To My Fellow Complainers: In which I make a call for Native people who want to be included on my list for "The Media" so they can actually have Native peoples on their shows who won't say crap like "No speak, me no feel."
To My Fellow Complainers:
I realize sometimes this stuff can get a little heavy. We carry with us the continued struggle for representation, a seat at the table, an invitation to be a part of the conversation. We watch as the news goes on to talk about issues of sovereignty and child kidnapping (but they call it things like a "mishandled adoption" #VeronicaBrownBelongsWithHerFather) but they do not invite Native people to be a part of this conversation. "Experts" that are "easy to find" are nonNative and they are often mistaken about what they think they know.
We go to plays where we are portrayed as savage or spiritual, or spiritual savages. We ask questions about why this is okay? Why are we still acting like Native peoples are always on their way into the past instead of acknowledging that we are one of the fastest growing groups of people in the United States? Our voices are surprising to people. They are unexpected. Because they believed the tall tale of manifest destiny, they thought there was no way we could survive in the modern world (let alone blog, tweet or speak to).
But our worlds were and have always been "modern." Native people have been a part of this landscape, this world, this society, this story since time immemorial. We continue to be. It's not surprising... it's a fact.
And it's hard. This past weekend I got tired of it. My friend and I went to Los Angeles where we experienced clear instances of racism, and even more of ignorance toward Native peoples. It was challenging not to roll our eyes and say something sarcastic. It was hard not to sit people down for a long lecture (in a crowded room). It resulted in my dear friend's head being rubbed by a white guy in an effort to? He rubbed it vigorously. (I am completing a blog entry on this incident post haste. Stay tuned! Also PS. stop asking to touch Native people. We don't need you to touch us to make sure we are real. We are.)
After this past weekend I was soooo, soooo, tired of what it means to carry, lug, haul and be responsible for and to this continued attempt to make us all disappear. It's a magic trick really. They are moving mirrors, changing words, creating policies, doing slight of hand, because they like that story. "Native people are not real."
Because what happens when you are real? What happens when you are standing right in front of them? What happens when you can talk back? This often happens:
This was a response to an open letter to Christina Fallin on Native Appropriations. You should read it. Some girl (she is the daughter of the Governor of Oklahoma) wears a headdress and we're supposed to say "well it's not the MOST offensive thing that someone has done in a headdress." But instead, we write back. We take the moment, we educate, we speak the words that need to be spoken. (We share and share and tweet and bring it to our classes and we share some more.) And the response to Adrienne K. (writer of Native Appropriations) is something about how she is discriminating...
It can start to feel like shouting into a wind tunnel (so I've heard. I've never actually shouted into a wind tunnel). Suddenly you are on display, held up, put out there because you have dared to question someones "right" to be offensive, patronizing, racist, privileged.
They will inevitably use it to take you apart in some way. They will deny your very existence, most often. Maybe they'll listen (that's the goal) but mostly they'll try to defend their right to be offensive.
Someone told me once that most people don't feel like their racism is "big enough." Big racism is separate water fountains and sitting on the back of the bus. We cured that (not true) and maybe we have "little" racism left, but we should be grateful. Why aren't we grateful?!
Instead, racism becomes "micro." Instances where it can be slathered in "I didn't know" or "I was just joking" or "I was honoring you." Racism becomes measured against all other representations of that group of people.
So suddenly I am aware as to why, each and every moment that we take to speak out against each and every single mis-representation is important.
Yes, fellow complainers (educators, speakers, comedians, friends) they are paying attention. They are keeping track. The images they see around them -- matter. They not only matter because they are racist, but because they make an impression of "what is okay."
And now we have many means by which to say "this is NOT okay." I am proud of you all for taking the lead in this. I am reminded that we are all still carrying, lugging, hauling, and are responsible for how we build our future. Every voice is a reminder and when we put our voices together, when we make more and more, this starts to be the first place that people get information... instead of speaking for us they finally get information from us.
Go us. We are shouting into the wind tunnel but there are more of us each day and we are getting louder.
And our voices are important. How do I know this? Because of this video. (I put it above for ya).
I was not going to share this video. My thought process went a little like this:
But then I watched it again and it was still just as ridiculous and infuriating. And then I considered sharing it without comment just to make other people infuriated. And then I paused and took a breath and wrote to my "sister from another mister" and we both considered throwing things at our computers.
But it's not the computer's fault.
I already wrote a blog (An Open Letter to No Doubt) a while ago. You can read it if you'd like to know more about the problems with the No Doubt Video: http://cutchabaldy.weebly.com/1/post/2012/11/an-open-letter-to-no-doubt-not-so-hot.html
Let me tell you how I came across this particular video response to No Doub. One of my students sent it to me because he found it while doing an assignment for my class. THIS is what is out there for people to find information on this video. He was able to expertly take it apart, because of my class. Otherwise, he said, he might not have seen the problem with it.
So I see the importance of Native American Studies... because in this situation his knowledge (gained from the class) allowed him to critically respond to this. I see the importance of my responses to the No Doubt Video because he was able to use my words to conceptualize what he wanted to say. I see how this gave him other places to find information and to question what he saw as a "professional" video as his only source of information.
On to the video. There is so much to respond to! First - watch and be infuriated. Second, take a deep breath and roll your eyes. Third... we teach. (I teach. This should be a teachable moment. I use my voice to teach). Fourth, we call for action.
