Last night, someone tagged me in the comments of your post on Instagram, a picture of you wearing dark red lipstick and a coordinating warbonnet. Initially, I just rolled my eyes and closed the window, because since I’ve somehow become an “expert” on white girls in headdresses, I get sent pictures like yours pretty much every. single. day. Don’t believe me? Just glance at the “#indianheaddress” tag. But then I got an email, then another, and another, and another, and then realized that this one was different–because you, Christina, are the governor of Oklahoma’s daughter.
But you see Christina, while a lot of those folks I wrote those letters to came at this from a place of ignorance (which doesn’t excuse it by any means), you knew that putting on that headdress would be controversial. You titled your photo “Appropriate Culturation” which means you are aware of the concept of cultural appropriation, and knew that Native peoples would be hurt by your choice, and you did it anyway.
Then you released your “apology,” an “apology” which never actually apologizes, and instead says this:
Growing up in Oklahoma, we have come into contact with Native American culture institutionally our whole lives — something we are eternally grateful for. With age, we feel a deeper and deeper connection to the Native American culture that has surrounded us. Though it may not have been our own, this aesthetic has affected us emotionally in a very real and very meaningful way.
And then this line, which is the kicker:
Please forgive us if we innocently adorn ourselves with your beautiful things. We do so with the utmost respect. We hold a sincere reverence for and genuine spiritual connection to Native American values.
I can’t get over that line. I read it again and again, and can’t believe that you actually think that way of thinking is normal, excusable, and ok.
Cause here’s the thing. There is nothing about this that is “innocent” or “respectful.”
Let me tell you a story. I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Though I’ve never lived in Oklahoma, I have a lot of family there, and claim it as one of my “homes,” because that’s where my community is based. But here’s the thing: my tribe is not there by chance or by choice, my tribe, and the vast majority of the other Natives peoples in Oklahoma, are there by force and by trauma. In 1830, the US government and Andrew Jackson passed something called the “Indian Removal Act,” which resulted in the removal of thousands and thousands of Native peoples from their homelands in the southeast. You know where those Native peoples were forced to march? Oklahoma. Though it was referred to as “Indian Territory” then. So all that “Native American culture” you’ve been able to come in contact with? It’s thanks to violence, colonialism, and genocidal policies. It’s not an innocent cultural exchange.
Once we got to Oklahoma, we were promised that the land would be ours forever. That we’d be left alone. That there wouldn’t be anymore marching. We signed treaties to that effect. But then camethe Dawes Act, and the Land Grab of 1889, and suddenly the land wasn’t ours anymore.
After the removal off of our homelands, after the loss of our land in Indian Territory, then came the laws to remove our culture. Boarding schools, acts and laws to prohibit us from practicing our traditional spirituality, and more. Little Native children were forcibly removed from their homes, separated from their families, and forcibly assimilated. Our cultural markers, like your beloved headdress, were stripped from us, prohibited by law.
Notice the words I keep using here? Forcibly, stripped, prohibited, assimilated. This is not a happy history. This is a history marked by violence and by trauma. So while you may feel “eternally grateful” for your exposure to our cultures, you’re deliberately ignoring your own history if you think your donning of a headdress is “innocent.” Let’s fast forward to 2014. Now “tribal trends” are totally “in.” You can walk into any store in the mall and see “Native” imagery everywhere. As a Native person, when I look at them, I can’t help but remember the not-so-distant past when my people weren’t allowed, by law, to wear these things. It’s such a constant reminder of the colonial power structures still in place. Back in the day, white people had the power to take away our culture, and now they have the power to wear it however they see fit. These are our images, our cultural symbols, yet we are completely powerless to have control over them. It may seem extreme, but the best way I can say it is that your wearing of the headdress is an act of violence that continues the pain of colonization. “Please forgive us if we innocently adorn ourselves with your beautiful things.” The privilege and violence of that statement astounds me. “Please forgive us if we innocently use your beautiful land,” “Please forgive us if we innocently educate your beautiful children,” “Please forgive us if we innocently sexualize your beautiful women.” These actions are not benign.
