Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Never Appropriate

Red Willows
Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

So, week before last came news that the Taos Town Council, with the backing of new Mayor Dan Barrone, had changed the name of the local community park.

At first blush, it seemed to be win/win:  The community park, which is right downtown and is the place where all the local arts and crafts fairs, the wool festival, and other regional events are held, is no longer named for the genocidal Indian killer whose name pollutes streets, businesses, and institutions all over this part of Indian Country. [For those who don't know, until couple of weeks ago, it was named "Kit Carson Memorial Park." Really? In a town that wouldn't exist but for the Indian residents, you're going to "memorialize" an Indian killer. Oh, yes; this is the norm.]

And it's been renamed "Red Willow Park":  "Red Willow" for the people of Taos Pueblo, because that "Red Willow" is the English translation of their name for themselves.

Except not so much. Why?

Because nobody, but nobody, bothered to ask the permission of the Pueblo.

Nope. Just, once again, appropriated stole the name. The name of an entire people. The name of a sovereign nation.

The initial article in The Taos News, two weeks ago, showed pushback from one member of the council (and I have no patience with him or his "arguments"; his pushback is rooted in bigotry and resentment). It also was written in such a way, and quoted the new mayor in such a way, as to seem to indicate that he and the council had contacted the Pueblo about this name change and had been given approval to do so.

The article in last week's edition shows that nothing could be further from the truth:

Town officials have also faced questions about the lack of communication with tribal government ahead of the vote. Taos Mayor Dan Barrone told The Taos News last week he did not speak with anyone in tribal government before the name change was approved because it happened so quickly. 
In a June 25 letter to The Taos News, tribal Gov. Clyde M. Romero Sr. and War Chief David G. Gomez make clear Taos Pueblo did not ask the town to rename the park. 
“Mayor Barrone and the town council acted alone on their own authority and without input, consideration or discussion with Taos Pueblo to rename the park ‘Red Willow Park,’ “ the letter states. 
“The chosen name of the park is one that holds a special and significant meaning to Taos Pueblo and its people,” the letter reads, noting that the tribe is a sovereign nation that interacts on a “government-to-government basis.” 
“As such, Taos Pueblo only feels it appropriate that the mayor and council should have consulted and requested input from Taos Pueblo regarding the use of the name ‘Red Willow.’ “

I have to tell you, Wings frankly cheered at the text of that letter. Because Governor Romero and War Chief Gomez are absolutely, incontrovertibly, 110% right.

Nothing should ever be taken from the people without their consent, least of all their very identity. And yet, with our new mayor and his minions, it was business as usual: Appropriate for their own self-promotion, then later when it becomes clear that you've really stepped in it, "apologize" on grounds that "it happened so quickly." Well, why, Dan? So you could make a name for yourself. So you could exploit Indians for political bennies. So you could use them, us, once again for your own agenda.

Of course, the article itself is also just a horror show of stupidity. People: If you're going to write about anything Indian-related, you have absolute obligation to get.it.right. If you can't be bothered to do that, then, really, shut the fuck up about it. It's not your business, and it's not yours to appropriate for self-aggrandizement. And twice, the reporter gets the translation of the name wrong, something he could have verified if he'd bothered either to go to the Taos Pueblo Web site or to ask his fellow reporter, who is an enrolled member. For the last time: "Taos" is the Spanish corruption of the word for "the village," referring to a particular place. It does not translate to "People of the Red Willow"; that term is not for consumption by outsiders (including me, and no, I don't ask, because I don't need to know, nor does anyone not an actual member of the Pueblo itself).

The commentary since then is also a horror show of stupidity . . . and racism. I'm not even going to bother addressing it, because it's always here. And frankly, the opinions of non-Indians are irrelevant on this one. Suffice to say that subsequent comments and OpEd pieces are what you'd expect when privilege is impinged.

It'll probably go to a new vote. The whining from opponents has gotten much louder, and much more childish. So where do we come down on it?

