Don’t Trend On My Culture, aka that time I was on Al Jazeera.

July 7, 2011 — 22 Comments

In case you missed it, I was a guest on Al Jazeera English’s social media news show The Stream yesterday. I was super nervous going into it, but ended up having a lot of fun and feeling like my voice was actually heard for once.

The host asked some tough questions, like “In a multi-cultural society, isn’t a certain level of cultural appropriation to be expected?” and the dreaded headdress-blackface connection, but I’m fairly happy with the way the whole interview went.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The article is here:
Al Jazeera The Stream: Don’t Trend On My Culture

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16352579302717804143 Itsbugart

    Great interview! And it definitely underscores the NEED for History to be taught as a core subject in schools from 1st grade on up!!!

  • http://wortschmiedin.livejournal.com/ wortschmiedin

    just watch the reaction of people if you took the regalia of the pope on a minikirt hipster…you looked amazingly calm. well done

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12231115847177281084 Jennifer

    Native appropriations vs. blackface? He raised a valid question and I think you did very well at answering the question. I would like to add my perspective as well.
    My father grew up as a poor Native American in a poor white neighborhood. The other children there were often unsupervised after school and would “borrow” their family be-be guns. These poor white children shot their be-be guns at my father and his siblings while they played “cowboys and indians”. My father is now in his 60′s and still has be-be pellets embedded in his forehead.
    If it were not for the disturbingly romanticized images of “cowboys and indians” in the minds of children, my father and his young siblings would not have suffered as they did. There are still families with young children who play these games and perpetuate the “savage indian” stereotypes thinking that they are actually giving a compliment to Native Americans.
    This type of racism must stop. Thank you for speaking up and taking the time to write this blog.
    Jennifer Knickerbocker
    White Earth Ojibwe

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05723305232688879994 5arah

    I am only half-way through watching, so this might be addressed in the second half, but the idea of Native peoples being simply part of a multicultural society denies important historical context. I get where the host is coming from, but Native People are the original people who did not travel here by choice to become part of a new, diverse society, but had it forced on them. I think the stereotyping and appropriating of Indigenous culture is much more damaging and deep – it is not just racist, but strikes at the guilt of the founding of the US and Canada and speaks to the ongoing need of non-Indigenous people to downplay the seriousness of continued colonial activities.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05049442534437457900 Jessica

    This was a really fantastic interview. Thank you so much for all of the good you do. You are an inspiration.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03631953987543566563 lord vegan

    SOLID!! i truly appreciate the amazing and necessary work you are doing!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10615494502122264128 Jess

    Way to go! You did a fantastic job. You made good points, expressed them well, and looked comfortable on camera.

    I also really liked the interviewer’s approach. He asked some tough questions, but I felt like he was asking them in a respectful and productive way. To me, it seems like “tough questions” are often asked (and answered) in polarizing ways, but here, I felt he was asking them in order to help the viewer understand the nuances of the issue.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08084290860404973268 Nicholas

    Hi Ms. K.,

    I’ve been reading your blog for about a year and just wanted to congratulate you on your work. I know that those who follow you online do a good job of chowing their appreciation – it’s great that you had this opportunity to begin making a transition to other media as well. As Jess said above, you seem very comfortable and express your points clearly.

    Great work! Best wishes for the future.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02709883498078367644 Stephen Bridenstine

    You did a good job!

    One thing though. I understand your strong feelings about native appropriation but I did find your arguments lacking a bit of argumentative punch. In particular, using the words “racist” and “offensive” may go far in the Indigenous issues blogging world but in the wider world, wider arguments are needed.

    Instead of saying these things are racist, say they are consequential. Emphasize the real world consequences of this appropriation. You yourself have made the excellent argument that this appropriation and native stereotyping prevent real modern Native issues from existing in the consciousness of America and thus being dealt with.

    Most Americans can only handle one image of American Indians. The theory of cognitive dissonance explains why people become so defensive when confronted over their appropriation. (And why it is so hard for them to change)

    Per the theory, in order to reduce the dissonance of being confronted with an alternative modern Indian (e.g. whenever a Native person confronts a non-Native person in a hipster headdress) the headdress wearer is most likely going to justify, blame, or deny their way out of dealing with two seemingly conflicting notions of Indians.

    To quote the article: “People are biased to think of their choices as correct, despite any contrary evidence” (even when it’s standing in front of them!)

    In fact, I’ve been meaning to write up a post myself using cognitive dissonance to explain such strong resistance to change.

