Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Have The Indigenous Girl Blues Today

Every Thanksgiving, I like to re-post a story that I wrote a few years ago. If you have ever wondered why I don't celebrate Thanksgiving and/or you don't understand why I have absolutely no tolerance for those who do, please read this. Feel free to leave a comment if you want.

A Modern-Day Thanksgiving Story

Here's another post full of links that talk about this "holiday" from the perspective of other indigenous Americans.

For Those With Warm and Fuzzy Feelings About Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Write-In Ballots are a Disability Rights Issue

So, this jackass tea-bagger Senate candidate Joe Miller up in Alaska is challenging ballots where people wrote in the name of the candidate they chose, in an attempt to whittle away at the votes cast by Lisa Murkowski.

I am a person with disabilities and so is my partner. I have rheumatoid arthritis and my partner had a traumatic brain injury that has left him permanently damaged. My handwriting is absolutely atrocious, even when I don't write in cursive lettering. Should someone like me have their vote disqualified if my "u" looked like an "a" or my "k" looks like an "h"? If my partner is dealing with a bit of fogginess or his vision isn't too great on a given day and he happens to misspell a name by a single letter, should his vote be thrown out? Most reasonable people can understand how that would be discrimination that our founding documents prohibit. If all men are created equal, then those who have poor handwriting or poor spelling skills have just as much of a right to be able to choose their representatives as everyone else.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brothers and Sisters, When We're Dead They'll Be Able to Appropriate our Cultures as Much as They Please

There's not much more that I feel up to saying about why appropriating NDN culture is unethical. BrownFemiPower does a great job of discussing this in her post. However, in the link about NDNs trying not to get their heat cut off in the middle of winter, there's a report of one of us who was forced to resort to burning their clothes for heat.

When it gets down to that, how can someone not begin to feel that they are losing their humanity? Allowing someone to get to that point effectively means that we no longer consider that person as worthy of being a part of any human society in existence today. Without clothes, you are no longer considered fit for interactions with the general public. As proof of this, try appearing on the streets without clothes or even without what is considered the right kind or combination of clothes and see how long you are allowed to go about the typical activities associated with life.

Do we really need any more evidence that this nation is making a deliberate effort to eliminate the indigenous people of this country, especially those who retain some of their culture by grouping together with others from the same background (on reservations)? I feel so numb today after reading this.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Tokenism and Identity Policing go Hand in Hand

Chally from Zero at the Bone and Feministe blogged about a case in Australia where a mixed-ethnicity woman was not hired because she didn't look indigenous enough. Chally challenged who had the right to define one's racial identity. Well, to be specific, she pointed out that Racial Identity Cannot be Determined by Casual Bystanders. Of course I agree with that.

When I read this story, it seemed to me that the point where they went wrong came long before they even interviewed Betteridge. From what's been reported, these people were looking for a token.

Some folks (who aren't marginalized on the basis of race) tend to think that they are doing those who are marginalized on that basis a favor by making sure that they include one of us in their projects. It seems we're supposed to see their efforts as somehow benevolent or magnanimous. In that view, I guess we should just be grateful that they were willing to hire any of us.

However, as I see it, the main problem with their behavior isn't that they didn't choose Betteridge because of her looks--it would have been just as problematic if they did. The problem is that they were attempting to use indigenous people as a means to an end. Having someone who looks more like the stereotypical Aborigine provides them with cover. It assuages the nagging feelings of guilt or responsibility that some non-indigenous people may harbor when they know that they are participating in systemic racism.

If we consider this story from that angle, it makes perfect sense why they would do what they did. After all, what good is such a token if they don't actually seem all that much different from you? How can you make those pesky marginalized people believe that you're "one of the good ones", if you can't get at least one of them to vouch for you? This company was looking for the corporate equivalent of a "best friend who's black".

Your "black friend" is only useful if they make it so that you don't have to do any real work to prove that you care about the lives, concerns, and interests of those other(ed) folks. Your "black friend" gives, or at least lends, you street cred. So, if you say or do something that makes marginalized people question your motives, then your token can help put things in the "proper" perspective...while you hide out in the corner, until things feel safe again.

Evidently, Betteridge didn't have enough indigenous street cred to satisfy this company's desire for a "black friend". However, in their mind, she's the one who's to blame, because she didn't figure out that they weren't really looking for someone to pass out flyers. They were looking for an actor, someone to play a role. When you're looking for an actor, it's perfectly acceptable to use looks as a criteria.

I'd have respected the interviewers a lot more if they had been honest about it and admitted that they just wanted to hire an actor who looks like a stereotypical Australian indigenous person. I mean, marginalized folks gotta eat, too. I'll never judge another indigenous person for filling the role of a token. That way, the non-indigenous folks can actually get what they are looking for and an indigenous person makes some cash that they might truly need bad enough to put up with the kind of b.s. that almost always goes along with being a token.

*By the way, I know that I'm seeing racial identity through my very Americanized eyes. I am not exactly clear about what sort of terminology the indigenous people of Australian tend to use or prefer. Chally's reminder that we should respect those preferences is definitely relevant. If anyone sees some problems with the terms I've used, I hope you'll let me know so that I can fix things.

Friday, November 12, 2010

To Write Love On Her Arms 2010

Today, many women and girls commemorated To Write Love On Her Arms. If you've never heard of this day/group/movement, that's okay. I didn't learn about it until last year. My daughter is the one who introduced me to it.

To Write Love On Her Arms is very dear to her heart. I think most people would be surprised how many girls her age deal with the issue of self-mutilation and/or suicide. If this is something that you have been affected by, in one way or another, check out this website that tells the story behind TWLOHA:

In order to spark conversation and discussion on this issue, many girls (and boys) at my daughter's school decorate their bodies in different ways. My daughter used pens and markers to draw on her arms. I was going to just describe what they looked like, but I decided to let her artwork speak for itself.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thanks Again, Kanye!

The worst thing about Bush's comment is that I just know that Kanye is going to cut up even more now. Y'all thought he was a wee bit conceited before? No. Just wait until he hears that the President of the United States thinks he out-ranks Hurricane Katrina, Osamma bin Ladin, 9/11, The failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in terms of significance.