Tag Archives: genocide

Voices: Taking Back ‘Columbus Day’

For the United States of America to have a federal holiday in honor of that particular moment of “discovery” in 1492, is unconscionable on many levels.

To celebrate that moment is to celebrate the expulsion of Jews and Muslims from Spain.

To cheer about Columbus is to cheer the coming of the first European slave trader to the Americas.

To praise what happened in 1492 is to implicitly praise the very real and very terrible results of that contact between peoples.
- Jessica Luther, Speaker’s Corner in the ATX

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I’m not celebrating genocide

by Guest Contributor Jessica Yee, originally published at the Shameless Blog

Christopher Columbus is no hero.

Some say he is actually responsible for causing 95 million deaths of Indigenous peoples worldwide.

He was not a great discoverer either. He had no idea where he was going, and never even came to the land we know today as North America. In fact, he was way far off in Haiti and, thinking he had landed in India, called the traditional Arahawk people of that territory “Indians”.

That name has since stuck on us like glue and has caused generations of systemic genocide and mass attempts to annihilate our culture.

But each year, on October 12th, “Columbus Day” is celebrated, paraded, and honoured in the United States, and in many Latin American countries including Costa Rica and Spain, for what this mass murderer did to my people.

Actually, in Venezuela, they have renamed it “Indigenous Resistance Day”.

Watch this clip from the Canary Effect by the Bastard Fairies, an amazing independent music duo from the Yankton Sioux reservation.

I’m disgusted, appalled, and saddened that this day continues to be celebrated. I know I will NEVER celebrate genocide. And I know that as a feminist, I have a DUTY to cry out against Columbus, and everything he stood for.

Watch this message from NICAN TLACA community who call on us all to do something about it and stop the genocide now.

Kid Nation meets Indians

by guest contributor Rob Schmidt, originally published at Newspaper Rock

Usually I don’t watch reality shows. They’re too hokey and manipulative for my taste. But I had to look when the penultimate episode of Kid Nation (airdate: 12/5/07) featured Indians.

If you don’t know the premise of Kid Nation, it’s simple. A bunch of kids have been “left alone” to “pioneer” in a Western “town” set up in the “wilderness” near Santa Fe. “40 Kids! 40 Days! No Adults!” is the show’s tagline.

I use quotes because it’s obvious the whole thing is staged. One adult acts as a moderator on-screen and other adults are just off-screen: holding cameras and asking questions. Knowing little about the show, I’d guess that every scene is planned and executed by a director with a script. The kids have some latitude about what to say but they’re basically puppets.

How contrived is Kid Nation? In the episode’s inevitable competition, the kids have an hour to move shacks from one location to another. What are the odds that the last team will complete the task with exactly one second to spare? Pretty good if it’s a staged “reality show.”

Indians to the rescue?

As “Where’s Bonanza, Dude?” opens, it’s Day 35 of 40. Led by a “town council,” the faux Bonanza City seems to be under control. Why then are the kids checking an “1885 journal” for help?

Supposedly written by Bonanza City’s first settlers, the journal says the townsfolk failed to explore beyond the outpost’s borders. It advises the readers to seek out the people who lived there “centuries before us.” It even includes a map.

In theory, this is a valid idea. America’s plucky but ignorant pioneers often relied on the Indians they met. Starting with John Smith at Jamestown, they frequently had to find help or die.

Using Indians as practical and philosophical guides from the beginning would’ve been a worthwhile approach. But the show is almost over. What possible aid could the Indians provide at this point? It’s hard to imagine.

The premise might as well have a flashing red light and blinking sign that says “gratuitous.” It’s painfully obvious that this is going to be a gimmick. Apparently the show’s creators want to get the town council off stage for an hour so the other kids can shine. They might as well have sent these pseudo-leaders to the mall.

Igloo or teepee?

So the town’s four honchos wander off into the semi-tame “wilderness.” (I suspect it’s grazing land on a ranch.) Eventually they come over a rise and spot…what? “It looks like an igloo,” guesses one boy. No, it’s…teepees.

Is there a single child in America who couldn’t tell an igloo from a teepee? I doubt it. But let’s assume the show’s creators found the one kid dumb enough to make this mistake. Let’s pretend it wasn’t a scripted moment. CONTINUE READING >>

Ebony magazine takes on Africa

by guest contributor Harry Allen, Hip-Hop Activist & Media Assassin

This is almost too easy, but if you’ve not yet picked up or flipped through December 2007′s self-proclaimed “special collector’s edition” of EBONY, get a gander at:

- Michael Jackson on the cover…and way too much inside (“25 Years After Thriller“), glowing, translucently; with an almost inner light.

- “The Africa You Don’t Know”: An ehh-not-the-worst-given-it’s-EBONY section on the continent. (Even if you don’t buy the issue, check p. 115 for Nigerian journalist Gbemisola Olujobi’s pull-quote about “disaster pornography”; probably the sharpest 42 words you’ll read about the continent this winter.)

