Saturday, March 8, 2014

The governor's daughter in chicken feathers

In case you've been living under a rock & haven't heard the couple of days ago, Christina Fallin, daughter of the Oklahoma governor posted a photo of herself wearing a feathered headdress.
Several people have asked me to write about it, but I had been avoiding it. I originally planned to just leave my contribution to the conversation with the simple act of tweeting the instagram link, so that others could be aware and act accordingly. However, I found that my TL began blowing up about the issue. Soon, my FB was full of people not only sharing their own thoughts about the photo, but also sending me link and PMing me, asking for comments. I found myself tweeting much more about the issue, than I had planned. Eventually, it became clear that I wasn't doing a very good job of not blasting my opinion about Ms. Fallin's behavior all over social media.
To be perfectly honest, the reason that I was trying to not put myself out there on this one is simple. This is the governor's daughter. The Oklahoma legal community is a small one & my work is pretty demanding about not putting things out there that may reflect badly on the firm. However, as the controversy built, and I saw people in the legal community, whom I used to respect, throwing out statements about how people are being overly sensitive and should just "get over it" (yes, an attorney actually used that phrase. smh). In a conversation with a friend, though, he reminded me that "it's our duty" to stand up. Our elders resisted and survived much before us. We have it easy in comparison. However, if we don't do what we can to eliminate the more subtle forms of racism that continue, we risk going backwards & our future generations inheriting something much worse. So, I decided to go ahead & write about it. Being an advocate for Indian Country is part of what got me my job. So, hopefully, that'll be enough justification for my statements against the governor's daughter to not cause me too much trouble.
So...onto the real issue.
I cannot begin to count how many time I have heard "there are more important things to worry about." Here's the reality. Indian Country faces some serious issues & we will never be able to make significant progress in those issues, as long as people in the larger society still sees us as caricatures & feels that this sort of open mockery is acceptable.
This is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. It is not about political correctness or about people being overly sensitive. This is also not something that is insignificant or that should be unceremoniously dismissed. This sort of marginalization has a real impact on societal attitudes & perpetuates institutionalized racism.
It's quite simple, really. Children see cultural appropriation in popular culture & learn that it is acceptable. These representations reinforce racist stereotypes. Do I really have to connect the dots in crayon for you from that point?
It shouldn't be hard to see how the objectification and hypersexualization of Native women (think "maiden" Halloween costumes & such) contributes that the formation of attitudes towards Native women, which translates to higher rates of violence & sexual aggression against Native women. It's Sociology 101, really. Apply the same sort of logical thought process to other forms of cultural appropriation & stereotypes & it's not difficult to see why this is a serious issue.
I think that's what bothers me so much in these debates. People seem to have trouble separating fact from opinion. So, let's start there...
  • Not all Native Nations wear feathered headdresses. There are hundreds of tribes, each with their own culture.
  • Native Nations that do use headdresses hold them in high regard & have specific traditions surrounding them.
  • Taking sacred/traditional objects of another culture & wearing them, as Christina Fallin did, is a form of cultural appropriation. 
  • Cultural appropriation and stereotypical representations in popular culture shape the attitudes of children who grow up seeing them & cause documented harm to children from the targeted group.
  • Whether or not you are personally offended by the cultural appropriation is a matter of opinion.
So here's my opinion, based on the facts:
Cultural appropriation, as what Christina Fallin did, is a racist microagression that perpetuates stereotypes within popular culture, and serves to continue the resulting forms of institutionalized racism. My children do not deserve the racism that they receive from their peers, who's only tangible exposure to Native culture is comprised of representations such as in the Ms. Fallin debacle.
Furthermore, I completely concur with Adrienne, at Native Appropriations, when she concluded that Ms. Fallin's "appropriate culturation" play on words indicated that she knew exactly what she was doing, but just felt privileged to do it.
I also take issue with people referring to the statement that Christina Fallin issued as an "apology". She defended what she did. She filled it with sentimental nonsense. And she basically said "get over it". There was no apology. There wasn't anything remotely resembling an apology. If you haven't seen it, here's the statement:
The Native Appropriations article said it so well:
"But the thing that keeps bothering me is that we’re expected, as community members, to have perfectly reasoned, calm, point-by-point rebuttals to your image and words. The burden of proof is on us, not you. Why can’t we, as the cultures you’re 'respecting' simply say 'no'? Why do we have to defend and fight and write 1400 words about why, and then listen while others mock our pain and hurt as being “overly sensitive”? Why can’t you show us respect by just listening to us when we say, 'Hey Christina, that headdress? It’s not for you to wear.'”

My friend, Joy made an excellent point when she stated: "Mary Fallin's daughter released a statement Fallin's Statement Regarding Headdress-   'A woman in a headdress is a beautiful thing.'  But, despite the beauty of the photograph -which I would argue is largely due to skilled editing and color.   If Miss Fallin were wearing a red beret or a cowboy hat the photo would be as beautiful."

