Assumptions, Biases & Irrational Fantasies


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-