplay gun violence and even horrific bouts of mass murders.

By Eric Boehlert
Like frantic shoppers running down a last-minute list, Fox News talkers last week desperately tried to cobble together an inventory of reasons why racist gunman Dylann Roof may not have been primarily motivated by racism.

As the conservative media anxiously and collectively searched for political cover, Fox News hosts and guests offered up an array of illogical explanations: Maybe the Charleston, S.C. church killing was an attack on Christians. Maybe it was an attack on South Carolina. Maybe political correctness was to blame. Or "diversity." Maybe pastors should be armed. (In any case, Fox Newsers agreed, President Obama was being very, very "divisive" regarding the matter.)

On and on, the alternative explanations were offered up in the face of overwhelming evidence that Roof allegedly had set out to kill as many black people as possible because he wanted to start a "race war." Period. And the way Roof allegedly chose to do that was to open fire, and then reload, in the basement of the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, killing the pastor and eight parishioners.

Like so many Americans, Fox News has been reeling in the wake of the massacre, except reeling in a different way. While Americans recoiled from the raw hate behind the gun rampage, Fox News wrestled with bouts of pathological denial.

Indeed, for Fox News and much of the conservative media, the horrific killings in South Carolina represented a political challenge because the act of mass murder revolved around two topics Fox News has long insisted don't really afflict America, or don't require pressing action: Racism and gun violence. That denial has made it nearly impossible for Fox to address the shooting in any coherent way.
For more on the subject, see Were Charleston Shootings "Unfathomable"? and Initial Reactions to Charleston Shootings.

June 20, 2015

Conservatives make excuses for Roof

Let's review what we've learned about Dylann Roof, the suspect in the Charleston shootings:

White Shooter Reportedly Told Black Victims: 'You're Taking Over Our Country'

In the wake of this heinous crime, right-wingers swung into action, blaming everything but Roof's explicit hatred of blacks. For starters, they tried their favorite "persecution of Christians" fantasy:

“Fox & Friends” just can’t stop the spin: In the wake of Charleston, we must arm our pastors and priests

It's "extraordinary" that it's being investigated as a hate crime, Steve Doocy said--it's an attack on Christians

Problem solved! Good guys with guns to shoot bad guys with guns. Pump 'em all full of lead and let God sort them out.

Santorum Calls Charleston Shooting 'Assault on Religious Liberty'

Ri-i-ight...it was an atheist assault on Christianity, not a white assault on blacks. Despite what the killer explicitly said. Thanks for demonstrating that none of my parodies is more extreme than the right-wing reality.

The following is not, I repeat not, an Onion satire:

White Supremacists Worried Charleston Shooting Makes Them Look BadStormfront commenters continued to hold out hope Thursday morning that perhaps Roof wasn't motivated by racism--maybe it was anti-Christian hatred instead--and their movement could keep what they think of as their good name.More from the lunatic fringe

Conservatives also floated the usual "crazed lone gunman" theory, which others shot down:

It’s not about mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass shootings by white males

Blaming "mental illness" is a cop-out--and one that lets us avoid talking about race, guns, hatred and terrorism

Racism Is Not a Mental Illness

Then Fox News agreed with Dylann Roof that "different cultures" was a reason for his mass murder:

Fox News host blames mass shootings on ‘different cultures’ living together in America

"All those brown people...so different from me...must kill them!"

And of course they blamed Obama, the root of all evil:

Frequent Fox guest: Whites might shoot up more black churches if Obama keeps calling them racist

Right...because the worse thing you can do to whites is call them out on their racism. It's practically a hate crime. It makes them so mad they literally can't stop themselves from pulling the trigger and killing more blacks.

For more on the subject, see Were Charleston Shootings "Unfathomable"? and Initial Reactions to Charleston Shootings.

June 19, 2015

Rachel Dolezal = Indian wannabe

American Indians are Accustomed to Wannabes

On Being Onkwe:honwe: Thoughts About Rachel Dolezal

By Charles "Rain" BlackAmong Natives, if non-Natives come to us and ask how best to honor us, we are more than happy to give answers. Even if they approach our leaders with an existing idea (as Florida State did with the Seminoles) and say “We want to do this to honor you” or ask “Will this offend you?” we tend to give some consideration to the idea. However, doing it without getting our input, or worse, rejecting our feedback after the fact, is in no way honoring us. It's treating us as symbols, stereotypes or backdrops to colonialist activities. None of that honors Natives except in the self-centered thinking of the colonists doing so.

Now we see the same sort of behavior on the part of Rachel Dolezal. Much as with all the descendants of “Cherokee Princesses” who want to co-opt Native culture, she has decided on her own to be something she isn't--being black--never asking if her actions would offend those who have to deal with being black from even before they are born. That is the nature of modern American society, to be so wrapped up in rights and what “I want” that any sense of responsibility and what others want becomes secondary, or completely unimportant.