In a previous blog post, she made the following statement, speaking about mascots, but the points are just as applicable here:
"A moment to reflect on the issue of the use of the Native Imagery in mascots. Naming your athletic team 'Redskin' or 'Indian' seems to be a widely "accepted" racial slur which his so ingrained in our culture that many people refuse to acknowledge it as an insult to the Native people's culture they are utilizing.  These Gentlemen who are representing our state  flags in their Native dress, do not deserve having their warbonnets dishonored by the secularism represented within mascots.  The use of Native symbolism within sports culture is an attack on Native tradition, ceremony and religion, no matter how long it has been happening within mainstream American Culture.  There is meaning in their dress, the meaning may be compared to the dress worn by a priest or a soldier.  What matters is it holds meaning that goes beyond the superficial and secular.  The hashtag #NotYourMascot and #NotYourTonto on Twitter represent Native voices speaking out against the commodification and misappropriation of Native culture."

In all honesty, I wasn't surprised to see this sort of behavior from out governor's daughter. The governor has demonstrated her attitude towards Natives quite clearly & Indian Country knows that she is no ally. So, it was no shock to see that her offspring holds this short of attitude towards Natives.

The bottom line of this whole debacle, and the many others like it is this: check your privilege. Cries of oversensitivity have become the go to argument of the privileged when they have no real foundation for their views, other than protecting the status quo. If you think that this sort of cultural appropriation is acceptable, despite the negative impacts, then stand up for that. However, don't try to dismiss those of us that are willing to stand up to social injustice by calling it political correctness and oversensitivity. The "get over it" argument serves only to highlight the lack of foundation for your argument.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Broke the news to the Big Kids

I was walking through the house today, when I hear my 11 year old's phone ringing. Being the only one in the house, I had to find & silence it. Turns out it was his calendar, reminding him of his dad's birthday.

I hadn't realized that today is the 7th, until that moment. Yep, it's Wasband's birthday. He is spending it in jail because of his choice to not pay child support. Also, he has a court hearing this morning on another case, where he had a previous warrant, for not paying his student loans. Happy birthday to him, I suppose.

After running away for a day, to get my mind in a better place, I sat the three oldest kids down to tell them. I had considered not telling them, but I really didn't see a way around it. After a few weeks, they would've started asking why he wasn't calling. Plus, if he told them later (and he likely would because he hasn't previously had very good boundaries of what to tell them and to not), they would've been upset for me not telling them. So, I told them.

The boys were upset to find out that he hadn't been paying child support, more than that he was in jail. The 11 y/o did say that it was "weird" to think that their dad was in jail, though. Much to my surprise, our daughter (8) was deliriously happy. When I told her, she laughed & she could not quit smiling. I asked her why & she said "I'm glad the judge gave him a time out...I feel like he's had me in time out for a long time..." Wow.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Second Largest Paris in the World


Several years ago, I read about the idea of being a tourist in your hometown. It was an interesting idea because people tend to get into a routine of going to the same places, often missing out on some fabulous things that are readily accessible.

I've done this, somewhat, in the town that I live now but had yet to figure out how it applied to my actual "hometown", which is actual not a town at all. I grew up on a cattle ranch, so my hometown is a pasture & a creek. The cows are long since gone, so the closest neighbors are now of the equine variety (plus a few dogs & chickens).
Remnants of our old cattle operation.
When I was looking for something to do this past weekend, it occurred to me that, just across the state line, is a larger town. I've spent lots of time in Paris, Texas, during my lifetime. However, I've always just ran into town with a particular purpose in mind & went home, which had always left me wondering why all these touristy (not entirely sure that's a real word) people come to visit. There had to be more to the town than a movie theater & tractor supply.

The Neighbors
So...I crossed over into the whole other country that is Texas...

Since I had seen it before, I skipped the cowboy hat-topped Eiffel Tower, but I feel obligated to mention it. It seems like every tourist I've ever met in Paris has loved seeing it & my kids always find it quite impressive.

 While cemeteries don't usually top the list of tourist spots, I paid a visit to Evergreen Cemetery. I had heard about it from several people that I had assisted in genealogy projects. As an undergrad, I attended a lecture about how cemetery markers can be viewed, anthropologically, as a microcosm of communities over time. The styles of the markers give a glimpse into popular artistic expression of the period. The level of expense or extravagance poured into laying the dead to rest varies over time & between cultures. Inscriptions on monuments can be quite telling. You get the point...

Since Evergreen had been around since at least 1861, it was fascinating to see the evolution of these things. I didn't take any photos while there, but there are several monuments that have become quite well known, such as the statue of Jesus in cowboy boots.
Fountain in the middle of Paris' Plaza

Jaxx Burgers, just off the town square, is where I had lunch. It was surprisingly good. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, I mean...what's a "gourmet burger" anyhow? But the food was great.