With the Pueblo:
The letter from the governor and war chief goes on to say the Pueblo appreciates the town’s attempt to foster a better relationship with the tribal government. The letter concludes by saying Taos Pueblo supports the name change “for all Taos Valley residents.”
As far as we're concerned, that's the opinion that counts.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sugar Shock

A Subtlety, or The Marvelous Sugar Baby
by Kara Walker
Image credit Time Out New York

It's an old phrase common in my diabetes-riddled family, generally misused to refer to an insulin reaction [real "sugar shock" is when your blood sugar skyrockets to dangerous levels, but it's become colloquially misapplied to refer to hypoglycemic shock, when your blood sugar drops precipitously].

This morning, it's a kick in the gut.

Go read my Spirit Sister's post, here, about the brilliant Kara Walker's new installation at the soon-to-be-demolished Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn.

My emotions this morning are whirling, roiling ball of memory and happiness and nausea and disgust all lodged in my gut, like that of a six-year-old's Halloween hangover on November first. But this won't pass with a few hours' time.

We have a love/hate relationship with sugar in this household anyway. Indians and diabetics — what could possibly go wrong? As it happens, we have no refined sugar in the house, and never do; we use raw sugar, maple sugar when we can get it, occasionally brown sugar, or more often, agave syrup. Much healthier. 

We now keep molasses on hand for the horses as needed, but I confess to occasionally licking it off my fingers. Molasses, for me, is one of those substances braided into my memory: One of the things we could afford in childhood, even at times when refined sugar was out of reach; something used occasionally on those rare celebratory days when my mother made pancakes; the ingredient that made my sister's molasses cookies, which she so dearly loved, so savory-sweet; the association with the horses of our childhood. The taste, the smell, the texture: like maple sugar and maple syrup, for me, molasses, at the most limbic level, is a mix of warm, safe, happy sensations.

And then came adulthood, and college, and learning about the canefields. More colonialism and capitalism, likewise braided tightly together, this time into a lash with which to torture and torment human beings who were seen not merely as not fully human, but as mere things, tools to be used in an agricultural assembly line.

Even then, I didn't get anything approaching the real story, but I got enough of it to know that sugar in any form wasn't quite as sweet anymore.

Interesting, innit? For so long, the apex of sugar, the type most sought-after, was refined sugar. White sugar. Just as, for the dominant culture (and for our own peoples far too much of the time, being immersed as they were, dipped and coated like candy, in the racism that has been wholly a part of that culture since before the country was "founded"), whiteness was the apex, the goal, the brass ring to be reached, the self-actualization of the entire society.

And now, we've come to learn just how toxic, how much of a killer, refined white sugar is to the human body. All human bodies.

So much like the sickeningly-sweet false promises of assimilation.

Some weeks ago, on a trip to the local organic grocery, I picked up another bottle of molasses for the horses. Keep in mind that this is the "liberal" grocery in this "liberal" town. I was in a hurry, didn't feel like digging my reading glasses out of my bag, and could read the price-points on the shelf just fine. One brand was substantially less expensive than the other two, and so I grabbed it and continued shopping.

Sometime later, Wings said to me, "Why did you buy molasses that has "Plantation" as a brand name?"

Whaaaa . . . ?

I went to check. Sure enough, there at the top of the label, in stylized block letters:  "PLANTATION." As though this is somehow a good thing.

On the next trip to the grocery store, we got a different brand. Wasteful as it seems, we threw out the old bottle. There wasn't much left anyway, and it's the sort of thing you can't un-know, nor un-see every time you look at it.

And Wings is complaining to the store's management.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Hungry Mouths

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

Dad to the rescue:


Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
Those are Bullock's Orioles. Occasionally, they've shown up briefly here and there; not every year. The last two summers, they've arrived for two to three weeks, then disappeared again.

This year has been different.

The magpies scattered at least six nests around the vicinity of what passes for a house, two in the piƱon trees directly outside the window. Which is to say, close enough to touch. They also did so very early; last year, our magpies hatched in late June/early July; this year, it was in May. They pretty clearly decided that they felt safer nearby, despite the presence of two tall, gawky, featherless birds and three less-gigantic-but-still-large furry four-legged birds. Oh, and the occasional 1,200-pound one permitted to graze by the birdbath.

