April 30, 2010

Stereotypes okay in "cultural commons"?

After the Kesha in Headdress and Warpaint controversy, I explained What's So Wrong About Kesha to Facebook friend Michael Cooke. Naturally he didn't get it or buy it.

After Adrienne Keene of the Native Appropriations blog explained Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay, I sent the link to this fellow. He expanded on his previous position and came up with a novel claim. Tribal headdresses have entered America's "cultural commons" now, so they belong to everyone, not just Indians. Therefore, wannabes aren't doing anything wrong when they wear headdresses. They're merely expressing an aspect of the joint culture we all share.

Note that the guy in question, Mike, is a fortysomething gay man. Mike had this to say about Adrienne's posting:It doesn't address the issue of the cultural commons, of which the 'western' genre of 'Cowboys and Indians' is part.

I get the political correctness of it, but the appropriation has already happened, both of us were born in to it. Likely both of us played 'Cowboys and Indians' growing up. And there's also a blamelessness to playing 'Indian' all grown up because legitimately or not, our culture is what it is that we're born into.
The author [Adrienne] gives several reasons why the headdress practice is wrong. Who cares if she didn't explicitly address your argument? You haven't explicitly addressed her arguments, and her arguments are better than yours. I'd say she wins the debate easily.

The cultural appropriation involved in blackface happened 150 years ago and was part of our heritage when we were born. So what? Society has decided it's wrong regardless of how acceptable it was at one point. It was wrong 150 years ago, it was wrong when we were born, and it will remain wrong for the foreseeable future.

There's no time limit that makes stereotyping socially acceptable. If there were, it would be okay to stereotype women as emotional whirlpools good only in the kitchen and bedroom. It would be okay to stereotype gay men as weak, effeminate pansies. Like the Indian chief, both stereotypes are longstanding items in your mythical "cultural commons."

So you're okay with discrimination toward gays because it's been around a long time? You're okay with being a permanent second-class citizen because it's the cultural norm? I look forward to your answer, pansy.

Post your comments to the author's blog if you want to learn her response. I suspect she'll rip your argument that black, gay, and Native stereotypes become acceptable after enough time passes. A stereotype can exit the "cultural commons" as easily as it enters it, and many stereotypes have exited it.

Mike changes the subjectWell, let's look at being gay and wanting to move the culture towards acceptance. What's so is that homosexuality is socially acceptable to be against, to believe sinful and disgusting--that's a powerful cultural meme.

And I can confront every young kid that uses the phrase 'that's gay' as a insult for their homophobia, confront every homophobic Christian, confront everyone with a past in Boy Scouts with the homophobia of that organization, confront supporters of OBAMA with evidence of his homophobic venom--there's no end to the wrong I can make people. And I'd be RIGHT, right?

The problem is that homophobia is something we're born into and it's as fundamental as the culture. I can always be right correcting everyone on their homophobia--but I can't do that and not be an asshole. Because people that say "that's so Gay"--they aren't even aware what they're saying is homophobic. Eminem calls people faggot to emasculate straight macho guys, it never occurred to him that he was being anti-gay.

Changing the culture to accept homosexuality is very black and white conceptually--but in practice it's all shades of grey because people are also blameless victims of cultural conditioning--make them wrong and they'll only find a reason to be right about it.

And that's homosexuality, many of not most people know actual Gay people, have them in their family. American Indians also have an issue with Anglo culture, cultural appropriation and discrimination--but it's much harder. To be honest, I've never known an American Indian, and met one maybe twice. And like any subject, when you make someone one wrong, even if they are wrong--they will find a way to argue for being right--if just to save face.

I'm not debating, I'm clarifying the reality of the situation.

How do you feel about White people doing Rap? Buffy Saint Marie doing Anglo folk music? Japanese getting eye surgery to have 'caucasian' eyes? African People bleaching their skin to look white. White people listening to and performing Rock n Roll?

We are at the point where if you eliminated every bit of culture that has been appropriated, there might be nothing left.

So why is any culture so much better than any other that it's wrong to appropriate it?
You're not debating, you're dodging. <g>

Sounds to me like you've basically punted on your own "cultural commons" defense. You didn't address the fact that many stereotypes--of blacks, women, and gays--have become socially unacceptable despite being in the "commons" once. I'm still waiting for your answers on that point.

Again, why should we give the "chief" stereotype a pass when we don't give any of these other stereotypes a pass? Conceptually they're the same thing.

Music = headdresses?

To answer your questions about rap, folk music, etc.: okay, okay, not okay, not okay, okay. I mean "not okay" in the sense that the actions send a negative racial message. I don't mean that there's anything illegal or immoral about people defacing themselves if they choose.

Let's focus on the three cases of appropriating music: rap, folk, and rock 'n' roll. For starters, the only case where a racial group can plausibly claim ownership of a genre is rap. Folk music and rock 'n' roll had many cultural roots and quickly spread beyond their initial proponents. You'd have a hard time making the case that one ethnicity ever "owned" them.

Rap is different since it originally "belonged" to the urban black subculture. I believe whites who rapped originally drew a lot of criticism. Rappers like Eminem had to prove their bonafides before audiences would take them seriously. I don't know if that's changed, but I suspect rap fans still diss phonies who haven't earned the proper "street cred."

So non-black rappers were criticized for (mis)appropriating black culture. And that somehow suggests that non-Indians shouldn't be criticized for (mis)appropriating Indian culture? Sorry, that's illogical. It does not compute.

The more important point is that music is different from headdresses. Headdresses are revered if not sacred, as I explained. Music isn't. Headdresses belong to a well-defined subset of one ethnic group (Plains Indians). Music doesn't. Headdresses have contributed to 150 years of racial stereotyping with negative consequences. Music hasn't.

A chief's headdress is comparable to, I dunno, a specific kind of weaving or tattooing or hair-braiding in a region of Nigeria. It's much more specific than a broad genre of music. In contrast, a genre of music is comparable to a genre of painting or architecture. No one is saying it's wrong to appropriate Impressionist paintings or Greek-style architecture because they once belonged to a particular culture.

Apparently you think we're talking about appropriating any aspect of Native culture, not just headdresses. Wrong. No one's complaining when non-Indians wear moccasins, turquoise jewelry, or beaded necklaces. These things 1) aren't revered or sacred and 2) aren't a factor in centuries of harmful racial stereotyping. Headdresses are.

Winning hearts and minds

As for the rest of your argument, we're talking about two different things. 1) Whether something is stereotypical and thus wrong, and 2) whether it's helpful to point out something is stereotypical and thus wrong. Adrienne and I didn't confront Kesha or the hipsters and tell them they were wrong. We simply made the case against them.

Whether we use our winning arguments to change someone's behavior is, again, a separate issue. Regardless of what we do with our arguments, people who stereotype Indians are wrong.

Your new position seems to be that it's pointless to criticize people because they won't change their minds. Well, that may be true of individuals. But on the societal level, Americans have abandoned many racist or stereotypical beliefs. These days few people think it's okay to dress up in blackface, portray women as ditzy airheads, or call homosexuals "faggots." We've seen a sea change on almost every racist and sexist practice--everything except portraying Indians as headdress-wearing savages.

How does this happen if individuals won't change their minds? That's relatively easy to explain. Kids with open minds grow up learning that the previous generation's beliefs are wrong. A few adults with open minds learn this also.

Those who hold stereotypical beliefs don't change their minds, but social pressure cows them into submission. They still think women and minorities are inferior, but they keep their bigotry to themselves. They know society will slam them if they express their prejudices openly.

So they stay quiet and stew while they grow old and die. Whereupon the newer, less prejudiced generation takes over. So we have lots of young people who are comfortable voting for Obama, working for women, and having gays as friends. Change happens slowly, but it happens.

