7.18.2015

#AndreaSmith, the Native American #RachelDolezal

...[S]ome white women seem determined NOT to look into their own cultures for sources of strength. This is puzzling, since pre-Christian European cultures are also earth-based and contain many of the same elements that white women are ostensibly looking for in Native American cultures. This phenomenon leads me to suspect that there is a more insidious motive for latching onto Indian spirituality.

When white "feminists" see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming very close to destroying the earth, they often want to disassociate themselves from their whiteness. They do this by opting to "become Indian." In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism.

Of course, white "feminists" want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be part of our struggles for survival against genocide, and they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse. They do not want to do anything that would tarnish their romanticized notions of what it means to be an Indian.


Riddle me this, ladies: why is it that when these white women appropriate not just an aspect of a culture, but the entire identity of a woman of color, the apologists can't seem to defend them fast enough.  But when members of the LGBT community finally do step out into the light and try to just be who they really are...they get punished?

Just something to think about....

The above quote is the most memorable thing I ever read by Andrea Smith; I first read this essay about about 6 years ago, around the time folks says she outed for as a pretendian the FIRST time.  back then, it was quiet, and supposedly, Smith agreed not to pose as a Cherokee woman anymore (I'm assuming in exchange for keeping her dirty little secret on the low), but then she went right back to presenting herself as a Native American, and a woman of color.  Thankfully, the hubbub surrounding Rachel Dolezal has outed Smith yet again, and this time, it's on such a wide scale that she's probably longing for the halcyon days of her first strike deal.

However, rereading the above quote now has got me thinking: if you hop on over to dictionary.com right now and search the word "irony", I wouldn't be surprised if Andrea Smith's face pops up right beside the definition.
When I had personal contact with Andrea Smith, I came away with the same impression many people have had after personal contact with Rachel Dolezal: this is a deeply disturbed person.

How can you be an Indian without knowing which of your relatives is Indian? How can you be an Indian with no ties to an Indian community? How can you “mistake” whether or not you are tribally enrolled?

By seeking grants and honoraria and academic positions as a Cherokee, she does harm both in the sense of denying these things to real Cherokees and in the sense of representing a Cherokee culture about which she knows little. Still, I can sense that she wants to be Cherokee as desperately as Rachael Dolezal wants to be black.


- Steve Russell, "Rachel Dolezal Outs Andrea Smith Again; Will Anybody Listen This Time?"
After the circus we had with Dolezal, I too was on the "disturbed" verdict, but after Andrea Smith, I'm rethinking that stance.  See, Smith sought out Cherokee genealogist David Cornsilk back in the 1990s to see if she was really Cherokee.  He confirmed - back in the 1990s - that she was NOT (and has recently penned an open letter to her apologists telling them all to have a seat).

And now I'm rereading her essay about drives white women ("feminists" in particular) to adopt or invent a WOC alter ego, often under the pretense of seeking spiritual enrichment, or in the case of Dolezal, sociocultural/cosmetic reasons.  Regardless of what pretexts they use or what fabrications they employ, their main reason is the same: they're fleeing whiteness.

When white person (male or female) who directly and indirectly benefits from a system of formalized white supremacy attempts to flee whiteness,they're engaging in the utmost act of privilege.  Ironically, Andrea Smith said it best: "In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism."

When I first started blogging, I kept mentioning the detrimental impact of films like The Last Samurai, Avatar, and Dances with Wolves. In a piece which had white fandom putting her on blast, white blogger Annalee Newitz hit the nail on the head by exposing the ultimate white racial fantasy, which entails not just joining a group of people of color, but "becom[ing] its most awesome member".

Smith and Dolezal don't just want to be women of color, they want to be seen as experts on what it means to be women of color, and the issues which impact us.  They want honors and accolades; in short, they still want to be special white snowflakes...but in brownface.

They don't want to be your average Native American woman on the rez, actually living the struggle with no audience and no cavalry coming to the rescue when they and their daughters are being sexually assaulted and trafficked, and toxic companies keep encroaching upon what's left of your homeland. Women like Andrea Smith want to be the published professor whose name is known across academic circles. They don't want to actually have to deal with any of the danger and abuse our Native sisters endure, nor have to fully understand their cultures and concerns.