The situation with Rachel Donezal is bigger than just one woman unable to cope honestly with her family situation. It's about an entire society that has become so Narcissistic that people feel entitled to choose to be and do things that dishonor other people, yet claim they are doing so to honor them. The declaration is “If this is what I want to do to honor you, then you damn well better feel honored!” or be considered ungrateful or even prejudiced. Our society now too easily forgives or justifies people who do things without any regard for the impact their actions have on others.

Whether it's Rachel Donezal pretending to be black, or fashion models wearing war bonnets, such actions cannot be justified if the people groups directly involved in the representation of race or culture are not consulted and give their permission ahead of time. That is the real issue, not her personal rights to express her identity. Basic courtesy requires that those you are going to attempt to honor be consulted on the matter and give their approval. Rachel Donezal didn't do this.
Washington football fans are as guilty of cultural appropriation as Rachel Dolezal

By Kevin B. BlackistoneFor much of my life, at least on fall and winter weekends, I was Rachel Dolezal.

I donned a T-shirt, sweatshirt or cap emblazoned with some image and nickname of my hometown football team and cheered it on. In the beginning, it was a gold-and-white spear and arrowhead festooned with a single feather. Then it became a burgundy R with a circle around it and a pair of white-and-burgundy feathers dangling down the back. Finally, the R gave way to the silhouette of a dark-skinned man with feathers cascading from his scalp.

He was an “American Indian,” as we’ve come to call the original and native people of the Americas. And the feathers, the golden spear and arrowhead, the paint that some who sat in RFK Stadium near Dad and me streaked on their faces, the headdresses that a few fans wore and nicknames they gave themselves, such as a guy who went by “Chief Zee,” were all that concocted Native American’s property—or his people’s.

We stole it. That’s called cultural appropriation. It’s misapplication. It’s misuse. It’s a callous disregard of the sensibilities of others who are not us.

That’s what too many of us continue to do in and around Washington, D.C., with native peoples’ culture, all for our selfish purpose as football fans. It’s the same as Dolezal—who Monday resigned her presidency of the Spokane, Wash., NAACP after her claim of being black was disproved by her white biological parents—stealing chunks of black American culture for her gain.
Black and Red and White Like Me: Natives Know Too Many Rachel Dolezals

By Mary Annette PemberThe story of Rachel Dolezal, a white woman posing as an African American, shines a light on the strange practice of ethnic fraud. Unfortunately, this practice is old news in Indian country; non-Natives, mostly Caucasians, have been posing as Native people for years.

“Playing Indian” is so common that most Native peoples have grown inured to the cringe-inducing spectacle of white folks doing ungainly dances at hobby powwows all over the world. Not all participants at these events claim Native ancestry – many just want to be Indian for a day.

There are more and more individuals and groups, however, claiming Native heritage in order to reap benefits, either professional or monetary. Many of these imposters also present themselves to the general public as authorities and spokespeople for Native peoples. These practices are a line in the sand for some Native people like Ben Barnes, Second Chief for the Shawnee tribe of Oklahoma and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO). He and representatives from other Oklahoma tribes are joining together and taking action.

Barnes and leaders from the three federally recognized Shawnee tribal governments all located in Oklahoma (the Shawnee, Absentee Shawnee and Eastern Band Shawnee, as well as the Miami tribe), traveled to Illinois in May to oppose a state bill that would have conferred state tribal recognition to the Vinyard Indian Settlement. The group, located in Herod, Illinois, claims to be Shawnee.

George Strack, THPO for the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma described the group as hobbyists.
My Native identity isn't your plaything. Stop with the mascots and 'pocahotties'

By Ruth HopkinsAre you a Pretendian? If you’ve ever worn a feathered headdress, clad yourself in head-to-toe Navajo prints or claimed without evidence that one of your great-great-great grandparents had some Native blood as a way to derail an argument about your white privilege, you’re the kind of person we Native Americans shame as seeking to co-opt Native identity.

When Pretendians seek to adopt Native identity to appear more exotic, or for some other perceived benefit, yet lack a genuine claim to Native heritage, their actions are little more than an extension of manifest destiny and colonial conquest – you could even call it racial identity theft. Sacred objects like warbonnets and peace pipes, and even the sexuality of Native women, are treated like the spoils of war, free for the taking.

Besides being descended from and related by blood to one of the more than 566 tribal nations recognized by the US government, Natives today agree that blood quantum is not the sole determinate of Native identity: kinship is key, because no true Native is an island. We have grandparents and cousins, blood roots and homelands. Pretendians lack kinship ties to tribal people.