Any questions? If not, I conclude 1) wearing headdresses is wrong if you're not an Indian, and 2) societal pressure against this practice will end it eventually. QED.

For more on the subject, see Indian Headdresses at Coachella and Coyote Headdresses and Other Tribal Fashions.

Below:  A typical Halloween costume that's wrong for the reasons stated above.

Students draw what they know

UNL student surveys show Native stereotypes

By Kevin Abourezk[M]any of the UNL students asked during a recent student survey to draw their perceptions of Natives drew bottles of booze and casinos. Others, headdresses and tipis.

One student simply wrote: "I'm a terrible artist, but here are labels: victims, oppressed, impoverished."

Another wrote: "Poor. Live in trailers or old houses. Alcoholics. Disfunctional (sic) homes. Pay for cable before food. Many kids, high school dropouts."
And:The student team received 26 completed surveys, and Buxton created a website to showcase the responses. The forms also asked students whether they had taken any college courses on Native people.

Buxton said the five students who said they had drew far fewer stereotypical images than those who hadn't. Students who said they knew Native people personally also drew fewer stereotypical images, he said.

Johnna Hjersman, a senior news-editorial student who was part of the team, said several students who drew stereotypical images on their forms expressed guilt at doing so.

"They knew that it wasn't accurate, but they didn't know any better so that's what they had to draw to be accurate (about their perceptions)," she said.

Buxton blamed media portrayal of Natives as drunks and historical figures for the stereotypes expressed by the students. He said there is no single image that can depict an entire race of people.

"They're people, just regular people," he said.
How would you define a Native American?

Some representative drawings from the survey and possible sources for the images:

Comment:  This is perfect. The students admitted they don't know anything about Indians. Their drawings prove their heads are filled with stereotypes.

The few who took classes about Indians or knew Indians personally drew fewer stereotypes. The researcher states the only possible conclusion: that most people get their Indian "information" from the media. Not from personal experience, but from words and images repeated throughout our culture.

One probably could quiz every American and get the same story from 98% of them. "I've never met any Indians. I'm not sure if they're still alive. All I know about them are chiefs, teepees, arrows, feathers, drums, booze, and casinos. I know these things because I saw them in movies and on TV."

And yet we hear from endless idiots who think media stereotypes don't matter. Who think there's nothing wrong with dressing up in a headdress or costume and playing Indian. Who think that stereotypical chiefs and warriors on school logos don't teach us that Indians are chiefs and warriors.

Indians are idiots too

Some of these idiots are even Indians. For instance, the Sioux tribal members who think UND's "Fighting Sioux" nickname has nothing to do with the public's perception of Indians as vanquished warriors. Or intellectual wannabes like Kiowa Russell Bates who think movies portraying savages have nothing to do with the public's perception of Indians as savages.

These idiots never try to explain away the mountains of evidence linking media stereotypes to people's perceptions. Evidence such as this posting. I presume they can't explain away the evidence because it's so obviously true. There's no source for Native stereotypes except the media.

People think the sky is blue because that's what they see. They think Indians are stereotypical chiefs and warriors for the same reason. Monkey see, monkey believe.

For more on what youngsters know about Indians, see:

Kids can't resist brainwashing
Seeing Indians is believing
Phony tribes, headdresses, totem poles
"Grey Eagle" teaches stereotypes

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

"Knives are flying" at immigrants

Immigration issue sparks American racism

By Jose BarreiroIt’s time to recognize this evil trend, and confront it.

From the oh-so-patriotic “Minutemen,” with their potential overlap to vigilante violence, to the actual rise in incidents of race crime against dark-skinned Mexican and other Hispanics, the evidence is that a climate of disdain and potential race and/or ethnic hatred is being generated in North America. This is very evident in the type of language and self-definition put up by not-so-unconsciously race-based pundits and politicians.

The issues generated by the inevitable trend to northern migration among people from Mesoamerica and South America are complicated. As usual, the North American mass media is loath to dig too deeply into its roots. Images of Mexican Indians jumping fences and crouch-running across open desert fields permeate the senses while the public is bombarded with way too many ill-informed and ill-conceived reports of major “threats,” all designed to keep viewers and readers titillated. Ignorant ire seems to dominate as a result. In this age of super-vigilance, the issue of Mexican Indians coming north in waves of humanity whose bottom line or social safety net has been ripped out is ripe for alarmist warnings by pundits and politicians alike, too many of whom like to charge Mexican and other Latin American migrants with causing all kinds of malignancy to America’s economy, culture and social character.

Legitimate debate points include the inherent right of countries to secure their borders; reading the actual impacts of a million new Latin American immigrants per year for the next 20 years on various job sectors, on costs of additional social services, on crime rates and criminal justice systems, very specifically on border communities; and considering what would constitute a humane, fair and sound long-term solution to the situation of the many undocumented migrants already in-country. When these types of questions are thought about rationally and fairly, progress can be made toward resolutions.

Tragically, this is not the trend of the national discourse. Instead, the knives are flying. In the national discourse, the migration north is equated with the threat of terrorist violence, with crime, with all manner of potential diseases and, worst of all, with the threatened disintegration of the national culture. Thus, the proponents of the English-only movement, who perceive the English language to be under assault by, primarily, Spanish, but by extension, all other languages--Native and non-Native--spoken by families in neighborhoods across the United States. In an era when most of the world has already accepted English as the lingua franca of business and science, and at a time when all immigrants to the United States clearly understand the importance of speaking English even though it is difficult for many adults, the rising wave of anti-Spanish language hysteria is indeed troubling.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racism Behind Arizona's Immigration Law and Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling.

Below:  The cartoon shows a stereotypical Plains chief not found in Arizona, but the point is a good one.

"Tardicaca Indians" in South Park

Tardicaca Indians
Episode 1407:  Crippled Summer
Original Air Date:  Apr. 28, 2010

Season 14:  The Red Team's scavenger hunt doesn't go as planned.
Comment:  The stereotyping and racism in this clip are obvious. The insulting tribal name...the tipis and burial ground...and the Plains-style warriors on horseback with bows and arrows.

Even worse is the presumption that Indians would kill anyone who trespasses on their reservation. This is false; only a few tribes don't allow visitors, and they'd merely escort you off the reservation if you trespassed. And worst of all is the Indians acting on this presumption by shooting an intruder on sight. Showing Indians as vicious savages from 150 years ago is pure racism without any redeeming quality.

And don't bother telling me South Park is an equal-opportunity offender who insults every political, racial, and religious group equally. Unless you've done a study in which you tallied all the insults and compared them to US and world demographics, you're just guessing that South Park is evenhanded. Guesses don't interest me; facts do.

Besides, who cares if South Park is racist or bigoted toward every group? Do two, 20, or 200 wrongs make a right? Unless you can demonstrate that this clip isn't racist, it doesn't matter what else South Park's creators have done. Racism toward one group doesn't excuse racism toward another.

I'd say the evidence from Cannibal! The Musical and Red Man's Greed is more or less conclusive. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are prejudiced against Indians. If you disagree, show me something they've said or created that isn't prejudiced against Indians. Until then, my claim stands.

For more on the subject, see TV Shows Featuring Indians.

Magic Johnson at San Manuel

Earvin "Magic" Johnson speaks to business group at San Manuel

By Michael J. SorbaJust like he dished dimes to the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy during his illustrious NBA career, Earvin "Magic" Johnson lobbed a few assists to local business owners Thursday at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino.

The Hall of Famer offered business advice and strategies as keynote speaker during the final installment of a six-part Business Insight Series sponsored by the county's Economic Development Agency, Estrada Strategies and San Manuel.