1. When asked to express in five words or less how they feel about this video the guests on this show decide on:
"No Doubt this is silly."
Oh, okay. Sorry host of this show. We will forget that it is racist and offensive because being racist and offensive is in right now.
2. "I'm 1/8th Cherokee and I don't ever complain about nuthin."
My student found this girl both the most annoying and the most problematic. He told me "the day you talked about Blood Quantum in class was the day I found this video. I found it interesting she was claiming blood without thinking about what it really means to be a Native American. Like that was her street cred."
Point well made student. Point well made.
3. "We know that black face is inappropriate... so we just need to figure out... someone needs to say once and for all and just figure this out because, like, Florida State people dress up like Seminoles every Saturday and the main person in the Seminole Nation is like 'that's fine.'" (Insert picture of Russell Means who is not, in fact, the main person in the Seminole Nation.)
Have you spit Ice Tea all over your computer yet? Just me? Just me...
And this is the moment where I thought of you, my fellow complainers. You see, it seems like people are anxious to "figure this out." They usually don't like what they hear but maybe as they hear it more it becomes "point of fact" instead of "how come people are always complaining."
Cause we all KNOW that black face is inappropriate... because people "complained" and "educated" people to know that.
Finally, whoever the "main person" is of the Seminole Nation that is like "that's fine" it's probably not Russell Means (the guy they used as a picture).
There is so much more I could tell you about, fellow complainers, but I'll leave it for you to respond to. How about the part where they say that Peter Pan is even more racist. "Nobody talks about that." Like there is a point where you reach your racism max. No Doubt only had like four racist things... they did not reach their racism max. Or, like, whatever. But it's fashion. Stop being politically correct. Blahbeedy blah blah.
I learned a lot from this video actually which is why I wanted to share it with you. I learned that it actually is confusing to people because they seem to feel like certain people get "singled out" when we start to respond and critique the things they are doing. They don't see it as a pattern because there are conflicting images out there.
For instance, why is the "Washington R-Word" football team okay? Why do we have the racist images of Native peoples in sports if we can't have a No Doubt video?
This reminds me why it is important for us to talk about stereotypes and mascots and music videos and to call out and point out every single hipster who ever wears a headdress. Every single one matters.
So don't stop your Facebook rants, your twitters storms ( #NotYourMascot #NotYourTonto ), your open letters, your blogs, your symposiums or your hilarious videos. Don't stop your poetry, your art, your musings, your songs, your jokes.
Because guess what. I read some of the YouTube comments (never, never, read the comments) and what I found out was... they started with a bunch of people calling out the awfulness of this video. They started with people saying that this video was the problem. I was proud of the You Tube commenters. And when am I ever going to get to say that again?
Hopefully a lot more. We have a job to do fellow complainers.
We keep complaining...together.
P.S. I nominate ME to be the "main person" of "The Native American Organization." Any seconds?
P.P.S. I would like to email this show and give them a list of Native people who could actually go on their show to talk about these issues in the future. As I am going to soon be the "main person" of "The Native American Organization" though, I thought it might be more helpful to do that here, and then to also email this list to CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, Huff Post, Jezebel, Gawker, etc., and other shows I can find on You Tube, so that everyone can have this list for their use. If you would like to be added to the list please let me know!
Email me the following information:
The start of the list is below! (If you are from the Media and want to know more Natives who may be willing to talk to you about Native issues... check back often! Or get in touch with me and I'll point you in the right direction.)
Dear Media: Here is a list of actual Native People who may be willing to talk to you about Native issues so that you don't have to have people on your shows that say things like "No speak, me no feel." You're welcome. (In Progress)
Name: Jennie Stockle
Contact: Email (click to email)
Tribal Affiliation: I'm a Cherokee Nation citizen
EONM Executive Committee Member like JJ
Areas: Indigenous activism, Eradicating Native Racism and Discrimination, Native American Women and Children Issues, Supporting Native American Arts and Artists, Native Youth Suicide Prevention, and Promoting Native American involvement in STEM fields.
Name: Summer Wesley
Tribal Affiliation: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Areas: ICWA, Indian Law (both at the tribal & federal levels), Native Mascots, Tribal Sovereignty, Tribal Disenrollment, Media Representations, Cultural Appropriations, Languages, Native Women's Issues, Environmental Issues
Name: Johnnie Jae Sisneros
Tribal Affiliation: Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw
Contact: Email (click to email)
Areas: Native Mascots, Tribal Disenrollment, Fashion, Media Representation, Cultural Appropriations, Languages, Native Women's Issues, Environmental Issues.
Name: Me. (Cutcha Risling Baldy)
Tribal Affiliation: Hupa, Karuk, Yurok
Contact Email (click to email)
Areas: Native American Women, California Indian History, Why you should not be making music videos about tying Native women to walls, Native American Literature, Why the Veronica Brown case was the legalized kidnapping of a Native child, Representations of Native people in Pop Culture, How to Get In To Blogging Without Really Trying, Making Really Good Salmon Cakes, Native American politics and contemporary issues.
Somebody DID take me up on this offer! And so it begins...
Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University. She received her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of California, Davis. She is also a writer, mother, volunteer Executive Director for the Native Women's Collective and is currently re-watching My Name is Earl...
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