Burning Man and the Indigenous Community.

Last year I attended Burning Man and wrote a piece about my experiences with what I considered the culture of unapologetic appropriation at Burning Man in the name of freedom and art. This post started a huge flame-war, both here at Feministing, along with Burning Man message boards across the country. I knew I had hit a nerve but this latest incident between the Burning Man community and the indigenous community in the Bay Area sheds more light on the point I was trying to get at.
via East Bay Express.

There was supposed to be a “private” Burner party last Saturday night at the Bordello in Oakland, complete with three hundred guests, twenty DJs spinning thumping techno and bass, dancers, a fashion show, micro-massages, raw food, an absinthe bar, and coconuts. Instead, the event ended in tears.
More than fifty Bay Area Native American rights activists converged on the historic East Oakland property at 9:30 p.m. to ensure the shutdown of popular Burning Man group Visionary Village’s “Go Native!” party. The fired-up Hopis, Kiowas and other tribal members spent more than four hours lecturing the handful of white, college-class Burners about cultural sensitivity until some of them simply broke down crying. The emotional crescendo capped a month-long saga that started with a tone-deaf dance party flyer, led to an Internet flame war and a public excoriation of Visionary Village’s young, neo-hippy leaders before real tribal elders in the East Bay demanded a cancellation of the event.

“Go Native?” Wow, just wow.
Thanks to Legba for the heads up!

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49 Comments

  1. BROWN TRASH PUNK!
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Okay… “Go Native” is a bad name, a bad idea.
    So how can we appreciate other people’s cultures without being accused of “stealing” their culture? I am Indian, and I am NOT offended if white people tell me that they love Indian music, Indian clothes and Bollywood, *but* I do get offended if people tell me that they love Indian culture, but are still ignorant, like when they can’t understand the fact that Middle Eastern bellydancing is NOT part of my culture (which is such a huge pet peeve for me).

  2. whaler
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I read the long article about the native american group making all the idiot kids cry their eyes out. It ruled.

  3. a.
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    I think ignorance is a big part of why cultural appropriation is offensive, but it’s also frustrating when the dominant white culture gets to control the way a culture they are not a part of gets represented (or misrepresented) and sold to the masses (often profiting in some way). And it’s even worse because white supremacy actively oppresses and marginalizes people from other cultures, then turns around and exploits cultural ideas whenever white folks see fit.
    I don’t feel like I can comfortably say where the line is for individual white people consuming another culture… but there is a line between stepping outside your own narrow worldview and learning about other cultures, and totally appropriating aspects of other cultures without respecting them enough to learn anything or listen to how people affected feel about it.
    It’s kind of like the line between interracial dating, and fetishism/exotification of people because of their race or ethnicity.

  4. Whit
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    This comment was left by one of the burners involved in the incident, and perfectly exemplifies so many issues.

  5. bifemmefatale
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    One of the big problems with the burner party was that they were treating other people’s cultures as fancy dress costumes instead of people. That would be a good place to start.

  6. bifemmefatale
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Boy, does it. “I don’t have white privilege because I’m poor!” FAIL.

  7. everybodyever
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Yikes! That comment is a mess. Why do people whose white privilege has just been cited so often follow up with a big boring spiel about themselves? And is the commenter suggesting that living in public housing makes one an honorary racial minority?

  8. Tiara
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    This is what I struggle with too. I’m Bangladeshi by heritage, Malaysian by upbringing, and my cultural background is one of mixing and matching. Like you, I’m not offended if any of my non-South Asian friends take an interest in my cultures, but I do get annoyed when they start assuming things (I can’t speak Hindi, people).
    I suppose the key here is respect – assuming things isn’t respect, using the culture but not befriending people of other races isn’t respect, not making your event inclusive isn’t respect.

  9. MK
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Because it’s so much easier than recognizing, owning their privilege and working to dismantle it. And they get to avoid feeling guilty. He reads “white privilege” and interprets it immediately as “racist” and “white supremacist.”
    I am suspicious of how many people at the event he claimed have “Native American” ancestry. What does that mean? You’re 1/16th Cherokee on your mother’s side, your father grew up on a reservation? And the immigrant ancestry he recounted; unless we are Native American, aren’t we all descended from immigrants?

  10. AnatomyFightSong
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Samhita –
    Thanks for tracking back to your FANTASTIC post from last year (which I didn’t catch back then). I could never quite put my finger on what bothered me so much about the SF hippie-rave scene… now I get it. I guess that says a lot about what kind of voices are missing from MSM coverage of Burning Man.