"I'm a control freak and I don't apologize for it," Johnson told the audience of about 300. "Because I know if it's in my hands, we're going to win."

Johnson, who has worked as a pitch man in the casino's television commercials, touched on his athletic career, which included an NCAA National Championship and five NBA titles. But most of his talk focused on the successful philosophies he's used as an entrepreneur.
Comment:  For more on related subjects, see Abdul-Jabbar Kicks Off NIGA 2010 and The Facts About Indian Gaming.

Pechanga responds to The Simpsons

A followup to Pechanga Muffins in The Simpsons:

'The Simpsons' challenges Pechanga's muffinsPechanga took the joke in good humor, and as a challenge. Days later there were pictures on the Pechanga blog of a dinner-plate-sized blueberry muffin created by executive pastry chef Jean-Marie Verhoeven. The giant muffins are on sale for $25 in the food court cafe.Pechanga's Response to 'The Simpsons'When ‘The Simpsons’ aired their latest episode Sunday mentioning Pechanga and our blueberry muffins, we were excited to say the least.

But our VP of Food & Beverage, Dennis Khanh, and Executive Pastry Chef Jean-Marie Verhoeven wanted to show them that we really do have the largest blueberry muffins.

You can order one now at Caffe Cocoa (located in our food court) for $25.
Comment:  This is a good example of how tribes should respond to and interact with the popular culture. By doing so, they gain a spot of positive and free publicity.

For more on the subject, see Indians in The Simpsons.

Studi gets Walk of Fame medallion

A native place in American film

Studi to be honored; TCM festival set for May

By Michael Smith
Wes Studi, the Oklahoma actor who began his career in plays with Tulsa's American Indian Theater Company before making his mark in films like "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Avatar," will appear Saturday at a medallion unveiling at Circle Cinema.

The 11 a.m. event at the theater, 10 S. Lewis Ave., will honor Studi on the Circle's Walk of Fame, where medallions in the sidewalk in front of the theater honor Oklahoma film actors. Studi is coming to Tulsa to appear in a play next week.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see White Sands Film Fest Honors Studi and Sampson Gets Walk of Fame Medallion.

April 29, 2010

White Pride vs. Native Pride t-shirts

Race issues flare up at Chamberlain school

By Austin KausAccording to published statistics from last year, American Indians make up approximately 32 percent of the student population in the Chamberlain School District, compared to the 55 percent of students who are white.

Wednesday, six white high school students arrived at school wearing the shirts, which also bore a peace sign and the word “Peace” on the front.

It was the backside of the shirts, however, that caused administrators to intervene. On the back of the shirts was a symbol consisting of a plus sign in a circle—often referred to as a sun cross or Odin’s cross—and the words “White Pride World Wide.” The word “cracker,” a derogatory slang term for impoverished white people, was also written on the back of each shirt.

Mitchell said the word “cracker” and the symbol, commonly used by white supremacists, violated the school’s dress code by promoting racial slurs. The students were asked to remove or change their shirts or be sent home. While two changed their shirts, the remaining four left school with parental notification.
And: Because Indian students sometimes wear clothing proclaiming “Native Pride,” Novotny said, it’s only fair that white students be allowed to do the same thing.

“We were trying to make a point to the school,” Novotny said. “They’re allowed to wear (Native Pride clothing) in school.”

The adviser for the Native American Club declined to comment Wednesday.

Novotny admitted that she can understand why the word “cracker” could be against school policy. Still, she believes that clothing proclaiming “white pride” should be acceptable.
Natives respond

This led to the following debate on Facebook:Clem Crazythunder:  I think that if Natives wear native pride tshirts...whites can wear white pride tshirts....It would be hypocritical to think otherwise...coming from a brown guy.

Kevin Abourezk:  Bullshit. Native Pride means just that, pride. White Pride = White Supremacy.

Jody Staples:  I agree completely Kevin. The reason they did it was negatively motivated. The whole idea of it was intended to be offensive.

Dalton Walker:  Here is one comment that I agree with. Taken from the Argus Leader update on the story.

Whites enslaved and owned blacks for centuries.

Whites destroyed the native people of North and South America.

Those enslaved and destroyed were told, for generations, that black and brown are bad, white is good.

When people of color reclaim it with pride, it shows they are casting off shackles.

When whites advertise their pride, the individual might think it is equivalent. But it is not. It's racist.

That's all there is to it.

Dalton Walker:  Besides, when did the majority of this country become the voiceless? "White pride." Seriously? Look around, who are the CEOs? Come on now.

Andrew Nelson:  What does "Native Pride" or "Black Pride" mean? It's not up to me to decide, but I interpret it to mean: "I'm proud of the accomplishments of my race and our contribution to American culture that the majority of my fellow citizens don't recognize."

What does "White Pride" mean? It seems to mean, "I don't feel good about myself, so I need to take pride in something, so I feel proud about my race."

First one? Totally understandable. Second one? Something is wrong with the person wearing the shirt, and they need to think about why they feel the way they do.
Rob's reply

I understand and agree that "White Pride" has a drastically different meaning than "Black Pride" or "Native Pride." But really, are we going to get into the hidden interpretation or intent of words that are superficially the same. That smacks of mind-reading. It also smacks of an unconstitutional discrimination between "good" and "bad" speech.

Let's try a few hypotheticals:

1) White and Native students wear identical shirts saying "Redskins." Natives say they're trying to reclaim the word and instill Native pride. Whites say they're making a point about Natives.

2) White and Native students wear identical shirts saying "Washington Redskins" and sporting the team's logo.

3) White and Native students wear identical shirts showing an offensive caricature of an Indian. Natives say the caricature is "cool" or "funny." Whites say it "honors Indians."

4) White and black students wear identical shirts saying "Niggers." Blacks say they're trying to reclaim the word and instill black pride. Whites say they're making a point about blacks.

Which of these shirts should the school ban and why?

Forget the word "Pride" and its historical implications. What if Natives wore shirts saying "Native" or "Indian" or "Red" and whites wore shirts saying "White"? Wouldn't these shirts convey the same message of racial pride? Would anyone say Natives could wear "Native" shirts but whites couldn't wear "White" shirts?

Some shirts better than others?

It's certainly illegal to discriminate on the basis on race. I think you'd have a hard time making the case that it's legal to ban "White Pride" but not "Native Pride" shirts. Regardless of the phrases' different origins and meanings, banning one shirt but not the other would be discrimination on the basis of race.

We could play all sorts of games with these hypotheticals. How about a t-shirt that says "Jesus Saves"? How about if it says "Jesus Saves Homosexuals"? Or "Jesus Saves Indians"? Are all these okay, or not?

Obviously, I think a school policy has to be consistent enough to allow or disallow all these shirts. The school can't decide which racial or religious messages are okay and which aren't. It can't make minute distinctions based on intangible criteria such as someone's unknown intent.

I think most schools err on the side of banning all messages. I might err on the side of allowing all messages. As long as they're not clearcut slurs or profanities, that is.

Is it better for students to keep their prejudices to themselves or to express them openly? Would expressing them create a climate of intimidation, or would it lead to learning opportunities? I don't know.

I hope social scientists have studied this issue. I'd go with whichever way instills healthier attitudes in the long run, even if it causes short-term pain. If the shirts lead to a frank discussion of racism and stereotyping, they could be good. Kids need to learn about these things as well as math and English.

For more on the subject, see No Pride in Native Pride T-Shirts and 1492 Shirt Is Negative?

Cameron to visit oilsands?

