“My Indian Name is Runs With Beer”, an example of racism.

Before I even launch into yet another example of mainstream racism, I have to ask: At what point did “political correctness” – or being “PC” – become a pejorative?  By its very definition, it’s a mechanism for cultural sensitivity to protect minorities from being marginalized.  Now I see kids on the Internet every day using it like a slur against one another.  Respect is becoming extinct.

The purpose of today’s piece is to expose an example of racism towards indigenous peoples and why it’s not okay.

This morning, my friend Michelle texted me a picture and her commentary on a cooler design she found on Facebook.  The page is a closed group, called “The Cooler Connection”.  She described it to me as being a page that largely consists of sorority girls sharing cooler designs (presumably for college drinking and whatnot).  She added me to the page so I could see its content: Most posts share designs of coolers people have done, some posts ask for advice on cooler painting, and there are even posted guides to how to paint your own cooler.  Although the idea of college students dignifying all things binge-drinking terrifies me, I also see the page as a neat way to add creativity to ordinary objects.  It’s like an interactive, DIY Pinterest board of cooler art.

Seems harmless, right?

Wrong.

Michelle’s reason for sharing this page with me to day was so I could see a cooler design by student/artist Jess Merry of Appalachian State University.  Miss Merry, from the Raleigh/Cary area, went to school in Boone in western North Carolina – i.e. the heart of Indian Country.  The Tsalagi, in particular, reside in this area on the Eastern Band of Cherokee reservation.  You would think anyone spending considerable time in this vicinity would be privy to cultural sensitivity and the concentration of an ethnic minority in his/her area, but sadly this does not seem to be the case.  I say this because Miss Merry’s design was an example of racism against the indigenous American race:

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“This is gorgeous, but that is INCREDIBLY offensive!!” wrote my friend in a flustered response.  And she’s right: The artwork should be commended, even the Papyrus handwriting, but the truth behind it is none of its content is acceptable.  Well, it shouldn’t be acceptable.  But, as evidenced by the commentary on the post, few people seem to grasp exactly why.  Instead, virtual eye rolls and accusations of “here we go with the PC comments” and “get over it” statements alternated with ones saying “this is not okay”.

“For all of you that don’t understand why it’s offensive [you] are what’s wrong with this country right now,” Michelle continues.  She is referring to the attitude that cultural sensitivity needs to die out and that too many people voice opinions about “getting over it” when there are social-economic-cultural crises so deeply rooted in historic trauma and perpetuated prejudice that there is no “getting over it”.

Not only was Michelle addressing the problem of stereotyping indigenous peoples, desecrating a headdress and chief nobility, and having no respect for one another’s’ culture, she also calls out the unacceptable treatment of ceremony.  “To put it simply, it’s disrespectful because you’re mocking a Native American tradition,” she writes.  She’s referring to “Indian names” – or really, naming ceremonies – which is a very important custom in some, but not all, groups of indigenous peoples.  Mocking this ceremony is not only a religious assault, but it continues the stereotypes through pan-Indianism with which Western film culture has brainwashed the ignorant.  In other words, the design was borne out of a racist interpretation of a homogenous indigenous culture – which simply does not exist.

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Okay, so I’m going to break this down and try to explain exactly why we should be upset about this cooler:

1. Racism.

Before everyone gets all bent out of shape about me using this word, let’s bring up the definition and then see how this fits snuggly into it:

racism

[ ˈrāˌsizəm ]

NOUN

noun: racism

the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

All members of each race meaning we are looking at the overarching, identity-stripped, cultural whitewash that we call “Native American culture”.

Possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race meaning we are using a stereotypical profile (like those being removed currently from mascots across the country), we are blaspheming religious symbols and ceremonies to a limited number of cultures and also applying them broadly and stereotypically (“pan-Indianism”), and we are insinuating alcoholism is an inherent part of “being Indian” (and paralleling it to a religious name-giving custom).

Especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races meaning the ideas entrapped in this cooler design, which are all rooted in outdated stereotypes from Western films and past “Indian policies” (explained in the subsequent points), exist purely as remains from a culture that believed indigenous peoples to be savage, uncivilized, and an amalgamate race far inferior to whites.

So to conclude, this design does in fact perpetuate racism.  What’s even worse: not everyone understands why it is racist against a marginalized race of people in this country, and people continuing to act out of ignorance – that is a very damaging thing.

2. Cultural appropriation.

Cultural-Appropriation3

Race relations is still largely a problem in the United States – in fact, as I experienced through the US’s Universal Periodic Review at the UN this past week, our country is largely frowned down upon for its backwardness in race issues.  In the United States, we tend to look at race rather than at culture and individualism.  This is, in my view, still a product of past, racist policies where someone could be marginalized simply because of his/her skin color.  Slavery is the prime example of this.  So our society still has a lot to learn about culture and cultural sensitivity, which is all exemplified by the cultural appropriation we see talked about more and more these days.

Sure, America might be a “melting pot” and cultures might influence one another, but cultural appropriation takes it a step further.  Cultural appropriation is when a dominant group exploits the culture of less dominant, less privileged groups, often without any kind of understanding and respect for the latter groups’ histories and traditions.  Therefore this cooler, too, is appropriating culture that is not in any way understood by the party-goers who would likely be using this decorated piece.