  11. bifemmefatale
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    The commenter obviously does not know the difference between white privilege and class privilege.

  12. anomrabbit
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t had a chance to really think about this article, but two things stuck out for me:
    >> “Commenters demanded that the event be canceled, started a petition amongst rights groups, and some began threatening Visionary Village with arson and rape.”
    While I understand that some of the reactions to this were vary intense, threatening “arson and rape” is never appropriate.
    >> “‘If you want to be spiritual — go be a Druid or something.’”
    It is interesting that a person who was complaining about eir culture being stolen suggest that the Burners go and steal someone else’s culture.

  13. irenealexis
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    “Evolving toward the ecologically sustainable, Visionary community of the future” hmmm doesn’t sound like the Burning Man I know of.

  14. Liz-99
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    I read about this last week and was impressed that the elders, activists, and ignorant kids talked (mainly with the kids listening). I think that we should be proud that the young people learned from their mistake and hope that they take the lesson with them for the rest of their lives. To acknowledge another person’s experience, which is different from our own, is not just the right thing to do; it’s beneficial for us.

  15. Devonian
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Actually, *everyone* in this hemisphere is descended from immigrants. Homo sapiens hasn’t lived in the Americas very long, geologically speaking…

  16. sly
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

    This is a fine line thing where the hell is in the details. Eminem is beloved by the black community in a way that Vanilla Ice never could be. Of course Eminem lets you know which side he’s on: “I’m the worst thing since Elvis Presley to do black music so selfishly”…You know with Eminem he’s coming at you real–he acknowleges being a Johnny come lately–while Vanilla Ice passed off other people’s rhymes & hooks as his own.
    Another good example is the whole Chief Illiniwek controversy at U of IL versus Fl St & the Seminoles. In FL the school worked with the tribe, in IL they haven’t. Result, the Seminoles supported Fl St’s successful effort to keep the Seminoles as a mascot. In Illinois Chief Illiniwek was banned. Its all in the details.

  17. BlueRing
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    This “go native!” crap is like the white “new tribal” guy who pokes holes in every conceivable part of his face and gauges them to hell and back with only the most basic knowledge of why tribes who actually used those piercings used them. You get the “look” without the meaning or the trials or…anything else (and presumably without the infection potential of getting pierced ‘in the field’). It also smacks of the Beat Culture’s habit of chasing down “ethnic” drug experiences and “spiritual experiences” because of their fundamental boredom with their lives and themselves, thinking somehow that life would be “more authentic” if they were something other than middle class white America.
    I have such a huge problem with this because I hate being treated like a novelty – and sadly being Jewish in the midwest is in some places, a novelty – but our national dress and food is not quaint enough for a sincerely mawkish party imitation. However I’m told now that in some circles it’s cool to hate Jews again. And I hate people who travel to poor as hell parts of the world and maybe stay in a hostel or something and then act like they REALLY like “get it, man!” because they were there for two weeks.
    Try being a human being and sincerely engaging with people on a one to one basis because you *care* about other human beings and not about your perceived social standing and “street cred” as “oh so culturally sensitive and experienced”, and admitting when you fundamentally cannot understand something from their point of view because you’ve never had to experience it and you probably won’t have to live it for the rest of your life, instead of attempting to engage in exotic ‘token’ experiences.
    You’d be surprised how much happier people are to share their experiences and insights when you aren’t treating them like an exotic “other”

  18. sly
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

    I’m not white but I can imagine why some white guy might be offended by this…Tossing around “white privilege” like some people do is condescending. I think he was probably objecting to being picked on…as opposed to, say, engaged.
    It implicitly ignores the fact that every individual has their own challenges, racial, economic, gender, or otherwise to deal with. Privilege has become a code word that, used insensitively, can be every bit as divisive as using “exotic” to describe Obama.
    He’s a good example here. His distate for simple labels usually avoids the inter-cultural minefields.

  19. sly
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    How much Native American blood do you have to have to qualify as part-Native American? If my grandfather grew up on a reservation is that enough? What about if I grew up on a reservation? This is a contentious issue, particularly where tribes have rights to oil.
    If we accept that a man can identify himself as a woman, why can’t a white guy identify as a black man? The issue is the same…There’s actually a case of a Chicago Tribune journalist who at age 35 learned his father was black. Even though he looked like he could’ve come over on the Mayflower, he then began identifying himself as black (not mixed).

