Okay by now ya’ll have probably heard a variation of these following comments/arguments on any kind of topic that focuses on Indigenous issues.
“I’m sick of this. We all have equal opportunity and we need to learn to move forward together AS equals. We can’t do that while everyone is focused on differences and stuck in the past. It’s 2016…”
“Why only women?? Why is there no focus on Native men? I’d be on board if it talked about that too but not when it only focuses on Native women.”
And the infamous…
“All lives matter”
What trips ME out is when it’s Native men and Native women making these types of comments. I can’t say that I fully understand it but I can theorize about where these comments arise from.
Theory A: For me, I hated being native growing up because what I seen in my immediate life were people suffering from addictions and other issues. I did not understand where this pain came from and wanted to distance it from myself as much as I could. I didn’t want to be Native and didn’t want to be associated with those things (funny enough I became an alcoholic myself due to my shit ton of unresolved trauma). Why though? Because being Native you already are aware of your “otherness” and out of a need to no longer be associated with any more negative stereotypes that come from “othering” you disassociate from “your people” and their struggles.
Funny thing is, identifying less and getting a dose of “ackrite” doesn’t make you white. My theory here is that some of these individuals have some unresolved internalized racism that keeps their head in the clouds and disconnected from the collective struggle of the people whom ARE collectively oppressed. Kinda like if you said Native Women’s Lives Matter it would make you “guilty by association” a.k.a. guilty of being brown by being brown and identifying with brown issues.
(*I placed “your people” within quotation marks because I know the experience of people arises from multiple contexts. For some this may have been altered by adoption or forced via 60s scoop, residential schools etc… we as Indigenous people’s may not have been born with the experience of “our people” and that is due to colonization and aggressive assimilation, but we can do what we can to connect with our people because I promise you that there is also strength in the heart of the people. How can I be so sure? Because we’ve survived this shit. That’s how)
Theory B: Some people really don’t give a fuck. How you going to comment on issues when you haven’t had a critical thought in your whole gawt damned life? How? If you don’t think about the world that you exist in and examine the power structures in play and how these systems affect Indigenous lives YOU ARE OPERATING ON THE BELIEF SYSTEMS THAT HAVE BEEN CONSTRUCTED FOR YOU BY A SOCIETY THAT HAS HISTORICALLY OPPRESSED AND ATTEMPTED TO ERADICATE YOUR PEOPLE.
It may sound like I’m trying to point a finger here but I’m not, maybe a little, but not really. The education structures from K-12 are not built for you to question, they are built for people to regurgitate information back and receive gold stars for adhering to systems and rules. Thus, we weren’t raised up to critically analyze the structures, systems, and laws that rule over our lives. We were raised up to serve the structure and help it run smoothly and accept our roles within societies as worker bees but that is another conversation for another time. The ability to critically analyze is built up like a muscle. So start asking questions and comprehend things before you start throwing your people’s struggle under the bus.
Back to Invisible Racism & Disappearing Patriarchy
When it comes to the “all lives matter”- “we all got equal opportunity”- “white privilege doesn’t exist” –“let’s move forward as humans” arguments, I just want to say that I want to believe it. I can repeat them to myself as if they are mantras or incantations, attempting to summon them for the future generations, for the young one’s growing up right now, but it will not undo the stark realities in which we exist. Shit, I even hate using to word “race” because “race” is a social construct and not real BUT until we get get rid of racism and prejudice built on made up “racial differences” then I can’t stop using the word and I refuse to essentially, until it is done by and on “our” terms.
“Oh shit, there they go again with that pity party. Like THEIR whole lives are struggle…” …. Bi*** please.
Nobody likes living with the struggles that come with being Indigenous, especially if there is a legacy of trauma and dispossession that comes with it. Everybody wants to be an Indian and experience the privileges (yes honey there are privileges too) of our culture, spirituality, and strength but no one wants to be an Indian when its really time to be an Indian (rolling your sleeves up and doing the necessary healing and revolutionary work for the collective and dealing with the oppression that comes with it). Cough, Boyden, Cough….. We LIVE that reality and see these “theories” of privilege, power, and oppression play out in our real lives whether we have learned to call a spade a spade or not. Even those that have “made it to the other side” will often continue to advocate for change because they full well know the existence of racist authorities, of stereotyping leading to sexual violence, and of outright prejudice when dealing with everyday structures (banks, landlords, store owners, restaurant patrons etc.).