3. Pan-Indianism.

I will keep this simple: Indigenous cultures are incredibly diverse.  “Indian”, by the concept of “Pan-Indianism”, refers to indigenous peoples from the northern Arctic coast down to the southern South American tip.  Now explain to me how something like a stereotyped “Indian” profile and the contents of the cooler design are not a perfect example of Pan-Indianism?  And the problem with Pan-Indianism?  It washes away cultural identity, eliminates individualism, and allows for stereotypes to branded all over anyone who falls into the category of “Indian” – without any regard for accuracy or respect of someone’s traditions.

4. Alcoholism stereotypes.

If only I could count all the times someone used Cromagnum English to tell me about “white man” bringing over the “fire water”…. Well, actually, alcohol did exist in many of cultures for centuries – maybe even thousands of years – before any “white man” arrived on Turtle Island.  Yet we are constantly making jokes about Natives by building off of these stereotypes of alcoholism in Indian Country.  But none of it is even true.

This is not to say that Reservations don’t face an alcohol problem, because they do – but surely this same trend can be attached to any other traumatized demographic, including those in chronic economic despair (and the majority of some Reservation populations live in poverty).  According to studies by the NIAAA, white people (especially men) are more likely than any other demographic to drink regularly, by a younger age, and drive while under the influence.  A bit ironic since this demographic is also more prone to perpetuate such stereotypes about indigenous peoples.

Furthermore, indigenous populations have the highest rate of alcohol abstinence of any other ethnic group.  Many Reservations and tribal lands forbid the sale of alcohol.

The stereotyping of indigenous peoples in regards to alcoholism, as done by this cooler, is just that: stereotyping.  It is only funny if you believe it is true, and if you have no heart or care about real-world people and real-world consequences of perpetuating such misconceptions.

5. Cherokee royalty defends it.

Any time someone (who does or doesn’t identify as indigenous) states “this is offensive”, a whole slew of people suddenly find red in their veins.  “Well I’m Native American and I’m not offended!” they’ll exclaim, failing to see fallacy in their statements.  I say “Cherokee royalty”, because 9 times out of 10, these people have a great-great-grandmother who was a Cherokee princess.  Well, they claim they do, because there are no “Indian princesses”.  This demonstrates how they either are completely BS-ing, going off of mainstream phrases about “Indian identity”, or they are so disconnected with their might-be culture that their opinion is absolutely 0% indigenous to begin with.

“Indianness” isn’t a costume, a trend, or even a blood quantum – it’s an identity, an identity that includes everything from participating in your heritage, knowing your clan/blood line, enrolling if enroll-able, and promoting your culture.  When you promote your culture, you’re also protecting it.  You understand the true histories about “Indian policy”, you know the current struggles of your tribe and also many struggles of other tribes, and you are familiar with the pieces of “Rez life” that don’t get romanticized by non-indigenous America: commodity cheese, HUD housing, and corruption within your own government.

Furthermore, I consider stating your blood quantum to be a rude attempt at weighting the value of your voice by western society’s concept of how “Indian” you are.  It gives the ignorant a chance to take a stab, saying things like “Well you’re only 50%, so you’re not a real Indian” or “You might be Navajo, but you’re also 50% Lakota, so you can’t have an opinion on anything Navajo”, as an example.  If you’re a dual citizen, you just say your citizenship.  What’s sad is, even when I do this, I find myself inserting “Indian” into my statement to address the blank stares I get.  The flipside to stating blood quantum as a way to identify yourself is when people who are most likely not genuinely indigenous at all (but rather fantasize about the “cool” parts of being Indian, sans marginalization, etc.) make statements like “I’m 6% Native” or “I’m part Native American”.  Umm, what?  Just…just stop.  I already know I have no interest in what you’re about to say.

6. There’s no one left to offend.

You wouldn’t be comfortable making fun of someone to his/her face for something he/she can’t change (physical appearance, religion, etc.), yet this cooler mocks religion, race, and culture.  Therefore we can only assume that this cooler was shared because it doesn’t occur to mainstream society that Indians are not in fact dead, Indians are not in fact savages incapable of technology, and Indians are in fact on social media like any other American sorority girl or other on this cooler page.  This ties directly in to all the studies being done to prove how mascots stereotype and further marginalize indigenous peoples – especially youth – who have to face perpetuated misconceptions of who they are in everyday life, from school to what they see portrayed through national sports team mascots.  Even when these mascots are meant to be “positive”, they still impact these peoples negatively.

If you’re interested in these studies, here are some links to what has been discovered as psychologically damaging to populations that already suffer disproportionate amounts of historic trauma:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2014/07/22/indian-mascots-report-washington-nfl-team/13006145/

http://espn.go.com/pdf/2013/1030/espn_otl_Oneida_study.pdf

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/report/2014/07/22/94214/missingthepoint/

7. Hate speech platform.

Let’s be real: No one using this cooler has any interest in educating people on why they find humor in it despite the grave realities behind why its humor is rooted in on-going racism.  You’re not going to go to a party and find people saying, “Oh, hey, funny cooler!”  “Oh, yeah, thanks – it’s actually stereotypical, culturally appropriating, etc., but it’s funny because most people don’t know the truth behind why it isn’t funny!”  Nope.  In fact, given my experience, if anything comes from it there will be a following of more stereotypes, like wawawawa, dancing around like idiots, perpetuating this noble savage interpretation of real living human beings.  And, to add to bullet 6 above, all of this would be done as if it were impossible that someone in the room could possibly be indigenous.

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Search: My Indian Name Is Runs With Beer for many more examples.