Pretendians also have not lived through the systemic oppression that actual Native people face on a daily basis. They lack connections to reservations or urban Native communities who battle the effects of historical trauma. Pretendians aren’t the survivors of genocide; rather, it was their colonial ancestors who set up housekeeping on stolen lands built over the corpses of our dead, and Pretendians have benefitted from it. Insisting on inclusion when unqualified just exploits the people that Pretendians seek to imitate.
Comment:  Dolezal's Indian name is Stands with a Weave.

For more on the subject, see Churchill, Depp, Warren, and Dolezal and Making Sense of Rachel Dolezal.

Were Charleston shootings "unfathomable"?

People speculated about Dylann Roof's motive in opening fire in a Charleston church, though there wasn't much doubt about it.

Charleston terrorist reveals his motive: ‘You rape our women and you’re taking over our country—and you have to go’

Charleston terrorist acts on anti-Obama Tea Party hatred aka the Republican Party agenda. One Confederate flag-waver does what other Confederate flag-wavers only dream of.

We've seen thousands of examples of Obama called un-American, a foreigner, a tyrant, a terrorist, a Nazi, the anti-Christ, etc. Here's one such example:

Right-Wing Haters Slam Michelle Obama For Advocating Education For Girls

Michelle Obama supports "terrorists" => right-winger shoots blacks in Charleston. It doesn't get much simpler than that. Blacks are conspiring against (white) America, according to Roof, so kill the blacks.

"We'll never understand"?

Naturally, this was a hot topic of discussion on the Internets:alpha1906@gmail.com @alpha1906
That’s the talking point of the right: “We’ll never understand what’s going on in his mind.” Yes, we will. It’s racism. ‪#‎CharlestonShooting‬

Retweeted Andray @AndrayDomise
Dissonance: Charleston's mayor calling a hate-motivated shooting "unfathomable." In SC. Where the Confederate flag flies over the Capitol.

Pin Head ‏@TomAdelsbach
"Dylann Roof does not define South Carolina" - Mayor Riley

This flag flies over the SC Statehouse, so it kinda does.
Dave Zirin ‏@EdgeofSports
The past is not past when Gov. Nikki Haley can speak solemnly about the dead beneath a confederate flag. http://www.thenation.com/blog/210313/charlestons-mother-emanuel-church-has-stared-down-racist-violence-200-years …

Lincoln Michel ‏@TheLincoln
The mental gymnastics white people go through.... http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/06/18/everything-known-about-charleston-church-shooting-suspect-dylann-roof.html … #CharlestonShooting
Jeet Heer ‏@HeerJeet
He made racist jokes, wore patches with flags of racist states & is alleged to have killed 9 black people. The motive is mysterious.

Nerdy Wonka ‏@NerdyWonka
Terrorist comes to shoot black people. Media confirms he said he was there to shoot black people.

MSM: Was this really about race?


Tim Wise ‏@timjacobwise
The #CharlestonShooting was not "incomprehensible." Racism is encoded in U.S. DNA. The shooter learned the lessons this culture taught him

Clint Smith ‏@ClintSmithIII
The shooter wasn't acting alone, he had 239 years of United States history telling him he was doing the right thing. #CharlestonShooting
Plus a great comment from a friend of a Facebook friend:Just because a guy with a record of making racist remarks declares that he wants to kill black people before killing black people, does not mean he is a racist who sought to kill black people. Let's not jump to any conclusions here. We need look past the evidence.More on the subject

Here are 10 of the worst domestic terror attacks by extreme Christians and right-wing white men

Yes, America has been terrorizing brown people since 1492.

Charleston Shooting: Speaking the Unspeakable, Thinking the Unthinkable

"Unthinkable"? In a nation where people like Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Jordan Davis, and Trayvon Martin get killed every day? I'm surprised whenever a white man doesn't kill black people for some reason.

June 18, 2015

Initial reactions to Charleston shootings

White boy Dylann Roof allegedly shot nine black people in Charleston, South Carolina. Here are some initial thoughts from social media on this mass murder:Why is it always a white guy: The roots of modern, violent rageDwayne Rodgers ‏@DiggsWayne
Has anyone done a serious study of White male aggression? Or does their privilege exempt them from such studies? #DysfunctionIgnored

ella's homie ‏@_BrothaG
There is a history to church folks being terrorized by white supremacy. Most lynchings & rapes took place during & after church #AMEShooting

TRiLL CLiNTON ‏@iMadeSmartCool
Just as it was in the 1960's, the deliberate shooting of a Black church is to send a loud message:

You are safe nowhere.

daveweigel ‏@daveweigel
Should you politicize a shooting? Use this test:

(1) The shooter is Muslim
(2) The shooter is not Muslim

If (1), feel free to politicize.

Salon.com ‏@Salon
Racists take to Twitter to spew in wake of Charleston shootings http://slnm.us/1V2s91w
Lawrence Brown ‏@BmoreDoc
Nine killed in Waco. A "brawl"
Nine killed in Charleston. A "shooting"

Zero killed in Baltimore during resistance. The apocalypse.