Good for the magpies, but not generally so good for smaller birds. Magpies are, after all, quite large. Also extraordinarily intelligent, verbal, and assertive.

So we expected few if any smaller birds to try making a home this close.

About six weeks ago, the Orioles showed up at the feeder: the male first, tentatively, checking to ensure that all was safe; a few days later, his bride. The mostly came independently of each other, although on a few occasions, it was apparent that he was escorting her.

But it was very hit-or-miss. We might see them two or three times one day, then not at all for the next four or five.

I did see them, particularly the male, flying into and cross the field to the west, and thence across the highway. Once in a while, he'd perch in the chamisa and talk to me as I went past, but always at a safe distance.

And then one day, in the aspens right outside the front door, above the picnic table where we eat when it's nice enough to do so outside, Wings noticed a nest. It was still in its early stages of construction, but clearly being put together efficiently and rapidly. A few days later, we saw Mr. and Mrs. making their way between the nest and the feeder. And then we knew that little ones would follow.

This is . . . unusual. They are not particularly trusting birds, and not especially social with other species. But they seem to feel safe here, and that they can trust their little ones around us. And they remained, despite the fact that we found the battered and broken body of one of the little ones on the ground beneath the tree a couple of weeks ago; it appears that either one of the red-wings or one of the ravens got it. 

And Mom and Dad are not in the least afraid to chase off larger birds. We've watched them harry blackbirds, magpies, and even the ravens. But after such a loss, we were afraid they might abandon the nest.

Instead, a couple of days ago, the female jumped down onto the picnic table while I stood outside the door, just two or three yards away. All three dogs lay on the grass, each within a yard of her, and each looked directly at her before returning to stare fascinatedly at blades of grass. She looked at each of us in turn, and began to talk. She jumped down onto the grass, then up onto the birdbath for a drink, then back down onto the grass again.  

Walking, talking.

After a few minutes, she jumped back up onto the table, looked me in the eye once more, then flew back up to her children.

I like to think she was telling me about them, proudly as any other mother.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Exhaustion.



I have things to write. Can't do it. Too tired.

It's Friday anyway; no one's around. Maybe tomorrow, if I'm able to get free of other things enough to focus for more than two minutes at a stretch.

So have one of my favorites. Yes, I'm aware that it's a dark song. Your point? It fits me.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Out of the Shadows, Into the Light

Photo copyright Wings, 2013, 2014; all rights reserved.

I've had a night to think over what prompted me to post last night's piece, to discuss it with someone I trust, to watch as more discussion in the trigger piece subsequently unfolded.

I think I can better articulate (note, please: verb, not adjective) some of what troubles me.

Don't get me wrong: None of this is new. Not remotely. Last night's diary posted elsewhere simply provided a reason, finally, to write about it, to try to put it in words outside my own head that others might be able to understand. And let's also be clear about the fact that I understood and still understand the points that writer was making (and in some cases, thought he was making, even when he was unintentionally making other or additional points).

Early on, I had an e-mail exchange with a friend about it, in which I mentioned his "ironic" use of the terms in the title that were being perceived by many as so offensive. She didn't get the "ironic" reference, and asked me to clarify. This is what I said:
"Ironic" in the sense of turning those terms back on the original users.  If he had put quotation marks around "human zoo," and "race mongrelization," it might have worked.  it's close, but I might not have objected so much. The idea being that this photo spread in Slate is simply a warping of the old white vision of race-mixing as mongrelization that creates a human zoo: The people pictured are exhibits, exotic novelties to be put on display and gawked at by the white masses for their faux-edification-cum-amusement.
Later in the evening, his reply to another commenter confirmed my analysis of his intent.