As I conclude this piece, I have learned that the cooler was apparently already removed from the page.  Regardless, I am alarmed that this is not a rare occurrence.  (See relevant post on Newspaper Rock: http://newspaperrock.bluecorncomics.com/2011/01/aim-fights-runs-with-beer-t-shirt.html)  I am also alarmed that too many people have come to defend the racism behind this example.  I hope that the time I have spent writing this piece will speak to two audiences: 1) I hope indigenous friends and allies can identify and roll their eyes at the classic examples of rhetoric used in defending yet another classic example of racism being widely misconstrued as acceptable; and 2) I hope all of the others have found this piece an adequate summary for why we shouldn’t be taking such things so lightly.  Again, I don’t think “political correctness” should be used as a pejorative.  But I also believe such an example steps well beyond the limits of what is or isn’t “PC” and enters the realm of intolerable racial tension.

Not “Indian Enough”

Biloxi High School Alumni Perpetuate Ignorance, Cyberbully Natives, and Dictate Who is “Indian Enough” to Have an Opinion in Cultural Appropriation Debate.

[To read more about Native/Ally response to the cyberattacks, read my last post about #IndigenizeZuckerberg – or visit my featured article on the Good Men Project: Why Are Natives Changing Their Names to Zuckerberg on Facebook?.]

Deloria

Deloria Many Grey Horses-Violich whose Facebook account was repeatedly suspended due to her Indigenous surname. Photo: Courtesy of Deloria Many Grey Horses-Violich

As a Native person in today’s society, it can sometimes feel like an uphill battle to “walk two worlds”, to carry on your traditions while living up to the expectations of your Elders.  These unique, cultural challenges might internalize a fear that you’re not “Indian enough”, not real enough.  With our cultures repeatedly misrepresented, misunderstood, and aggressively appropriated all around us, this fear is only compounded.  We aren’t stereotypes, so how can we expect to live up to them?  It seems that the modern trend is to allow non-indigenous America (and Canada) define who they think are “Indian enough” to be members of our sovereign nations.  This stereotyping also leads to a misunderstanding of cultures, and this misunderstanding leads to cultural appropriation.  Furthermore, the American(/Canadian) government dictates which nations even “deserve” sovereignty.  Not only is this unethical, but it’s unconstitutional.  Yet, here we are today, continuing to stand up to the misrepresentation of our peoples, only to be stereotyped as “alcoholics” while we stand sober, pelted with stadium-priced beer cans from drunken sports fans.  We voice our opinion, try to shed light on the truth of how we feel, only to be told to “go back to the Reservation”, back to our voiceless place that keeps the “Indian problem” from inconveniencing American (and Canadian) lives.

The Biloxi High School cultural appropriation is no different.  In fact, it’s a glowing example of (North) American racism, hostility, and misunderstanding.

Although the Biloxi High School has long been listed on the American Indian Sports Team Mascots website as racist, the recent display of its uniform blasphemy at D.C.’s Cherry Blossom Festival has opened the floodgates of opposition.  Natives and their allies have stood up against racist mascots and symbolism for decades, but this new age of social media has helped to finally level the playing field.  Voices that were once drowned out are finally being heard, especially in Washington where a racial slur is still being casually thrown around in the name of sports.  Seeing this display of mockery – an entire marching band in sacred war bonnets – was something no person with any cultural sensitivity or a sense of respect could ignore.

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Biloxi uniform, photo from Des Grange’s Flickr page (Google image search).

Deloria Lane Many Grey Horses-Violich is one of these people.  Peacefully, she generated a Change.org petition calling for Biloxi Superintendent Arthur McMillan to emancipate indigenous peoples from the cultural appropriation of our Tunica-Biloxi cousins.  She eloquently defends the teenagers being subjected to the perpetuation of cultural appropriation, stating, “If you want to play the trumpet and represent your school, you have to wear an item that is sacred to many Native cultures.”  And she’s absolutely right – you see, prejudice is taught, not genetic.

Petition signers’ comments flood in:

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Yet, instead of the Biloxi High School alumni addressing the hurt and validity in the voices of “real Indians” and their sympathizers, they chose to speak on behalf of the present Biloxi student population and target Native peoples.  These products of Biloxi education responded to Deloria’s honest efforts with a petition called “Save the Biloxi High School Mascot & Tradition” – also on change.org, started by Kristen “Krissi” West.

“Please Mr. McMillan, keep our Indian tradition alive!” Krissi writes in her petition.

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Remember that statement for its hypocrisy; she and her fellow alumni beautifully dismantle their arguments as the day progresses.

On April 19th, Krissi announced “We will not allow outsiders to crush our traditions.  We have currently surpassed the other petition that is trying to infringe on our culture, history and traditions…”  Numerous rebuttals were posted, asking for this insanity to stop.  None were heard.  Instead, the alumni’s arrogance that they would “win” took ahold of all their humanity.  A Lafayette HS Class of 1967 replied to these rebuttals:

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So whose tradition is being honored again?  Absolutely not that of the Tunica-Biloxi.  Absolutely not that of the indigenous peoples.

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This is just the beginning.  The meaning behind our traditions have been under-rug-swept by genocide, and we #IdleNoMore.

Not long after the petition crossfire began, the Biloxi HS Alumni page was finding many of its comments and postings deleted by Facebook.  When page’s administrators, who repeatedly admitted their incompetence at using Facebook, found that the page had suddenly become an “open” group, all fingers were immediately pointed to Deloria.  She was accused of “creating the issue” around mascots.