BlueCornComics ‏@bluecorncomics
Can we have a national outpouring of grief for Charleston with a "Charleston Strong" slogan? Oh, wait, the victims were black. Never mind.

Phillip Atiba Goff ‏@DrPhilGoff
Disturbing to hear @nikkihaley say she never thought people weren't safe in churches. 32 Black churches in 18 months.

Salon.com ‏@Salon
Call it what it is: The Charleston shooting is domestic terrorism http://slnm.us/gEYqO0p
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Santa Barbara Shootings Show America's Pathology and Newtown Shootings Show America's Pathology.

June 17, 2015

Hobby Lobby display stereotypes Indians

Hobby Lobby Trafficking in Racist Native Images

By Amy Hornby UribeWisconsin is home to no fewer than 11 Native American tribes. A few miles west of Onalaska, in Minnesota, there are at least 12 tribes (http://www.indians.org/tribal-directory.html). In my 40 years of living primarily in the upper Midwest, I have witnessed racism towards and negative stereotypes about Native Americans. I have seen firsthand the negative effects of white privilege and the lingering effects of the European decimation of tribes across the United States. Racism is both individual and systemic; sometimes people and institutions are even unaware of their racist behaviors. Through the pictured product line, Hobby Lobby has knowingly, or (ignorantly) unknowingly contributed to the negative stereotypes about people who surely form part of their clientele.

This product display harkens back to a cowboy versus Indian mentality and indicates that interactions with Indians would be equivalent to a grand summer adventure. There are paintings of teepees, and arrows along with the message “your adventure awaits.” These images might lead one to believe that Native Americans all lived in teepees or still do, which of course, isn’t true. What’s worse, the image with the multiple arrows (bottom of photo) states, “You are our greatest adventure.” I was shocked by this phrase, as was Moses Cleveland of the Ho Chunk Nation of Black River Falls, WI who asked upon seeing my photo, “So it was an adventure to try and kill off my people and take our lands?” As a European American, I had the exact same thought, so if there is a different interpretation of this “artwork,” for those of us who grew up in pluricultural communities, I don’t see it.

June 16, 2015

Take back Tiger Lily?

"What's There to Take Back"

By Tiffany MidgeRecently, an online indie publication put out a call for submissions based on the theme of “Taking Back Tiger Lily.”

“This project seeks submissions from Native American artists, re-creating Tiger Lily to fit a real model of Indigenous womanhood…”

The way I see it, what this call for submissions is suggesting, and bear with me because I’m being sarcastic here, is that somehow Indian people are in such dire need, are apparently at such a loss for Native American role models to look up to, have no cultural heroes or icons to claim as their very own, that the only solution is to exhume from the mausoleum of twentieth century relics, the Disney cartoon character Tiger Lily–who, in the 1950s, was brought to universal consciousness, ushered into the hearts and imaginations of millions; shrink-wrapped, merchandised, packaged and delivered by a much-rumored-to-be-anti-Semite and a gender-bigot. Fast forward to 2015, this call for submissions proposes that Tiger Lily be resuscitated, repurposed, attempt a re-prescriptive and re-appropriated identity. Here she is, Ms. America-n Indian!

Midge does not agree with this project's goals:It’s difficult for me to visualize Tiger Lily as any sort of symbol of empowerment considering she never spoke a word. If this image is being used as a symbol, speechlessness and victimhood is pretty symbolic. Throughout most of the film she was tied up and at the mercy of pirates, so I fail to see how her legacy would arouse anyone’s admiration beyond that as an exotic rival for Peter Pan’s affections. Add that to the fact that she is a projected piece of celluloid; she bears no resemblance to anyone or anything remotely Indigenous, and certainly bears no resemblance to anyone or anything remotely real. I find this “project,” at best, fetishistic and essentializing, and at worst, apologist and racist. It upholds and privileges a white supremacist power structure.

There is no “taking back,” no “reclamation” of an idea that never belonged to Indians in the first place. A writer friend of mine noted, “Reclaim Sambo? Taking back Sambo for whose sake?” I echo that. Would anyone want to reclaim Frito Bandito? Aunt Jemima? Charlie Chan? God, no. These images are analogous to images of Tiger Lily. They are made from the same poison. The same polluted well. The suggestion is unsettling, volatile and creates a something’s-very-wrong-about-this, sick-to-my-stomach kind of feeling.
Comment:  For more on Tiger Lily, see Native Stereotypes in Peter Pan Live! and Natives Protest Tiger Lily Casting.

Below:  Take back these stereotypical images? And do what with them?

June 15, 2015

To solve problems, change values

Exactly, which is why we fight for cultural change on every issue from religion to energy and the environment to race and gender. These issues are all connected to our core values, so changing our values is the core solution.