Avatar director James Cameron wants to see oilsands for himself, former native leader says

By Trish AudetteAvatar director James Cameron may just take the Alberta government up on its invitation to visit the oilsands, a former First Nations leader said Sunday. “He actually suggested that he should be coming up there himself,” said George Poitras, a former chief of the Mikisew Cree. “He’s a Canadian, he knows the tarsands are an international issue. . . . He’s just generally interested.” Poitras was in New York on the weekend to attend the United Nations permanent forum on indigenous issues. He met with Cameron on Saturday morning, then joined him in a panel discussion later in the day. Last week, Cameron—who was born in Canada—made headlines when he said Alberta’s oilsands development is a “black eye” on the country’s environmental record. He suggested more emphasis be placed on the development of alternative energy, such as wind power.Avatar director James Cameron may snag invite to Canada's 'black eye':  the oilsandsThe Alberta government said Wednesday it has not extended an invitation to Oscar-winning director James Cameron to visit the province's oilsands, although if he wants to learn more about the project, that might change.

"I suppose it's possible," said Jason Cobb, a spokesman for Alberta Environment, when asked about an invitation. "We'll have to see how it goes."

Cameron, whose 3-D blockbuster Avatar deals with a fictional planet being destroyed in the mining of "unobtanium," is widely seen as an allegory on the oilsands.

The Canadian-born filmmaker and environmental activist said he hoped to learn more about bitumen operations this weekend when meeting with the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York. He called the oilsands a "black eye" for Canada while in Toronto to promote the release of his film on Blue Ray.

Alberta Energy Minister Ron Liepert shrugged off the criticism. Asked if anyone should care about Cameron's comments, the energy minister said, "You might, but I don't."
Comment:  I must've read 100 or more articles on Avatar. I haven't seen one that said it's an allegory for Alberta's oilsands.

A photo caption says the "bleak opening scenes are thought to be inspired by oilsands mining operations." The opening scenes--not the entire movie--is a bit more plausible.

It's great that Cameron is getting so involved in environmental issues. But I have to wonder about his methods. Is visiting places one by one--so he can see them himself--really the best use of his time? Is he saying he won't tackle any problem until he's personally investigated it?

If I were a billionaire celebrity who wanted to tackle environmental problems, I'd probably start a foundation. Or take over an existing one. I'd hire a staff to identify the most critical environmental problems. Then I'd send experts to identify and address the problems along with journalists to cover them. Maybe an actor or a filmmaker or both to leverage Cameron's fame and interest the American media.

Call them "Avatar Response Teams" or something similar, of course. Just like in the movie, they're outside representatives inserted into difficult situations. I can see the headlines already: "Cameron Sends Avatars to Stop Ocean Pollution" (or whatever).

This way, he could handle several of the most pressing environmental problems. The combination of scientific resources and celebrity-driven coverage could help resolve some of them. We're already seeing a hint of how this would work. Wherever Cameron goes, publicity seems to follow. Politicians, environmentalists, and the locale's indigenous population vie for his attention.

That's the way to have an effect. Invest your Avatar money in teams to investigate and publicize issues around the world. Multiply your passion tenfold and things will start happening.

For more on the subject, see Cameron Committed to Indigenous Causes and Canada's Avatar Sands.

Below:  "Avatar director James Cameron has indicated an interest in visiting Alberta's oilsands." (Chris Schwarz, Edmonton Journal)

Black Tea Party = Black Panthers

No need to imagine or debate what the response to a black Tea Party would be. We've already seen what happens when armed black men demand an end to government tyranny.

Ask The Panthers What Would Happen If The Teabaggers Were BlackThere's been a lot of hue and cry from the 'white' wing about Dr. Tim Wise's 'Imagine If The Tea Party Were Black' post that's been linked to at blogs across the Blackosphere.

Some of the dismissive comments from the defenders of whiteness call it 'speculative' and tried to shout Wise's conclusions down since it didn't jibe with their vanilla flavored conservaworldview.

But it ain't 'speculation' what the reaction of whiteness and the Feds would be to an armed group of Black people calling for radical change to the system. All you have to do is pick up the history books and go back to the 1966 formation in Oakland of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
Wikipedia notes some of the responses to the Black Tea Party Panthers:

Black Panther PartyAs the Black Panther Party was beginning to gain a national presence, the government began a crackdown on the party and its activities.

In cities such as New York City, black police officers were used to infiltrate Panther meetings.

In August 1967, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) instructed its program "COINTELPRO" to "neutralize" what the FBI called "black nationalist hate groups" and other dissident groups. In September 1968, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover described the Black Panthers as "the greatest threat to the internal security of the country." By 1969, the Black Panthers were the primary target of COINTELPRO. They were the target of 233 of the 295 authorized "Black Nationalist" COINTELPRO actions.

Although COINTELPRO was commissioned ostensibly to prevent violence, it used some tactics to foster violence. For instance, the FBI tried to "intensify the degree of animosity" between the Black Panthers and the Blackstone Rangers, a Chicago gang.
Comment:  Historically, our responses to blacks and Indians "on the warpath" have been similar. We didn't talk about how they were the most authentic of American patriots. How they were emulating the Founding Fathers by fighting a tyrannical government. No, we tried to shut them down as violent, bloodthirsty mobs. We reviled them as inhuman savages, killers, and beasts for simply trying to exercise human and constitutional rights.

Given the ongoing racism against blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Indians, I don't think much has changed. As long as these people remain second-class citizens, we tolerate them. But when they start seeking (our) wealth and power--Barack Obama, Sonia Sotomayor, black nationalists, Latino immigrants, Indian gaming tribes--we attack them. We transform them from people seeking the American Dream to people stealing the American Dream from us.

For more on the subject, see "Get a Brain, Morans!" and "Color-Blind" People Are More Racist.

Racism behind Arizona's immigration law

Arizona Immigration Law Violates Constitution, Guarantees Racial Profiling

By Mary BauerQuite simply, this law is a civil rights disaster and an insult to American values. No one in our country should be required to produce their “papers” on demand to prove their innocence. What kind of country are we becoming?

When Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was asked what an undocumented immigrant looks like, she responded: “I do not know what an illegal immigrant looks like. I can tell you that I think there are people in Arizona who assume that they know what an illegal immigrant looks like."

We all know what the outcome of all this double-talk will be. People with brown skin--regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens or legal residents--will be forced to prove their legal status to law enforcement officers time and again. One-third of Arizona’s population--those who are Latino--will be designated as second-class citizens, making anyone with brown skin a suspect even if their families have called Arizona home for generations.

Given the authors of this law, no one should be surprised about its intended targets. The law was drafted by a lawyer for the legal arm of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), whose founder has warned of a “Latin onslaught” and complained about Latinos’ alleged low “educability.” FAIR has accepted $1.2 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation that was set up by Nazi sympathizers to fund studies of eugenics, the science of selective breeding to produce a “better” race. The legislation was sponsored by state Senator Russell Pearce, who once e-mailed an anti-Semitic article from the neo-Nazi National Alliance website to supporters.
Comment:  People of Hispanic or Latino origin make up about 30% of Arizona's population, while American Indians make up about 5%. For every six times the police stop a Latino unconstitutionally, they'll probably stop an Indian once.

The numbers will be greater for tribes living near the Mexican border. It's a hot issue for Native activists, which is why they're up in arms about it.

Note that Arizona's racists won't be targeting light-skinned Latinos whose background is predominantly European. People like Martin Sheen (Ramón Antonio Gerard Estévez) and Cameron Diaz probably don't have to worry.

No, Arizona's racists are primarily targeting Latinos with Indian blood. The presumption is the same as it was a century ago: that these people are lazy, good-for-nothing bums. That they're too low-class be anything but welfare cheats and criminals. In short, that they're dirty savages because of their brown skin and "blood."