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The assault on Deloria’s account – including her temporary ban from Facebook – has added fuel to the already-growing fire of discrimination against Native names on accounts.  (Read: Facebook Protest)

[UPDATE: On April 22nd, a BHS alumnus wrote on the Alumni page regarding why their page had suddenly become Open, or public, before they made another underground page.  “As for supposedly someone hacking this group and changing it from closed to public,” he writes, “on Facebook it is IMPOSSIBLE to lower this setting after you have 250 members.  Even if an Administrator wanted to make this change it can’t be done.  Only an Administrator can only make it MORE restrictive and never less.”  In other words, the accusations were clearly false against Deloria.]

Later in the morning, Lauren McWilliams demonstrates the lack of proper Native American education at Biloxi and adds the following misinformation:

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Not only was an enrolled tribal member, daughter of Chief Phil Lane, Jr., being called “not Indian enough”, but suddenly alumni’s claims to blood quanta of “part Choctaw”, “part Cherokee”, and “part Seminole” were being used to justify their actions.  More than once, Deloria was required to provide government-issued identification to confirm her indigenous surname “Many Grey Horses” was not in fact “fake”.  F.A.I.R. Media (For Accurate Indigenous Representation) was also targeted, accused of promoting racism by denouncing “red face” and “black face”.

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Note the irony of the commentary.  Others remain apparently completely unaware of the last several decades of mascot activism.

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In addition to targeting F.A.I.R. for being “racist”, Biloxi alumna Tara Harrell Duett called for a cyberattack on another woman in the Native community who had expressed her disapproval of the Biloxi alumni’s group movements.

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After some debate, and a lot of deletion by Facebook, the Biloxi movement went underground.  They created a private group littered with hashtags “#BHSFORLIFE” and “#GOBIGRED”.

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Members had to prove that they were “Biloxi Indians”.  Every single Biloxi graduate who made comments in favor of the anti-mascot argument was immediately deleted from the group, usually after efforts to prove they didn’t graduate from BHS and therefore were not “alumni” and “BHS Indian enough”.  This means the movement is in the hands of ex-students, not even the children who are being affected by the mascot and made to wear sacred symbols without adequate education regarding them.  Furthermore, one member admitted he didn’t attend all of his high school years at BHS, but because he graduated from BHS, that made him an “Indian” and capable of kicking out others who didn’t spend their Senior year at BHS.

Once under security of their group’s privacy, Biloxi alumni Tom Thurber began generating T-shirt and suggestions follow, as if adding insult to the injury of the Native #NotYourMascot campaign.

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The alumni decide to sell the t-shirts to the students to raise money for their “cause”.

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Thurber concurs, and Lateacha Tisha-Rose Reversè finds humor in the proposal.

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Krissi West later suggests using booster.com and making a Native American Heritage Month celebration out of the “BHS tradition”.

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Remember West’s defense of their mascot that non-Biloxians don’t know the history and rich culture associated with her school?  For the entire afternoon of April 20th, the private group went back and forth, trying to decide when and why they actually became the “Biloxi Indians” and adopted headdresses into their school band uniforms.  Therefore, their entire reasoning behind the petition is a blatant and misleading lie.

“From what I remember, IF I remember BHS history correctly, the school board back BEFORE Biloxi High School officially changed their mascot to the Indian, actually approached very important members of the Biloxi Indian tribe to officially as if they (the Biloxi Public School District) could use the Biloxi Indian as their mascot and also to use the headdress and the Indian tunic as uniform items,” writes Jerico Gotte, BHS Class of 2010.

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Yes, you have a lot more research to do than you think.

“If it turns out that they are in fact offended by the uniform,” McWilliams writes, “we will see if we can compromise as far as uniforms are concerned.”  Not only does McWilliams confirm that there is no known consent by the Tunica-Biloxi people to use them as a mascot, but she states they will compromise  – not resolve – on the issue of their offense.

But next the alumni begin arguing that the Biloxi people themselves are not “Indian enough”.  “Their ancestry cannot be 100% confirmed,” McWilliams states, claiming that many think “the tribe, and factual descendants are extinct.”  Ignoring the tribe’s status of federal recognition, the group focuses instead on how “watered down” the tribe members are, and question if they’re even Biloxi at all.  Lateacha states, “The Biloxi blood line is dead and only traces reside in those at Tunica-Biloxi.  In fact you can find old Biloxi French families with as much Biloxi in them.  I’d still love to hear from Tunica-Biloxi, but let’s be honest there is no real ‘Voice of the Tribe’ left.”

You want “purebloods”?  What are we, dogs?

Meanwhile, BHS “Indians” continue to silence Native voices.  Other members share photos and reminisce on their days as playing “Indians.”

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See how Biloxi “celebrates” the Indian stereotype?  Will students one day say “I remember when we appropriated Native cultures by wearing headdresses and were called the “Indians”, but I’m glad we no longer do it!”

West continues to defend the use of the Biloxi’s mascot for its symbolism.  Megan Wilson agrees, stating that “The Indian shows bravery, honor, and strength… Mascots are symbols of respect and people need to get a life…!”

And what?  Go back to the Reservation where we “belong”?  So you don’t have to listen to our outrage in being labeled as hostile, vicious, inhuman beings?