For more on our values, see America's Toxic Masculinity and America's Culture Based on Violence.

June 14, 2015

Churchill, Depp, Warren, and Dolezal

Rachel Dolezal, Blackface and Pretendians

By Ruth HopkinsUnfortunately, Ms. Dolezal is not the first Caucasian to claim native heritage with absolutely no proof or legitimate connection to native peoples. There’s been an epidemic of intellectual and spiritual redface in this country ever since they stopped massacring natives outright, and Hollywood, along with new agers, ushered in an era of native romanticism. Plastic shamans, drunk festival goers in headdresses, savage grinning mascots, and buckskin panty clad pocahotties followed in their wake.

Perhaps grade school lessons led these posers to believe that Indigenous genocide was complete, so it was safe to assume our identity, or the theft of our lands, resources, women and children wasn’t enough to fill the void created by the assimilation that was demanded of their own European ancestors who freely entered the colonial melting pot, and the only thing left to steal was our cultural identity. Either way, pretenders continue to take on native personas when it is advantageous, by making them appear more ‘exotic,’ or to vouch for racist mascots or gain access to the sacred.

We Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) call them wasicu. Fat takers.

They want to take everything, but the burden.

A little more than a century ago, pretending to be black or native could’ve meant death, just by virtue of being mistaken for being that race. In recent decades, pretending to be native meant you were sentenced to crushing oppression, poverty, and your children being shipped off to boarding school or foster care, if they survived infancy.

One can’t help but wonder if Rachel Dolezal would have pretended to be black +100 years ago when she couldn’t profit from it.
Some tweets on the subject:Kim TallBear @KimTallBear
‪#‎RachelDolezal‬ is big news. but it happens so often to Natives that Circe Sturm wrote a book about "Becoming Indian" https://t.co/GPD5G4omzQ

Sherman Alexie @Sherman_Alexie
After ‪#‎RachelDolezal‬ mess, fake Indians across USA are canceling this weekend's tanning bed & black hair dye appts.

Kim TallBear ‏@KimTallBear
#racheldolezal uses distant bio ancestry to make identity claim. "We’re all from..African continent." Sound familiar? http://huff.to/1L2HGfH
Comment:  As I tweeted in response to TallBear:

True! My ancestors also came from Africa 2 million years ago. I'm available if the NAACP needs a new chapter head. #Blacklikeme #WereallAfricans

The cases of Ward Churchill, Johnny Depp, and Elizabeth Warren are similar if not identical. Each of them claimed Native heritage "with absolutely no proof or legitimate connection to Native peoples." Therefore, they all belong in this posting.

For more on the subject, see Making Sense of Rachel Dolezal and White Woman Pretends to Be Black, Native.

June 13, 2015

Making sense of Rachel Dolezal

Some postings on the subject of Rachel Dolezal, the white woman pretending to be black and Native:

How to make sense of Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP official accused of passing for black

Why Comparing Rachel Dolezal To Caitlyn Jenner Is Detrimental To Both Trans And Racial ProgressAs a white woman, Dolezal retains her privilege; she can take out the box braids and strip off the self-tanner and navigate the world without the stigma tied to actually being black. Her connection to racial oppression is something she has complete control over, a costume she can put on--and take off--as she pleases.Anderson Cooper and guests rip Rachel Dolezal for passing herself off as black: ‘The height of arrogance’“She was one of the people who said the Black Lives Matter movement needs to be led and directed by black people [and that] outsiders should not be there,” Hill said. “It’s the height of arrogance to say that and mendacity to say that at the very same time that you’re actually white in the middle of it.”Civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal misrepresented herself as black, claim parents

Spokane NAACP president’s biological parents say daughter is not African American, but German and Czech with traces of Native AmericanDolezal does not discuss her own ethnicity in detail in her numerous writings on civil rights issues, but in several pieces she uses idioms such as “our cultural memory” when speaking about African American history.14 Amazing Lies Told By Rachel Dolezal, The White Professor Who Identifies As Black

The Reactions To Rachel Dolezal's Lie That Get It Right

Comment:  Most articles have devoted a sentence or two to her Native claims. They're kind of a clincher that Dolezal didn't just drift into a "black" identity. Rather, she was consciously constructing herself as an exotic "other." Someone who deserved her activist positions because of all she's been through--the ghetto and the rez.

June 12, 2015

White woman pretends to be black, Native

By now everyone's heard the strange saga of Rachel Dolezal. Here's the original report:

Black like me?

Civil rights activist's ethnicity questioned

By Jeff Selle and Maureen Dolan
She's risen from North Idaho civil rights champion to positions of power in Spokane as a self-described black woman.

But what if Rachel Dolezal is really white?

