First I need to preface this by saying if you are Gujarati or Wolof and find error with what I post I am more than open to changing it, just send a message. I’d love some input.
I’m heavily mixed-race. You cannot tell by looking at me but that’s another discussion for another time. Usually, I avoid disclosing my BQ because it is irrelevant to the topic at hand but in this case it is necessary to do so indirectly. Below is an abbreviated family tree that shows both birthplace and ethnicity of my non-mixed grandparents and great-grandparents (i.e. It shows direct descent and no aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.)
In short, the most prominent backgrounds I have documented blood relation to are (in descending order) Cherokee, Kalderaš Řomani, Scottish, Gujarati, Wolof, and German.
I was raised in a trilingual household with heavy influence from both my paternal and maternal grandmothers. Because of this I was raised trilingual in English, Cherokee, and Kalderaši řomanes and deeply imbedded in both cultures.
The only things I have from being Wolof and Gujarati are a few recipes, heirlooms and a few customs but none of them are prominent enough for me to identify as Gujarati or Wolof in good faith.
I am Cherokee, and I am Řomani. I’m mixed-race and very white-passing.
To go running around in the kurta my grandfather wore to his wedding (one of the heirlooms) while covered in henna for a photo shoot to make me seem ~exotic~ or to make a painting and market it as “Authentic Wolof Art” just because I have Gujarati and Wolof ancestry would be inappropriate and unacceptable. I was not raised in those cultures, I have no idea what it’s like to grow-up as a member of either group. If I were to pull this distant blood-line out of my ass as a cheap defence if I paraded around making an absolute mockery of myself and the cultures I claim to be proud of, it’d be an insult to members of the cultures, myself, and my family.
So when you think about saying “Don’t fucking tell me what to do, I’m part native american” think about those of us who grew up raised in the cultures, maybe think about stating your tribe of ancestry, and don’t say “I’m part Native American” maybe say something along the lines of “I’m descended from [Tribe] and admittedly know nothing of the culture. I’d like to reconnect and I’m sorry my attempt was uninformed” or SOMETHING that isn’t confrontational and reeking of entitlement because let me tell you, a lot of us will help you reconnect to your culture if you are humble and respectful about it.
“In the American context, in which racial and economic boundaries (past and present) govern mechanisms of cultural exchange, appropriation has been largely one-sided and has been synonymous with exploitation.”
What happens when a gringa throws on a bandana, baggy pants, heavy eyeliner, a tank top, huge ass hoop earrings, and thick lip liner? Well, a hot mess—IF you’re Sandra Bullock, that is. Over the past few years, the mainstream has seen white girls adopting the chola get-up, whether it be cosmetic influence to sporting a thugged out ensemble, from Fergie to Gwen Stefani. Two little words describe this phenomenon: cultural appropriation—a term that many women of color are the victims of.
I’ll need a moment: Sandra Bullock’s chola makeover on the George Lopez show.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the lingo, a chola is roughly defined as the following (courtesy of Urban dictionary):
A chola is a firme hyna (latina) that wears a lot of makeup: thick eyeliner, liquid eyeliner on top going out of your eye dark brown or red lipstick and eyebrows drawn on or really thin. We mostly have permed hair with hella gel or straight and arched on top. We kick it with people in our own barrio and not really claiming a color mainly your raza. (Brown Pride) or (Barrio)and wear baggy or tight cloths with nike cortez shoes.
Stevie Ryan is the home girl Lil Loca.
It’s no secret that in mainstream Anglo America, people of color usually don’t get praised for our creativity until someone white does it first. From Elvis and the Beatles stealing songs from Black artists, anime jacked from Japan, hip hop abducted from ghetto street corners to corporate offices, and feather hairpieces from Native American traditions, America has perfected the art of cultural drive bys. Too often, it’s the impersonator who will receive the credit, not the originator. White people who adopt the ways of Latinos, Blacks, Asians, or Native Americans might be considered edgy, cool, and innovative, however, it does little to help progress cultural acceptance for minorities.
Selena Gomez goes gangsta for MTV.