These Biloxi Alumni demonstrate they honor nothing but stereotypes, cultural appropriation, themselves, and the “Indian” ideal that genuine Natives are fighting to remove.  They have no cultural sensitivity and refuse to obtain a proper education in the matter.  Furthermore, while indigenous peoples are busy fighting for every aspect of their equality, they are being accused of having “more important things to do”.  Apparently adults reminiscing over high school and working overtime to keep racism in the education system is a more important thing to do.  These “BHS Indians” pass judgment on “real Indians”, calling them “racists” and “whiners” for standing up for their sovereignties and rights as human beings.  As a result, more civilized residents of Biloxi have joined the anti-mascot side in sympathy of the Natives, saying they are disgusted with their ex-classmates’ words and their childish actions.  In fact, many have signed our petition.

It is absolutely imperative for the citizens of this country to wake up and realize the unnecessary harm being done by the continued use of racist mascots.  The documented psychological damage on both Native and non-Native children should be proof enough of the necessity to change.  Humans are not predisposed to prejudice; instead, we are teaching our non-indigenous children cultural insensitivity and our indigenous children low self-worth.  We are perpetuating the lies of what constitutes being “Indian enough” and what doesn’t.  Stop this injustice, Biloxi, like you finally stopped racially segregating your students in 1970.  It’s time we moved beyond delusions of racial inequality.

If you are as frustrated by the exposed truth of the Biloxi resistance as I am, and see the need to discontinue the perpetuation of these stereotypes and the appropriation of cultures, please join us by spreading the word and signing our petition here.  Thanks.

facebook protest!

MEDIA ALERT: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LFYGJdMw2uOPiEBrQRcgu8JUprF4xlLKx5sCsPhVVI4/mobilebasic?pli=1

I hope to bring to you soon:

  1. A recap on the Cleveland baseball protest, once I’m able to consolidate my photos.
  2. A copy of an article I wrote regarding the Biloxi mascot issue and the resulting attack on Deloria Many Grey Horses.

But, as time is ticking, I am going to skip those two for now to go straight to an event that will be trending all across social media today:

#NotYourZuckerberg

#IndigenizeZuckerberg

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Today, you will see many of these as Facebook profile pictures.

My cover photo is this:

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Today these hashtags are being used on all forms of social media to draw attention to a lapse in Facebook’s name policy.  This policy, as it currently stands, has no protection for people with indigenous names – or really any name that isn’t “typical”, “normal”, or as many are arguing, “European”.  On the surface, this may seem like a trivial issue.  But all issues which may seem trivial on the surface tend to have roots in a much deeper issue.

Why are indigenous names being discriminated against?

Sure, names like “Many Grey Horses” might look suspicious to a computer…but don’t all names have similar translations in English?  My surname is of European origin, but in English my surname is “Of The Valley”.  Mario Lemieux, ironically, has the surname which, in English, means “The Best”.  Shumacher?  “Shoe Maker”.  I’m sure may indigenous names can be written in their indigenous languages as well.  But that’s beside the point…  The reality is, Facebook’s name tool often suggests that a name is fake.  I’ve had that issue trying to add my name in an indigenous language.  And we aren’t alone: our indigenous counterparts in the British Isles have faced similar discrimination which hit the press this year on the Scotsman.  (A man battled Facebook to allow him to use his Gaelic name.)

But what if your name is on Facebook and later you’re told it’s fake?  This happened to Deloria Many Grey Horses as part of a cyberattack.  Deloria was discovered by the Bilox Alumni on Facebook as having been the woman who started the petition against their school’s desecration of the sacred war bonnet and use of the “Biloxi Indian” mascot.  She was targeted by Krissi West (BHS 2005), who proudly posted on the Alumni page that she had “reported her for hate speech”.  Deloria was also reported more than once for having a fake name.  After providing all of the proper credentials, she was brought back to Facebook only to be (reported again and) banned permanently.  Fortunately, we were able to get her back and going strong in a matter of hours, but this new tactic of users to silence Natives by using Facebook’s current policy as a tool really added fuel to the already-growing fire of why many of us are being targeted.

So why are indigenous names being targeted?

On the surface, sometimes because of a computer’s algorithm that flags it.  But, more and more often, this is happening because users are trying to shut up Natives who use social media to be heard.  Yes, social media is changing the face of how we share information, providing a platform for many once-silenced voices in corners like the Reservation or hidden in urban settings to be able to voice their opinions.  And those opinions spread like wildfire.  But Facebook’s policy is currently allowing trolls, essentially, to remove the Native voice from social media.

Even after we follow the policy and provide all the information needed.

This is why we are using the hashtag #IndigenizeZuckerberg.  We need him and his coworkers at Facebook to address the importance social media platforms, like Facebook, have in Indian Country.  We need him to recognize that the current policy needs to be reviewed.  We need him to develop a better system to keep activists like Deloria, who are fighting for equality and not “trolling” anyone else, from being shut down through loopholes in the policy.

It’s not just a matter of letting people be who they truly are on social media – by their true names and sharing true information – but it’s a plea to stop silencing indigenous voices…not just in the United States…not just in Canada…but really, all around the world.

We are indigenous, and we are a part of the modern world.  We are not dead.  We are not dumb.  We have capitalized on useful tools of the colonized world, and we consider Facebook one of these tools.  Stop silencing the voices of these people.  Stop asking for their government-issued documents to prove who they are, then allowing this process to happen again and again.

If you are on Facebook, join us.  In a matter of minutes, we will be changing our last names to Zuckerberg, changing our profile pictures to one of these #IndigenizeZuckerberg images, and posting hashtags to share the information as much as possible.  Be advised that current policy may result in you being a Zuckerberg for 60 days.

