Culture Should Inspire, Not Divide

This idea that we will or should eventually all meld into one blended and universal “race” or ethnicity, or whatever your favorite current terminology requires…. it’s bunk.  There, I said it.  You can like me, or dislike me for saying it, I really do not care.  It is what it is and that’s how I see it.

I was taught to appreciate and celebrate our differences as much as our similarities.  That applies to individuals, to countries, to cultures, to ethnicities, to spiritual beliefs, and EVERYTHING in this wide world.  Pretending that you are someone that “doesn’t see color” is just idiotic.  You have eyes, you have ears, and you can see and hear differences.  Stop trying to act like you don’t because we all know you’re lying.  What you are TRYING to say is that you don’t let what you see cause a bias.  It is extremely important how you phrase this, because it changes the meaning entirely.  You can’t just say anything you want in any format and expect people to track with you.  It doesn’t work that way.

The same as any of my blog posts, this is not directed at a single event.  When I see an issue repeat itself over time, I get to where I just have to say something about it.  Thinking back a few years ago, I had a friend in a group online that referred to herself as a “brownie” because she has brown skin and meant nothing offensive by it (why would there be?), BUT someone had to take offense.  It’s crazy you know.  She was talking about herself.  She didn’t use a racial slur, just a color.  People have become so overly sensitive about every little reference that you can’t hardly have a conversation anymore.  I don’t usually avoid such topics – like I’m not right now – because honestly I don’t see how we will ever move past the issues without getting used to them being discussed plainly.  Differences exist.  Even medically we know this to be true.  Otherwise there would not be warnings that certain races/ethnicities are at higher risk for certain types of disease.  Our build, color, hair, shape, height, metabolism, strengths, weaknesses, EVERYTHING vary from racially affected DNA coding.  Why is that offensive?  It’s just a fact.  If you like to research, it’s also a pretty cool fact.

I ran into this topic recently but with relation to gender.  Some women have become so defensive that they act like a crazy person over it.  We’re all individuals, you know.  Some of us like to be girly, feminine, passive, or homemakers, have kids, wear pink, wear makeup (any combination of those, not all…) and others prefer to be more earthy, outdoor rugged, independent, adventurous or athletic – and any combination from either side of that coin can happen as well.  Some are a balanced mix between the two images.  We’re allowed to customize our personality and social circles, and how we create a life.  Women that accuse other women of buying into a stereotype need to back up and check themselves, because not having a choice is what women’s rights was all about.  If you insist that a woman has to be a certain way and not wear what she wants, or call herself by whatever name she wants (“girl” for example), then you are just as bad as the very limitations that you claim to be “fighting” against.  Stop trying to create fights where there are none.

[afterthought edit]  An Elder of mine in OK said to me once, “You notice when we dance the men sing and the women shake shells (turtle rattles we wear on our legs).  It’s not one, or the other, it’s both.”  We have respective roles and there is no shame in that.  Men have more pure brute strength thanks to genetics, and women are built for stress endurance.  Vive le difference!

Culture is many things, not just ethnic.  There are regional cultures, gender cultures, social cultures, cultures of the times, and even individual families have their own culture.  This is why sometimes a chosen significant other may have difficulty fitting in to their partner’s family.  They likely came from a very different culture of their own.  It’s entirely possible to integrate into someone else’s without losing yourself – that applies to family, regional, or ethnic.  Respecting someone else’s traditions and beliefs does not require you to give up your own, and that is where so many people miss it.  It is neither necessary to conquer, nor depart from one’s self.  That is the essence of the “coexist” philosophy, is it not?  I am not a Catholic, but I respect someone else’s right to worship that way.  I don’t need to change them.  I can even disagree with their practices without it affecting me or them.  It’s just not how I believe.  So?  The same applies to ethnicity.  You dress or speak differently, and I have no other option in life as far as I am concerned than to be okay with that.  I’m not going to change you, OBVIOUSLY, even if I wanted to.  You see, that is what happened to Native nations.  Children were taken away and forced to cut their hair, change their manner of clothing, not speak their own language…  That is the very core of what went wrong in the history in the United States.  Fearing differences.  Insisting on uniformity.  We can’t do that.  It fails.