Dolezal, chair of Spokane's Office of Police Ombudsman Commission and president of the city's chapter of the NAACP, has made claims in the media and elsewhere about her ethnicity, race and background that are contradicted by her biological parents.

"It is very disturbing that she has become so dishonest," said Dolezal's mother, Ruthanne Dolezal, in a phone interview from Northwest Montana, where Dolezal grew up.
Natives were particularly annoyed by this part of the story:Multiple interviewers have reported that Dolezal told them she was born in a teepee in Montana. The detail appeared in 2012 in a profile for Spokane Coeur d'Alene Living magazine and several times in interviews and features published by EWU's student newspaper.

"That is totally false," Ruthanne said.

Dolezal's mother said she and Larry lived in a teepee for a while in 1974, when they were first married and three years before Dolezal was born.

"That was the end of living in the teepee," Ruthanne said.

Ruthanne said other claims attributed to her daughter in the media are untrue.

Rachel did not have to use bows and arrows to hunt for her own food, Ruthanne said, and she never lived in South Africa or Colorado. Ruthanne said she, Larry and the younger adopted siblings moved to South Africa in 2002, and lived there until 2006. Larry was stationed there as an employee of the faith-based Creation Ministries International.
You can almost see the wheels spinning. She didn't have a plausible way to claim Latina or Asian heritage. But many blacks claim to be a little Native, and she had the whole teepee thing. Voilà...add "Native" to her biography!

June 11, 2015

Hunt's views on earliest Americans

I finished the Historical Atlas of Ancient America and picked up the next Native book on the stack:

Native Americans: The Life and Culture of the North American Indian

Coincidentally, I found they were written by the same person, Norman Bancroft Hunt.

This book is denser than the other--probably because it's covering more cultures over more years. I've read only the introduction, which covers the Paleo-Indians' arrival in the Americas. But it raises some interesting points.

This book was published in 1991, but it doesn't feel dated. Hunt's position is that the first Americans came 35,000-40,000 years ago via the Bering Strait. The dates are consistent with the latest thinking, but I think many experts would say people came by several routes, not just one.

On to Hunt's observations:

  • Hunt notes that "powerful ultra-conservative elements," led by a scientist named Ales Hrdlicka, claimed that Paleo-Indians arrived no earlier than 8,000 years ago. Possibly as recently as 4,000 years ago.

  • We now know this claim is ridiculously far off the mark. But I'm not sure I've ever heard the people making this claim lambasted as "ultra-conservative." It's an acknowledgment that many scientists have political and cultural biases. Specifically, biases against recognizing Native people as full-fledged humans with a deep past.

  • As an article notes:

  • East Asian Physical Traits Linked to 35,000-Year-Old Mutation

    If the Paleo-Indians came over 35,000 or more years ago, they wouldn't have had the East Asian mutation. They wouldn't have looked like the Japanese Ainu or any other Asian people.

    Later waves of migrants may have brought the characteristically Asian traits to America. But the very first Americans could've looked like anybody.

  • Other than a couple of paragraphs about buffalo jumps, Hunt doesn't make any claims about Paleo-Indians wiping out the continent's megafauna in a fit of savagery. In fact, he lays the blame squarely on climate change.

  • America was much more lush 12,000 years ago, he writes. Much of the continent was like the American South is now. This was fertile ground for giant mammals like mammoths and mastodons, which used their tusks to uproot the vegetation.

    Then the climate dried up and the lush vegetation disappeared. America became like it is now--desert in the West, prairie in the Midwest, etc. Giant herbivores like mammoths couldn't cope with this, so they slowly died out. Their deaths triggered the deaths of the giant predators such as the saber-toothed cats. The effect cascaded through the food chain. Larger animals became extinct and were replaced by smaller ones.

    This megafauna extinction happened worldwide. Mammoths presumably died in Europe and Asia for the same reasons they died in America. About the only factor that could've killed animals around the globe was climate change.

    Moreover, humans had been present in the Americas for at least 23,000 years before the extinctions began, according to Hunt. By that time, the animals would've adapted to the human presence. The two groups--animals and humans--would've reached an equilibrium.

    True, a final wave of arrivals after the last Ice Age could've upset the balance. But Shepard Krech and his ilk claim the animals didn't recognize the humans or the threat they posed. If humans had been present for millennia, I doubt the animals would've been surprised and overwhelmed by the newcomers.

    Anyway, Native Americans looks to be another good read. I'll let you know if I learn anything interesting.