    I don’t want to negate your personal feelings, but sometimes you have to alter the argument to fit the audience.

    Also, I did catch this interesting article beforehand which may be helpful for understanding the other side and thus constructing effective arguments:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/271109/s-racist-jonah-goldberg

    All the best!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03394687268751248043 alias chase

    Brilliant! Thank you for your strong voice.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11707353275348029853 Eric

    Lots of big words and not a lot of answers in your responses.

    Injustices? Appropriations? Sure, maybe. But what does it matter if you don’t have any answers?

    You speak of the government’s role in educating people – many would argue that it’s not the government’s role to do so. What role does the government have in UO/Pendleton adopting Native patterns? I would challenge you to really articulate actionable agendas to correct this.

  • http://snuffycup.livejournal.com/ snuffycup

    Wow Adrienne, sure glad some mansplainers (Stephen and Eric) could come by your blog and explain to your little lady brain why your argument is so lacking! What a pair of douches!!

    You did amazing by the way, no ifs, ands or buts!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12377885140346461307 LCK

    I thought you did a good job. It makes me so happy to see a young woman go out there and make a difference. I am proud of you! :D

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11707353275348029853 Eric

    Snuffy-Why bring gender into this?

    Makes you look silly.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07079111794180941158 Shayan

    Eric, you’re right about gender being irrelevant in this case–’cause I’m a guy and you’re still patronizing and silly.

    Next time you’re on Al Jazeera, be sure to stop by and help us with your pointers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14724883300275451301 Unknown

    ditto what snuffycup said.

    obviously not all men “mansplain,” but it takes a certain kind of gendered power dynamic for some men to feel compelled to give the kind of patronizing and paternalistic advice to women that was happening above. it sets up a dynamic where the advice-giver positions themself as knowing more than the advice-receiver, and is doing the advice-received a favor by explaining.

    if “mansplain” is too informal for y’all, “paternalistic” is another good word to help describe that kind of behavior. it “brings gender into it” too, and it’s in the dictionary!

    -sarah_app

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14724883300275451301 Unknown

    p.s.

    great work, adrienne! loved the interview.

    -sarah_app

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04138073604252583875 Ari Jones

    Growing up in Texas, I can only remember seeing representation of Plains Indians, which I had always assumed was just because of geography. Where is the representation from other nations? I’d like a link to a blog, a cultural center- anything! I’d love to learn more and I’d absolutely love to help inform others, but how is that possible when the voices are nowhere to be heard?
    In a world with such a limited attention span as it is, we cannot simply ask the consumer of these images to write them off as false stereotypes and seek out the cultures from which the idea for the window display at Free People came.

    This is in now way a challenge. I have just been at a loss in my attempts to find material published by those other indian populations whose voices I’ve longed to hear but have yet to come across. Any links would help

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04138073604252583875 Ari Jones

    Also, thank you so much for being on Al jazeera.
    Normally, I read your content straight from your blog, so it was nice to see your voice and content in another sphere- the message is spreading!

    Keep it up

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09479079553134597550 julie

    Ari – it’s called google. Don’t make Arienne do your work for you.

    But here: http://www.anishinaabekwe.com/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01307343787086029518 TheIngeniousIndigenous

    Awesome Adrieen! I’m glad your out there saying the things I’ve been saying for years! Getting our voice heard.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02365817161662635471 alex

    hi adrienne – your blog is fantastic. personally, i love native american textiles, and have for some time, but hadn’t connected today’s trends with the reductiveness that you correctly point out. so i appreciate you bringing it to attention — it’s eye opening.

    being mexican jewish, i’m trying to think of parallels in my background that would offend me… i can imagine some things on the Jewish side being offensive (tho, truthfully, i can’t ever imagine them becoming trendy). on the mexican side, though, certain styles have become so thoroughly appropriated by American manufacturers (i’m thinking of eyelet knits, talavera pottery, different types of embroidery), that it would be almost impossible to separate them out. more interestingly, those things have never bothered me, to be honest.

    i wonder if that has to do with issues of Hispanic populations having gotten stronger attention in schools/media, and Native American issues having gotten less time in the spotlight? in other words, maybe i’ve felt less a need to speak up because i feel less marginalized than you have felt, perhaps?

    just a thought — and not a judgment on you IN ANY WAY. just trying to understand personal feelings vis-a-vis yours. again, i think your blog is great, and thanks for it! take care –

    (PS i found you through the slideshow on Slate)