It's all about the loss of white power and privilege. Not coincidentally, that's what Klansmen, militias, and teabaggers--not to mention today's Republican Party of No--fear. All these people like their 500-plus years of world domination and don't like the thought of losing it.

For more on the subject, see Arizona Legalizes Racial Profiling and
They Keep Coming, and Coming, and Coming....

IndiVisible is "long overdue"

Exhibition on African-Native Americans long overdue

By Edith BillupsBooks like “Africans and Native Americans: The Language of Race and the Evolution of Red-Black Peoples” by Jack D. Forbes, pointed out that free Africans reached the shores of the Americas as traders and settlers long before Europeans brought African slaves to the Americas in chains. Noted scholar Dr. Ivan Sertima’s “They Came Before Columbus” argues that historical, archaeological and even botanical evidence shows proof of African contact with the New World in Pre-Columbian times.

More recent evidence depicts how the relationships become more complex with the institution of slavery and the Indian Wars that pitted black soldiers against Indian tribes. While documents show the intermarriage of blacks and American Indians, African-Native slave narratives tell the stories of slaves held captive by American Indian tribes. Other times, white settlers held both American Indians and blacks captive.

However, according to Rex Ellis, associate director for cultural affairs for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and a co-collaborator with NMAI, “While there has been excellent scholarship on the subject, the story of African-Native people is one that has not been fully explored in a wide public forum, until this exhibition. It is a story that while painful at times, needs to be told.

“African-Native Americans are inextricably bound, and they no longer wish to hide. Whatever the consequences, they want people to know who they are.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see IndiVisible Causes Divisions and IndiVisible Responds to Freedmen Issue.

Below:  Penny Gamble Williams and Thunder Williams.

April 28, 2010

Salazar approves Cape Wind

Cape Wind wind farm approved

By Patrick CassidyAfter nearly a decade of debate that divided the Cape and Islands, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar approved the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm yesterday, heralding it as the start of a new era in national energy policy and a precursor to the spread of turbines along the East Coast.

“Cape Wind will be the United States' first offshore wind farm,” Salazar said in a room crowded with reporters and officials at the Statehouse in Boston.

Renewable energy advocates praised the decision as a milestone for the offshore wind energy industry. Opponents immediately decried it as political pandering and they threatened a new round of lawsuits to block the plan by Cape Wind Associates LLC to build 130 wind turbines in the Sound.

Objections have come from a well-funded opposition group, local Indian tribes and powerful politicians, including the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose Hyannisport family compound overlooks the Sound. But Salazar said he found the benefits of the project outweighed any potential negative effects.
The Native aspect:Local Wampanoag tribes have been among the opponents.

The Mashpee Wampanoag and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) contend that the 440-foot-tall turbines will interfere with important sunrise ceremonies and damage ancestral burial grounds submerged beneath the Sound.

The state's top historic official and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation have both argued against the project saying it would damage views from historic properties and potentially damage archeological sites.

Salazar said yesterday he deeply respected the Indian tribes' views. But in yesterday's documented response to the advisory council's recommendation that he reject Cape Wind, he said that he did “not fully embrace all of the views expressed by the Advisory Council,” including the contention that the review of historic impacts was “tentative, inconsistent and late.”
Wampanoags rebut the critics' charges:The Mashpee tribe has raised concerns about the project for the past six years but the consultation process mandated by federal law was not followed, Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the tribe, said in a statement.

“While we strongly support renewable energy, and appreciate that Secretary Salazar will be reopening the government to government consultation, no amount of mitigation will change the fact that this is a site of great historical and cultural significance for our tribe, and is inappropriate for this project.”

The tribes have called the decision a “litmus test” for promises made by Obama's administration to American Indian tribes.

Cape Wind will be required to set aside a “substantial” amount of money for the purposes of addressing the tribe's concerns, Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes said. The amount was not clear yesterday because the official record of the decision was not posted on the Interior website last night.

Both tribes have previously refused a $1 million offer by Cape Wind to secure their support.
Salazar approves Cape Wind

By Gale Courey ToensingThe Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe of Cape Cod and the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) on Martha’s Vineyard have vigorously opposed the project. The wind energy plant would obscure their view of the rising sun in ceremony, and the Sound, which was once dry land, is where their ancestors lived and were buried. Both nations have urged the secretary to require Cape Wind to relocate the project a few miles further offshore where they would be out of sight.

Massachusetts’ Office of the State Historical Preservation Officer determined that the proposed Cape Wind site is a traditional cultural property and in early January, the National Park Service said Nantucket Sound is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places as a significant traditional, cultural, historic and archaeological property. In early April, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation issued a seven-page report of its findings and recommendation to deny permits to Cape Wind Associates.

Salazar said he understood and respected the views of the tribes and ACHP, but noted that as secretary of the Interior, he must balance broad, national public interest priorities in his decisions. “The need to preserve the environmental resources and rich cultural heritage of Nantucket Sound must be weighed in the balance with the importance of developing new renewable energy sources and strengthening our nation’s energy security while battling climate change and creating jobs.”

The Wampanoag Tribe and Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a grassroots environmental group, have promised to file suit against the federal government’s decision.
Comment:  I seem to recall a few critics claiming the Wampanoags were in it for the money and didn't care about preserving their sites and sights. Those claims appear to be false.

The Obama administration's record of choosing non-Indian interests over Indian interests when they're in conflict remains intact. When can we expect Obama to say yes to Indians and no to other Americans...ever?

For more on the subject, see Wampanoag Disputes Cape Wind Claim and Salazar Tours Cape Wind Site.

Below:  "This simulation of the Cape Wind wind power factory in Nantucket Sound shows a view of the project from the Centerville bridge." (Photo courtesy Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound)

Denzel Washington as JFK?

A casting note on the History Channel's upcoming Kennedys mini-series:

Can Greg Kinnear cut it as JFK?Greg Kinnear will play JFK, with Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy, Barry Pepper as Bobby Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson as family titan Joe Kennedy.Comment:   Going by the "best actor" theory prevalent in Hollywood, how about Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, or Graham Greene as JFK? Why not, if an actor's biological characteristics don't matter?

If the History Channel is going for audience appeal--the other oft-heard excuse--why didn't it cast Will Smith, Morgan Freeman, or Samuel L. Jackson as JFK? They're easily as talented as Greg Kinnear, as capable of playing the role.

No, casting decisions like this one make Hollywood's racism clear. Kinnear is reasonably talented and popular--but not as much as Denzel Washington or Will Smith. He was cast because he's reasonably talented and popular...and because he looks roughly like JFK. There's no chance in hell that audiences would accept a more talented black, female, or Native actor as the white male President Kennedy.

Why doesn't this same thinking apply to Native, Asian, and other minority roles? Because Hollywood believes that only mainstream (white) roles have to be cast authentically. Whites are distinct individuals, but minorities all look alike. As we've seen, anyone with a good tan--e.g., Taylor Lautner, Tinsel Korey, Boo Boo Stewart, Lynn Collins, Mizuo Peck, Ben Kingsley, Jackson Rathbone--can play a Native character.

This is another great piece of evidence that it's not the actors' talent or popularity that matters. It's primarily their race. Anybody can play a minority, according to Hollywood, because their personal characteristics don't matter. But only whites can play whites.

Ergo, Hollywood is racist. As I've said and proved many times.

For more on the subject, see Friday, Tonto, Jacob Black, et al. and The Best Indian Movies.

Below:  Which actor was cast as JFK and why?

Hendrix items donated to NMAI

Jimi Hendrix's patchwork coat heads to the Museum of the American IndianSay the name Jimi Hendrix and you think: Rock star. Woodstock. Crazy costumes. Greatest electric guitar player ever.

