Saturday, February 15, 2014

On spirit animals, or As K. Tempest Bradford would say, her ass has been handed to her

Hi, Wil! I'm not trying to be antagonizing. You seem to be rather progressive, and really vocal on a lot of social issues. I'm bringing this up because I feel like you'd take it seriously. Using 'spirit animal' is kinda uncool. Different forms of it belong to specific cultures that are already having a hard time with erasure/delegitimization, partially through appropriation. I've heard suggestions of using 'patronus', or 'daemon' (from His Dark Materials trilogy) as alternatives. Cheers! - Doli K.:
Wil, I’m a Native American woman who grew up on a rez. I’m currently a social services caseworker who still spends a lot of time on Native lands. Somebody sent me a link to your tumblr asking for my opinion on the “spirit animal” thing. I don’t know much about you, but if I have to give you a piece of advice it would be this; don’t back down next time. These people don’t listen to things like “logic” and “reason” when they are in one of their social justice tizzies. It’s not even worth trying to be kind or polite to them.  
If I had a dollar for every time a middle class, white, lesbian with a Women’s Studies degree tried to tell ME how to appropriately respect MY OWN CULTURE AND HERITAGE, I could probably buy a goddamn reservation and turn it into a theme park.  
Mr. Wil, you aren’t disrespecting Natives like me by using the term “spirit animal”. We WANT to share our cultural heritage with white people! I gave a friend from another country a ceremonial headdress just a few months ago because he thought it was “cool”. You know what? That shit IS cool! I want everyone to know about it! 
Native Americans of all tribes pride themselves on being generous with out cultural iconography. We love having friends in our homes, of all colors! We love sharing what makes our nations so great and unique. We love giving and receiving gifts (except for blankets….you white fuckers can keep those. Ours are prettier and have less smallpox.) Yet our cultural traditions, our languages…they are all dying out. Our own children don’t want to learn Navajo. Our numbers are small and our elders are dying. Nobody wants our traditions to die with them, so we share with everyone we can! So long as somebody isn’t actively trying to make fun of us, we want to give the gift of a culture that transcends generations and skin color. In modern America, there are actually a pretty large number of “white” people who have Native blood. Their skin may not be brown like mine, but their blood is the same.  
To the social justice warriors on Tumblr. You know what’s racist? PEOPLE WHO AREN’T NATIVE AMERICAN TRYING TO WHITE KNIGHT FOR MY FUCKING CULTURE. If something offends me or “appropriates” my culture, leave it to ME to stand up for what’s right. I’m not an ignorant heathen savage who needs educated white folk to save me from OTHER white folk. For the love of God, do you not see that your bullshit tirades on Tumblr about spirit animals and hairfeathers are the SAME MOTHERFUCKING THING that Europeans tried to do to my nation YEARS AGO?  
If you are a social justice warrior, go play in traffic. I don’t want your help defending a culture you know nothing about.