There are physical traits that show you whether someone has Native American blood.  This problem of which I speak also covers the “how much” question.  I stopped even bothering to answer people rude enough to ask me what percentage blood I have.  It’s not my fault (as if it’s a bad thing) that I am light-skinned thanks to genetics.  Okay, I’m a mix.  I have German blood so I’m not only light-skinned I’m also a stocky build.  Why does one of those matter to people and the other doesn’t?  Stupid.  When I was young, I used to say I was “part” Indian until a lovely Seneca artist that I knew asked me “Which part?”  She was right, and I stopped that nonsense that very day.  Nobody has the right to categorize me according to some quantum they are hung up on.  We don’t all look like Graham Greene, I get it.  In addition to ethnic genetics, I got the raw deal on health genetics, and thanks to my autoimmune conditions I ended up photosensitive.  So, I can’t go in the sun like I used to and I am base tone.  No tan.  I’m sorry but looking how someone else thinks I should look is not worth frying myself and setting off a Lupus flare.  You’ll all just have to deal with my skin tone the way it is and get over it.  I’ve had elders that were a higher blood quantum than me (even fullblood) and the same color as me.  Maybe when I get old people will stop harassing me, eh?

On that note, I am really sick and tired of “Cherokee princess” wisecracks. I won’t even call it a “joke”, because it’s not one bit funny.  I’ll explain here for anyone that does not know.  There are indeed families that have stories that are untrue about having a great grandmother that was Cherokee, and it was done to entertain kids who would believe whatever was said.  People were fascinated with native culture, and wanted to bring the “wildness” of it into their family to intrigue their little ones.  In some cases there is no blood whatsoever.  In other cases, there is but they twisted the facts due to poor education on our culture.  In both cases, the term “princess” was used because it was relatable to colonizers.  I have had people tell me “well, a chief’s daughter”… that it was the “same thing”.  It’s not the same thing, and honestly I’d like to know who this virile set of Chiefs were that were out there producing a massive crop of daughters to marry off to colonizers because there CAN’T be that many for all the claimed ancestry in existence in this country.  So just stop.  Please stop using the word “princess” – whether you’re describing your own ancestry or trying to insult someone.  It’s old.  It’s a dead horse.  Educate.  Mature.  Please.  Yes, I AM a “Cherokee” woman, and NO I did not have a “princess” in my family.  It is sad and offensive to me that I always have to defend my entire nation and myself from smartasses that think all mixed Cherokee people are fake.  Don’t hate because we were smart enough to integrate to survive.  That’s not a popular statement and I’m sure I’ll make people mad all over with it but it’s the truth.  Bravo to the people that were able to preserve a higher blood quantum and have darker skin.  There was a time when it was uncertain whether we’d be entirely wiped off the face of the planet though.  It was not 2014 then.  I am the conquering race’s worst nightmare.  I am an educated Indian.  I am still connected to my roots, and know my traditions, and retained all that I am, in spite of the harsh blows dealt to my nation (and others) and in spite of “only” being a “percentage” Native.  On top of that, I also have a modern education and I can function in this new world.  Worst nightmare.  The plan failed.  No one can take away from me what I am.  Not with a genocide.  Not with hatred.  Not with ignorance.

One thing that came to mind earlier was this scene in one of the Crocadile Dundee movies that has always tickled me.  Dundee says to the chauffer, “Yer a black fellar, ain’t ya?” when discussing whether or not he is “tribal”.  The character of Dundee came from a different culture himself, and was intimately close to aboriginal culture, so to him it was innocent and natural.  If you ever have a conversation with me and think to yourself that I am being too bold, not PC enough, or even inappropriate, you’re so, so, so very wrong.  I quite innocently view differences the way they portrayed Dundee in that movie.  I celebrate the differences because they are spectacular, and beautiful, and so very intriguing.  We have taken being politically correct to a whole new level of idiotic in the United States culture, and possibly other parts of the world.  I don’t really know as I have never traveled far enough to see it.  I have been to Mexico once, and not even “off the continent” unless you can count Catalina Island off the CA coast.  (Laugh, it’s okay.)  People have lost their minds trying to not talk about the elephants in the room.  Seriously.  When I look at a white person, I see a white person.  When I look at a black person, I see a black person.  When I look at a red person, I see a red person.  None of us are technically, REALLY those colors if you got out a box of crayons, but it’s references with which we all identify and it’s not offensive.  The plains tribes have correlating directional colors (red, black, yellow, and white) and I find that really very interesting.  We all should.  It’s not a slur to acknowledge that we have different appearances and experiences in life.  It’s great.  If we were all the same, how bored would we be?  If we all thought the same things about politics and religion, what would we ever discuss?  It is the differences that give us the ability to use our intellect, our learning processes, and our creative imagination.

