Monday, July 05, 2010

Look it up, Dear!

Okay, start with this: War Bonnet Appropriation Etiquette=Don't Do It

"What? Stepping on your neck hurts? If I ask really, really sweetly, would you please explain to me why it hurts? Maybe then I can make up my mind about whether your reason for not liking it is valid enough for me to consider taking my heels out of your jugular vein."

It doesn't take a genius to see what's wrong with these kinds of comments. I am Native American and even I don't wear eagle feathers. If it's not appropriate for me to do, it certainly isn't something that non-Natives should even consider trying. There is absolutely no justification for it. I have an especially hard time being nice about this when conversations like this come up on the internet. If you had the time to sit there and request information from me, then you could have simply looked up the info for yourself without asking me to spoon-feed it to you. I mean, the last time I checked, teh googles were still working.

I spent the first few years of blogging taking the time to explain this kind of stuff to these oh-so-sincere folks. When other people of color said that they weren't going to explain it even when asked nicely, I felt sympathetic. I thought I understood their reasons. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me for an individual not to feel like having the same conversations over and over again. At the same time, I felt like at least some of us within the communities of people of color needed to give the answers to those who asked.

I had people of color who tried to explain to me that the person requesting this kind of information is the one who had the responsibility for finding the answers they sought. I still felt justified, though. I thought that a white person who asked these questions was at least taking the first step by asking questions. I felt like it at least showed they were acting in good faith.

Sadly, it took me a few years to see what other people of color were trying to help me see. When the information is so readily available, a white person asking a person of color to explain why something is problematic isn't really about educating themselves. If their goal was to understand these issues, then they could simply research it themselves. Asking us for information is really an attempt to make us justify our stance. Answering these requests made me an enabler. It undermined the efforts of those who were showing white people that they shouldn't expect for us to jump at their beckoning call. Asking sweetly doesn't change the fact that they're still trying to make us prove ourselves to them.