Assumptions, Biases & Irrational Fantasies


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The following is a list of all entries from the Action category.

Why I am a Critic of Bigoted Behavior (artistic though it may be): Wrapping up the tiny saga of correspondence with “Juliette and the Licks.”

Indeed, I aspire to the cool, even-handed kind of response that commenter leslie has demonstrated here. Thanks, leslie, for raising the bar, and not expressing any vitriol toward me in your responses. You’re right, I probably will continue to be a critic.

Moving forward…

I am well aware that children have been dressing up as “indians” for generations, as well as dressing up as the cowboys that would shoot them. I am aware of the cartoon characters, and the sports team mascots, and the way that Americans toss around their interpretation of the image of “the indian” for their own entertainment without so much as a “Sorry about annihilating and devastating your cultures, families and ways of living!” I find that offensive. I find it upsetting that more people don’t find it offensive, or don’t speak up when they do. I know speaking up is incredibly hard for a lot of us (and I say us intentionally), so I feel good about doing it when I can.

For more on stereotyping of Native Americans, here’s a link to some information. It’s a resource designed for teachers.

There are a lot of behaviors that piss me off. Not every day, but often. You’ll find that most people of color (and women, and people of size, and people with disabilities and a host of other people who experience oppression) actually have plenty of legitimate opportunities to be pissed-off everyday, multiple times a day. Not because we’re oversensitive, or because we need to make some change in ourselves. But because this country treats us like crap. We are treated like crap for entertainment. We are treated like crap as a matter of public policy. We are treated like crap simply out of habit, because that’s how people learn to relate to these groups. As though they were less worthy. It’s woven into the fundamental fabric of our everyday lives, to treat these groups of people like crap – has been for generations. That’s why when people make sexist or size-ist or homophobic or racist jokes, it’s seldom that anyone actually says, “That’s not cool – I don’t want to hear that kind of stuff.” That’s why people will argue for hours that it’s been scientifically proven that black people are less intelligent that whites and we should just learn to be okay with that (Wired magazine online, in the wake of that Nobel prizewinner’s asshat comments).

For more on confronting bias and prejudice in everyday situations at work, home and school, check out ‘Responding to Everyday Bigotry’ on the Teaching Tolerance website.

I feel that as a person of faith, who believes very strongly in bringing my personal convictions into action, I am betraying myself spiritually, and neglecting my duties as a citizen if I don’t challenge things that I find to be morally and/or socially problematic. I have a right and a responsibility to respond to injustice and oppression in ways that match my convictions.

The whole purpose of this blog is reflection on bias, especially for the purpose of improving my own practices. This experience reminds me what strong and often intensely aversive reactions people have to this work, and more specifically, the ways that I may do this work that I feel is so clearly important. I struggle with finding a balance between representing myself honestly in my confrontations (which are often enacted on the fuel of emotion – often anger), and being gentle enough in my approach that people will listen and not write me off out of anger or defensiveness. I definitely need to improve in this area. I tried to do so in my original letter to Juliette and the Licks. I was very careful to address Juliette’s behavior, and not Juliette as a person. I was working to maintain a tone that was not insulting or preachy – I edited for a while… I’m not convinced from leslie’s analysis (as in-depth as it was) that I sounded that bad. I’m open to other comments, though. I’ll keep working on achieving that balance.

Peace, everyone.

– Atena

PS – This alternative critique of Ms. Lewis’ fashion decisions is awesome!  I’m not good at this – using humor to get my point across.  I really admire people who can do it. Love, -a-

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Further correspondence with “Juliette and the Licks.”

Date: Oct 27, 2007 2:53 PM Flag as Spam or Report Abuse [ ? ]
Subject: RE: What people are saying…
Body: this is not Juliette but I personally get what you’re saying but the symbols eventually lend themselves to pop culture and the art, hence the crucifix etc. Juliette just used the symbol as a Warrior, an army unto herself, a symbol of purpose and unwavering intention. Now to go out and speak on behalf of the indian people or speak at all about the history or heritage of the indian race and the symbol she has adopted, you think what she’s doing now is borderline offensive? well then that would take the cake and she would be lambasted and slandered for all time if she were to act as spokes person for something she is not connected to at all. Talk about offensive. If one wheres the cross, it is not an insult to catholocism, its just the way thing filter through the ages and become reduced to fashion, or you could say keeps the aesthetic and history familiar and open to interpretation.

So, they responded rather promptly – I appreciate that. This was my reply:

—————- Original Message —————–
From: Mama Blossom
Date: Oct 28, 2007 6:43 AMThanks for responding – I appreciate it.So, I realized that the url I pasted in doesn’t work. Please just look up the blog for Surgeon Mama on MySpace – the entry is titled, ‘Juliette Lewis Sucks’ – it’s the most recent entry. It’ll take about 5 minutes of your time.Like I said before, the point is argued more effectively there and actually addresses the point you have made (someone actually said almost the exact same thing as you did), and explains why such an argument is insufficient to excuse (or extol) careless misappropriation in the face of genocide. I really hope you’ll take a look at it, and hear what people are getting at.Thanks again,

—Atena

And then, their subsequent response was this:

Date: Oct 28, 2007 10:40 AM Flag as Spam or Report Abuse [ ? ]
Subject: RE: What people are saying…
Body: yawn

Alas. I tried, right?

If she’s a warrior, why isn’t she wearing a helmet or a bullet-proof vest, or at least carrying some kind of weapon? Oh – wait, careless, oblivious ignorance is her weapon. And privilege is her bullet-proof vest. Right? Is that it? I don’t know…

More to come.


Letters: to Juliette Lewis

(Sent to the myspace account of Juliette and the Licks, in response to Ms. Lewis’ feathered-headdress-as-rock-and-roll-image.)

Hi Juliette (or if not Juliette, Hi Whomever Is Reading This Message),

Someone recently called to my attention how you use a feathered headdress as a part of your “Rock and roll warrior” image. I checked out your website and myspace – it seems like you’ve been using it pretty extensively, and how other people are imitating it at your concerts.

Heads up – the way that you are using of this symbol, which is a clear (and from the gist of what I read of your comments, intentional) reference to “native americans,” is careless and really pretty disrespectful.

I’m not writing this message to jump on your ass, or pretend like I’m some superior person. I have nothing to gain from that. And this has nothing to do with whether or not I like your work (from what I’ve heard, it sounds reasonably cool – kudos for following a different path).

I’m putting this out there because I can’t complain about anything anyone does if I’m not willing to back it up with some action that seeks to change things. And you should have a chance to learn about what people are saying, and change the behavior and (more importantly) the system that supports it, if you are so inclined.

You’re in a position to be heard by a lot of people, and the image you’re putting out there takes advantage of the painful history of native americans in this country without paying any respect to it. This is problematic in the extreme. (And I say ‘native americans’ specifically because your feathers refer to an idea and not any real tribe or nation, from what I can tell.)

Please check this out this myspace conversation on my friend’s blog for a much more elegant and passionate articulation about why:

http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=280572&blogID=

320577899&Mytoken=3891C9CF-1FCF-4AF0-93D90CC486DFA20926359246

Thanks for listening, and Peace

— Atena

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