Experiences vary too.  I have tried to educate my friends and their friends about the reasons that the word “redskin” is offensive to so many.  I have done it without insulting anyone, without putting anyone down, and without raging at anyone.  What I got in return was nowhere near the level of respect that I offered others in sharing the information, I am sorry to say.  What I got back was often sarcasm, dismissal, and mockery.  When someone tells me (as a conversation today went) that a word is offensive, and I don’t know enough about it to be sure (because it’s not my culture), I do some research and I converse so that I may educate myself on it better.  I don’t have a dog in a fight over it, I just want to know more.  Today I did that, and consulted with a live human source as well that I consider quite reliable and connected to the issue.  If my perspective is lacking, then I add information to it and I feel good about that.  It’s not an emotional matter.. just facts.  I didn’t get the same offered to me from very many people when the topic was the word…. redskin.  Truth.  I have knowledge in THAT area.  It’s a two-way street, you see.  Experiences vary.  If we cannot all learn to look at each other, listen to each other, learn from each other, then we are just spinning our wheels.  We’ll get nowhere.

Ask yourself if you are ever inspired by differences.  Can you honestly say yes, or do you spend all of your time trying to avoid the topic and pretend you don’t see any?  Culture should inspire all of us, not divide us.  We should forever be fascinated by hearing about someone else’s experience, whether it is about a traditional belief, or how they have been treated, or what they have learned in life, or something that they observed.  This is how knowledge base develops and it is intricate in human people.  In the plant world, and the animal world, they just pass on information without personal biases.  We are supposed to be more advanced and instead we are held back by our own intellect.  It’s pathetic.  We invent all of these ideas about what is acceptable to discuss, and run away when there might be a difference of opinion.  We don’t have to be at angry odds with each other just because we have a different view.  It really is okay to share in a TWO-WAY exchange what we have seen in life.  If it comes down to there being a cultural gap, and it’s not your personal experience, then it’s gracious to accept the education from the one that does know from their own life.  I do that on a regular basis.  Often what takes place is, I am discussing detail to understand it better, and the other person simply assumes that I am disagreeing or trying to refute their claims.  Not at all, my dears.  Not at all.  I am simply unafraid to discuss nuances – AS LONG AS the other person is keeping an open mind as well.  If one shuts down, we all shut down.  You know I am right.

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T

 

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2 thoughts on “Culture Should Inspire, Not Divide

  1. Soooooooooooooooooooooooo True!
    I like that Zappa quote! ‘A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it’s not open” So he knew more then “yellow snow”…interesting- lol

    It’s really such a simple concept. I think it starts with self esteem. Stop being so touchy! We’re not all good at everything! Be proud of who you are, where you came from and represent with dignity!

    I’ve got one responsibility – to treat others like I would like to be treated. That doesn’t mean I should look away when I see someone who looks different, that implies it’s NOT ok. And it IS ok. It’s even beautiful.

    I’m glad my friends know they can ask me things about my religion, about what words are considered insulting and what words are taboo. That’s what a FRIEND does. If you don’t know, ASK.

    So you keep on asking T! I’m right there with you! 🙂

    A famous Jewish children’s writer said,
    “My skin is kind of sort of brownish pinkish yellowish white. My eyes are greyish blueish green, but I’m told they look orange in the night. My hair is reddish blondish brown, but its silver when its wet, and all the colors I am inside have not been invented yet.”
    ― Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends: The Poems and Drawings of Shel Silverstein

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