However, I had also noted, in my exchange with my friend, that I also felt, very clearly, some resentment of us (i.e., those who are and identify as mixed-race) underlying the original writer's words. And to be clear, this is not one of those times when people not in my moccasins say. "Oh, you're seeing things that aren't there." Because it is manifestly untrue, and I have a lifetime of daily experience that tells me I'm right. And if that is your first reaction, then, yes, you do need to stop and think about what you want to say and why you want so badly to say it before actually proceeding with the comment.

You see, here's the deal: He's right about the white gaze and the implicit and explicit power structures and the norming and the defining of what is "exotic" or "stunning" or even merely "interesting" and why. And we need to understand all of that, thoroughly, and we need to be able to take it apart and examine its constituent elements and see how they fit together or don't, and how they are used, individually and in toto, to perpetuate stereotypes, discrimination, oppression, racism.

But in the end, there is one thing that the original writer forgot, and this is where, for us, the rest becomes academic:  That very white gaze he discusses? That very practice of norming, and placing non-white races and cultures outside the norm (whether what's being placed outside are actually a part of either, or exist only in the imaginations of the people putting them there)? That very power structure, that sees bodies of color as Other, as Less Than, as Objects?

How do you think we came to be? 

No, really. How do you think those of us of mixed race came to be?  Chances are, on some level (and if you're young, it's just as likely as not to be buried very, very deeply; if, like myself, you're older, it was much more likely to be right out on the surface) the very process that brought your ancestors together in a way that eventually produced you was an explicit product of that white gaze and of white power and control. 

Our women were "exotic." Our women were "possessions." Our women were "trophies" (today, for Indians, it's the men who are regarded that way). What they were not, in the minds of the white men who took them, often purely by force, is fully-actualized human being, peers, equals with standing and autonomy and sovereignty over their own bodies and minds and spirits. The same is manifestly true of our Black ancestors.

So when you look at those "race mongrels" in the "human zoo" that the original writer so decried, you're not merely looking at an artist's interpretation of a racist social and cultural construct.

You're looking at human beings.  Real bodies, real people, who exist as the three-dimensional, fully-actualized incarnation of that white gaze and vision.

And what makes people of all races uncomfortable, in part, is that pieces such as that photo essay bring us out of the interstices, at least for a moment, out of the shadows, into the light.

Where you are forced to see us.

Where you are forced to acknowledge that WE ARE.

Which means that all of us, on every side of the racial divide and all the points across it, must reckon with that which brought us into being.

The challenge is to understand that, and then to understand that, boxes and pigeonholes and compartments aside, we are still "fully-actualized human being, peers, equals with standing and autonomy and sovereignty over their own bodies and minds and spirits."

WE ARE.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interstitial

Photo copyright Wings, 2013, 2014; all rights reserved.
You know that old word game we played as kids (or even as adults):

"Describe yourself in one word."

The idea, of course, was to capture, in one word, as many traits, characteristics, qualities, and values about yourself as possible, in one word. Back then, it changed over time, as our experiences (and our vocabularies) expanded and grew.

For too many years to count, now, though, my answer has remained the same.

Interstitial.

"Occupying the spaces between." 

Between what? It could be anything. Or anyone. Or anywhere.

For me, it's all of those, and more.

I am a mixed-race woman. In this culture, I fit nowhere. America likes everything nice and easy and dichotomous: black and white, and Black and White. Boxed, pigeonholed, compartmentalized. A place for everythingone, and everythingone in its place.

And mostly, the dominant culture can go through life seeing the world in that way.

For us, it's not that simple.

The only boxes, the only pigeonholes, the only compartments we have are those that are not truly ours. We don't fill them up — and yet we overflow them in some sections along the boundaries, crossing and spilling into other boxes and pigeonholes and compartments that everyone else wants to say are "Not Ours." They're not labeled "Mixed." much less are they labeled, for example, "Red/White/Black," which is how my own would read, had it any truth in advertising at all. But this culture doesn't care about truth in advertising. It cares about ease and comfort, particularly ease of mind and comfort of conscience.

And I am a walking, talking, living, breathing existential crisis for both of those things.

