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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
But they're not just "playing Indian"...or are they? 
21st-Aug-2005 03:59 pm
Anyone interested in US racial and ethnic politics needs to go read this article in today's New York Times Magazine, now.

Right. Now.

As everyone who has studied race relations knows, white in the United States is defined negatively, and some whites, eager to play the "cool" card, embrace hip-hop, Orientalism, "ethnic" food and fashion, or, in the extreme, distant racialized ancestors in their family trees.

And you know what? IT SUCKS. It really does. And the imbeciles who do it and go all-out just don't deserve to live. So what if your great great great grandmother was an Indian? YOU'VE got your middle class white privilege, while the REAL Indians, the ones for whom ethnicity isn't a matter of coolness but just a fact of life, live in terrible, grinding poverty and crime. See, because *real* ethnic groups don't have a choice; they're labeled, and that label isn't cool--it just hurts.

You wear your "ethnic" clothing, and everyone thinks you look chic. I wear the same clothing, and people will think I'm an outsider and treat me as such. You wouldn't be doing this if it meant honestly and truly becoming a second-class citizen. Get over yourself, already, white man.
21st-Aug-2005 08:23 pm (UTC)
Ask me how many shiksas joined my temple AFTER Madonna became a moonie for the Kabbalah??

21st-Aug-2005 08:40 pm (UTC)
And from what I understand it, Madonna's favored brand of Kabbalah isn't even very authentic...? *sighs*
21st-Aug-2005 08:24 pm (UTC)
And some people try to have the label "Indian-descendent" so they can get tax credits... I'm unfortunately NOT joking...
21st-Aug-2005 08:42 pm (UTC)
It's often thought that that (or dibs on reservation money) is what is happening in the US as well, especially with the success of a few but very high-profile casinos. But, really, it's more about ethnic chic than it is about dollar signs. I'm guessing that the "allure" of being a Native American is also the case in Canada, as well?
21st-Aug-2005 08:30 pm (UTC)
If they really knew what being a "second-class" citizen and human being was like, they'd be going all nazi-like in their white pride.

This sort of behavior just disgusts me.
21st-Aug-2005 08:44 pm (UTC)
And you know what angers me most of all? That this popularity of Indianness among people who are for all intents and purposes white does not in any way net real benefits to the people living on depressed, impoverished Indian reservations! You're white or you're not, and that doesn't change. *disgusted*

I wonder if this is a Western phenomena. Do you have anything similar in the countries that you've lived in?
21st-Aug-2005 08:50 pm (UTC)
I remember when my boyfriend told me he was part Indian...definitely couldn't tell it from the genes that filtered down. The only part of his genetic tree more dominant than the Indian part (I forget the tribe) is the German part. x.x
21st-Aug-2005 08:54 pm (UTC)
*nods* I've met a few people over the years who've claimed Indian heritage, and it used to really gall me, even back then, because I knew that, for all intents and purposes, they were white. One girl my age--blonde hair and blue eyes. Another, one of my professors--beautiful green eyes and auburn hair. Yeah. Right.

I've noticed a lot of Asian-Americans playing the oriental-chic card here, as well. Even Hikaru Utada in her English-language album (and let's face it; she's more American than Japanese). I absolutely positively refuse to do that, even though, after living in Korea, I can fool Koreans and Japanese in the US into thinking I'm "authentically" one of them.
(Deleted comment)
21st-Aug-2005 10:04 pm (UTC) - Re: ...
Go for it. ^_^
21st-Aug-2005 10:12 pm (UTC) - ...
Im not sure its welcomed, but Im a white person, and I hope no one minds me saying somethign here...
I think I can understand why white people want to claim an exotic ethnic background when there may be little or none. I myself am white- there is no question of it, and I dont pretend to be anything else. I have no idea what countries my family is origanlly from. I ahve freind who can talk about how thier parents struggled with raccial problems, freinds who can talk of thier noble families who left germany at the onset of war, or can tell me of thier grandmothers stories from mexico- one feels plain in comparison. You want some way to say "look, this is where I come from, this is what we do" but there is none. I dont go around pretending to be someoen Im not, but I can see where the temptation lies. Around here, when you go to an "indian festival", the people are all white...and there they are yelling about how white men did horrible things to them- it really is ridiculous. I guess what it comes down to is that those people are idoits.
I really hope I ahvent offended... Its hard to get what I want to say out in a coherant fashion.
21st-Aug-2005 10:22 pm (UTC) - Re: ...
*shakes head* You haven't offended at all. Worry not. ^_^

Well, I don't know how much of my background you're familiar with, but I'm of Korean descent adopted by whites--Mom's a WASP, Dad's Italian-American. As such, I do understand the white perspective quite well and empathize; it's hard when your very identity is, as I said earlier, defined as an ABSENCE of non-normative qualities. (In fact, successive waves of European immigrants abandoned their ethnicity in order to "become" white in the US. This is fascinating stuff.) After all, we want to fit in, but we also want to be unique. *shrugs* It's a totally human impulse.