  20. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

    I have a small amount of Native American heritage (a Lumbee great grandfather) and I really hate the folks who fetishize “Indianness”.
    From what I’ve been told, my great grandfather was just like any other North Carolina corn farmer in the early 20th century – he just happened to be Native American.
    He wasn’t an “other” – a mystical being with some special insight on the universe, he was just a regular guy.
    Why can’t the folks with the “Indian fetish” just understand that – Native people are PEOPLE first and foremost, just like everybody else!

  21. GREGORYABUTLER
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    There actually is a generally recognized standard.
    According to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, have to have a certain amount of Native American ancestry AND be a “member of a tribal community”.
    So, if you live on Pine Ridge, speak Lakota, attend Lakota cultural festivals and have a grandfather who was a full blooded Lakota, you have a legit claim at calling yourself Native American.
    If, on the other hand, you’re somebody like me (I have a Lumbee great grandfather who died before I was born, do not speak a word of Lumbee and have never been to the reservation) then you are definitely NOT Native American – you are a non Native American person who has some Native American ancestry.

  22. BlueRing
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    I should clarify that my family does not originate from Israel so “national dress” is not really the appropriate phrasing for me or quite a lot of other Jews.
    At the risk of sounding like a navelgazer – that’s a fairly awkward example of how I feel as a Jewish woman of no particularly significant national background other than American. Is my “otherness” when it is apparent, cultural or religious or both…and how do I tactfully remind people that not everyone in the nation celebrates their holidays…

  23. karenoh
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

    I can’t say that I know anything about the reaction to the Florida Seminoles, but I don’t know that your statements about Chief Illiniwek are accurate. As an active protester against the Chief for many years, I constantly encountered to pro-Chief argument that whoever donned the Chief costume went to a reservation to learn native traditions and dance. It was brought up time and time again at every board meeting we attended. But at the end of the day, it didn’t matter that the mascot made an attempt to communicate with a Native American tribe because regardless of what he learned from them, he was still using it to go to a football game, put on brown face make-up and dance around for a bunch of drunken frat boys. I would argue that if the mascot for the Florida Seminoles does the same thing, then they should find a new mascot. I find it hard to believe that the entire Seminole culture would approve of such a practice.

  24. rhowan
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I imagine they were making the assumption that the Burners were descended from cultures that once followed Druidic religions (which may or may not have been a reasonable assumption to make). That said, can you “steal” from your own culture if its a culture (or aspects of that culture) that your family has lost connection with?

  25. dondoca
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    I have not been to BM, nor am I interested in going. I know people whom have gone and they said its turned very commercial ie: expensive tickets, forking out cash for food and supplies. The idea of spending a week in a hot desert simply does not appeal to me. I can understand why the Native Americans were upset. A bunch of people are misappropriating by calling the theme “Go Native”. IMO, these burners needed to learn a thing or two from the activists. Nobody can fathom what the Natives have had to fight for all of these years, from poor housing to retirement. I spent some time in Brazil, talking to a native girl, and they are marginalized in that society as well. If you want to learn about and immerse yourself in a culture, go spend time in a different country or on their reservation. I am sure they would be willing to work with people wanting to learn. The Burners had no business throwing a private party using that theme. Honestly, I commend the Natives for taking a stand.

  26. MK
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Good point!

  27. MK
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    “If we accept that a man can identify himself as a woman, why can’t a white guy identify as a black man? The issue is the same…”
    That’s not the same at all. Gender is primarily psychologically-based; ethnicity is not.

  28. EllieB
    Posted April 14, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Ugh. I got to Burning Man and am involved in BM-style festivals here on the East Coast, but there’s this current of, honestly, brainlessly privilged hippy attitude that seems to thrive in my community that pisses me the hell off. I see it at Burning Man (white, pretty, skinny cis-gendered rich people dressing like cartoon versions of Native Americans- gah!) and it makes me cringe.
    It does not stop with Native American culture: I see rampant appropriation of Middle Eastern, Indian, and Thai culture, not to mention incredible, unexamined privilege surrounding economics and ethical consumption.
    I heard about this debacle on April 1st and thought it was an April Fools joke. “Go Native?” How could ANYONE think that that was ok? For fuck’s sake. It’s what stems from white privileged kids thinking we live in a “post-racial” society. I’ll bet they tried to pass it off as being ironic. Epic, unbelievable, inexcusable fail.