My tribe doesn’t wear headdresses (do you even realize that there are hundreds and hundreds of tribes? That there isn’t one “Native American culture” or one set of “Native American values”?), but I am continuing to learn and appreciate the history and meaning behind them. Not long ago I listened to my friend Jessica give a presentation. She put up an image of Sitting Bull in a warbonnet, and told the audience that each of the individual eagle feathers in that headdress was a gift from a community member, given to Sitting Bull as symbolic of their trust and respect in him as a leader. So when he wore that headdress, he was wearing the hopes, fears, and respect of his community. He had to earn that respect, and the community entrusted him with the responsibility of wearing those feathers. He didn’t just pick it up at a costume shop because it looked “cool.”
I’m trying to think of examples of things I respect, and how I show that respect. I’m actually struggling to think of a time when I respected something, and decided the best way to show that respect was by taking it. I respect the Dalai Lama, but I wouldn’t put on Tibetan monk robes to show that respect. I respect the Zapatistas, but I’m not going to don a mask and wrap myself in an EZLN flag. You know how I show respect? I listen. I listen hard, I listen deeply, and I listen constantly. I listen to stories, I listen to histories, I listen to learn, and I listen to hear when I’ve misstepped. I listen so I can become a more complete human being. It is clear from your response that maybe you heard, but you didn’t listen. If you would have listened to our voices as Native community members, you would have seen that the way to show respect to your Native friends and neighbors was not to put on a headdress and defend your choice, but to take it off and apologize.
I can’t totally blame you, Christina. You, as a white person, have been socialized in a society where you’ve been taught imperial, colonial values. That the Americas were a empty, wide place that needed “discovering” by a lost Italian explorer. That “manifest destiny” meant white folks had a god-given right to colonize the West. That Native peoples were in need of “civilizing.” That resources, people, and things are yours for the taking. You’re not used to being told “no.” As a Native person, I’ve learned to hear “no,” but I think about it in a different way. I know, as a Native woman, that there are certain roles for me in the community. I know that there are certain times and places for knowledge, that there are certain stories I can’t know, places I can’t be, things I can’t see. But I don’t see that as limiting or unfair–I respect and understand the place that these practices come from.
I’ve been sent your picture probably 50 times since you posted it, and my Native friends and colleagues are all over the internet upset by it. But the thing that keeps bothering me is that we’re expected, as community members, to have perfectly reasoned, calm, point-by-point rebuttals to your image and words. The burden of proof is on us, not you. Why can’t we, as the cultures you’re “respecting” simply say “no”? Why do we have to defend and fight and write 1400 words about why, and then listen while others mock our pain and hurt as being “overly sensitive”? Why can’t you show us respect by just listening to us when we say, “Hey Christina, that headdress? It’s not for you to wear.”
I’m learning that with these letters, I need to offer you an action plan, an alternative, a path to making it right. So here’s what I ask. Remove the image from Facebook. Release an actual apology, something that says you’re sorry you were hurtful, not that you’re sorry others were hurt. Then talk to your mom, Governor Fallin. Encourage her to put forward a bill to improve Native American history and curriculum in schools, modeled after Montana’s Indian Education for All. tell her that consolidating the OK Historical society is probably not the best idea, and talk to her about the importance of allowing Native peoples to represent themselves and importance of lawmakers to listen. It’s clear that Oklahoma likes to invoke and embrace their Native roots, but it’s also clear that there needs to be a true discussion about the messages being sent. As her daughter, your mistake with the headdress is gaining more attention than it probably would have otherwise, but it also means that you have much more power to make change than the average citizen. Use that power for good.
So, Christina, I’m done with being angry. I just would like you to truly show me respect by listening to my words.