Exhibit A: YouTube sensation Stevie Ryan has now made it to the silver screen, but before that, she was most known for her alter ego, Lil’ Loca, a thugged out Chicana chola, engaging in humorous misadventures with the vatos from around the way. Ryan has received kudos for her short skits but also has come under fiery criticism from Latino/a artists and writers for fakin’ the funk. The reality is that at the end of the day, Stevie can take off the lip liner because being a chola isn’t a way of life for her—but for some Chicanas, it is.
Honestly, I wanted to like Stevie’s skit, and found myself chuckling at her chola-esque skits. But my chuckling dwindled when it came to my attention that she wasn’t a Latina. Even though Stevie said that she based her character off girls she knew growing up in Cali, watching it would still make me uncomfortable in the presence of someone who was Latino/a. While her character is funny, she is also apolitical, and fails to capture the essence of brown pride and survivor logic of cholas around the way. Ryan may have the best intentions, but what about the audience? What is the fine line when impersonating a woman of color—the fine line that tread into mockery?
While Ryan clowns it up as Loca, real life cholas get criticized by other members of their own community for giving into stereotypes. Latina women who live the chola life are stereotyped as less intelligent, uncouth, dangerous, and less welcomed into mainstream gringo culture because they don’t fit the ideal image of white womanhood. Their feminine identity is therefore a threat. Kiyan Williams notes,
“The different ways in which certain bodies are valued based on race, gender, and location belies the presently operating de facto racial and gender codes in a supposedly post-racial country. I am reminded of this reality daily on the campus of Stanford University where many white male students can be seen donning sagged jeans, fitted hats, and basketball sneakers, reflecting a cool and edgy but safe heterosexuality. Less than five minutes away in East Palo Alto, or further away in Oakland, the same clothes on Black and Brown men signify a criminal threat that warrants state intervention and, possibly, death.”
There is a danger when a culture is perceived to be a trend or something that can be imitated without substance. For many Mexicanas, the chola identity is associated with deep pride and not simply about being a gangsta bitch. The danger comes with walking a fine line—and cultural appropriation is its name.
So next time gringas think about how it’d be cute to do a chola impersonation based on a YouTube tutorial, they should ask, who does it benefit? How do I fit into cultural appropriation and privilege in taking aspects of another culture?
Indian religions are community-based, not proselytizing, religions. There is not one Indian religion, as many New Ager’s would have you believe. Indian spiritual practices reflect the needs of a particular community. Indians do not generally believe that their way is “the” way, and consequently, they have no desire to tell outsiders about their practices. A medicine woman would be more likely to advise a white woman to look into her own culture and find what is liberating in it.
However, white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that white are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for white “feminists” latching onto Indian spirituality.
When white “feminists” see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming to very close to destroying the earth, they often want to dissociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to “become Indian.” In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.
Of course, white “feminists” want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be part of our struggles for survival against genocide; they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse. They do not want to do anything that would tarnish their romanticized notions of what it means to become an Indian.
Moreover, white women want to become Indian without holding themselves accountable to Indian communities. If they did, they would have to listen to Indians telling them to stop carrying around sacred pipes, stop doing their own sweat lodges, and stop appropriating our spiritual practices. Rather, these New Agers see Indians as romanticized gurus who exist only to meet their consumerist needs. Consequently, they do not understand Indian people or our struggles for survival, and thus they can have no genuine understanding of Indian spiritual practices.
I’d rather those be bullet holes tbqh…
ugly racist hoes on my dash again
Praying that those are actually all stealthy laser pointers for sniper rifles.
Look at all the poorly-adjusted Tumblr shut-ins wishing murder upon a group of 15-year-old girls because “cultural appropriation”.
Look at the white cisfuck douchebro talking when his opinion is still worthless on shit that doesn’t concern him.
How do we even know they’re 15, tho?
This is my problem with Captain Save-A-White-Ho’s who come in defending the “innocent” white girls of Tumblr.
Why do y’all always regulate ignorance and blatant racism with youth. Most of the people called out are GROWN ASS MEN AND WOMEN and you know what happens when you’re grown? You take motherfucking responsibility for your actions; this includes cultural appropriation and blatant caricaturizing of REAL PEOPLE for your own fucking amusement.
