Assimilation and Cultural Appropriation:
Who is the real Indian?
Posted by gennabear on October 14, 2014 in Uncategorized.
This is amazing Genna! This on a poster would really get people thinking like “Heap of Birds” artwork we talked about earlier this semester!
I love how this make the viewer really question their automatic assumptions about what they’re seeing.
Great job! It’s truly tragic how people steal another groups humanity and turn into it casual fashion.
Thanks for your comment! Yes, it may be tragic, but I don’t think it is enough to just say that. We have to do something about it. I don’t know what you do in your life so I could be preaching to the choir, but I’ll write it anyways.
I am a part of a dominant culture that appropriates other cultures on a far too regular basis, and because of that – and my previous lack of knowledge of cultural appropriation – I have definitely been culturally appropriative in many things that I do or wear. It is something that I am now actively trying to recognize in my life and understand and then with that understanding correct. I don’t think it is something we should just feel sad or guilty about. We must now be activated to talk about it and help other people to recognize cultural appropriation and assimilation in their own lives. So yes, it is tragic, and I love that you are thinking about it, and I challenge you, myself, and our communities to question ourselves and to recognize both cultural appropriation and other forms of oppression in your own lives.
Gennabear, I’m black. I’ve seen first hand the appropriation of my culture and history and how it has been twisted to fit the narrative of the dominate culture and then completely rewritten to remove us from its creation and progress. It’s more than tragic, it’s obscene. We have been written out of history, stereotyped into caricature, devalued and a host of other things too numerous to mention. However, we have also moved from being imported as slaves to establishing the blueprint for achieving civil rights through collective determination and individual success in only 150 years: the most powerful person in the world is a black man from America. Even though most of this progress has been through action, it has been quiet, individual acts that go unnoticed except for the person’s life it changed. Not every act has to be a statement. I especially like your comment “my previous lack of knowledge of cultural appropriation,” because it signifies that you were made aware of your behavior by witnessing something that forced you to challenge yourself. I applaud you for taking that challenge, but I also applaud those individuals whose acts of dignity opened for you an avenue of insight.
I remember when I was in class when Obama was first elected and this young, white kid asked me: “Now that Barack Obama is President, do you, as an African-American feel pride in being American?” WTF?? I wrote something that night. If you want to read it, I’ve put it at the end of this comment. Anyway, ignorance should be responded to with information, unfortunately it is always incumbent on the person who experienced the ignorance to have to inform, but it presents a great opportunity to educate someone. And it seems to me that you are doing a great job of replacing people’s ignorance with knowledge.
Here it is:
The other day in class I was asked what seemed to be a simple question: “Now that Barack Obama is President, do you, as an African-American feel pride in being American?” My answer, not being as well thought out as I would have liked, sufficed for the moment. However, it wasn’t until I stepped away and had a chance to postmortem the question that I realized how complicated it truly was, perhaps, much more complex than it was intended it to be, and how insufficient my answer was in response. How do you answer such a question?
Firstly, it assumed that as a black person one never had pride in being an American, even when every trick in the bag of hatred, discrimination and terror: slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, Separate but Equal, ad infinitum, was used to force them into a life of desperation. However, at no such time was there a mass migration of millions of blacks on buses and trains and ships and asses to other countries or continents as many wished or prayed would happen. Instead, we held tenaciously to the guarantees of our Constitution and Bill of Rights because it was all we had. We prayed that its fabric would not tear under the weight of its own convictions, but would instead hold us securely in its embrace. As it did. Yes, it took time: unfortunately, a foundation does not dry and become such over night if it is to withstand the weight of its convictions. Nevertheless, it did and we held its embrace back.
Secondly, it assumed that black people hated their country as they sacrificed, fought and died on the killing fields of the American Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and the many other conflicts in which large numbers volunteered, serving mostly in segregated units deprived of the needed essentials, as they fought for a freedom for others that they were not receiving at home and the vast majority would never see in their lifetime: A humiliation served in the face with a promise of procrastination that “now isn’t the time for you.” Still, we served proudly wearing the uniform of the United States of America and helped bring her great victory. We then carried that campaign forward that her guiding principle, so eloquently stated in the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (people) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, would not be bastardized and destroyed by the those same despicable individuals that screamed with raised pitchforks that we hated our country. We strengthened those words with every challenge to their greatness, then held them out for all the world to witness their magnificence.
Thirdly, it implied that all white Americans held firmly to the belief that blacks and other non-white Americans do not feel for their country the way they, as white citizens, do, even after many shared blood and death in the face of an evil that sought to destroy this entire country in an attempt for racial hegemony. How insulting to those multitudes of citizens to infer that they would be unable to recognize the shared love of country we all fought so desperately for. Worst, to assume that all we struggled for and won was not inspired by love of country, but for some selfish reason that could have easily been achieved in some other place.
I do not resent the question. I resent the implication: We believe more in this country, consciously and unconsciously, than anyone else has ever had to. For we have had to challenge for the simple right to live: a precipice at our back and only those three documents of freedom as our ally. Until you have to put your entire existence in the few words of those three written documents, you will never understand how deep and strong our belief in and commitment to our country, The United States of America, is.
In answer to that question, I truly wish I would have responded with the aforementioned. But in the spirit of which it was asked: “As the virtue of adversity is fortitude; the virtue of fortitude is freedom. With the dignity of history as our torchbearer, for those who never made it to this day, it is with a heart full of pride for their memory that I celebrate this momentous victory.”
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