    June 10, 2015

    Historical Atlas of Ancient America

    Historical Atlas of Ancient AmericaWhen Christopher Columbus landed on the Caribbean islands, he found tribes of people still firmly rooted in the Stone Age. Within decades, however, Spanish explorers made contact with cultures in the Mesoamerican isthmus which lay beyond the Caribbean that possessed far greater technological prowess. "The Historical Atlas of Ancient America" describes in vivid detail the highly developed religious, political, economic, and agricultural systems of the wealthy and highly influential Aztec and Maya civilizations, along with those of their predecessors, the Olmec and Toltec. The key features of this title include: superb full-color photographs of temples, towns, and artifacts; timelines that compare developments in Mesoamerica to those in the rest of the world; and, specially created maps that highlight the movements and influences of the Mesoamerican people and identify their major social and cultural centers.

    From Library Journal
    Hunt, the author of over 15 books on Native America (e.g., People of the Totem), here presents a lay reader's overview of the Mesoamerican cultures from about 1500 B.C.E. to about 1500 C.E. (e.g., Olmec, Maya, and Aztec). After defining terms and giving a summary of the cultures to be presented in a two-page introduction, Hunt moves on to explore each culture in seven enlightening chapters. The energetic and readable text is accompanied by many color illustrations and maps (either in the first two pages of most chapters to pinpoint major sites or within the text to show building locations at given sites). Perhaps the most refreshing quality of this attractive tome is the author's uncompromising honesty whenever little is known. Suitable for both public and academic libraries. --Mary Lynette Larsgaard, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara

    A very enjoyable and highly informative atlas
    By timothy mulvey on February 5, 2013

    This book was a joy to read, a great addition to my ancient culture and metaphysical library. I read it just before going to southern Mexico for 2 weeks, it was the perfect Mesoamerica primer for me. Beautiful book!
    Comment:  For most people, this is a great introduction to the field. It breaks down every aspect of Mesoamerican cultures into two-page spreads of easily digestible info.

    Two pages per topic is just enough to satisfy but not overwhelm a reader. If someone did a study on breaking a large subject into bite-size chunks to increase readability, this book would be Exhibit A on how to do it.

    My only complaint is with the final few pages on Aztec mythology. It's a bit too much on the subject.

    Why devote so many pages to the Aztec gods but not the Maya gods? It was almost as if Hunt was trying to fill his page quota. Or as if he were an expert on Aztec mythology and wanted to show off his knowledge.

    But that's a minor quibble. This book is a perfect starting place for those interested in the Maya, Aztec, and other Mesoamerican peoples. Rob's rating: 8.5 of 10.

    June 09, 2015

    Judging Red Wolf by his costume

    Tom Brevoort Scolds Fans for Judging Marvel Character By Promotional Art Marvel Created to Promote Character

    By Jude Terror"Hey Tom," asked Anonymous. "I think bringing Red Wolf into prominence is a great idea, and will fit Marvel's sense of diversity in the future. I do have a question about this though: was there ever a concern that the character might be viewed as a stereotype, or met with a similar controversy to say, the Washington Redskins? Well, thanks for your time and keep up the good work!"

    It's a reasonable question. After all, Red Wolf does look a little bit... outdated:

    Shirtless, wearing war paint, wearing buckskin pants, wearing, inexplicably, a loincloth over the buckskin pants, wearing a necklace made out of animal teeth, and holding a bow and arrow, Red Wolf looks a little bit stereotypical. Maybe there's a good reason for this. Maybe it totally makes sense in the story and Red Wolf will be the most inoffensive character ever created.

    But looking at that image, which Marvel produced and released for the purpose of getting readers excited about All-New All-Different Marvel NOW!, it's a perfectly valid response to ask a question, right? It's something that's been discussed recently in the national media in response to sports teams using stereotypical images of Native Americans as mascots, so it's clearly relevant. We can all agree that asking questions is okay, especially when raised in the respectful and non-confrontational manner as Anonymous did?

    Well, not according to Tom Brevoort:No concern, in that we thought that when people read the story, as opposed to judging wildly from a piece of promotional art, they would understand the character.Really, Tom? Did the person asking the question "judge wildly?" Is any kind of response other than blind devotion considered "wild judgement?"

    This kind of attitude is indicative of the smarm that permeates the industry and parts of fandom. If the marketing pumped out daily by Marvel gets you excited and in the mood to buy their comics, that's a perfectly accepted response. But if you criticize it? Well, mister, you should wait until the book comes out before passing "wild" judgement! That promotional art is only for people to fawn over and place their preorders. Criticism isn't allowed around here. How dare people "wildly" judge Marvel by the promotional art Marvel itself creates and publishes?! Who do you think you are, comic book reader, to question the House of Ideas?
    Guess Which 'All New, All Different' Marvel Hero Looks Like a 19th-Century RelicBrevoort's response is so arrogant, it makes us wonder whether the folks at Marvel have already begun holding damage-control meetings that have made Brevoort extra-cranky. Putting a bare-chested, face-painted Native hero in buckskins next to Iron Man in the year 2015 is really unforgivable. That needs to be fixed. Time will tell whether the Red Wolf Marvel ultimately delivers really is All-New and All-Different, or whether he's the same-old same-old.Comment:  Except for calling the judgment "wild," I don't think Brevoort's answer is that bad. I wouldn't rant about it as these commentators have done.

