I don’t know how I feel about all of the language in here, but it is important to read and think about.
I think it is a classic pseudo intellectual rant…
Can you explain why you feel that way?
I love it. The language to me seems blunt, clear, and no-nonsense. I’m excited to see indigenous folks speaking clearly to allies about the relationships they want.
It falls dangerously close to a Tumblr-level persecution complex. They raise real points, but branch out into so many unrelated (and even hypocritical) areas, that it reads more like a rant about everything the author doesn’t like.
For example, it clearly exalts indigenous populations (usually a good thing, IMO), however, you can bet ancient native american societies didn’t use terms like “POC” that label all non-whites as a formless single mass. Additionally they use the word “problematic” to reference the things they disagree with, which is a widespread “politically correct” way to criticize something without using scary words that might “trigger” someone’s emotions. It’s a purely modern method of shielding oneself from reality and protecting the privileged from anything which bothers them. It’s used primarily by the middle and upper class in first world industrialized societies to conflate their petty problems with real problems, thereby giving their petty problems a sense of legitimacy.
The author appears to be a person with modern PC upper class values, who’s merely attempting to use their heritage to support their current beliefs. They appear unable to distinguish between which points the founders of their culture would agree with, and which ones just ironically make them similar to colonizers.
Honestly, I’m glad this article is making us uncomfortable. I hope folks, especially indigenous folks and other folks without white privilege, keep writing stuff that makes us uncomfortable.
I feel if nothing else, our job as carriers of white privilege is to listen to anybody without that same privilege, and do so without agreeing, disagreeing, or perhaps even responding at all except to share with other folks that someone wants to tell their own story of what is going on.
OneEarth2 did it for me… in their first post…
Willem, you’re assuming quite a lot, and it almost sounds like you’re taking everything in that article at face value. Several parts of it are ahem problematic.
For one thing, the person in the video preaching about this is, herself, a colonist. Born in the Persian Gulf, she moved to the United States later in life. In other words, she deliberately colonized Native American land, unlike the people who were born here, who merely accidentally colonized it. I tend not to listen to hypocrites who deliberately do exactly what they’re telling other people not to do, especially when the people using them as sources ask for money at the end of their articles.
Second, this quote. “You are not here to engage in any type of cultural, spiritual or religious needs you think you might have…”
Clearly, the point of being an ally is not to fulfill the spiritual needs of the ally. The point is to get stuff done. The article is correct on that first point. The part I take issue with is in bold. The wording of sentence heavily implies that non-indigenous or white people simply do not have cultural or spiritual needs. That’s very typical for the sort of people who write those articles. They label anything white as “mayo” and refuse to believe it could ever be linked to a culture of its own. If we’re ever going to stop conquering and destroying people, as a species, then we need to acknowledge the autonomous original cultures of every race and group, not just the cultures of the people who have the most melanin.
In my distant family history, my ancestors were conquered by the Romans and assimilated. Was it not for the Roman Empire, I might actually have an intact indigenous culture, but that was taken. That does not mean I go around telling brown people that they have to leave Europe, and it certainly does not mean that I tell the residents of the Mediterranean to “check their privilege” when they debate with me.
If the authors of these articles took ownership of their heritage and lifestyles, I’d be more inclined to agree with them. For example, if the people writing these articles online were indigenous native americans, raised within their ancestral culture in as close to an ancient lifestyle as is practical, their words would have meaning, because they would be speaking from the same perspective that they claim to represent. However, they often end up being a group of privileged upper-class people complaining about other people’s supposed privilege, in a circle-jerk of unprecedented hilarity. It’s impossible to know exactly how many of the articles like this are legitimate, but it’s a certainty that some of them are the sort of nonsense I’ve described, and it’s the nonsense bits I’m picking on right now.
Why am I simply focusing on the nonsense bits and ignoring the good parts?
Simple answer: Because I go into a dark mood when someone implies that I can’t possibly have cultural or spiritual needs. Especially when the person making that accusation is doing absolutely nothing to reclaim their own heritage, but instead is making a killing on book deals and TV appearances, which (not coincidentally) is part of the lifestyle killing even more indigenous cultures around the world.
I find that people who are really struggling often tend to say things in extreme terms.
Though certainly I follow the rule of “Tell your story (rather than someone else’s)”, and an argument can be made (as you just did) for the writer having overstepped theirs and begun telling ours, if I feel that by listening generously I can make a better conversation I then choose to do so.
I am indeed taking their story at face value. And, I’m fully aware that I don’t need anyone’s permission to have or fulfill my spiritual, cultural, or religious needs. But I am interested in why they might say this, because I might have the opportunity to learn something.
When somebody hasn’t been heard, it means that we haven’t heard them, and by definition there are things to learn from them (which you noted).
I’ve noticed that there is usually quite a bit of anger and frustration woven in to the storytelling by oppressed folks who haven’t benefitted from the shield of white privilege. I think this is usually honestly acquired and reasonably part of the overall message, though it can be fairly withering and difficult for me to keep my compassion and patience while listening to it.
I believe white people irrationally tend to think that comfort is a right (it isn’t, it is a privilege to feel comfortable) - which is why I champion a willingness to feel a little uncomfortable when others tell their story as best they can.
I’ve been thinking a lot about “call out” culture, rewilding, allyship and so on. And I think I’ve come to a conclusion.
At any time, for the health of my own injured soul as a white man and de facto foot soldier of empire, I welcome being called out by people of color, indigenous folks, women, queer and trans folks of all genders, and so on, for injury I do to them through the thoughtless wielding of my own privilege.
There are no qualifications that I put on this; I do not require politeness, gentility, “rational” thought, or any of the absurd constraints an abuser puts on the abused so that they do not have to listen in any but the most extraordinary conditions. This calling out is usually insanely uncomfortable for me but an absolute necessity for healing.
However, when folks who have the same privilege as me call me out for how I wield that privilege (for example, a white person calling out my abuse of my own white privilege), I do expect courtesy and patience while I sort things out.
In the first situation above, conversations are being held from a terrible and pernicious power imbalance, and so it does us both harm for me to set special conditions.
In the second situation, conversations are being held from an equal power balance, and so any judgement and condemnation coming from either side is straight up abuse.
This is why white people like me have to be patient with our families, our colleagues, our neighbors, patient but persistent, compassionate but consistent, loving but never laying down. Why we can demand conscience but not condemn the lack of it - because at one time I too lacked that conscience or insight and it was the love of teachers and friends that helped me.
This is also why as an ally I can march behind, but never in front. This is why I can hand the microphone but not speak into it unless requested. Because the privilege I wield and who I am talking to is what I am saying, regardless of my words or eloquence.
Some folks of shared privilege like tough love to wake them up, and don’t require courtesy -and that’s fine - but I think this is a good place to start until you know better. Who is speaking to me? What is the power dynamic? What conditions of courtesy are sane to set for this conversation?
I think this is at the core of when “call out” culture works, and when it fails. Whether my privilege is whiteness, or maleness, or cis-ness, or whatever, when oppressed voices speak they have their own conditions, and when it comes time for me to speak, I must speak from my own context and not cloak myself in someone else’s oppressed anger and righteousness.