At the end of the day, so much cultural appropriation is a form of trophy taking, of making sure everyone remembers who has the power to do what they want, meanwhile NDN religious practices were illegal until the 70s in the US, but here we can have white people taking holy symbols and rocking it ‘for fun’ meanwhile… how often does any concern or words about actual native folks ever come up out their mouths otherwise?
The message is clear: “Your stuff* is worth more than you are.”
a lot of people don’t seem to know about bill c-10. so let me recap:
Canadian bill C-10 has actually now passed and this is, as far as I can tell, unilaterally bad news. It’s the result of our Conservative majority’s frequently classist, racist “get tough on crime” goals. Some highlights:
-you can no longer be pardoned for a crime; rather your record will be “suspended” -minimum penalties for certain drug offences where none formerly existed -increases the mandatory minimum penalty for growing pot -create stricter rules regarding parole and bail -gives the minister of citizenship more discretion to refuse to let immigrants work
In the homemade video posted on YouTube, Lesch runs over this meal plan: for breakfast, two eggs and one cup of fruit loops; a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Ramen noodles for lunch; and depending on the day, repeating that same lunch for dinner. For a few dinners, he includes a Tostino’s Personal Party Pizza.
“Now keep in mind, this is for one person,” he says. “If you have to raise a family, if you have a child, two children on minimum wage, I have no idea how you are going to pull this off.”
We know that many low-wage workers in Minnesota and across the country do have to care for children. Out of more than 356,000 low-wage workers in the state, about 63,000 have at least one child.
As he goes over his meal plan, Lesch points out that he has tried to vary his meals day to day–a few tuna sandwiches mixed in with the PB&J, no mayo–but that it’s a pretty repetitive diet. There’s also no fruits or vegetables, save for a few cans of green beans and corn.
“I don’t know how sick of this I’ll get,” Lesch concludes, “or how fat I will get, eating all the MSGs and whatever else is in the Ramen…and all the fat in the pizza.”
The lack of nutrition available on a minimum wage budget struck Moorhead City Councilwoman Heidi Durand as well. “I can’t tolerate another can of condensed soup…I haven’t had fresh fruit or veggies since Wednesday,” she reported, “I know one thing: our minimum wage is not healthy!”
We’ve heard since we were children about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. The calcium, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folic acid, and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables are especially important for a child’s development, but also for adults to protect against osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, digestive problems, and even mental conditions like Alzheimer’s and depression.
Durand said she felt the emotional pressure even after just a few days. “[Living on minimum wage] is not emotionally healthy either. There were several moments where I felt completely dependent and helpless and the only thing that got me through was knowing it was temporary.”
Critics slam law as effort to ‘divide and conquer’ Israeli Arab population.
Ugh, they passed it. This is awful. The sponsor of the bill stated:
“This is an important historic move that can balance Israel and bring us closer to the Christians, and I am careful not to call them Arabs, because they’re not Arabs. [Christians] are our natural allies, a counter-balance against the Muslims who want to destroy the state from within.”
Can the US stop helping Israel now?
Eh, qualifying validity as a citizen based on religion seems right up the alley for a lot of US lawmakers.
A Conservative MP is backtracking on one of his arguments in favour of the government’s proposed “Fair Elections Act” – saying he has not actually witnessed voter identification cards being scooped out of recycling bins and used fraudulently.
Ontario MP Brad Butt’s mea culpa came in the House of Commons Monday as the NDP continue efforts to slow the government’s passage of the bill, tabling a motion calling for the committee considering the proposed new law to travel the country to hear input on its proposed changes […]
The Fair Election Act’s proposed changes are wide-ranging, and would overhaul Canada’s election laws and reorganize parts of Elections Canada.
They would also eliminate the option to use a voter ID card as one form of valid identification on voting day. Mr. Butt, who sits on the committee currently reviewing the bill, had earlier said the voting cards were used to scam the system […]
On Monday, Mr. Butt stood up in the House of Commons to say that wasn’t true, adding he wanted to correct the record to say that he had not personally witnessed such fraud. He gave no details on what he had witnessed, or why he’d made the statement in the first place.