    But Brevoort is still wrong. You certainly can judge visual stereotypes by the visuals. That's all you can judge them by. No amount of nonvisual information can wipe a visual stereotype from your eyes.

    Brevoort's answer about understanding the character is a dodge. Red Wolf may be an extremely well-developed character, worthy of our respect, but we're talking about his appearance. You could dress Hamlet or Willy Loman as Red Wolf and the costume would be stereotypical. Any of them in that costume, with those weapons, would be a half-naked savage by definition.

    Let us know when you have a real answer, Tom. So far you haven't addressed the issue of Red Wolf's stereotypical appearance.

    For more on the subject, see All-New, All-Different Red Wolf? and Same-Old, Same-Old Red Wolf.

    June 08, 2015

    America's toxic masculinity

    Here's a great article on our national cult(ure) of male dominance aka machismo:

    Masculinity is killing men: The roots of men and trauma

    By Kali HollowayDespite its logic-empty premise, our society has fully bought into the notion that the relationship between maleness and masculinity is somehow incidental and precarious, and embraced the myth that “boys must be turned into men…that boys, unlike girls, must achieve masculinity.”

    Little boys internalize this concept early; when I spoke to Real, he indicated that research suggests they begin to hide their feelings from as young as 3 to 5 years old. “It doesn’t mean that they have fewer emotions. But they’re already learning the game—that it’s not a good idea to express them,” Real says. Boys, conventional wisdom holds, are made men not by merely aging into manhood, but through the crushing socialization just described. But Real points out what should be obvious about cisgender boys: “[they] do not need to be turned into males. They are males. Boys do not need to develop their masculinity.”

    It is impossible to downplay the concurrent influence of images and messages about masculinity embedded in our media. TV shows and movies inform kids—and all of us, really—not so much about who men (and women) are, but who they should be. While much of the scholarship about gender depictions in media has come from feminists deconstructing the endless damaging representations of women, there’s been far less research specifically about media-perpetuated constructions of masculinity. But certainly, we all recognize the traits that are valued among men in film, television, videogames, comic books, and more: strength, valor, independence, the ability to provide and protect.

    While depictions of men have grown more complicated, nuanced and human over time (we’re long past the days of “Father Knows Best” and “Superman” archetypes), certain “masculine” qualities remain valued over others. As Amanda D. Lotz writes in her 2014 book, Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century, though depictions of men in media have become more diverse, “storytelling has nevertheless performed significant ideological work by consistently supporting…male characters it constructs as heroic or admirable, while denigrating others. So although television series may have displayed a range of men and masculinities, they also circumscribed a ‘preferred’ or ‘best’ masculinity through attributes that were consistently idealized.”

    We are all familiar with these recurring characters. They are fearless action heroes; prostitute-fucking psychopaths in Grand Theft Auto; shlubby, housework-averse sitcom dads with inexplicably beautiful wives; bumbling stoner twentysomethings who still manage to “nail” the hot girl in the end; and still, the impenetrable Superman. Even sensitive, loveable everyguy Paul Rudd somehow “mans up” before the credits roll in his films. Here, it seems important to mention a National Coalition on Television Violence study which finds that on average, 18-year-old American males have already witnessed some 26,000 murders on television, “almost all of them committed by men.” Couple those numbers with violence in film and other media, and the numbers are likely astronomical.

    The result of all this—the early denial of boy’s feelings, and our collective insistence that they follow suit—is that boys are effectively cut off from their feelings and emotions, their deepest and most vulnerable selves. Historian Stephanie Coontz has labeled this effect the “masculine mystique.” It leaves little boys, and later, men, emotionally disembodied, afraid to show weakness and often unable to fully access, recognize or cope with their feelings.
    Comment:  As I've said before, Americans lionize manly men: explorers, pioneers, cowboys, cops, soldiers, action heroes, superheroes, and so forth. Heck, we capitalize the term "Founding Fathers" because of their secular but holy importance.

    The consequences for indigenous people and other ethnic groups are profound. "Taming the wilderness," aka the Frontier Thesis, is our national myth. We're great because we hunted and killed savage beasts and Indians like virile cavemen providing for their mates.

    We're still great because of our manly ability to defeat our enemies: Nazis, Japs, Commies, terrorists, disease, crime, drugs, etc. We wage war on people, places, and things until they're dead and gone because that's what men do. That's why we elected and reelected Bush and invaded Iraq and Afghanistan: to prove our manhood to ourselves.

    Anyway, read the whole article. It's worth it.

    For more on the subject, see America the Warrior Society and America's Cultural Roots.

    Below:  Superman aka America's self-image.