I’m going to assume we were all brought up by somewhat decent adults who taught us right from wrong, and I’m going to assume everyone has access to the Internet. I’m going to assume that since you know what cultural appropriation is, then you know it’s wrong, and yet based on this mental block that WHITE WOMEN CAN DO NO WRONG, you defend their ignorance with their assumed youth.
Stop it. Cut it the fuck out. Seriously.
also can we talk about how the concern is always “why are you so mean to the white kids? they’re so YOUNG!!!!” & it’s never “why are these white people doing things that are so damaging to brown kids? They’re so YOUNG!!!!” even though that’s also true & the effects of the latter are deeper & more damaging?
I understand that my perspective on this issue will generally always come from a different perspective than most of the out spoken folks in Indian Country. After all, I did not grow up on a reservation, nor experience the “classic” urban native experience. I am a native woman who was adopted out when I was a baby. Some call people like me “lost birds” and “split feathers.” Folks like me have gone through the modern assimilation process that has taken over what the boarding and residential schools have done to our grand parents and other ancestors.
As we’ve seen in the past few weeks, Indian Country Today has graciously written about the issue of Indian Child Welfare and the fact that even today, despite the passage of ICWA in 1978 that was designed to stop 25% of all native children in the country being adopted out to non-native families, that the problem still persists. This past summer we were reminded of this with NPR’s report of 700 native children in South Dakota being adopted out of their communities in this past year alone. The year of my birth, 1988, ten years after the passage of the act, a study was done which found that during that time the rate which native children were being adopted out had risen to 35% of all native children in some states.
Unlike folks on the reservations whom have access to family and community members and resources if they want to learn and engage about their cultures, and unlike native kids growing up with their families in urban centers like Chicago with their American Indian Center, as native child adopted out to non-native parents, I did not have this access. Regardless of my disconnection to any sort of native community, it did not stop me from having a very strong pull to my roots and a drive to learn about my cultures.
Interestingly enough, as I found when I grew older, this connection and pull, this need that I felt even as a very young child to learn about my cultures and my people and engage in them wasn’t a unique thing that only I experienced. That feeling is felt by many native people who’ve been adopted out. Some call is Split Feather Syndrome, others say that it comes on due to the prayers of those who’ve prayed for those who’ve been adopted out so that they may return to their communities. Whatever it is, it’s real, and happens.
From my experience, sometimes that pull can be a heavy thing to carry. I reached out as a young child and throughout the entire course of my life to learn about my cultures. However when you’re removed, 500+ individual tribes and cultures get reduced down to 3, sometimes 4 tribes: Cherokee, Sioux, Navajo, and Apache. These 4 cultures/tribes get culturally reduced down to the appearance of what I would now call the dominate society’s tacky rendition of plains culture.
Removed, I had little access to legitimate representations of Lakota culture and Choctaw culture. Being ignorant, while fiercely proud of being native, I took every representation of native americans in the media and let them become me. After all, in my mind, costumes like the ones sold in Halloween stores and in the old westerns told me that THIS is what my ancestors dressed like… and if I wanted to be Native, I need to dress that way, talk those ways, act those ways, and dear god, I better also be sure sure my hair was straight, just like those Natives on TV, in the photos, ect. When you’re removed, and there’s no one there to tell you what is legitimate and what is a stereotype, how are you to know? I can tell you that the American public schools definitely will not. Popular media, as we know it right now, will not. Dr. Phil will not.
I am now nearly 24 years old and have been able to reconnect with native communities. I have been told by a native social worker, that it’s impressive that I’ve been able to do so at all, given that many children adopted out never are able to reconnect. I know the toll the native american costumes and the cultural appropriation of native cultures being sold in stores do. I know how the stereotypes that those costumes perpetuate can really screw up someone that’s been removed physiologically and “stunt” their growth. Too many times have I had to attempt to weed through what was real and what was a stereotype in my quest to reconnect as a Lakota and as a Choctaw person. These images do not make it easier.