But his sister Janie and the National Museum of the American Indian want you to know that part of his great style came from his Native American ancestry. Now 49 and head of Jimi Hendrix's Seattle-based estate, she brought one of the musician's custom-made coats and two replica guitars to the museum Wednesday for an upcoming exhibit, "Up Where We Belong: Native Musicians in Popular Culture," which opens in July.

"Having Native American culture is really important to our family," said Janie, Jimi's little sister from his father's second marriage. She's the keeper of Jimi's flame, the one who tries preserve the history and family story behind the images.

Jimi, she told us, got his fashion sense from their paternal grandmother, who was part Cherokee, played vaudeville and had a flamboyant collection of feather hats and flashy costumes. "He loved suede, velvets and lots of color," Janie said. The full-length patchwork coat--green, rust, blue, camel, pink and black suede with a fuchsia lining--was one of a small number of personal items recovered by the family after his death in 1970.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Roots of Hendrix and the Blues.

Below:  "Janie Hendrix delivers her late brother's coat and two guitar replicas to Tim Johnson, an associate director at the National Museum of the American Indian." (Katherine Fogden/Smithsonian)

Catholic churches apologize to Menominees

Catholic Church issues apology to Menominees for sins committed during Boarding School Era

By Ellen Hickok-WallMenominee Indian tribal members gathered Monday evening for a long-awaited confession of wrong-doing by the very church that continues to serve tribal members today.

Priests from St. Anthony Church in Neopit and St. Michael Church in Keshena apologized for pain and suffering tribal members endured during the Boarding School Era from 1856 to 1954.

“We stand here formally to present an apology to the Menominee for our past sin, which caused suffering and hurt through so many generations,” the Rev. Dave Kiefer of St. Anthony Church said to an auditorium filled with tribal members during the ceremony titled “Begin the Healing Journey.”

Kiefer and the Rev. Bob Rank of St. Michael Church took turns reciting a dozen pleas to their creator to heal the Menominee people from events that have caused injury to the tribe.
Comment:  I think it would be more correct to say two Catholic churches, not the Catholic Church, apologized. The Church is too busy covering up its child-abuse scandal to take a position on its past boarding-school scandals.

For more on the subject, see Fort Wayne Church Seeks Reconciliation and South Dakota's "Year of Unity."

Manitoba play in Métis dialect

Read about a new play written in French Michif, a dialect of Manitoba’s Métis, in my Pictographs blog.

For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

Below:  "Rhéal Cenerini’s newest play, Li Rvenant, features substantial parts of the dialogue in French Michif, a dialct spoken by some Métis in Manitoba."

Saving Cree via Facebook

Read about a Cree Facebook group striving to save the Cree language in my Pictographs blog.

For more about Indians on Facebook, see Cherokee Language on Facebook and Facebook Disables Cherokee Account.

April 27, 2010

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Cameron defends Avatar's white messiah

‘Avatar’ Activism:  James Cameron Joins Indigenous Struggles Worldwide

By Jessica LeeWhile the film was well-received by the largely indigenous audience, Cameron did field some tough questions.

Deer pointed to large Hollywood films, such as Dances with Wolves, Little Big Man, Windtalkers and Avatar, where the hero who saves the indigenous people is always a non-indigenous person. He asked Cameron why he also chose this narrative, and instantly received a large cheer from the audience.

Cameron responded, “That was one of the backlashes against the movie, that the so-called main character was not an indigenous leader himself.” However, he said that the goal in making the film was not to try to “tell indigenous people how bad things are for them,” but rather to “wake up” people who play the roles of economic oppressors or invaders in real-life. “I understand the white messiah argument,” he said, “but in this movie, I am trying to make everybody a white messiah, for everybody to have the sense of responsibility to help with the problem. I think it is such absolutely courageous how you are fighting for your rights … But it is going to take people from the other side meeting you part way and taking responsibility for what has happened in the past and the way we need to live in going forward.”

Cameron continued, “But, if you’ll notice, I tried to go behind the normal Hollywood paradigm and have Jake work within the leadership system of the Na’vi, by not displacing the leader Tsu’Tey who had taken over leadership of the clan when the patriarch, when the father dies, as he stands up with him and ask him to translate for him—so that the message comes from both of them together. I tried to show two cultures meeting halfway to find a solution. And perhaps Hollywood can go further in that regard. Maybe it my own parochial, chauvinistic perspective as a writer. As an artist, it is very important to write from the heart, and Avatar is what came out.”
Comment:  This is one of the more disingenuous rationalizations I've heard recently.

Cameron's excuse is he wants everybody, not just indigenous people, to have a sense of responsibility. For change to happen, he thinks the Western, industrialized side must meet the indigenous side part way. Both sides must work together to find solutions.

Great, but what does that have to do with choose a white-messiah figure to lead the battle? Why couldn't a Na'vi leader be the one who brought the Terran and Pandoran sides together? Why couldn't the Terrans have followed his lead rather than the Pandorans following Jake's lead?

Cameron has admitted being ignorant about indigenous issues, and it shows. If he were following the Native media, he'd know that Natives lead hundreds of conferences, campaigns, and protests every year. They don't sit around waiting for white folks to bridge the gap with them. They take the lead and bridge the gap themselves.

That's what's missing from Avatar--that sense of indigenous people determining their fate with or without outside help. Indians leaders such as Tecumseh, Osceola, and Geronimo resisted the US for years, on their own, without a white man's advice.

Jake Sully...a co-leader?

Cameron's claim that Jake and Tsu'Tey were co-leaders is pure rubbish. Jake is the one who conquered the unconquerable Toruk, proving himself the messiah who could rally tribes from across the planet. Jake is the one who made the big speech, led the troops into battle, and secured the final victory. Even if Tsu'Tey was the Na'vi's nominal leader, his role was inconsequential.

The real reason for making the hero white is that Cameron was working inside his comfort zone. He chose to feature white characters because he's white. Which means he's consciously or unconsciously prejudiced against others.

I guess we'll find out for sure in Avatar 2. Now that he's made a billion dollars and proved the marketability of blue aliens, he can do whatever he wants. He could give Jake Sully a minor role in the sequel, or not use him at all. He could do an entire movie with Pandorans only--no humans in avatar's clothing. If he chooses to make Terrans the heroes again, it'll strongly suggest his bias.

For more on the subject, see The White Messiah Fable and White Guilt in Avatar.

Below:  "James Cameron receives several gifts from indigenous communities after Avatar was screened to some 400 delegates of the U. N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at the New York Directors Guild Theatre in Midtown Manhattan April 24."

Why hipster headdresses aren't okay

Adrienne Keene of the Native Appropriations blog explains what's wrong with all the people wearing Indian headdresses:

But Why Can't I Wear a Hipster Headdress?So why can't I wear it?

  • Headdresses promote stereotyping of Native cultures.

    The image of a warbonnet and warpaint wearing Indian is one that has been created perpetuated by Hollywood and only bears minimal resemblance to traditional regalia of Plains tribes. It furthers the stereotype that Native peoples are one monolithic culture, when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures.

  • Headdresses, feathers, and warbonnets have deep spiritual significance.

    The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance.

  • It's just like wearing blackface.

    "Playing Indian" has a long history in the United States, all the way back to those original tea partiers in Boston, and in no way is it better than minstrel shows or dressing up in blackface. Like my first point said, you're stereotyping and collapsing distinct cultures, and in doing so, you're asserting your power over them.
  • Adrienne also addresses some common counterarguments, such as: "It's just for fun," "I'm honoring Natives," and "it's intended to be ironic." I especially like her answer on the "Don't you have anything better to do?" argument:What about the bigger issues in Indian Country? Poverty, suicide rates, lack of resources, disease, etc? Aren't those more important that hipster headdresses?