We don't do race well in this country. Not just the very concept(s) of "race," not just "race relations," not just "racial integration" or "racial understanding," but the notion that race encompasses so much more than any or all of those things, and so much more than a skin color or a language or an accent or a religious tradition or a style of dress or even a history . . . or even a history of oppression. And when presented with something, someone a body — that transgresses those boundaries and those lines and those neat little boxes and pigeonholes and compartments . . . everybody is suddenly out of sorts.

Not just the white folks. The black folks and brown folks and red folks and yellow folks, too.

We are not theirs, and they are not ours, at least as they all see it. They don't claim us; we don't belong. Oh, sure, there are exceptions. For example, it's actually quite rare these days to find Red and Black folks who are truly full-blooded, once you get beyond a certain generation past. But if you look more or less full-blooded, and have grown up immersed in your culture with people like yourself, then you generally get the benefit of the doubt.

But heaven forbid that you're born with a recessive gene, or that you were adopted out, or that you grew up integrated, whether by chance or choice on your ancestors' part, into a culture not your own.

Yes, I know. So-called #firstworldproblems. Especially for someone like me, who, on my least "integrated" day, nonetheless could pass for white, nearly anywhere, anytime, no questions asked.

I benefit from unearned white privilege in all the ways that white folks do, and "unearned" also in the sense that white folks don't.

Because our society gazes upon these matters skin-deep or less, and whatever comforting and comfortable snap judgment it can make based on what it thinks is the obvious color of skin, well, that's who I must be.

And woe to the mixed-race person who transgresses, defies that.

Oh, I'm acutely aware of my own privilege. Unasked, unearned, it doesn't matter; it's mine even though I don't want it. And I'm acutely aware that, in this society, people of color who are not mixed-race — or, rather, who are perceived not to be mixed-race —have a much harder time of it on a daily, hourly, minute-by-minute basis. They cannot "blend in" to the dominant culture, and while they likely don't want to, not having the option certainly makes existence less convenient.

I'm also acutely aware of the degree to which "intermarriage" has been used, both historically and yet today, as an instrument of extermination, of genocide. Genocide of peoples, genocide of cultures, genocide of languages. [The same is also true, in some instances, of cross-racial adoption, but that is a topic for another day.] And, yes, I used the polite term, "intermarriage," but too often, it's just plain old rape. Yes, it's. Present tense. It's not merely a historical phenomenon in this country, particularly not when Facebook gives its tacit endorsement to sites like one promoting so-called "intermarriage" as a way to get rid of people of color and "make white natives [sic] for Jesus.] This is the here and now, folks.

So when I read something like this, my heart gets just a little bit heavier. Because I have not the slightest doubt that the piece to which it refers has issues, as they say, nor that Slate's motives and execution were anything but those of anti-racism allies in publishing the piece in the first place. But to see, without the slightest hesitation or second-guessing of himself, the author of the linked piece, himself a Black man, use "human zoo" and "mongrelization" in his very title . . . well, thanks for buying into the white racist cant of the last 500 years on this continent to refer to  . . . well, people like me.

I have no answers. And I expect no sympathy. That's not what this is about anyway. To the extent it's about anything at all, it's simply about expanding understanding: my own; other people's; people of single-race ancestry; other people, like me, of mixed-race backgrounds. I'm not asking anyone to do anything in particular, to take any action beyond, perhaps, thinking a bit about these issues. Thinking beyond what's comfortable and familiar.

I have my own demons to address, my own ancestral guilt to expiate. I know too well the poison of passing, attractive though it may be (and "safe" though it may have been, at least in the sense of physical security and bodily autonomy). I understand why, perhaps, no racial group of which I am a part and that is simultaneously a part of me would want to claim me and mine: not only for having benefited illegitimately of ancestral denial, but for the denial itself. For leaving rather than staying. For turning our family's back on its constituent parts and pieces in favor of the perceived advantages of being "officially" recognized, under the very public and probing gaze of the dominant culture, as something that we were not. And, of course, for the sins of some of ours, who donned the cloak of the dominant culture a little too eagerly, wrapping themselves happily in the vicious racism turned against their very own.