Canada has had massive voter fraud issues in the last cycle—but it had nothing to do with voters trying to “scam the system”.
The Guardian‘s website decided to have a rainbow “G” in its title during the past few days in order to support LGBT rights, and to thumb its nose at Russia (a few other news broadcasters/outlets did, too), just as Google did last week with its rainbow doodle. I’m sure they feel very pleased with themselves. But did they do anything symbolic in support of Nigerians, Ugandans, Malawians, Zambians when they needed support most, when the hate that US televangelists were funding throughout subsaharan Africa was coming to fruition, in tandem with opportunist political manoeuvres by savvy local politicians? Nope. These are powerful corporations. They can do a whole hell of a lot more than include pretty pictures and colours in “support” of causes (this sort of gesture is similar to other inane nonsense like buying red stuff to spread “awareness” of HIV and AIDS). Google and the Guardian: what about doing something substantial, like countering the monies that US evangelical churches siphon to African countries with funding for the LGBT communities in those key warzones?
Russia’s disgraceful treatment of LGBT people has also given US liberals a fake moral premise to take the piss out of Russia (see US internet passim – reporters have even started making stuff up to get hits). These are the same people who have nothing to say about the US’s own anti-LGBT laws, who are uncomfortable saying anything about how political prisoners like Chelsea Manning have been relegated to the rubbish heap of US history, while those whose actions she spoke up against remain quite free to receive my taxpayer dollars as part of their salaries/retirement. While companies with cute graphics project themselves as serious, sophisticated, ultra-modern advocates of LGBT rights (and don’t do “evil”), they are just old-fashioned nationalists who do nice things that don’t cost them politically or financially.
This just in: the Cold War is over, people. And anyway, that war was actually fought in Africa and South/S.East Asia all along. For all the morally superior US Google-liberals, over the weekend one of our readers posed a question for you: “Should other countries boycott if the US hosts an Olympics because of its drone program?”
IF I COULD BOLD EVERY WORD OF THIS I WOULD. IF I COULD MAKE EVERYONE READ THIS SEVENTEEN TIMES UNTIL IT SUNK IN, I WOULD.
By the way, the whole “reporters making shit up just to get hits” thing is really nota joke.
LGBT solidarity and awareness of oppression is great, but this endless hypocritical, worthless posturing, I can’t. Maybe Google and the Guardian doing those things actually helped LGBT people in the US/UK by giving them more recognition that their lives and issues matter? Maybe, IDK. If so, that’s the only benefit to come out of this, and the self-congratulatory bullshit is really starting to pile up from where I’m sitting.
“Let me introduce you to the most evil word in the English language: ‘Just.’ Stick it near the beginning of some advice, and you can turn someone else’s vicious lifelong struggle into a trivial task they should feel ashamed for not having mastered by now.”—David Wong (via cracked)
“I cannot accurately convey to you the efficiency of heroin in neutralising pain. It transforms a tight, white fist into a gentle, brown wave. From my first inhalation 15 years ago, it fumigated my private hell and lay me down in its hazy pastures and a bathroom floor in Hackney embraced me like a womb. This shadow is darkly cast on the retina of my soul and whenever I am dislodged from comfort my focus falls there.”—Russell Brand: my life without drugs (via azspot)
Federal regulators quietly approved a capacity increase on a 57-year-old Enbridge pipeline that runs from Sarnia to Hamilton.
There were no public hearings and one municipality that Line 7 runs through, Hamilton, didn’t even know about the proposal until after it got the go-ahead from the National Energy Board in the fall.
In October, the board approved Enbridge’s application to up the capacity of Line 7 to 180,000 from 147,000 barrels a day to move oil from western Canada to eastern refineries.