    Yes, absolutely. But, I'll paraphrase Jess Yee in this post, and say these are very real issues and challenges in our communities, but when the only images of Natives that Americans see are incorrect, and place Natives in the historic past, it erases our current presence, and makes it impossible for the current issues to exist in the collective American consciousness. Our cultures and lives are something that only exist in movies or in the past, not today. So it's a cycle, and in order to break that cycle, we need to question and interrogate the stereotypes and images that erase our current presence--while we simultaneously tackle the pressing issues in Indian Country. They're closely linked, and at least this is a place to start.
    Comment:  Stereotypes make it impossible "for the current issues to exist in the collective American consciousness." Bingo!

    As I've said many times, all these things are linked in the minds of many Americans. They oppose tribal sovereignty, think Indians get too many handouts, don't want to hear about America's genocidal history, and love their mascots and headdresses. If you dismiss Indians as figments of the imagination, you don't have to think about climate change, budget cuts, or artifact theft and how these things affect real people.

    For more on wannabes wearing headdresses, see

    Indian headdresses at Coachella
    Swedish "chief" dances with tomahawk
    Coyote headdress and other tribal fashions
    Exploitation upsets Mardi Gras exploiters
    Kesha in headdress and warpaint

    For more on what's wrong with this, see What's So Wrong About Kesha? and The Harm of Native Stereotyping:  Facts and Evidence.

    Arizona legalizes racial profiling

    Russell:  Don’t visit Arizona without your papers

    By Steve RussellIt would be hilarious watching Gov. Brewer claim that this law can be enforced without racial profiling if I had fewer relatives who could get profiled. Make no mistake: This law is not aimed at Europeans without papers, even though by its plain words a German tourist could be locked up for leaving her Phoenix hotel without her passport. This law is aimed at Mexicans and the blood of Mexicans is primarily American Indian.

    Like my childhood in Oklahoma, a Tohono O’odham person in Sacaton or a Navajo person in Chinle will have little to fear. In a small town, you are known to be who you are. However, you take your chances in Phoenix or Tucson. I wonder how the enforcement will go around the spectacular national parks in Arizona that draw visitors from all over the world?

    What is a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is undocumented? Pre-existing law instructs us that it’s considerably less than “probable cause,” which is sometimes explained as “more likely than not.” Since “suspicion” does not require a whole lot of objective facts, it’s safe to say that the real reason for most arrests will be brown in a no-brown zone or failure of the attitude test. If you are then put in jail because they don’t believe you are a citizen, I’m not clear how you are supposed to prove your lawfulness if you can’t pay a bail bondsman to get released?

    For those Indians who can, it would be a good idea to join the boycott of Arizona while this law is in force. For the many Indian tribes whose ancestors called Arizona home before the white people who made this law appeared on the continent, staying out of Arizona is not an option. They can only carry their cards in the cities and be careful not to offend white people by their presence. It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived into the 21st century and I’m still learning about Indians and complexion.
    Comment:  I'm waiting for the first teabagger to protest the Arizona immigration law. After all, isn't this a classic example of government "tyranny"?

    Oh, wait. This is government "tyranny" that helps white people and hurts brown people. Never mind.

    What's the correlation between teabaggers, people who favor the Arizona law, and people who think Latinos come here to mooch off government services? A hundred percent, more or less?

    It's clear why Republicans have little chance of winning Latino votes. Conservative Latinos are learning what conservative gays learned before them: The Republican Party couldn't care less about you. The GOP's message to Latinos is, "Get the hell out of white America."

    Too bad we can't make immigration laws retroactive to 1492. That would clear the continent of undesirables. Or at least to 1625. Some of my ancestors came over on the Mayflower, Fortune, and Anne, so that would allow me to stay.

    Fortunately, the courts probably will rule the new law unconstitutional. But it's a sign of the time that the white-power proponents got this law passed somewhere in the US. Watch out, America: The Klansmen/militia/teabagger fringe is gunning for you.

    For more on the subject, see "Get a Brain, Morans!" and Another Poll Proves Teabaggers Are Racists.

    Below:  The Arizona law's hypocrisy in a nutshell.

    April 26, 2010

    Debating a black Tea Party

    In Imagine a Black Tea Party, I asked what would happen if a black Tea Party stormed DC? Cops, rioting, blood? This led to the following exchange with correspondent Tom:Maybe Keith Olbermann would rank them as Worst People in the World.

    So the teabaggers found the half a dozen minorities in attendance and put them on camera. So what?

    Not one of them had a valid critique of the Obama administration or its actions. The obvious followup question is: "Why are you protesting now when the Bush administration did much more to increase the size of government and curtail your freedom?"

    For some of the mountains of evidence that teabaggers are motivated by racism, see:

    Another poll proves teabaggers are racists
    Poll proves teabaggers are racists
    Klansmen, militias, and teabaggers"A Delayed Bush Backlash":


    And the whole point of this posting was how America would react to a large mass of armed black protesters calling for the government's overthrow. Therefore, noting a few scattered brown teabaggers is beside the point.If it was a large mass of African-Americans calling for lower taxes, dialing back the welfare state and lowering business regulations while exercising their rights under the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, I, and a lot of other people, would join them.

    One thing: All of you out there who are always calling the tea-party protesters "tea-baggers" just sound like a pathetic, out-of-tune band of rusty trombones.
    Funny to see Goldberg call the liberal position "lazy sophistry" when his position is idle speculation invented out of thin air with no basis in fact.

    Obama has lowered your taxes, bright boy. Or are you unaware of that?

    What teabaggers are actually calling for is an end to moderate healthcare reforms, nonexistent "socialism," and the democratically elected government now in office. Your fantasy version of what they want bears only a tangential relationship to reality.

    You might join the black marchers, but your fellow conservatives would denounce them as a mob. It would be the hatemongering we saw against Michelle Obama, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and Sonia Sotomayor times a thousand.

    Incidentally, I couldn't care less if the hypocrites and haters don't like the name they chose for themselves. Anything I say is sweet music compared to the vituperation coming out of their mouths. And your opinion about how the name sounds doesn't move me in the slightest.

    Teabaggers' Big Lie technique

    In fact, the only thing that sounds stupid here is your fellow conservatives' juvenile misuse of the word "socialism." Are these people really this ignorant of economic concepts, or are they using the Big Lie technique to bamboozle the public? Ignoramuses or liars...you decide.

    Here's a good article to help you determine whether teabaggers are stupid ignoramuses or hypocritical liars:Listen to Tea Partiers on cable news—or read the signs they hoist or their Internet comments—and you frequently encounter the flagrant abuse, the historically ignorant misuse, of words such as tyranny, communist, Marxist, fascist, and socialist.

    You hear them say, for instance, that we live under "tyranny" because one side lost a health care vote in an elected legislative body. And that, in all seriousness, the president is a communist. For many Tea Party members, the word is not just a vile epithet; it's a realistic political description.
    And:The muddled Tea Party version of history is more than wrong and fraudulent. It's offensive. Calling Obama a tyrant, a communist, or a fascist is deeply offensive to all the real victims of tyranny, the real victims of communism and fascism. The tens of millions murdered. It trivializes such suffering inexcusably for the T.P.ers to claim that they are suffering from similar oppression because they might have their taxes raised or be subject to demonic "federal regulation."P.S. Obama hasn't done one thing to limit the ownership of guns. But yes, he is a scary black man in office. That must be why you feel the need to assert your 2nd Amendment rights. You certainly don't have any rational reason to do so with Obama in the White House instead of Bush.

