Thursday, May 13, 2010

Racism and Advocacy

I am stopping the series on openness momentarily to address racism from the white, euro centric perspective.  On another blog I commented that the portrayal of First Nations people by white people who appropriate their traditional dress for Halloween Costume, or to dress of their children for silly pictures,  is at best insensitive and at worst blatently racist. 

I am being shouted down as someone who is looking for offense and is going to raise my children to be offended by anything and everything.  Added to their logic is their "proof" because  Disney did the Pocahontas movie so HOW can that be RACIST?

So if you are stopping by as a result of that discussion I will let you take the time to read about my perspective yourself.  You want to raise a child who isn't racist?  Subscribe to these two sites

If you are interested in reading about the true story of Pocahontas click the link.

If you really think its still ok to to dress up in costume of another group of people I will simply ask you to read this which comes from a larger article found here

American Indians (With or Without Cowboys)

Considering the backlash against Native American mascots in sports, it should be no surprise that donning an American Indian costume is likely to rub some the wrong way. Whether you’re a kid dressing up as an Indian during a Thanksgiving play or an adult rooting for your favorite sports team while wearing faux war paint and a headdress, you’re likely to get a reaction because these costumes typically paint Native Americans as cartoonish and savage.

Throwing cowboys into the mix only adds insult to injury. When European “cowboys” settled the Americas, they not only set out to appropriate Native lands but to decimate or neutralize the indigenous population. “Cowboys and Indians” parties make light of the atrocities committed in the name of manifest destiny. A January 2009 editorial written by college student Tefari Abel Casas Fuchs reveals how emotionally damaging “Cowboys and Indians” parties can be to Native American students.

In addition to these issues, the sexy Pocahontas costumes on the market for women are racially offensive as well. Not only do they sexualize Pocahontas, a young adolescent girl, but Native American women generally. All too often, the sexual relationships Native American women had with European settlers were exploitative or abusive, with Native women regarded as the derogatory term “squaw.”

Being respectful costs so little.  Why not try it?

*I am not approving comments that tie the conversation directly back to another website.  This blog, my blog, is a record for my children of their adoption and journey to our family.  I have explained my POV, I have stated I was sorry if anyone was offended by my explanation, as I was by the racist use of historical regalia for silly entertainment.*


Silver Strands said...

Good for you for speaking up. Whether people agree or not, I think sharing an educated opinion is really important. Your opinion is well backed with the links you posted.

ndn said...

I'm so sorry that you are dealing with such ignorance. As a NA I find it laughable that people think of Pochahantas as a positive thing. I don't have time to go through all my talking points right, but maybe someday I'll write my manifesto. I did want to point out a couple of documentaries that folks should check out. The first is the classic "In Who's Honor", which I think should be required viewing in our schools. The other is a new one that is still in screening (opens in Tulsa this month), but I hope to find in DVD soon. It's called "Real Injun" and evaluates the effects of what I refer to as "the Hollywood tribe"...or representations of NA in popular media & how that has shaped the public perceptions of us.

HollyMarie said...

I completely agree with you 100%.

Peach said...

while i agree that the comparison to premature babies is slightly off, i agree with everything else you said. i have a native background and it disgusts me to my core when i see sorority girls dressed as an "indian" girl...just think if it was a white german dressing as a hasidic jew, i'm guessing many people would take offense to that. and what gets me is justifying it by comparing it to dressing as a Scot, well i'm no historian, but last time i checked there was not a scottish holocaust led by americans...anyways, i can barely write clearly because i'm all worked up.
i would love to tell some people all of the tragedy that has resulted as a result of my native history (and no, i'm not ashamed of it, but it's the truth), but that is for another time...
don't let this get you down! my very first reaction upon seeing that blog was the same as yours....

Amanda said...

Thanks for this, Jen. It seems to me, and has for a long time, that racism against Native Americans is one of the last "acceptable" prejudices, and I hate it. For example, nobody would dream of naming a professional sports team the Negroes, for crying out loud - why are the Indians and Redskins (!!) still okay?

And are people REALLY using Disney as proof against racism?? I can't think of a single Disney film off the top of my head that isn't racist and/or sexist. Geez Louise.

Anonymous said...

I heart you, Jen. I'm praying that our paths will one day cross...but I know that if they don't on earth, we will certainly spend a good amount of time hanging out in heaven. :)

Unknown said...

I had to Google you because on Heather's site, your name is linked to her main page instead of here.

I am one of the people that commented on that thread and I wanted to say that I believe my comment, while rather mild, was not well-informed and did not give you any credit for speaking up on an ultra-popular blog with a dissenting opinion. I wish I had come here first.

Unknown said...

Thank you Natalie ... honestly I haven't read more than two comments over there after things got nasty. Racism makes me angry at a depth I can't really explain - and this week, this first week as permanent mom to my babies I needed to stay in a place where I think the world they will grow up in will think of them as people too. Where their history will be respected and not mocked and there is a world where racism isnt tolerated by anyone. I thought that was the world - it is my world. Thanks for taking the time to read.

Anonymous said...

Good for you! I agree with everything you are saying and I commend you for speaking up because any opportunity to teach should not be missed..

Anonymous said...

Speaking up is great. Being rude is not so great.

jabbasmama said...