Because we may not be comfortable to see, or acknowledge, or try to understand, but we exist. We exist in the spaces between, beneath the light and above the shadows.

We are.





Copyright Ajijaakwe, 2014; all rights reserved.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Look at me."

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

Three of the most important words ever. Especially when dealing with fear, trauma, PTSD, and/or desensitization.

Ice was introduced to something new over the weekend: Fly spray. With predictable results.

I came outside and saw him whipping his back end around in a circle, trying to get away from it.  From 100 yards away, I called, "Ice. Look at me."

His ears twitched, he whirled around again toward the sound of my voice, he fixed his eyes on me, and slowed. Eyes still rolling, but fixated on me now, and Wings was able to finish the job.

It's a technique I've always used with my dogs whenever they've undergone something traumatic, or when they're in freak-out mode (not uncommon with badly abused rescues) and I need them to settle down fast.

i use it on the horses, too, and Ice really got introduced to it during the period we were having to tie him to the hitching post and crank on the lunge line jsut to get him medicated. So he knows what the words mean.

So tonight, I walk outside to take him back out to graze, and Wings is spraying him down again. Getting air as much as coat, because he's freaked, and the whole process really needs a second set of hands anyway.

I can get him to look at me long enough to allow for a spritz here and there, but the legs and the back end? No go. So I got the lead, attached it to the halter, and held him.

Twitching. Turning. Swishing his tail like a whip. Snorting. Eyes rolling; whites showing.

"Ice. Look at me. Look. at. me."

We got him done.

And he got his reward: another hour and a half outside grazing.

Sometimes, all you need is a new place to look.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Ice Man Eateth

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

All day long, if possible.

No, nothing new to report. No time, even if there were. Just a quick and dirty photo from an hour or so ago for folks who have been wondering how he's doing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

I got nothin'.

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

Have some happy dogs.

Okay, no, it's not that I've got nothin' to say.  Oh, believe me, I've got plenty.

What I don't have is energy, or, more importantly right now, time. Buried under a monster-sized to-do list.

So the rants discourse will have to wait, at least until tomorrow. For now, She-Wolf and Raven can entertain you.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

More on #NotYourRedskin



Yesterday's story turned into a day-long discussion among my peeps on Facebook. In at least one case, one of my friends seized the opportunity to push her own Facebook friends to reevaluate their positions, and as she recounted to me the turns their discussion took, it pushed me to expand on my own thinking and help her add some rhetorical weapons to her arsenal.

One thing I need to make clear at the outset, though: For us (for any marginalized population dealing with the fact and fallout of that marginalization), this is not generally something that we need to "clarify" in our minds, to "rethink" or "reevaluate." We don't need to consider the "arguments" that opponents continually insist that we do, as though their arguments are the magic bullet that will logically invalidate everything with think. You know why?

We've heard them all already.

Yes, ALL. I have yet to encounter an argument that opposes my own anti-racism (or anti-[other]ism) positions that I have not already heard many times over, in every conceivable iteration; that I have not already considered many times over, at length, and in so doing affording them much more legitimacy than they usually deserve; that I have not already used on myself many times over in playing devil's advocate specifically to sharpen and refine my own thinking. 

Also, we live with this. Every single minute of every single hour of every single day. So, you know, we come at these issues from not merely a sanitized academic perspective, devoid of real-world experience, but also down-and-dirty in-the-trenches immersion in the dynamics and their practical effects.

So I've had plenty of opportunity over the decades to reach my conclusions, thanks.

But it's one of those dynamics that I want to discuss here — one that dredged itself up from the depths of my memory during yesterday's discussions. It did not involve anti-Indian racism, but anti-Black racism. But that is, I think, even better for purposes of illustrating this particular point: Perhaps non-Indians who read it will gain a deeper understanding of why, no matter what anyone says, that slur does not honor us.

It's just a little vignette, no more than five minutes out of one day in my life many years ago. It involved two friends, a Black man and a white woman. (Tangentially, it also involved two other women, myself and another friend, both of us with similar racial backgrounds in different proportions; I identify first as Indian, she identifies first as Black. Our immediate role in this little scene was simply that of "witness," but it stuck with both of us.) 