Facebook Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1555205128076480/

If you are on Tumblr, WordPress, Blogspot, Instagram, Twitter, and of these other platforms, help us spread the word using the hashtag, these images, these words, and help to bring awareness so we can all have an equal experience in the social media outlets.

Other images:

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Manipulating the “like” hand:

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Niyaawe!

Thank you!

how parents on Facebook ruin the idea of parenthood for me.

This post is dedicated to Jacob and the endless, sardonic conversations we have about everything, including this topic.

I realize I got a Facebook in high school.  I realize I’m no longer a college student and I still have a Facebook.  Yet I always fall back on the fact that Facebook was invented for college students.  Seeing parents on Facebook weirded me out during college.  Now, much to my dismay (and occasional amusement, such as during sardonic conversation), I have more and more friends or friends of friends, etc., growing up from those college kids with Facebooks to becoming parents.

It seems like you can only tell Facebook No me gusta! so many times before it becomes evident it’s just screwing with you.  Yes, I’m pretty sure Facebook is going I, Robot on us and becoming a machine smarter than the rest of us, knowing us so much better than we do that it can psychologically destroy us with redundant newsfeeds and advertisements about things we don’t gusta!  When you tell it “I don’t want to see this in my newsfeed”, it registers it as “endless baby photos upset her…mwahaha!”.  When you start a relationship, Facebook decides you’re suddenly going to read every update from your significant other, his/her family, his/her extended family, etc., etc., and that suddenly all of your advertisements are going to be about jewelry, wedding discounts, and babies.  NO I WILL NOT BE A PRODUCT OF YOUR ARTIFICAL SOCIETY.  (Well, I will admit I found it pretty funny when my brother kept getting advertisements for gay cruises and finally realized he had haphazardly put “Interested in Men” on his profile.)

But Facebook is only a tool making us realize the things we really don’t care about in life.  And I find the source of most of my frustration revolves around new parents who decide it’s okay to tell us TMI on a daily basis.  So, after reading several articles on this exact topic (Amen, I’m not alone!), I’ve put together my own list of how (new) parents on Facebook drive me crazy and subsequently ruin the idea of parenthood for me:

1. Ultrasounds

It looks like an alien, and I don’t understand who needs to see pictures of your insides who couldn’t just look at them at the next family event.

2. Pregnancy Updates

Please, tell me more about how you threw up again today, or what you’re craving, or whatever weird, gross pregnancy thing you have to share with us all (TMI!).

3. Hospital Pictures

Pretty sure I’ve covered most of these before.  I hate hospital pictures.  You look gross, your baby looks really gross, and I consider it a private affair.  You could at least wash the thing off a few (hundred) times first.

4. Baby Pictures

Okay, cool, it’s a baby.  You think it’s way cuter than the general public because it’s related to you.  It also has an egghead, hardly opens its eyes, and it’s totally not capable of making a beer run so what’s the use in having one of those around?  Just get a cat.  They at least feed themselves.

5. Real-Time Updates

I’ve definitely written about this before.  Do new mothers even realize how much danger they put their children in by posting every damn thing about them to the internet?  What they wear, what they ate, and everything is geotagged now.  Yeah, even if you think it isn’t, trust me – I know how to pull up Geotag codes on Instagram and other photos with embedded information.  Chances are, I can find your house and the exact room you took your picture in within a minute.  And I am very much technology illiterate, so just imagine the possibilities.  And maybe some folks live vicariously through you, but what are your children going to think in a few years when they have their own Facebook and pull up the archives?  Probably something like, “Way to go, mom, I officially hate my life.”

And now for the big finale….

6. Counting Ages in Months

I remember the first time I saw “24 months” and I kind of stopped for a moment and thought, Wait, that’s divisible by 12…. ((cue Lavon Hayes NO imitation)) Naw, NAW,….NAWWWW!  It should be an official rule that children’s ages may NOT be counted in months after 18 months of age.  I read online a woman who will count her child’s age up to five years in months.  FIVE YEARS.  Because “five months makes a huge difference when you’re five”.  UMM, yeah and also every child develops differently so a 21-month-old and a 35-month-old might have the same linguistic skills but different motor abilities.  NO.  I just cannot take it seriously, counting a child’s age in months.  It’s completely ridiculous.  It’s a sign of “This is my first time!  I have no idea what I’m doing!”  Or at least that’s what most of my sardonic conversations conclude.  I just…can’t even.

Also, what is WITH these new personalized chairs?  I have seen so many new mothers with these miniature sofas with their kids’ names on it.  Great, I have an idea – let’s get a gift with the child’s name on it so that only they can use it (because it’s personalized), and it will only last them as long as they can fit into it (probably a few years),….and it will be perfect to set up in front of the television so they can begin their long lives as sponge-brained byproducts of this lazy, overpopulated world…….

Okay, I’m done.  It’s snowing, and I like the snow because there aren’t any babies in snow.  Or, if there are, you can’t see them because they were dropped and buried in it.  😛

but first, let me take a selfie.

I’ve had a lot of topics pass in and out of my thoughts over the last week but I haven’t sat down to write about any of them.  One that’s been reoccurring for over a year, however, is regarding vanity.  I’ve written a lot of things that reflect my dislike of silly trends and vain generations, but I’m not sure how often I’ve spelled out my frustrations of avoiding hypocrisy.  I was thinking about it a lot again today and decided maybe it was time to pen something out.