As a native american woman myself, there is nothing I see wrong with sticking up for what you believe race wise, as a mom with a preemie myself however, comparing the 2 is not. I agree we have a lot of injustices done to us, but to compare a preemie to a costume and to use derogatory words to describe a premature infant, is also wrong. Was the costume offensive ? Yes, and it was very good to make your point, but to then use those words to describe a preemie was not and as a mom with a preemie, I was more offended by the preemie remark then the costume. If you choose to delete, this that is your choice it WAS a good idea to start to try and educate those over there, however the preemie comments made my stomach churn as my son, my precious boy was one of those with tubes and torn up skin as you put it. Thanks for listening.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! I completely agree with you on this, and I'm glad you haven't been scared off by this Internet bullying. Don't bother reading the comments over there; it'll only irritate you.

Anonymous said...

I have posted in that thread and feel the need to stop- I am not feeling very heard.

I think your point may have been lost to some if not most of the readers.
It looks like many felt you were mocking a premature child- where as I took your comparison to be an example of taking something and altering it- twisting it into something it is not for the sake of a costume/entertainment.. which I felt your point was this would be *wrong*.. not that you were suggesting this was an expectable way to treat a child.

Words are easily misread online, but what I got from your point was not hard to ascertain.

I am not sure what it would feel like to have hundreds of people lashing out at me, but your children are very beautiful and every loving mother defends their children at any cost.

How hard would it be to just google some information on Native dress? or History or hell- Pocahontas- if so many readers can use google to come here- why not use it to be better informed?

robin said...

you're children are beautiful. The world needs people like you to parent children who have been abused, mistreated, and abandoned. I have no doubt you are a wonderful mother. Of course you crossed a line with you comment on preemies and the description, especially since it was on a blog where a mother lost her premature child. I know you must have a big heart, in order to have so much love for your children. I know you are a compassionate person. How could you NOT be? I understand you reacted out of that primal, indescribably need that mothers have to protect their children at all costs. And you started out very respectfully. I only wish you could take a step back, just a bit, to realize that you probably took it a bit too far. Of course, all the people attacking you back is also not acceptable. Retaliation never ends positively. Ever. Tit for tat and all that. Where does it end? Someone eventually has to be the bigger person and admit their mistakes. That could be you, while still holding your ground about your original point, which was a valid and important one.

Unknown said...

For those that are still linking back to this post - I would ask that you take the time to read these further thoughts of mine on race and the issues surrounding racism and respect of other cultures.

Just to be clear - I will not post comments that bring debate from other sites here, or directly name/discuss/mention other commentors from other sites. Or you know, anything blatently offensive, racist or otherwise annoying :)

Laura said...

I did mention other another comment from another site but only in response to Peach doing so (and you posted hers). I don't feel that my comment was "blatently offensive, racist or otherwise annoying" and I wasn't trying to start a debate. It was simply meant to show that while maybe Peach doesn't see the offensiveness of "dressing as a Scot" that it could be construed that way by others because there was a bloody war fought there.

I feel that you not posting my comment was unfair because I said nothing that was in any way argumentative and I was trying to educate someone...just as you yourself have been trying to do. I have both Native and Scots in my background. I have spent countless hours in a debate with someone trying to show them that the way the Natives were treated was just as bloody and horrible as the way the Jews were treated during the Holocaust. For someone to come on here and say that there wasn't a scottish holocaust ...well that deserved education as well.

You can choose not to post this comment, just as you chose not to post the other one, and I will say this simply because I am 99% sure you won't post it so this will be for you only....while I admire what you have done with your children and think they are beautiful kids...I think it makes you an admirable person and there aren't many people like you out there...but by not posting it, it makes you appear to be a hypocrit. People need educated, but only in ways that you see fit? Hardly fair, Miss Jen.

Unknown said...

Honestly Laura - my comment wasnt directed to your previous comments at all (although I think if I remember you were specificially quoting someone else's comment from another site and bringing it back here - but I could be wrong). I am just going to edit your comment for the quote and repost the valuable information because I too found it interesting. Thank you for coming back and making your valid point. what I do NOT want is a comment war -I hope you can understand that.

Just so you know, I found it interesting and did some further reading on the topic.

Anonymous said...

Edited Comment by Laura

To Peach - just to make a point... "and what gets me is justifying it by comparing it to dressing as a Scot, well i'm no historian, but last time i checked there was not a scottish holocaust led by americans"

Have you never heard of Culloden? You know, the battle where thousands of men died on Scottish soil and entire clans were wiped out by the english? That period of Scottish history where the english proceeded to venture far into Scottish territory to steal, burn, torture and kill anything in their path?

I just want to point out how easy it is to make an offensive comment without meaning to - even when you have the best of intentions.

(For the record - I have "native history" as well.)

Laura said...

I'm glad you read a bit about it. Scottish history is a very interesting history, and very sad as well. To think of all the things they've lost over the years but they've tried very hard to retain as much of it as they can. Did you know that tartans and the wearing of kilts was outlawed for many, many years? Many Scots fled (or were shipped) to America after the Jacobite Rising (Culloden) and played a HUGE part in colonizing the Carolinas. Especially North Carolina.

Back in the days of the clans, they used to have what they called "gatherings" every so many years. Those were later outlawed as well. But that was the origin of the Scottish Highland games. Those games are still (or were the last time I checked) held every year at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. Great fun if you are ever in that area in July. :)

Cheers ~