By Thea Lim
On Tuesday Racialicious Special Correspondent Jessica Yee wrote a post for the Bitch Magazine blog called “On hipsters/hippies and Native Culture” (scroll down one to see the post itself), which was basically a post listing some of the major cultural appropriation no-nos practiced by hipster and hippie culture.
The Bitch Magazine blog comments section is usually fairly quiet, averaging about 10 comments a post. Jessica’s post got 51 comments (at last count). While a few comments were supportive of Jessica’s point, a lot of them were angry, obtuse and condescending, accusing Jessica of being combative while they themselves were combative or accusing Jessica of “excluding people” while remaining completely insensitive to the fact that our culture has actively and institutionally excluded the communities Jessica speaks for, for hundreds of years. A little proportion, please.
Racialicious considers Bitch a friend – all year Racialicious bloggers will be guesting at the Bitch blog. But when Jessica sent out an email to the team with a link to said Bitch post and its comments, we shuddered a long, sad, collective sigh. This kind of blowback is so depressingly standard, and calls immediately to mind the dozens of times we’ve received these types of responses when we’ve asked for ourselves, our cultures and our experiences to be respected.
The resistance Jessica got is so standard that we can categorise it into three, typical responses that entitled folks make when called out for their privilege. So here, organised for your reading ease, are some of those soul-scorching comments, and my rebuttals to their nonsense.
1. Why are you so angry? Don’t you know that no one will listen to your cause if you’re angry?
…Her defensive, hostile and generally angry tone does no service to the Indigenous community nor to her own self-claimed authorty as the arbiter of all things Native. Many of her points (Native women were the first to acknowledge that periods aren’t gross?) fail to recognize that these same concepts are fairly universal and are held by the early peoples of pretty much every continent- including Europe. She needs to take a breath and get over herself…
It seems somewhat contradictory to put stickers on your laptop that indicate a Mohawk heritage and then rudely dismiss a stranger who expresses an interest in your advertisement. Perhaps a better way to accomplish your agenda (whatever it is) would be to engage in polite and open-minded conversation with those who mistake your stickers for an invitation.
if you dont like the ignorance people have of you then fix it! teach them the right way! dont get all huffy and upset and tell them to go away!
Note that the second comment suggests that Jessica should take a nicer tone if she wants to accomplish her agenda – without even knowing (or I guess, caring) what the agenda is.
This kind of hey-let-me-help-you-achieve-your-goal-by-suggesting-you-be-more-radio-friendly response totally misunderstands (and appears disinterested) in the anti-racist project, because it assumes that anti-racism is all about convincing white people to be nice to people of colour. In other words, it assumes that anti-racism revolves around white folks. Like everything else in the world.
Anti-racism and people of colour organizing is not about being friendly, being appealing, or educating white folks. While individual anti-racist activists may take those tacks to achieve their goals, the point of anti-racism is to be for people of colour.
Anti-racism is about carving out a space for people of colour; decolonising and reappropriating the spaces which have been taken from us by racism. So sometimes people put Mohawk stickers on their laptops (or wear yellow pride t-shirts or support black music) because that is a way for them to affirm to themselves who they are, within a dominant culture that tries to ignore and erase their pride in their own cultures.
Read the Post Some Basic Racist Ideas and some Rebuttals, & Why We Exist