From there, most of the afternoon was spent walking around the square & exploring the boutiques, galleries & antique shops.

I spent quite a bit of time in one art gallery, talking to the owner. I can't find a webpage or I'd link to it. He had some absolutely magnificent pieces of Native work. It was sort of bittersweet. He had many things that he has been given by Native friends that he has made over the years. At the same time, I'm always conflicted when it
comes to seeing Native pieces (such as traditional clothing & weapons, dating back at least a couple centuries) leaving Native hands and going to non-Native collectors; but that's another topic, for another time. In any event, he had some magnificent

pieces. Naturally, I wasn't allowed to take photos of the most valuable ones, but he did allow me to see photograph that are displayed for sale in the gallery. The exception, is the buffalo hide drum shown on the left. He said that it is not for sale. It also has a twin, made from the same tree.

 When it comes to antique shops, I think I view a lot of them differently than some people my age. A great deal of what can be found for sale in antique shops is stuff that I grew up with, because we were poor & my grandparents were hoarders. So, antiques hold less fascination and more nostalgia for me. That's why I rarely actually purchase anything, with the exception of useful
things like cast iron skillets (old cast iron is usually much better than what can be purchased new).

I did run across a display, in one of the antique shops, that was a kitchen & ringer washer setup. Since I've cooked on a similar stove & washed clothes by hand, it reminded me how grateful I am for what I have. Electricity is my friend. ;-)

One place to not miss, if you ever make it to Paris, is Ta Molly's Mexican Restaurant. I've been going there since I was a kid, back when the Paris location was the only one. It's my favorite tex-mex & they have the best salsa in existence. I'm still hoping they will start bottling it, so I can buy it for home.

If you like museums, check out the Lamar County Historical Society Museum. Until this past weekend, I didn't even know they had a museum.
However, it's actually very interesting. It gives the history of the town & I learned a lot that I had never known. Perhaps, I'm odd, but I was actually quite intrigued with the iron lung that they have on display. It had been used at the hospital in town. I had never seen one in person, only in photos, & had only heard stories from my grandparent's generations about how they & others they knew suffered through polio.

I stayed in the Blue Room

 At the end of the day, I stayed at the Old Magnolia House Bed & Breakfast. It's located in a beautiful historic house & is run by two sisters who went far out of their way to be friendly and hospitable. The décor is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of when I would go to my great grandmother's house, as a child.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Mom's Day Out

For a quick update:

I took the Bar Exam on Tuesday & Wednesday. I feel better than I did last time. I was much better rested this time & wasn't fighting to stay awake while typing my essays, so that's was better at least. I won't find out the results until April, so I'm trying not to worry about it or think about it anymore.

Thursday was a good day. I got the chance to catch my breath by spending all day at the American Indian Law Review's annual symposium. This year the theme was "Tribal Sovereignty: A Global Perspective". Maybe I'm just a law nerd, but I enjoyed listening to different perspectives & getting to see some people that I don't get to see often.

That evening I attended that Native Crossroads Film Festival. We screened "The Lesser Blessed" & "Mohawk Midnight Runners". Both were excellent.

Friday brought court with Wasband. He had already been found in contempt of court, and was being sentenced. Going into the hearing, he was $45,341.11 behind in support (including interest). He brought a $3200 payment with him, expecting that to get him out of trouble. 

I turned the decision making for the case over to my attorney, since I couldn't make an objective decision. I had authorized a one month extension already & it clearly hadn't made a difference. So, I told my attorney to do whatever he would recommend to any other client. In the end, Wasband was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with a purge amount of $15k. That means, if he can't pay that amount, he sits in jail for the entire time. Once he comes out, he will have a $500/month payment toward his back support, in addition to his regular child support. If he doesn't make his payments from that point forward, the Judge warned, he's going to be putting himself in "the revolving door" of going back to jail over & over for non-payment. I admit, it was difficult to watch him being handcuffed & taken to jail, even knowing that it's because of his own choices.

I ended up at my parents' Friday night but, as it turns out, I can't pick up the baby until Sunday. Since the older four are more interested in hanging out with my parents & running around the ranch than spending time with me, I decided to take the day off. I've been so stressed lately & the kids have been so wonderful about tolerating me, even at my most bitchy. So, I'm hoping this will help return me to my normal self. I know they will be eternally grateful.

I considered hanging out with friends but, honestly, didn't feel like being around people. So, I decided to cross over into Texas to kill some time, while still staying close enough to run back if the kids need me (I'm sure I'll post about it in a few days, when I get to upload all the photos). It's been a nice day & I'm finally winding down. Tonight, I'm staying in a cute little bed & breakfast. I'm such a hard partier...I plan to participate in tonight's #NotYourTonto Twitter storm & read--the first book not law related since June 2010.