It's when white people adopt the trappings and privileges of an ethnic group but do not address the prejudice and discrimination that labeled (as opposed to self-labeled) members of that group suffer that bothers me. While the nominal "Indians" are powpowing like it's a big party, their "cousins" are living below the poverty line and not getting a good education on the reservations. *shakes head in disgust*
Re: ... - Anonymous - Expand
21st-Aug-2005 10:16 pm (UTC)
Well, no one would ever confuse me for anything but white European anyhow >_< I did get mistaken for Austrian, but that's about the most I could ever hope for.. I just find it really weird that someone who presumably discovers they have some little genetic bit of Native American in them feels they suddenly have to do some stereotype Indian thing..

You know, in Florida the organized Seminoles are actually doing pretty good economically. Any property they buy becomes reservation land, and the Seminole reservation has actually been expanding into urban Miami.. It's not the obscene poverty you see in the reservations more out West, etc., where you can't believe you're actually seeing something in the US..
21st-Aug-2005 10:26 pm (UTC)
The Seminoles haven't been without their controversies, however, given all the stuff about "red" and "black" Seminoles. We're so concerned about *blood* in the US--drives me crazy. Fact of the matter is, though, that the Seminoles were a tribe *formed* by Native Americans and escaped slaves, and that the so-called black Seminoles had as much of a right to the tradition as the rest.

Not to mention that Native Americans throughout US history have at times almost made it to "whiteness." Believe it or not. Held slaves and everything. Cherokees fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War because they were slaveholders. (The kid with the Confederate flag on his Indian togs might be more right than the writer realized.) It was in their interest to keep slavery legal. Someone below them on the totem pole and all...
21st-Aug-2005 11:13 pm (UTC)
I hope it's okay to comment. I'm white. Although I could go with the ethnic pretense, as my mother's grandmother was Cherokee, but that's just a part of my blood and I don't try to impress anyone with it. She married an Irishman, but I may love Irish music (a lot!) but I don't pretend to be Irish, either..

Anyway. Sorry for the ramble. The point of my comment is to say that I live in a very different world from the would-be ethnic chic that you're describing. Down south in Georgia. And here, my relatives and the people from my parents' church (I cannot call them Christians) put as much distance between themselves and anything ethnic if at all possible. To the point where the preacher might preach about equality and God's love knowing no color, but should his daughter fall in love with a black man? They're going to hell, you know? =_=

I hate to say that my own parents are like this. And it drives me up the wall that they don't see the hypocrisy. They went to Japan to try to spread what they would call Love, right? And yet, they defend the South for its stand in the Civil War, saying "Well, of course, the slaves would be set free. It's just a matter of time." (Like, what is there to debate over?? Although that comment might make me seem like I'm taking the high road when, yes, my ancestors kept slaves and even my immediate family apparently has no qualms with the concept as a whole.)

Well, the "ethnic chic" side of white people bothers me to no end, but this stubborn "What'd we do wrong?!" white (and American) attitude that I see around me bothers me even more. Particularly because it's so close to home, and I guess particularly because I was raised in Hiroshima, Japan, but I'll try not to get off topic on that. ^^;;

I hope I haven't offended you. I don't mean to, at all.
22nd-Aug-2005 01:20 am (UTC)
I may love Irish music (a lot!)

Thread hijack, beat me if you feel so inclined. ^_^;;

What bands/artists in particular do you like? Any album recommendations? I've been listening to my Blackthorn CDs (highly, highly recommended if you haven't heard them - I'll buy the CDs back from you if you buy them and hate them) repeatedly, but they're the only true Irish in my collection, which seems to run more heavily towards the Scottish (Clann and Drumma, Battlefield Band, Tartan Terrors, etc).

So - what do you like best?
22nd-Aug-2005 01:17 am (UTC)
Heh - but joking about my terrorist ancestors is so much fun, especially in the current political climate!

Of course, the Scottish/Scandinavian side of my family tree makes me look rather less ethnic than I am - you can really tell with my sister, though. I can't tan at all, and can in fact be used as emergency lighting if the situation calls for it - she can tan under incandescent bulbs.
22nd-Aug-2005 01:30 am (UTC)
Heh - but joking about my terrorist ancestors is so much fun, especially in the current political climate!

I occasionally joke about the Mafia hitman on my father's side of the family as well. The key difference is that one ancestor doesn't make me a hitman or you a terrorist. ^_~

I can't tan at all,

Does that mean you go straight to burn? ^^;
22nd-Aug-2005 02:31 am (UTC)
How dare you! Just kidding!

I am an American of Polish-Jewish decent. Can you tell by looking at me? Not really. I have a light eyes, pale skin, a very anglo [slavic] nose, but I have the semetic hair [we call this Is-frizz]. In my own community someone like me is given a nasty label called, an "ivory jew'. We are called this because, unless Jimmy-Jo skinhead were to come out and ask, he would never know I was Jewish.

As for playing the race card - I truly try not to. Coming up through the years and leaving my community [Brighton Beach Slav Jews] I was often forced to encounter people who, for whatever reasons they might have had, liked to express their 'whiteness' to such a degree that when I did explain, hey I am Jewish, suddenly they needed to 'express' that their 'whiteness' was not so pure.

Unfortuntely we live in a time where the media equated white-pride with hatred and political incorrectness. I think this need to compensate with phantom ethnicity is just a side-effect of that.

22nd-Aug-2005 02:33 am (UTC)
tard-bot edit: equated equates

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