If I could go on with my life and NOT have to talk about this stuff I would be good and happy. Lord lead me to Utopia where people truly do not see in colour and people aren’t oppressed and I’ll write about happy shit and maybe pop off on some science fiction fantasy writing. We do this work out of necessity and our voices are the indicator that change needs to happen.
We understand how legacies of colonial violence that have been predicated on racism and sexism have influenced the present day issues contributing to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women epidemic. Yes, I know and we know that our brothers have been suffering too and YES they need to have the issues that affect them and us as a collective resolved. Focusing on an issue that Indigenous women uniquely experience is meant to highlight an issue that otherwise wouldn’t be (and still struggles to be) understood for what it is without a specific lens. It has nothing to do with downplaying the pain or space our brothers or white women arise from, but it has ALL to do with bringing to light and dismantling the spaces and things that perpetuate these specific oppressions.
The comment about “once Indigenous men are included then I’d be on board with this issue”… really irritated me. As if we haven’t been living in a society that was molded by the power of patriarchy alongside racism. Although we do have pretty slogans as Indigenous people like “Women are Sacred” or “Women are the hearts of our Nations”, these are not always being followed or enacted. Women are not always being treated as sacred. Women are not always valued. Hell, I’m only 29 and I can still feel the sting of the Native Indian Brotherhood collectively fighting against Indigenous women affected by Bill C31 getting their status back. Present day we have men in leadership positions that commit sexist acts and make comments aimed at “putting women in their place” that are allowed to continue unchecked because they “do the work of the people”. So yes honey, we are definitely going to have to raise issues separately because this is real and UNLESS we get really fucking real about the presence of this within our own communities and organizations then we ain’t never going to get anywhere. So yes.. Our Women. Indigenous Women’s Issues. Native Women’s lives matter. MMIW. Violence Against Indigenous Lands and Indigenous Women. That comment came from someone who watched this video:
I’m not a separatist or some folklore bra burning feminist. I’m a god damned realist.
Anyways going back to invisible racism, this fellow named Pellow (see what I did there) is a professor at a University in the U.S. and he has done a lot of work surrounding studying Environmental Racism and how it manifests/persists/etc. He and a group of other academics wrote the following in a paper:
“Even though overtly racist attitudes and actions may be a thing of the past in public policy circles, current decisions that may seem racially neutral on their face may nevertheless have discriminatory outcomes, because of past discriminatory actions” (Mohai, Pellow & Roberts – 2009).
There is so much in these few sentences that speaks to where we are as a society today. Nobody out there in power is outright saying “screw all these Indians and their rights” publicly, some may actually think it, and some may be against discrimination entirely but the systems that govern are built on a foundation that exists because of racist and sexist legislation and notions. The tree ain’t a new tree if it’s roots are still located in the dirt that helped it grow.
The refusal to acknowledge the present day racism and oppression is the denial that allows for it to perpetuate and continue. If you can’t see something or name it then you can’t change it and who benefits from that? People at the top with the most privileges and power and the people at the bottom continue to suffer from the blindness of a society who does not want to roll up their sleeves and get real. I’m sorry but I’m not sorry for calling a spade a spade, because I know people who live with the ramifications of the continued colonial project and exploitation of our lands and women and/or racist systemic actions… I think the time is over when the oppressed need to apologize for the discomfort of those whom benefit from colonial legacies in neo-colonial times.
When it comes to the” all lives matter” cry well I pose these questions, if “racism” and “privilege” cease to be issues and stop being acknowledged within larger society, has it really stopped existing because some girl on twitter decided it has? Or has it just shapeshifted and become more subtle, more acceptable, but all the while remaining palpable in the lives of the silently oppressed? Does the invisibility of racism and privilege then become a matter of convenience for white folk? Is the new battlefield now one where we have to prove that racism and inequality DOES exist by measures and methods valid to white society that needs quantitative measures of everything? (rhetorical question on that last one haha its a YES)
The current system is what you know and it offers comfortable familiarity. Change is scary. Action and change on matters such as these also includes being hated, being disliked, lashed out against because other people fear what poses threats to what they know and hold dear. However if we do not face these items head on because they are “uncomfortable” then we leave them for our children to inherit and I don’t know about you but I’ve been taught that I should leave the world a better place than when I came into it.
Your choice bitches….
Sorry for the bitches comment. I can’t help myself. I cuss too much and it’s my blog so…