One of the stellar blogs we follow and learn from on Tumblr, this-is-not-native, exposes the cultural appropriation of white hipsters with their headdresses, war paint, and “indian” tattoos. A Tumblr user recently wrote to them after several lengthy exchanges, asking why they were “perpetuating the same hatred” and proceeded to cry about how these poor racist white folks were receiving so much “hate mail” because this-is-not-native reblogs their pictures and calls them on their shit. I want to be clear that the mods at this-is-not-native did an excellent job of deconstructing and debunking as always, and they have informed everything written below. This particular mod felt the need to critically engage this argument on our blog because it demonstrates white supremacy, white ignorance, and racism so infuriatingly well. If you’re a white person and you want to go after Indigenous bloggers, here’s ten reasons why you shouldn’t do it:
- The assumption that we’re about to make an argument a person of color has never heard, thought of, or previously dealt with. If we want to make matters worse, then it’s the assumption that we’re going to enlighten an Indigenous person about their own culture, or their methods of defending it—and themselves—against racism. Not our culture, not our experience, not our business.
- The attitude that suggests we are experts when it comes to dealing with racism and we know the “right” way to do it. We don’t experience racism, so how the fuck would we know? We have no business doling out unsolicited social advice to Indigenous people, or to people of color in general. Never do this. Seriously. It’s not our place.
- The self-righteous conviction that we are entitled to educate an Indigenous person about “proper” etiquette when dealing with racists. White privilege allows us to think we have answers, we have knowledge, and we are qualified to tell PoC how to conduct themselves. PoC are the only ones qualified to tell us what’s up when it comes to racists and racism, not the other way around.
- The misconception that our opinion in the context of cultural appropriation is more important than the demands of Indigenous people that we stop doing it. Not only are our opinions less important, they are also completely irrelevant. If Indigenous people don’t want us stealing from their culture, then it doesn’t matter how nice we are or how much we think we’re showing “appreciation.” One simple NO is all we need. End of discussion.
- The delusion that racists feeling a backlash for their racism is the same as actual racism. Come on people, really? Get the fuck out of here with that argument. The racist act of cultural appropriation deserves all the backlash, “hate” mail, and calling out it’s going to potentially get. When we’re desecrating cultural practices and refusing to stop when Indigenous people tell us to do so (that is racism), we don’t get to cry about people being “mean” to us (that isn’t racism).
- The derailing of specific conflicts to talk romantically about all of us as just “human beings.” Um no. When cultural appropriation is committed (like the crime that it is), the same historical/current power dynamics between white colonizers and colonized Indigenous peoples is being played out once again. It is fundamentally dehumanizing for white folks to steal from Indigenous cultures, so we can’t make that bogus claim about human beings when Indigenous peoples are not being respected as human beings.
- The confused idea that all people deserve respect, therefore racists should be left alone. Don’t forget that white folks appropriating Native culture are the ones on trial for heinous amounts of disrespect. So unless we’re advocating for hypocrisy, don’t act like hipsters appropriating Native culture is OK while Indigenous people calling them out is “disrespectful.”
- The crazy accusation that Indigenous people are “perpetuating hatred” by refusing to tolerate cultural appropriation. This completely ignores the fact that a white person stealing Native culture is already an act of hatred and racism—especially when Indigenous people have explained repeatedly that they do not approve. Hatred is not the criticism you invite upon yourself after you do something wrong.
- The ignorance that compels us to think we have every right to comment on something we don’t understand. There’s a big difference between having an opinion and acting on it; there’s also a big difference between an educated opinion and an ignorant one. Learn something about Indigenous peoples and why stealing from their cultures isn’t harmless, instead of getting in their faces.
- The failure to check white privilege when intervening in Indigenous arguments as moderators on the behalves of racists. Defending racists and their behavior is not a community service or a good deed, it is helping the cause of racism and uplifting our own white privilege. Furthermore, remember the cardinal rule of checking whiteness: if it’s not about you, no matter what it is, don’t make it about you.