    In other words, irrational gun-control fears = evidence of teabagger racism. Thanks for helping to prove my point.

    For more on the subject, see "Get a Brain, Morans!" and Any Excuse to Hate Obama.

    Indian headdresses at Coachella

    Adrienne Keene notes the prevalence of Indian headdresses at the Coachella music festival:

    The Hipster Headdress Abounds at CoachellaCan you believe it's been almost 3 months since I first grappled with "The Strange Case of the Hipster Headdress?" Since then, I've definitely been shocked by just how much the trend has invaded indie/hipster culture, as well as more mainstream outlets (like Ke$ha on American Idol). Two weeks ago, the Coachella music festival was held in the desert of Southern California, and it seems like the go-to outfit of choice for attendees (and even some performers) included the now ubiquitous headdress.

    A commenter on the Coachella.com forum asks: "Why was every other douchebag at this year's festival dressed in a colorful Native American Feather Headress with neon paint all over their bodies?"
    Comment:  Adrienne gives us six examples of headdresses in her posting, including the one below.

    Adrienne has been covering the "hipster headdress" phenomenon since she began her blog in January 2010. I'm not sure it's a trend or anything new. People have been dressing up as Indians since the Boston Tea Party, at least. Examples of non-Indians wearing headdresses abound in our culture. You can find them throughout the last decade of the Stereotype of the Month contest and before.

    If there is a trend, it's part of an increasing hostility toward minorities. The evidence includes the conservative hard line toward immigrants, student parties involving blackface and nooses, English-only laws, race-based attacks on the Obamas, and the many instances of Tea Party hatemongering.

    Wearing a headdress seems benign compared to these examples, but the attitude behind the act is similar. Like mascot lovers, these Indian wannabes are asserting their superiority in a socially acceptable way. "We're white, we can do whatever we want, and you can't stop us."

    For more on Coachella, see "A Sight for Squaw Eyes." For more on the subject in general, see The Big Chief and Indian Wannabes.

    Cameron committed to indigenous causes

    ‘Avatar’ Activism:  James Cameron Joins Indigenous Struggles Worldwide

    By Jessica LeeBlockbuster Hollywood director James Cameron said that he is committed to helping indigenous peoples around the world who, like the fictitious Na’vi in his film Avatar, are “caught at the tectonic interface between the expansion of our technical civilization into the few remaining preserves of this planet.”

    Several months after the release of Avatar, which quickly became the top grossing film of all time, and two days after the release of the DVD on Earth Day, Cameron was invited to speak at two events on April 24 that were associated with the Ninth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues taking place in New York City from April 19-30.

    “I’d just like to say it is a tremendous honor for me to be here,” Cameron said in his introduction to a special evening screening of Avatar to some 400 people from the indigenous forum at the New York Directors Guild Theatre in Midtown Manhattan. “I applaud what you [at the forum] are doing. It is so critical given how many indigenous cultures are under threat throughout the world.”

    Cameron said that he has been astonished by the response to the film and said that many indigenous communities and environmental organizations have contacted him seeking his help and support.

    “It has been very, very interesting for me in the last couple of months to see how many people have come to [my wife] Susie and myself asking if there is something we can do in association with Avatar because so many people around the world working with indigenous issues have seen their reality in the film—even though the film is a fantasy that takes place on a mythical world—people are seeing their reality through the lens of this movie.”

    While he said that he had never worked with indigenous people before in his life, he says he is now very committed to helping illuminate these struggles worldwide. “I never really dreamed that a Hollywood film could have that significant of an impact,” Cameron said on panel discussion earlier in the afternoon, “Not only is this is an opportunity, it is a duty. I do have a responsibility now to go beyond the film, because it doesn’t teach, and to become an advocate myself and use what media power I have to raise awareness.”
    Native Peoples See Themselves in 'Avatar'

    Comment:  A few points:

    1) It sounds as though Cameron didn't know anything about indigenous issues before making Avatar. Undoubtedly this is reflected in the movie's super-simplistic storyline.

    2) People have invoked Avatar in at least three conflicts around the world: Canada, Palestine, and Brazil. Yet people claim movies have no influence in the real world and are just pieces of entertainment? The facts prove this ignorant view wrong.

    3) Cameron apparently was inspired by his own movie--researching and writing it--to become involved in environmental and indigenous causes. This shows how powerful the Native narrative can be. If you think about it, it has a timeless story structure: heroes (Natives) face an overwhelming foe, suffer a terrible defeat, but come back to win in the end.

    Stories about slackers, hipsters, and yuppies aren't classically American. Stories about underdogs--e.g., minorities and immigrants--pursuing their dreams are. Something like Avatar--good Natives triumph over bad imperialists--should be a no-brainer for Hollywood.

    For more on the subject, see Dam Suspended with Cameron's Help and Cameron's Conversion to Environmentalist.

    Below:  James Cameron joins the panel discussion, “Real Life ‘Pandoras’ on Earth: Indigenous Peoples Urgent Struggles For Survival,” held at the Paley Center for Media in Midtown Manhattan April 24, 2010.

    Trickster's starred reviews

    'Trickster' reviewsSchool Library Journal (May 2010)
    (Starred review)

    More than 40 storytellers and cartoonists have contributed to this original and provocative compendium of traditional folklore presented in authentic, colorful, and engaging sequential art. The stories are drawn from a variety of Native peoples across North America, and so the trickster character appears variously as Rabbit, a raccoon, Coyote, and in other guises; landscapes, clothing and rhythms of speech and action also vary in keeping with distinct traditions. Realistic, impressionistic, painterly, and cartoon styles of art are employed to echo and announce the tone of each tale and telling style, making this a rich visual treasure as well as cultural trove. Contributors include well-known author Joseph Bruchac, Pueblo storyteller Eldrena Douma, cartoonist and Smithsonian Institution employee Evan Keeling, and many who have not worked in comics heretofore as well as cartoonists with no previous allegiance to telling Native stories with their art. The total package is accessible, entertaining, educational, inspiring, and a must-have for all collections.

    Booklist (American Library Association, May 2010)
    (Starred review)

    This graphic-format collection of Native American tales featuring an old folk favorite—the trickster—hits an impressive trifecta of achievements. First, it’s a wildly successful platform for indie-comic creators and an excellent showcase for their distinctive styles. From David Smith and Jerry Carr's heroic, animation-inspired “Trickster and the Great Chief” to the Looney Toons zaniness of “Rabbit’s Chocktaw Tail Tale” by Tim Tingle and Pat Lewis, there’s a bit of visual panache here for every taste. Second, with the exception of a stray X-Man or two and an obscure DC sword-and-sorcery character, this is the first graphic novel to really focus on Native American themes and events, a surprising absence that this book remedies with respect and imagination. Lastly, as Native American folklore is so directly tied to the culture’s spirituality, this proves the rare graphic novel that handles such issues without specifically attaching them to standard religious practices. With stories that vary in emotional tone, matching the ever-shifting appearance and character of the trickster himself and the lessons he teaches and learns, this collection is an ideal choice for dipping into over and over. A dandy read for those interested in history, folklore, adventure, humor, or the arts, and a unique contribution to the form.
    Comment:  The "obscure DC sword-and-sorcery character" is Arak. He's appeared in comic books but not graphic novels.

    Even if you exclude every Native character from Marvel or DC, at least a couple dozen graphic novels have focused on Native themes and events. Any reviewer who doesn't know this is woefully ignorant of the field.

    Anyway, Trickster sounds good. I'll be checking it out and you should too.

    For more on the subject, see Trickster on Amazon.com and Comic Books Featuring Indians.