And women like Dolezal certainly don't want to be an actual, everyday sistah.  Hell, no.  They couldn't survive working a regular day job, struggling, constantly branded fat, loud, stupid, and lazy, constantly subjected to social sexual violence (and good old-fashioned physical violence), constantly misgendered and compared to apes, and oh yes...always being one police encounter away from a death sentence.  No, no...they want to be the esteemed president of an NAACP chapter, the Howard-graduated-turned-honored professor who gets to give lectures on African hair...with which white people remain inexplicably - and sickeningly - obsessed.

They want to be idealized POC, light-skinned, with European features, and the ability to live our lives more successfully than we.  That's not mental illness, people.  That's not being "disturbed".  That's good old-fashioned, premeditated white sociopathy, borne of an abundance of privilege.

9 comments:

  1. Since so many folks seem intimidated by LiveFyre, regular comments are back, but moderation will be strict.

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  2. There's also the boring factor. Quite a few whites see being white as boring not to mention they are completely unoriginal when comes to culture. They see people of color's culture and think not only can they appropriate it but make it better. They think they can be better at being us than us. They think if they just watch us close enough they can " master" the art of being us but they don't have the lived experience so no matter how much they copy us, that's all they'll be, a copy and we'll always be the original.

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    1. In other words, they will always pale in comparison.

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    2. Exactly. The problem with White American is that it generic and I'm not saying that to be funny. In this country, what they have is culturally not theirs. They 've been trying to tell POC's and religious people how terrible our cultures were and now that they tables are turning, they're beginning to realize that being a POC is " cool ". and as just mentioned on there, White folks are looking for strength,a culture and, a fascinating history that has made an impact not only in the states,but all around the world. They want to be significant and heroic the POC way.

      With people like Rachael and Andrea, I think that they see being a POC as " fun and fashionable" Maybe we are,but ,it's not all fun and games. We go through things that they would never want to deal with. Several months ago, I read an article about Black people being " magical"..not barking at their commands. It's not that we're magical,it's just we've dealt with a lot , learn from those situations and learn how to deal with them and as well as being strengthened by them.

      Does that mean that life can be so hard that I want to be White? No and I'm quite sure that there are other POC's who feel the same way. I remembered writing on Brotha's blog expressing my opinion about the Charleston, SC killings. One of the things I wrote about it was how it may be easier to be a White person,but it doesn't necessarily make it better. I love being Black no matter what problems we face because I've learned that those who are withstand to go through the storms and not give up with be blessed at the end.

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  3. “Exactly. The problem with White American is that it generic and I'm not saying that to be funny. In this country, what they have is culturally not theirs. They 've been trying to tell POC's and religious people how terrible our cultures were and now that they tables are turning, they're beginning to realize that being a POC is " cool ".

    I agree. They’re pallid and pale, bereft of seasoning and urbanity. A monolithic block of technologically advanced beings who demand assimilation, while appropriating everything that’s unlike themselves. Hence, to be an American is to empty oneself of culture, much like the dominate group. Ostensibly, some whites don’t feel alive unless they’re putting themselves at risk (apparently privilege is not without its down side). Alternatively, many of these privileged don’t feel whole unless they’re mingled within other cultures (on their terms of course).

    The reason the Magical Negro, (Asian, Indian trope) persists is because it has a transformative effect upon their humanity: as in the many savior movies. The experience helping them to grow beyond their programming. Hugh, (formerly Third of Five) was literally transformed by Geordi La Forge, a man of color. Likewise, the life of Jean-Luc Picard was enriched by two women, namely Guinan and Lily: both women of color. So in their Envy many whites long to be the “Person of Color” that’s responsible for effecting the same kind of cathartic reaction. Albeit on a grandeur scale.

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    1. Hugh, (formerly Third of Five) was literally transformed by Geordi La Forge, a man of color. Likewise, the life of Jean-Luc Picard was enriched by two women, namely Guinan and Lily: both women of color.

      Wow. I hadn't even noticed that pattern.

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    2. "Wow. I hadn't even noticed that pattern."

      The affect these women had on the Frenchman crossed oceans of space & time. By comparison, what effect the Borg Queen had on Jean-Luc Picard only came by way of force & subjugation.

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  4. "White women’s mediocrity and propensity for wanting credit where none is due are the background noise of basic-ass feminism."

    ~ Thanks for Nothing: Black Women Don’t Owe White Feminism a Damn Thing

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