The white woman was one of those who liked to bestow nicknames. She considered her purpose in doing so to be lighthearted and funny, but it really wasn't. As we would eventually come to learn, it was part and parcel of who she was: someone immersed in the bullying tactics and behaviors so prized by the dominant culture, herself victimized by those same tactics expressed in different ways, but so thoroughly immersed in that aspect of the cultural zeitgeist that she felt not merely justified in extending that behavior to others but wanted to be enabled and encouraged in it.

One of her favorites involved use of the term "Boy." It was an equal-opportunity nickname, on the surface; our circle included people of every race, multiple spiritual traditions, and members of the LGBTQI community. For example, one of the [white] guys who was known for liking to drink — a lot — was given the nickname "Party Boy." 

On this day, she informed one of the Black men in our circle that his name was [Whatever] Boy; I can't remember the actual name, other than the use of the word "Boy" in it. The other part, as will become obvious, was irrelevant. His reaction was immediate and unmistakable: offended, yes, but for anyone with an ounce of awareness, the hurt in his eyes was also obvious. Nonetheless, he simply said politely, "No. Please don't call me that, under any circumstances." 

So what was the proper response here?  Oh, that's an easy one, because there is only one. In such a situation, you apologize and concede. Even a toddler understands that there is no reason to hurt someone just because you can.

So did she? Of course not.

No, she kept insisting on the right to call him "[X] Boy," whether he liked it or not, "because [she] wasn't being racist." She insisted that her intent was all that mattered, and since she called all the guys some version of "Boy," irrespective of their race, it was perfectly okay for her to call him that, too.

After being told by more than one person present that it is by definition racist for a white person to call a Black man "boy," she continued to insist that she would still call him that. She even began to mount her High Horse of White Victimhood, the tired old excuse of "How dare you call me a racist; I don't have a racist bone in my body!"

And thus ended the friendship. 

In her mind, she made it about a rhetorical tug-of-war over "rights": her "right" to inflict a name (unasked and unwanted, mind you) on a person who not only did not want it, but was profoundly hurt by it — and to continue to inflict it, simply because she wanted to.

In his mind (and in actuality) she was insisting on the "right" to conjure up in his psyche a collection of images, feelings, and memories, both personal and ancestral: Every single time a white person had called into question, disrespected, belittled and scorned his identity as a Black person, his masculinity as a Black man, his very humanity as an individual. He's African American; does his family tree include men and women held as slaves? It's entirely likely. He lived in the allegedly post-Jim Crow South; does his family history include lynchings? Also entirely possible. Certainly, his history — his own personal history, that of his blood family, that of his ancestors — comprises all of the savagery and violence and humiliation the dominant culture inflicted, with no small amount of glee, on Black people generally and Black men specifically. And as a Black man, he lives daily with the microaggressions that our culture reserves specifically for him.

So every time he hears the word "Boy," I have no doubt that somewhere deep inside, he flinches. His adrenaline levels spike, along with his blood pressure. He sees, feels, the ghosts of the whip and the chain and the rope, and their diluted contemporary equivalent, the unwarranted stop, the frisk, the handcuffs, the bars. 

And that's very much like what WE see, hear, and feel every time someone uses the word "reds***" (and for us women, "s****"). We see the ghosts of our ancestors, massacred, raped, tortured, forcibly marched, interned in camps, lynched, scalped, skinned. We see their body parts being traded for bounties and used for leggings by the same U.S. Cavalry who slaughtered them. We see their genitals being torn off and appropriated as sacrilegious "medicine bags." We see the blankets. We see the genocidal mania that did its best to exterminate our peoples. Closer to home in time, we see the threats of lynching of our own immediate ancestors. We see the daily grinding humiliations: "Red n*****" as an appellation. Forced to step off the sidewalk to defer to a white person. "No Indians or dogs allowed" signs. A little boy, forced to sit in his first-grade classroom, urine streaming down his legs while white classmates jeered, because a racist teacher would not let him get up and use the bathroom.