  29. Whit
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the US and Canadian governments have an arbitrary legal definition of what is “native american enough,” the blood quantum. A lack of the proper government seal of approval somehow makes someone not authentically first nations? WTF?
    Who sees any benefits to first nations people by allowing the government to define who is and is not part of the first nations? It seems like the only benefit is to the government, who gets to institute racist and sexist policies that ensure they can legally eradicate as many native people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Please see random babble for a better perspective on the issue.

  30. Tiara
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    But what if you come from one culture parentally-speaking but you were raised in another?
    Using the American NA logic, I can’t possibly be Bangladeshi, despite my parents (who were born in Dhaka before Bangladesh even existed) and my passport (thanks to said parents). I hardly speak the language, only been there for a holiday, and don’t really identify with its culture. I grew up Malaysian but that country won’t acknowledge me as one of them either (still waiting on citizenship, despite being born & bred in Malaysia!!). So what am I, stateless? Cultureless?

  31. Chris
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    One thing I didn’t see any mention of his how the apologetics of “It’s okay — I’m part Native American” is really just another way of depriving people belonging to a race of their own individual identities and agency.
    It’s basically saying they don’t need to apologize to the individuals who are angry that these things which are so important to them are being used inappropriately, because they can apologize to “Native Americanness” in some broad sense and that is good enough.
    Basically, if you make a privileged person upset, you need to apologize to them to make it right, but if you make a member of a minority group upset, you can get away with apologizing to their status. Implicit in that, I think, is the idea that members of a minority group do not have the ability to be upset as individuals.

  32. Zailyn
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    It implicitly ignores the fact that every individual has their own challenges, racial, economic, gender, or otherwise to deal with. Privilege has become a code word that, used insensitively, can be every bit as divisive as using “exotic” to describe Obama.
    I’d argue that it does the exact *opposite*. The concept of privilege gets us away from Opression Olympics and acting as if you can just sum up all the discriminations a person suffers and get some oppression number which you can then directly compare with that of another person. Being disadvantaged in one category does not cancel out the fact that you are advantaged in another; a white poor queer disabled transwoman *does* still profit from white privilege, will still not have people following her around in shops because they think she must be a thief because of her race, shout at her to go home in her home country because of her race, etc. This way, we can talk about racism without negating either her experience nor the experience of the black middle-class straight cisgendered nondisabled man.
    What people are saying when they talk about white privilege isn’t “because you’re white none of your problems are real, unlike ours!” It’s “because you’re white, the problems you have because you’re poor/gay/etc. are not *relevant* to this discussion. They may be very difficult and painful, but this is not the venue to discuss them.” This has occasional disadvantages (intersectionality, for one) but I think it’s far better than doing away with the concept altogether.

  33. Napalm Nacey
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Thank you both for discussing this issue cause it makes me feel a little better about my love of certain cultures and how I represent that in my clothing choices and lifestyle. I’m white, but I have been very interested in the Middle East and the southern Asian countries since I was a teenager. I don’t tend to wear things like saris and loose skirts and things as quaint items of fashion. Generally, I like to absorb these pieces into my functional wardrobe, especially since the clothing from hotter Middle Eastern countries is very appropriate for the climate I live in (hot dry Perth, Australia). I worry a lot about appropriating other people’s cultures, but I’m very careful that I understand what I’m wearing. I know how annoyed I felt when young kids started wearing rosaries as fashion items (my Mum is Catholic, and while I despise the Catholic church, I think of my Mum being hurt by their ignorance). Anyway, I love to hear other cultural perspectives – thank you so much for sharing it.

  34. sly
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    You’re missing my point, when I say the hell is in the details, I mean the hell is in the details. My point is that Fl St went beyond just sending the mascot to some meeting with the tribe, they actually worked with the tribe to develop their support and consensus. So the tribe was of the consensus that the Seminole mascot should stay. In the end the Seminoles were as proud of the mascot as the school was.
    In a democracy there will always be individuals who disagree, so the ability to work positively with minority groups to generate broad agreement is the litmus test, not unanimous approval. Undoubtedly some Irish people don’t like the ‘Fighting Irish’ mascot of Notre Dame, but the majority of Irish Catholics support it.

  35. Napalm Nacey
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got a friend that goes to it and goes on and on about how great it is. I’ve always been a little reticent to get excited about it. I’m not surprised to hear about its dark side. I probably won’t ever go there. I’m incredibly cynical of white rich hippies who talk about all these things but don’t live the dream, so to speak. Be the change, don’t wank on about it in fake dreads and pasties.

  36. sly
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Are you kidding me??? That’s nuts. Ethnicity is at least as psychological as it is a social construction, and gender identity is at least as much a social construction as it is a psychological one. What are all the arguments about “gender norming” clothes/toys/etc if not social ones? And how many people of mixed-race heritage who could pass as white identify as black, simply because they want to? That’s a psychological determination.
    The problem is that self-identification of race challenges liberals as much as self-identification of gender challenges conservatives.

  37. green mouse ice cream
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Ethnicity, culture, and citizenship are different things.
    A culture is learned. The only recognition one needs to be a member of a culture is from other members of that culture (and you can belong to more than one). The only thing one needs to have an ethnicity is ancestors of that ethnicity. To be a citizen, one needs recognition from a government.

  38. Zailyn
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I wish the people talking about being ttly Native American rly would do some disentangling of the notions of culture, ancestry, and race. So you’re descended from X tribe? Fine! But if you’re completely culturally American, don’t follow any of the beliefs, don’t *know* any of the beliefs, don’t have or are familiar with any of the traditions of X tribe and the whole thing can be summed up as “I happen to know that my great-great-grandfather was X! Isn’t that cool!”, you should really think twice before deciding you have just as much right to decide what’s appropriative and not as someone who grew up in X tribe and knows and practices the culture. And this goes for more ancestries than Native-American, to boot.

  39. Napalm Nacey
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a terrible loss on the part of the people around you not to learn about Jewish culture and embrace them as fellow human beings. The Jewish community is very, very small where I’m from, and being a homebody, I don’t get to come across them much. I had a friend from Israel and I had a wonderful time talking to her about her times in Israel and how she felt about Australia. She also made the most kick-arse hommus I have *ever* tasted. It kicked me in the teeth, it was freakin’ unreal! Thanks for sharing. (I say that a lot, but I really mean it. Hearing other perspectives is better than gold!)

  40. green mouse ice cream
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Culture is not ethnicity – there are people currently living the culture of the Gael who would likely be very unhappy about random people just jumping in, much like the situation this came up in.

  41. sly
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Well, Zailyn, it doesn’t sound as if you throw the term around condescendingly. If you were the majority, I’d feel much better. I don’t agree that it obviates the Oppression Olympics. Instead its a fine tuning of it–what you’re essentially doing is calculating and quantifying different levels of privilege. That way, you actually can debate who’s worse off the working class White Appalachian kid or Obama’s kids.
    I think the way to get rid of the Oppression Olympics is to get rid of the Oppression Olympics. Stop trying to compare one another’s hardships & grievances & instead just try to understand one another’s hardships & grievances. These people who want to compare the Holocaust to the slave trade to the American Indian genocide to Taliban oppression of women really tick me off…as if the perpetrators of such acts aren’t all on a fast track to hell.

  42. joytulip
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    I went to BM07 and plan to return as often as possible. Until reading this and Samhita’s previous post, I hadn’t given much thought to the inherent white privilege of the event; I’m sure it’s because I am white and benefit from that privilege myself.
    Because I’m conscious of my white privilege I am hesitant to speak about racial experiences. There is something missing for me, though, in the discussion of Burning Man and white appropriation. Immigrants to the U.S. are under pressure to assimilate, and this includes the white European immigrants. My grandfather spoke no English when he immigrated as a child, but he raised his children to speak no Dutch, to be “American”. No one in the family talked about the immigration experience. The only knowledge of my heritage came from stereotypes perpetuated from people outside my community. Without a savvy education with which to critique and resist, the megatheocorporatocracy (to borrow from Twisty) divorces immigrants from their culture. After a generation, it’s easy to feel lost, bereft, homeless, bland, boring, damaged, without identity. I see other cultures as vibrant, authentic, joyful. I see their dances, their rituals, their sense of community. A deep emptiness echoes through me, and I long to be part of something real and ancient and whole, even for a moment. I cringe at the “culture” I am associated with and what it attempts to do to people who have brilliance in their lives, and I know it’s out of envy.
    One of the purposes of Burning Man is to re-invent that sense of tribalism for those of us who’ve lost it. Borrowing from other cultures in one of the only ways we know how to express it. It’s shorthand, because we don’t know how to go about building something meaningful of our own. We don’t know who we are, so we want to pretend we’re “global” or “neo-whatever.” Yes, it reeks of privilege, but the kind of privilege that allows you to be oblivious. It’s not meant with disrespect, but that makes it no less damaging. What would be awesome, although it again places the burden on the marginalized, is to have outreach & programs prior to and at the event (as was suggested in the other post). I think most burners would be horrified at being perceived this way and would be glad to find a way toward a more respectful practice.

  43. K.Rae
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how Americans are disconnected from their ancestral cultures. For background, I identify as German-American and am living this year in the part of Germany where both my great-grandmother and great-grandfather were born. I owe much of my appreciation for my history to my great-aunt, who still goes out of her way to keep alive the memories and accomplishments of her parents.
    The benefits I’ve received from re-connecting with my own culture are huge. Why then are we not encouraging young people to study and appreciate their own heritages? Why not travel through your homeland, learn the mother tongue, or just ask your own elders for the story of your family’s past?

  44. Gigi Leigh
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    “I see other cultures as vibrant, authentic, joyful. I see their dances, their rituals, their sense of community. A deep emptiness echoes through me, and I long to be part of something real and ancient and whole, even for a moment.”
    Do you ever think that those tribal cultures which seem so vibrant are probably so vibrant in reaction to Europeans trying to force their customs on them? Maybe it is an act of defiance as well as carrying on their customs?

  45. BlueRing
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    Sadly around here things got quite alot worse after the Mel Gibson historical snuff film that was “Passion of the Christ” as in police guarding synagogues and the Hebrew college around high holidays and people repeating tropes about Jews that I don’t think people have muttered since the medieval era (we

  46. karenoh
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Again, I don’t really know what kind of information you’re working with, but your statement that most Irish Catholics support the Fighting Irish is not only irrelevant but also doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’m Irish Catholic, come from a big Irish Catholic family in a heavily Irish Catholic community, and although we don’t go around expressing distaste for the Fighting Irish mascot, that doesn’t mean we lend it our support. It’s kind of a moot point nowadays because Irish Americans have been able to assimilate more or less. We are white.
    Using an outdated stereotype of angry drunken Irishmen isn’t even close to using sacred Native American rituals as entertainment for a half-time show. Again, your statements that the Seminole tribe has largely accepted and supported the Seminole mascot may be true, but based on the sweeping generalizations you’ve made about topics I have some more authority in, I’m prone to be skeptical. In the fight against Chief Illiniwek, we never had overwhelming support from Native American tribes in the area. Yes, there was some support, but most of the protesters were students, affiliates of the school and human rights groups. But when you invade a country, steal land, force the remaining people onto reservations and marginalize their culture to the point where they have almost no voice or representation in the affairs of our country, what do you expect? A lack of publicized opposition from Native American groups does not imply that they are not opposed, nor does it imply that the practice is acceptable.

  47. Mollie
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Race and gender are both equally social constructs that serve no other purpose than classification and perpetuating expectations.

  48. bluey512
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Cultural appropriation isn’t a concept I’m terribly familiar with, so please forgive me if I’m missing something obvious.
    I’m not sure whether I can actually understand what’s necessarily offensive about it. Maybe that’s just because I’m a very ethnically mixed white American with no strong sense of roots, history, or culture. When you’re as ethnically mixed as most white Americans, it’s hard to imagine really feeling ownership of any one tradition, and you almost have to treat even the ones in your own background as sort of… cosmetic. So it’s no surprise to me that a mostly white person with Native heritage would treat that heritage exactly the same way as they would treat, say, Irish heritage (“I have red hair and a temper because I have one ancestor from Ireland! Hur hur!”).
    In cases where mocking or cartoonish misrepresentation of a culture occurs, I can see where the offense lies. But is it always an offensive cultural appropriation when a white person makes an aspect of a non-white culture part of their life? Like wearing a sari, or making tacos? Or do you have to understand those things perfectly? Or is it okay to appropriate them if you recognize that what you’re doing is only Indian- or Mexican-inspired, and not the same as what’s going on in India or Mexico?

  49. joytulip
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    “Do you ever think…”
    Yes, I do think defiant cultural preservation contributes to what I perceive. I wish that my forebears had had the integrity to preserve my ancestral culture and pass it down rather than succumbing to the customs being forced on them.

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