As Kimberly Roppolo has said in her story Breeds and Outlaws, “You’d think, knowing the stories about the times we’re in, that folks would stop fighting about who’s more Indian. That for things to change, we all got to be resurrected, that this Ghost Dance is one of the living. Besides, if we’re going to “repatriate” artifacts, we ought to “rematriate” people .”
While it can never be reiterated enough that we need to make sure that ICWA is followed and interpreted by the Supreme Court and social welfare agencies the way it was intended to be interpreted, it should also be said that as native people, we should make sure that the way we are portrayed in the dominate media is correct. Negative representations of natives in the dominate culture have negative effects on native youth. Thus, stereotypes in the media have a negative effects on the future of native people. It is imperative that we continue to fight the stereotypes and educate people about this issue.
Don’t worry. It’s not what you think it is. I actually want to talk about how these things affect you. Yeah you! Well, not all of you…but my white followers. Because it does affect you. (Hey, imagine that. Your actions affect you!) [Not in the same ways it affects origin cultures. I mean, it doesn’t endanger your well-being and the survival of your living culture. But still…]
Some of you have mentioned to me before that you don’t mean any disrespect to other cultures by adopting their practices, that you’re actually trying to honor/connect with the culture. Hehe.
But really. I can’t count, on both my hands, the number of times that cultural appropriation and the affects of the mass information spread through the internet and in Pagan/Wiccan books has actually ruined someone’s chances of a cultural exchange with me, someone in my family, or someone in my community.
Do you know how often New Agers come rollin’ into powwows talking about totems and smudging? You don’t have to guess, because I’ll just tell you. A lot. It happens a lot. And it’s sad, because those people might actually want to learn about our culture, but the fact that they have these preconceived ideas about our practices and think that they already know what the fuck is going on means that that’s probably not going to happen.
Let’s face it, if someone thinks the world is flat, I’m not going to try to teach them geography. ‘Cause it ain’t gonna do them or me any damn good.
If you really want to learn about a culture, you’re going to have a better chance of it without buying into this mass misinformation thing that’s going on. It’s hard to find good information when every Pagan/Wiccan tumblr you stumble onto wants to teach you how to smudge, make dreamcatchers, and find your totem.
I know it feels like these posts and books are the best way to learn, because the information is readily available and you don’t have to snuggle up to and earn the trust of a culture to read them. But, in truth, posts and books like that are only making it harder for people who genuinely want to learn to keep a mind open enough to be taught by people who can actually teach them.
*Tagged where it needs to be seen.
So, as most of you know, we’re now in the Halloween season. That lovely time of year which folks of all kinds can go to their local halloween costume store of choice and buy themselves their very own cultural stereotype in a bag… often made with poor stitching and flimsy fabric.
While a lot of folks have already begun complaining about said practice, I say that we also engage in another tactic.
We have already seen big name companies back down and stop selling culturally appropriate and culturally insensitive clothing and items when the public generates a campaign to get them remove them. Right now we have access to tons and tons of Halloween stores throughout the United States and Canada. In those stores, not only are there the terrible costumes of stereotypes of Native Americans, Hispanics, East Indian women, and orientalist asian costumes, there are also the names of the companies whom make them on the packaging itself.
It’s time that we collect those company names and start a campaign to get them to stop making and selling those costumes. We could also target the halloween franchises themselves to also stop selling and distributing the costumes.
While it won’t end the selling of the costumes for this halloween season, it could be a move that could end it for halloween seasons to come.
We all know its origins, and we all probably want to do it, have done it, or like to watch it.
However, can we just discuss that damn near all the people in America “teaching” belly dance classes and doing performances are white women?
They’re plain old white women who can belly dance, but what’s problematic and a trend is the bastardizing of the whole culture surrounding belly dancing, taking “exotic” sounding names to make their classes more appealing/edgy/ethnic-ish, and then performing at hookah bars or other “Middle Eastern-feeling” venues.
It’s always bothered me, especially when I hear the word “tribal” and “belly dance” used in the same sentence.
Can we discuss this problem? Because it’s a problem.
Hi, I was the only Natvie America at my Dad’s 50th surprise western theme party. Lol c:
Maybe the rest of your family isn’t as racist/clueless as you.