"In our view, if it is in our municipal jurisdiction, (Enbridge) should consult with the City of Hamilton," said Guy Paparella, Hamilton’s director of growth planning. "Even if we don’t have anything to say, we should have an opportunity at least to review what’s happening, to understand what changes there may be."
A Conservative MP’s campaign against her own government’s ban of incandescent light bulbs is directing the donations it receives to a Conservative riding association and giving contributors tax receipts for political contributions.
When you treat people like criminals for doing a victimless act, and give the police nearly unlimited power to enforce laws against that victimless act, you end up with situations like this, where people are attacked by police officers when they’re not even guilty of that victimless act.
thank you for your honesty the way it spilled out of your lips more potent than the stench of vodka in your breath it has been years since someone has had the bravery to look at me in the face and tell me what they are actually thinking
you see i just came from a dance party what i mean to say is that i started shaving every night before i went to the club so white men would look at me and translate the contours of my face into english and hope that brown found a synonym for beautiful somewhere in the creases around my hazel eyes ‘cause hazel is brown standing at the corner of a bar smiling with all his teeth hazel is brown being asked to dance
i shaved so i could look at myself in the mirror and not be afraid: the way i will button up my shirt all the way in the cab to the airport the way i will ask the white security guards to pat me down, save them the awkward glance, the excuse me sir, the travesty of two dancers fumbling through a routine that has been choreographed for years – hold your hand steady — i promise you will know how to hold me still, like the way your finger knows how to pull the trigger when are running
the entire flight will stare at me as i walk down the aisle as if i am marching to my own death
i am used to this – the resounding silence of an entire cabin moving but going nowhere
the truth is had it been another night i would have tried my best to ignore you, too
i have read books about you and your struggle and i have used words like color and race to pretend that i am a part of it but that does mean that i would not have felt my pulse tango with the sweat on my back when you looked at me wondered why your hands were in your pockets hoped that you would not jump me like the mug shots on the television screens like the rappers on the radio: your black designed to kill my queer the scripts have already been written hope that you forget your lines tonight
brother: i am sitting on the train home refusing to cry because it is so quiet that i can hear my own heart beating and it sounds like a bomb and i wonder if you were right:
that the terrorist got inside of me: told me i was beautiful at a bar snuck inside that crease of my eye while i was watching the news dressed up in a tux and called himself president and tortured people whose faces looked just like mine – but i couldn’t hear their screams because we drowned them out with our applause – i pledge allegiance is a standing ovation for the biggest charade and we have all been fooled
the terrorist tip-toed in through my ear while i was listening to the speech called himself safety as he sent drones across the ocean – they say that the Sirens’ song is so beautiful that we do not hear the crash until we can taste our own blood from our wilting lips and recognize that we are not being kissed
and it wasn’t long before he took out the knife and disguised the pain as patriotism and took control of my body – steered me to a neighborhood far away from yours and taught us how to hate one another: democracy is another way of saying divide and conquer slowly
and i didn’t even notice until tonight: the way we are running around using our tongues as whips mistaking our puppet strings as spines too busy fighting one another to recognize that we are being used
brother: i have written you a poem and i suppose it works something like a bomb, i have strapped it to my chest like a bulletproof vest so maybe you are right: let it tear you apart let it make you remember your blood let it force you to see me from a distance listen to the crash how it sometimes sounds like honesty: that the true terrorists are sitting in boardrooms sipping champagne in suits, and sometimes their skin seduces us to think that that they are saints, and sometimes we believe them
but maybe we don’t have to: maybe we can cut off the puppet strings use them as ropes to tie ourselves together in struggle, in justice and fight back with all of our love and fight back with all of our love
and they will think that our hugs are hand grenades and they will mistake our revolution as terrorism but we will keep writing, and singing, and dancing and sometimes we will be drunk and sometimes we will be lonely and sometimes we will cry on trains and planes but we will keep going, like our ancestors before us
brother i have written you a poem and i suppose it works something like a dove taking flight from my throat — let me help you remember what they refuse to let us see: