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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Stuff Your Turkey with Justice 2016


Just to be clear - It's not "political correctness" to want our history told accurately and completely.  It's not political correctness to want to be treated with dignity in actions, in deeds, and with words.  It's not political correctness when we correct you, it's us caring enough about you that we want to educate you - you are not on our "Not Worth It, I Give Up List!" Your "political correctness" comments are about your belief that you do not need to listen to us for whatever reason (not what you learned, not what you do, not what you think, etc.).  When you make a negative comment about something being, "Political Correct," you are not respecting us, you are dismissing us, the ones who are trying to educate you out of your ignorance - and you're refusing to listen.

We, Indigenous People of the Western Hemisphere (aka Native Americans) have not been able to tell our own stories - other people tell our story, or pieces of it, or stereotypes about it.  We have no place in the world to tell our own stories, if not here on our own land, in our own country!

When we want to be called respectful terms, have accurate images, and share our history (which is the history of our country), it is us wanting equity - something that many other folks (you) have without asking or thinking about, and yet we have to fight to have the same thing, to be respected for who we are, and to been fairly included in textbooks, novels, movies, the legal systems, and more.  Equity is not about "giving everyone a shoe," it is about "giving everyone a shoe that fits!" For far too long, we have had to settle with what was given us, which is like getting scraps in the kitchen while everyone else sits at the dining room table.

This is our land, our heritage, our biology…  Our very cells were formed on this continent.  We need to be represented with a larger space in literature, media, politics, education, etc., from the snow covered mountain tops to the sandy, rocky shores of this land, just to be equitable with your space.  Sometimes your "rights" infringe upon someone else's rights or, at least, take more than your fair share in our system of unequitable justice.  We want the same thing you already have - like TV shows that reflect our lives, songs on the radio written and sung by our people, textbooks that tell our history, holidays that celebrate our culture, laws that protect our rights, politicians that speak for our values.

When you have the power to tell your stories, and also ours because we aren't allowed, you are on the "cycle of oppression" - which is called racism.  Racism is not individual acts of meanness, it's a system working to keep one group in power and maintain the status quo, unwilling to change, and only willing to continue the same stereotypes and misinformation. It functions as a SYSTEM, which means multiple levels are working together.  Individuals are part of a society and culture that is reaffirmed through institutions. That's why when we see a stereotype, we ALL know it, because it's not just one person making it up on the spot, it's a system working to teach it to everyone and then perpetuate it to the exclusion of all other aspects of the group that is being stereotyped.  As indigenous First Nations people, we have an entire continuum of history and culture, but only snip-its, like Thanksgiving, teepees, feathers, horses, wars, and reservations are ever shown, taught, and learned.  Some of us are hurt by racism (misinformed, embarrassed, angry) and others are oppressed by it (unequal treatment under the law, limited access to institutions that have the power to create change).  For example, we are forced to celebrate holidays that aren't ours, while the holidays that we do recognize are considered minor and not institutionalized, forcing us to take personal days, if we want to observe them.  How many people have to take a personal day for Christmas?

BTW I do not get government handouts, I've always been Native American, I've always had health insurance, and I worked 40 hours a week to pay for my college education.  I recognize that this is an advantage that other American Indians, often that 22% that lives on a reservation, haven't had because their family lives in poverty, doesn't have electricity, has complicated medical issues, or lives meal by meal.  Most of the people in the United States don't even know about the "third world"/"developing nation" conditions that exist in their own country.

I worked just as hard as you did, but I did not see myself represented in K-12 or the greater cultural society around me, except when it benefited folks with power, privilege, and dominance to stereotype (Cleveland Indians), appropriate (clothing, head dresses, names like Apache and Winnebago), or mock us (Boston Tea Party).  This is not about my being "politically correct," it is about wanting "justice for all," especially the original people of this land.

~ Claudia A. Fox Tree