Dressing up in redface is hurtful. Wearing ‘war paint’ is hurtful. Dressing up as another race by wearing terribly stereotypical caricatures of what you think that race looks like is not appropriate. When you dress up like this and take photos like this it adds one more images to the ponderous pile of this shit that creates the pervasive cultural notion that this is what people should think of when they hear ‘Native American’ , and IT HURTS REAL NATIVE AMERICAN PEOPLE. It creates, in the minds of the people that see you dressed like that, a stereotype - a caricature of what Native people do/should look like that erases us in reality and removes us from their perception of the modern world. It turns ‘Native American’ into someone wearing beads and headbands and feathers and face paint. It turns an ethnic, racial identity into a costume.
It is racism.
When you only speak about Native American people in the past tense, in certain contexts. When you only mention us as pertains to White history. When you depict us in stereotypical ways. That is how racist thought is cemented in your mind and the minds of others.
I am tired of cultural appropriation.
I am tired of having to constantly be an educator of people who largely don’t want to be educated who get self-righteously angry (And refuse to learn. And continue to be angry) when they’re confronted. I am tired of being -hurt- by racism. I am tired of people who claim that they love and admire ‘Native American Culture’ but in fact know fuck all about Pan-Indian culture or the fact that ‘Native American’ is a blanket term for hundreds of hugely disparate indigenous nations across two continents and that we do NOT have just one culture.
And before you argue that folks who dress this way don’t MEAN to be racist or that they’re just having fun, before your many white allies rally around to tell me how wrong I am and what a good person you are and how you are not a racist…know this:
Racism is not in your intent.
Your intent is immaterial in how racist your actions are.
This isn’t about you BEING a racist. It’s about you DOING A THING that is racist.
Your intent doesn’t change it. Your ignorance of its meaning doesn’t change it. It’s got nothing to do with you as a person and everything to do with the meaning of your action in the context of sociocultural history.
If you think that dressing up as a stereotype is somehow ‘celebrating’ anyone’s culture, that speaks to some really problematic shit in how you’ve been educated, what you’ve been exposed to, what you think you know about what Native Americans are and what we look like. And while it’s not your fault that the culture of your upbringing has handed you that shit on a silver platter and said ‘eat it’, and not your fault that you did eat it without knowing better, it’s still bullshit and it’s still hurtful. You have the Internet at your disposal. You can become educated as to what Native Americans really are like and what we really are about and why not only is that outfit that you put on not remotely like anything legitimately Native American - but that you CAN’T make a costume that’s legitimately Native American. Because we don’t all look alike. Because we’re people.
Let’s go back in time. Let’s go back to my kindergarten class where kids are doing that stupid hand-over-mouth ‘woo woo’ war cry shit at me. Let’s go back to elementary school, watching Peter Pan at the end of the year and getting reprimanded when I walk out of the room to sit in the hall during the ‘What makes the red man red’ song because I can’t fucking explain to the teacher why it makes me want to cry. Let’s go back to my girlscout troop, where one of the leaders is quoting that movie and saying ‘SQUAW GETTUM FIREWOOD!’ and getting huffy and offended when called out on it by my mother. Let’s go back to my middle school chorus that’s singing Colors of the Wind and listen to all the resultant comments from my classmates AND TEACHERS. Let’s go back to when I was fourteen years old and a car full of college-aged white guys drove by shouting ‘FUCK YEAH, POCAHOTNESS’ and making sexual gestures at me. Let’s go back to last year, when a coworker asked me why I was asking for a personal day and checked ‘Religious Observance’ when she knows I’m not a Christian- I told her it was for a powwow, and she wanted to come. I told her it wasn’t open to the public and she said ‘Then why even have one.’
Then why even have one?
THEN WHY EVEN HAVE ONE?
Let’s talk about the fact that NDN women are 3.5 times more likely to be raped. And that we are raped by a non-Native man in 86% of cases. 70% of the time, our rapist is white.
When people dress like this, they perpetuate stereotypes about native people, AND THEY UPHOLD AND COSIGN ALL THAT SHIT.