Case and point.  (If you haven’t watched that video yet, do it…because you’ll be hearing a lot about it for quite some time.  It’s the new, What Does the Fox Say.)


I have read sooo many articles lately that bash my generation.  “Vain”, “self-absorbed”, “egocentric”,… and at first I was nodding right along.  Then I thought, isn’t it a bit ironic?  All of these people from my generation keep writing about “those guys” in the same generation, the people who are giving us the “bad rap”.  But even us writers, here we are breaking things down and giving our view on some larger thing just because we think we have a valuable opinion?  That people will want to hear what we have to say?  And what about the fact that we’re still part of that generation?


I’m pretty sure anyone in our generation associated at all with technology or the internet is at least a little self-absorbed, albeit because they do have a Facebook account and post photos or because they play online video games and don’t associate with live humans.  I know there are people out there who refrain completely from technology.  But I’m not sure that struggling to separate themselves from the rest of the people doesn’t make them any less concerned about self-image and what demographic they represent.


Not gonna lie, though…I love having interfaces that put data in my hand whenever I want it, whatever I want.  I love efficiency.  I think that all comes from technology’s development and, as a result, an increased pace in society.  Pushing to get ahead, not just to be the best country at something but also as an individual trying not to lose that scholarship in college.  There are some justifications for technological dependencies, at least if you’ve ever been to college or worked in your career in recent years.


But I still make choices.  I don’t “selfie it up” in the bathroom, I dress in ways that make me happy for myself but not in ways that are meant to draw attention (ick!), and I refrain from being on my phone all of the freaking time.  You know how annoyed clerks get with that?  They don’t feel like “real” people when phone’s are used at the counter.  (Dewey’s Coffeehouse at Shaker Square even forbids phones in line for that reason.)


Yet there are some things that I see and that I wish I had.  For example, pretty much every friend I know has had professional photos taken for high school graduation.  Then again after college.  Well, yesterday was my graduation ceremony from Case Western and I thought, wow, I have no documentation of any of this.  No formal photos besides the classic headshot from senior year of high school to show how much I have or haven’t changed.  And it’s kind of nice to have real quality photos instead of selfies or some janky set-up your parents put together in your den.


However, I also see some other people’s blogs.  They are super fashion obsessed and I don’t mean obsessed as in my obsession with looking decent and classy.  No, I mean they think they are *teh shiz*.  When I see all of these photos of them that they post in the same outfit (sometimes pretty, sometimes seriously just a boring black shower curtain with a necklace), I have mixed feelings.  First, I think ick!  How obsessed are you with yourself!?  (You really think you’re that pretty?)  Second, I think what about me!  I want photos like that.  I want to feel special.  —–   But do I?


I think having fashion photos of me would be appealing if it were one casual shot in this outfit, maybe another casual shot wearing something else…but also in a pretty setting.  I can’t stand these girls who have fifty shots of themselves taken with the same building behind them every time, trying to strike poses that they’re just not pulling off and which I think look stupid in the magazines as it is…and so I can scrap any desire to look like that just by thinking of how vain they look!


Yup, I still hate the fashion industry.  I hate what it does to people, how it affects farmers, the pesticides involved in producing cotton, the rip-offs, the hoity-toity designers, how men design scandalous women’s clothing, how women think this is something to which they should aspire, just soo sooo sooooo so much about the fashion industry itself is stupid.  Then add on all of these “selfies” and “photo shoots” and you’re left looking at this generation and thinking, “Wow, what a bunch of egocentric airheads” and wondering if they’ve even graduated high school or if they were too obsessed with what they were going to wear to prom.


And now…my closing -siiiigh-….


P.S. I totally took a selfie today.

the company you keep.

“Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.  Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.” -Proverbs 4:14-15 NIV

“For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.” -2 Timothy 2:2-5 NASB

I don’t care if you don’t believe in the Torah/Bible/God; scripture can offer some really good advice if you know how to read it.  For example, in this quote from Timothy, take “God” as a symbol for living peacefully and good.  It provides the same meaning and is certainly applicable to any faith or faithlessness.

How did I get these quotes?  Well, I Googled quotes that could demonstrate the idea of “the company you keep”.  And these were my favorites.

Today, I became (yet again) a victim of online bullying.  It was a rash, brash, offhand, unprecedented comment from an uninformed, unimportant individual.  In the past, I would have blown up over it.  I would have sobbed, raged, replied, and probably done a lot of things I would have regretted later.  But that was me before I started paying attention to these kinds of things.  That was me before I began thinking about the company I keep.

It made me realize the company I choose to keep does not behave like this person.
Meaning he meant nothing to me and he couldn’t hurt me.
Meaning he doesn’t know the truth but the people who matter do.
Meaning I don’t keep his company because he is not considerate, respectful, classy, and of good sportsmanship.
But the company I do keep is all of these things.

In thinking of the company I keep and who I want to be, I debated my options.  I could delete the comment and move forward.  But maybe this person was making a point?  Maybe I had overlooked something that had evoked his reaction in the first place.

Aha – indeed, I had.  I realized he was either being completely tactless and cutting me down without reason, or his tactlessness arose from a misunderstanding in what I was saying.  And yes, this was all about hockey.

First, I chose to leave the comment.  I didn’t reply.  I won’t reply.  It’s not worth it, and it exposes his lack of anything human.  And it makes me look better in the meantime.

