February 18, 2010

Only whites blame "intergenerational trauma"?

My Friend Chad:  Victims and Victory, and those Visitors Who Want Indians to Stay Virtually the Same PART 1

By Gyasi RossSee, my dude Nish Chad—amazing business man and hustler supreme—emailed me one day to talk about historic trauma amongst Natives. He pointed out that the majority of the people who like to exercise the “intergenerational trauma” card for Native people are not Natives but, instead, white folks who want to be accepted in Native communities. Think about it: you rarely hear Native people excuse the few young Native knuckleheads by saying that it’s “intergenerational trauma.” Native parents know that some Native kids are simply knuckleheads, just like some white kids, black kids, Hispanic and Asian kids (but very few Asians) are knuckleheads.

Yet, according to Chad, white school administrators, academics and bloggers do not like to admit that some Native kids just simply mess up. So they present an all-encompassing excuse for Native kids—intergenerational trauma. He said that when he talks to elderly Natives—or even most of us Natives who grew up within our own communities—those Natives want accountability, responsibility and an end to all the excuses.
And:These non-Natives love to tell us Natives what to do. They attempt to tell us what we should or should not expect from our own children. They attempt to tell us what should or should not offend us. Because, apparently, we’re not smart enough to know ourselves. Crazily, sometimes we even listen to those non-Native folks who tell us that we should lower our standards for our children and we should find a convenient excuse to expect them not to do well in today’s society.

When I thought more about Chad’s pseudo-conspiracy theory I had to admit—it wasn’t even really a theory. In fact, I’ve seen this “white-folks-excusing-bad-behavior-within-Native-youth-who-ultimately-end-up-in-prison” phenomenon up close. I’ve also seen the destruction that it does within our communities.
Comment:  Compare this with Ross's position in his previous column:So yeah, we [Indians] can ramble on and on about how Natives have been screwed historically and that some poverty is a by-product of that; we wouldn’t be lying. Still, we can also say, since we’re being so honest, that we really don’t use condoms nearly enough and we create more acute poverty because of our lack of self-control.Glad to see Ross flip-flopped...did a complete turnabout...reversed his position 180 degrees. Presumably this occurred after some of the angry e-mails he received. It's not Indians who are playing the "victim card," he's suddenly realized. It's white people who are playing the victim card for them.

Natives in control

I agree with Ross's newfound position expressed above and here:In my experience, Natives appreciate my perspective that we Natives are 100% in control of our destiny and that we should never feel sorry for ourselves. Old Natives LOVE it when I say that our kids are accountable for their actions. Those elders understand that blaming others for their pain doesn’t accomplish anything. Young Natives love it when they feel that others aren’t making decisions for them.Yes, which is why I criticize people like Charles Trimble and the former Gyasi Ross when they blame Indians for their own troubles. True, some Indians are in pain and some have let the pain paralyze them. But many Indians aren't in pain or are working through their pain.

Even though I believe intergenerational trauma explains some of the problems, I don't hear Indians using it as an excuse for their problems. I hear about them seeking the resources for and implementing programs to combat these problems. These programs don't always succeed--often because they lack money--but most Indians aren't just sitting around crying. Or hanging their heads in defeat like the End of the Trail statue.

Which is why a comic book like SCALPED, where everyone is mired in poverty and despair, rings false to me. Unlike Ross's Natives, SCALPED's Natives are totally out of control of their destiny. They're pawns of gambling syndicates, gangsters, and gunmen--not to mention the murderer-in-chief. The good Natives--elders, doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers, police officers, fire fighters, housing officials, et al.--are basically absent. If any are present, they're outnumbered by the bad Natives--criminals, thugs, and lowlifes--by a wide margin.

For more on the subject, see Why Indians Remain Poor and Blaming the Victim.

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