I guess this should be considered “Dear Defensive White People: Part 2” since this will cover the same ground as “Dear Defensive White People.” Only this time I want to focus specifically on white people’s reactions to anything related to Indigenous peoples and the issues that are specific to Indigenous people. There are many arguments that inadvertently defend the white-male dominant culture from being rightfully criticized by the oppressed and with many recent incidents of racism in Canada currently in the news, I think some of these arguments should be addressed.
These people are just looking for something to complain about!
Well, they don’t have to LOOK for it, do they? It appears before them without any effort on their part; violence doesn’t even need to be committed against them. All racists need is validation that what they do to people of color and Indigenous people will be excused and that there are people who will defend his “freedom of speech.” The main problem with this argument is that the arguer is assuming that Indigenous people are emotionally hypersensitive ninnys that need to “get over it.”
My question is, how do you get over something that continues to happen to you and your loved ones a daily basis? How does a group of people that have faced serious trauma for five hundred years or more “get over it” when that trauma is passed down to their children? The arguer (the one who has never experienced this trauma and does not know anyone who does or is) is also insinuating that Indigenous people have some sort of obsession with being the victim of racism all the time; that they enjoy the attention that they get for being victims. This is completely false, no victim of abuse or trauma will purposefully seek attention just for the sake of getting attention. What Indigenous people are doing is bringing attention to the many facets of society that are connected to the generational trauma that they still experience, and white people dressing up in what is “commonly” associated with Indigenous people (feathers in head-bands, white people wearing war-bonnets) is one of the many things that are connected to that trauma. To demand that they simply “get over it” is erasing how deep the impact of colonialism is and how young people (both white and Indigenous) easily adopt these concepts of domination without an adult telling them that’s it’s wrong.
It’s no big deal! There are bigger things to worry about then what a bunch of cheer-leaders are wearing!
I hate to break it to you (not really) but it is a big deal. It’s a big deal because what those cheer-leaders (and other young people) are wearing is what white people think when they hear the word “Indian.” Never mind that Indians are actually from India and that this is an incorrect term. Those feathers, short “animal skin” skirts, and war bonnets? Those things are what white people think the average Indigenous person wears daily; those images are connected to the narrative of the “noble savage.”
You might have heard of that term, it’s the Indigenous version of the “Magical Negro” in which a person associated with a certain group is denigrated into a cardboard cut-out of what white people perceive to be an Indigenous person. He has no voice of his own, he is a white person’s puppet, a ventriloquist doll if you will. You only have to see films like The Lone Ranger and see some of the criticism of the film to realize that everything that we do has an impact on people. There are big things to worry about and this one of them, if a group of college women can’t even stop to think about how harmful these type of actions are to Indigenous people then not only have we failed as a country but our education is system is a BIG failure. Our education system doesn’t even begin to address the trauma of the genocide against Indigenous people and why it still continues. It still continues because white people as class cannot for the life of them stop for a few seconds and a gain of a bit of empathy for the people who deal with the blunt of our colonialist system.
We can’t have fun anymore without offending somebody!
No one has said that you cannot have any fun. No one said that you are not allowed to play silly games. There is a difference between having fun and being a total asshole to people who have been excluded from even being considered human for generations. Weren’t you ever taught to be nice to others and that includes taking their complaints into account?
Of course, white people are taught that they are the only group of people that matter, that those scary brown people are not human. Don’t trust them! They are thieves, they will hear from their parents and society. The mainstream media just adds shit to the already large pile of shit with their false images of Indigenous people and the history classes which sugar-coat the blood-soaked horror that various Indigenous tribes have suffered. Multiple nations have been wiped out because the British wanted the land that they had at any cost, pox-infected blankets and various tactics have resulted in the death of various Indigenous people. Do you think it would be “fun” to be constantly reminded of how the dominant group views you? Go ahead and have fun but remember that there are other people and not just your group.
You are judging me by my skin color! I am not responsible for what happened in the past!
Oh, so now you know how it feels to be Indigenous in Canada, yes? You have lost members of your family through racist violence? Have authority figures and government disregarded you and your family and said that you don’t matter because of your skin color? Have you had other people say to you because of your skin color that you are not human? Has any of this happened to you? If your answer is no to all of them then I suggest you actually seek to understand what racism is.
Racism is more then just hurt feelings, it is direct and indirect violence. It is being paid less then your white co-workers. It is being trapped in poverty with no long-term solution being offered by the government. It is police officers beating you up and yelling slurs at you. It is being denied opportunities because of your skin color. It is your female relatives being raped and the court immediately dismissing your case because of various and offensive reasons. Racism is what white people do to make life harder for people of color and Indigenous people and then get upset when Indigenous people and people of color tell them to stop. You are not responsible for what happened in the past but you ARE responsible for the unearned privilege you have because of your skin color. You are responsible for addressing the wrongs that are currently happening to Indigenous people and your reaction to that injustice. You are responsible for what you will do after addressing the wrongs. You are responsible for your own education in regards to issues that affect Indigenous people.
There are many thing that need to be done to address and ultimately eradicate the racism and colonialism that still continues in Canada in the year 2014. The arguments for the degradation of non-white people are the most accepted and “accurate” arguments in this society; that needs to be stopped. If people want to help with the liberation of Indigenous people, they need to stand behind them and to tell other white people to stop contributing to the oppression.