Second, I e-mailed the captain of the team.  I thanked her for her candor, congratulated her team for their season, then made her aware of the situation in case someone else might have taken what was said in the wrong way.  I know I didn’t have to do it, but I felt like it is good to clean things up and it can’t hurt nipping a potential problem in the bud.  It also gave me a chance to explain why I left the one team for another: sportsmanship.

The comment that was left and a teammate’s supportive, subsequent reaction to that comment were the perfect parallels to the situation.  It showed how my old team lacked the sportsmanship and respect I craved and how I gained so much more in those fields and others by switching teams.

It reminded me of this past Sunday when I spent time with a friend.  I’ve gotten along swimmingly with his whole family and realized there’s a reason for that.  Kind of like there’s a reason why I can throw my closest friends from all over the world in a room together for the first time…and they love each other.

We always tend to migrate towards the same kinds of people.  And I’ve been trying increasingly harder to base my “kind” of person off of his/her character.  His/her goodness.  His/her positivity.  Even though I haven’t always been the most positive person, it’s amazing how letting go of a little negativity and surrounding yourself with good people will really change your outlook on life.

You really can change your life by the company you keep and surrounding yourself with good things.

As the quote above from Proverbs tells us, don’t be tempted by that evil path.  Just because others act one way does not justify your reaction in their footsteps.  You have to own what you do and you are responsible for the consequences.  Every step you make should be towards the kind of person you want to be, no matter how big or small that step is.

And this person’s bullying is exactly what Timothy’s quote is describing: This person may have been reacting from a misunderstanding, but it was still completely uncalled for, demonstrates his lack of good character, and proves that he is insecure about another’s accomplishments.  He had to cut me down for my pride in the wonderful people I have discovered on my new team and by the honors I’ve received for being a part of their society.  Clearly, I have a LOT that he lacks.  And he doesn’t like it.

While I can’t change him and it’s not my responsibility to try, I can just hope to lead by example and to continue supporting my teammates, choosing better, and maintaining a close watch over the company that I keep.

worth.

I have volunteered on projects my whole life, whether it’s a cleanup, fundraising, habitat for humanity, or construction work with Engineers Without Borders. I’ve slowly come to realize, as I’ve said before, how much money might have value, but time has something more. Not only is personal involvement more, well, personal, but it has an unmeasurable amount of worth to those affected.

How do you measure the worth of something? Well, it’s all relative.

When I was standing in a dusty yard in a small Cameroonian village watching children kick a torn soccer ball and I pulled little Belinda aside to give her a slightly used pair of lady’s shoes, no dollar sign could represent the emotion she had for the shoes. She literally grabbed my arms in shock, timidly put a shoe to her foot – a perfect fit –
then flat out collapsed in my arms and tucked her legs into the air. There I was, standing against a wall, holding a dangling child by my forearms who was so humbled by a simple gift that she buried her face in my stomach and couldn’t even look me in the eye. Then she grabbed the bag and ran home to her hut faster than an American child to an ice cream truck on a hot summer day.

How do you measure that?
Shoes, $50.
Visa, $140.
Plane ticket, $1,864.

Or…
Time spent in Cameroon, 3 weeks.
Time spent on project, thousands of hours.
The look on her face, UNMEASURABLE.

When I paid twice the price for a loaf of bread in Ouidah, Benin, the grandmother who couldn’t even speak French communicated by the happy tears in her eyes and her clasped hands. For an extra 200 francs. Or 40 cents.

Playing games with the children in the village last year…and then returning over a year later to the same children, slightly taller, wearing the same clothes (just more tattered), screaming my name and dancing the dances I taught them. Priceless. Their joy, for nothing, with so much worth.

Even better than the feeling of feeding the poor and sitting with them on Thanksgiving is taking a tag off of the Salvation Army tree, putting serious effort in picking the best gifts for the anonymous wishes, then dropping the bag off. You don’t know where it goes, they’ll never know who you are, and that secrecy feels so selfless that it’s selfish. And worth a LOT.

But even more simply, sitting here on a worksite, on a cold Sunday morning, covered in mud, one has a new appreciation for the DuPont suits given to the workers. They work so hard and so long, harder than I, and they are overwhelmingly appreciative when I give out company stickers for their hard hats. Because they earned it. Because it’s their badge of honor. But it’s just a silly sticker that I have complained about so often, one that is such an awkward shape that it doesn’t stick smoothly to the plastic. But things mean so much more when you’re a dedicated immigrant, happy to have a job and to live in America.

Finally, myself.

This is the kicker, my self-worth. How I measure myself. Well, how I have beenmeasuring my worth and not even realizing it.

Social media. How many likes I get. And it’s not just me! So many friends I talk to agree, we evaluate ourselves by the feedback we get when we put ourselves out there on social media.

I post something I love. I get little to no likes. On Facebook. On Instagram. Retweets or favorites on Twitter. Views on this blog.

My worth becomes the quantity of likes I receive. The quality? Some of these people I don’t even know…yet I still do it…

I compare myself.
He has more likes. She ALWAYS gets likes. What does that mean?? Do I have less friends? Am I not as interesting or popular or loved?? What does it mean???

It shouldn’t mean anything, but I have to admit that it means everything. Whether I want it to or not. And I hate it.

But at the same time, when I put something out there that I think is meaningless or controversial…. And people take my side – that is so incredibly empowering.

I guess we just need to get a grip on what something is worth, lest we continue to harm ourselves or under-appreciate things that could be a total game changer to someone else.