- An interview with Bill Clinton about Africa, continuing mainstream Black media’s despicable tradition of speaking to important government leaders through mouths full of puffery. ESSENCE interviews Condoleezza Rice, but doesn’t ask her why she was buying BDSM boots while New Orleansers were floating face down in rancid water, or EBONY talking to Clinton about the continent, but not a single question about Darfur, not to mention Rwanda. (They did get in two questions about “the American Dream,” however. What????)

In fact, Clinton raises the genocide in Rwanda. He doesn’t discuss it, though, or his role in it. He just says, “Take Rwanda, devastated by the 1994 genocide,” the lets fly a paragraph’s worth of “but now”-type banter, plus violas: “Now look at what they’re doing. They’re growing rapidly; they have all kinds of partners, including [Microsoft's] Bill Gates and me. They’ve opened themselves to the world. They’ve even developed a film industry, for goodness sakes.” Yes; that’s what they needed 13 years ago to stop crudely stamped, Chinese-made machetes: software partnerships and film.

- A story of interracial love as only EBONY can tell it: Janet Langhart and Bill Cohen (Clinton’s defense secretary), with an opening, “our love is alive” photo portrait (p. 158) so fake it’ll make you swear off interracial romance.

Wow. I guess EBONY is still good for something.

Racial Rumors: Do(n’t) Believe the Hype

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

If Spike Lee said it, then it must be true . . . right?

Not exactly.

In a 1992 interview with Barbara G. Harrison for Esquire Magazine entitled “Spike Lee Hates Your Cracka Ass,” Spike Lee informed readers of a racist statement made by popular women’s clothing designer Liz Claiborne during a guest spot on Oprah:

Claiborne got on and said she didn’t make clothes for black people to wear. Oprah stopped the show and told her to get her ass off the set. How you gonna get on Oprah’s show and say you don’t make clothes for Black women? It definitely happened. Get the tape. Every black woman in America needs to go to her closet, throw that shit out and never buy another stitch of clothes from Claiborne.

His allegations weren’t true. Liz Claiborne was never a guest on Oprah and had never been quoted as having said that she thought black women’s hips and butts were too large for her clothes, among other variations of the rumor. It turns out that Lee had bought the hype. He had fallen victim to what snopes.com calls a “racial rumor,” an urban myth of sorts that relates to a specific race and/or ethnic group. While some of these double-Rs are formed arbitrarily, others find their roots in good business. If a brand does well in and/or its creator caters to a specific demographic, it may be the object of a racial rumor during its lifespan on the market. [Note from Carmen: Thanks very much to Deb for the tip!]

The Liz Claiborne rumor is just one of many. Some of you may have heard a few about Tommy Hilfiger clothing (see above), Timberland boots, Coors beer, menthol cigarettes, KFC, Starbucks, and even Snapple, just to name a few. While the original source of these rumors often remains anonymous, the myths themselves usually reach a popularity of insane proportions and are difficult to squash for several reasons. I have a few guesses of my own. . .

For one, word of mouth is one of the most powerful publicity options known to man, and the oldest. The adult version of the telephone game serves as a successful means for disseminating information, particularly that which directly affects a specific group of people. Considering the tradition of oral history within communities of color, as well as a distrust of popular media sources by many people who consider themselves on the margins of dominant culture, it is no surprise that this method of communication is popular. If one were to question why a racial rumor had yet to make its way to television, newspapers, or films, a reasonable reply would be that the mainstream media was simply withholding information, siding with The Man to protect his interests. This is not to say that people of color are superstitious or paranoid. In fact, the reliance upon information found via alternative sources is a smart choice for groups whose concerns and interests are virtually ignored by the media unless a crime is committed or by the government unless it’s voting season. Such a method of communication also has a history of providing “them”s with a chance at “us”-like opportunity. [Please see: the Underground Railroad, slave revolts, the civil rights movement, occupational advancement because someone who came here before you knew someone else who could “hook you up,” talking to family abroad to lead to immigration, and so on and so forth] Continue reading

Edward curtis erased whites and froze Indians in the past

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

edward curtisFascinating article about Edward Curtis, whose photographs of American Indians are instantly familiar to us all. (Hat tip to Newspaper Rock!)

Curtis’ images of Indians are burned into the hearts and minds of many Americans to this day. They are also at the center of controversy.

The photos are so luminous and exquisitely composed that it is impossible to imagine the disputation that rages around them. Curtis started as a society photographer in Seattle, and his portraits of Indians are as stunning as those he might have taken of big-wigs…

Curtis’ images have not been universally welcomed in Indian country. Many Indians — and non-Indian scholars — object to Curtis’ methods, even if the results are stunning. For instance, Curtis arranged many of the photos carefully and at times ludicrously. His Hopi women ground corn in ceremonial dress, and he sometimes clothed individuals in items from other tribes.

Still, as UCSD scholar Ross Frank and Heidi Wigler, the Wangenheim librarian point out, Curtis’ legacy is troubling on more serious grounds. Curtis “collected” people, their dwellings, and their material culture (baskets, clothing, cradleboards, for instance). Anthropologists shelved Indians and their artifacts in museums — thousands of Indian remains rested in museums until repatriation — but Curtis froze them in images. “His approach was anthropological, he wanted to capture an ideal in a pure form, as if the outside world didn’t exist,” says Wigler. Continue reading