June 26, 2011

Is it racist to talk about Natives?

Whites who work on Native issues sometimes get accused of racism. There's usually no good reason for these accusations. It's simply a way for Natives to vent their anger at whatever they're upset about.

Someone asked me about this problem recently:Explain to me--why are White people racists, the moment a Native American is angry with them?They don't accuse me of racism. Usually they accuse me of being arrogant, paternalistic, egotistical, a know-it-all, etc. Which is what others say too, strangely enough. <g>

The argument goes like this: If you talk about them, post about them, etc., you're telling their stories for them. Which means you're acting as if you're in a superior position--as if you know more about them than they do.

You could be that way with everyone, which would mean you're arrogant, paternalistic, egotistical, a know-it-all, etc. But they suggest you're that way with Natives in particular because you're a racist.

In short, talking about them = drowning them out = silencing them = disliking them = racism.

I'm not saying this chain of "reasoning" is valid. Far from it. I'm just saying this is the way some people think.

For more on the subject, see Why Write from Indigenous Viewpoint? and Checklist for Friends of Natives.

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