It's the savageries, large and small. They are real. And they are embodied in our memories, they take modern form, in the word "reds***."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

CANCELED! #NotYourMascot, Snyder!

Image credit Mother Jones Magazine

We won!

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has canceled the trademark of the Washington Reds***s.

By "we," I mean Indians, but special congratulations go to lead plaintiffs Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs, Philip Gover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh for stepping up and seeing this through.

ThinkProgress has a brief analysis here. The opinion itself is here. Briefly, key to the decision was the finding that the use of the slur was in fact [already] "disparaging to Native Americans" at the time it was registered [each time it or a variant thereof was registered].

This is, of course, not the end of the matter. Snyder, being the vicious racist that he is, will fight this to the bitter end and beyond. He'll take the immediate financial hit, which will be substantial even in the short term, and will sink even more money into retainers to file endless appeals. I fully expect a reversal in the courts, but it will be yet one more temporary switchback tun on the much longer road to justice.

For today, we dance. Because, Snyder, we are #notyourmascots, and we are sure as hell #notyourredskins.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Memories of a Penitent Heart": Final Hours to Fund an Important Film Project



Yeah, I dropped the ball on this one. I mean to begin promoting it a few weeks ago, when my Spirit Sister first brought it to my attention — got busy, got distracted, and completely forgot.

And now, there are only 31 hours left in the fundraising period.

And this is an important film project.

It's a young woman's story, as best she's been able to piece it together decades later, of her Uncle Miguel: In no particular order, Latino; Puerto Rican; Nuyorican; gay; HIV-positive; Catholic; heart transplant recipient.

Any one of those aspects of his identity would make for a compelling story; any two of them would would be critically intersectional. To combine them all, and more?

This is a film that needs to be made — for so many different communities and their members, for the people who move in and out of them and across them or live in some or all of them at once. And, yes, for loved ones and allies, too, who may "get it," or get part of it, but who need sometimes to be led more thoroughly through the individual steps of a person's life if they are really to begin to understand in any concrete, meaningful way what it is to live a life that is not of the dominant culture in some or many forms.

Thirty-one hours. That's all the time that remains, and the filmmaker, Cecilia Aldarondo, needs just over $12K to do it. So please: Share this link with your networks. You never know whose life, whose spirit will be moved by this story, and who will have the resources to help bring it to fruition.

Chi miigwech.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making Hay

Photo copyright Aji, 2013, 2014; all rights reserved.
Yup, it's that season again. Cutting, turning, baling, hauling, loading, unloading, stacking. From a few dozen acres spread across multiple fields on two parcels. As I said elsewhere this morning: 
And if you've never done it, believe me — it's LABOR. Hot, dirty, dusty, sneezy, heavy work, with 50-lb.+ bales hauled, stacked on a flatbed, then unloaded and stacked in the hay barn. I do it right along next to the guys, like I've done every season for nearly a decade. Some years, it's been just Wings and me  no help. But this year, I'm a little more decrepit thanks to last week's injuries, and he injured his back a few weeks ago, so there's no question: We HAVE to hire help. And they have to be paid, along with the guy who takes care of the cut/tedder/bale processes.
Unfortunately, we don't have the resources we had available this time last year. Part of that is a change in arrangements with our boarder horse. Part of that is the fact that we took two huge hits in terms of the amount of hay available to us over the winter: First, we had not one, but two starving, abused, and abandoned horses that showed up here last year, first Miskwaki, and then Ice. And while normally, we would've been able to feed them out of our own supply just fine, climate change kicked our butts last year. The monsoon season arrived two months early and drowned it, stunting its growth. So our first two cuts were not as large as usual, and we didn't get a third cut at all. We held out hope for a small one, but like the rains, sub-freezing temperatures arrived similarly early, and that took care of that. And when you have now three horses that can't have much in the way of alfalfa, that depletes the now-very expensive grass hay supply very rapidly. We've been reduced to buying half-ton bales from a local guy for some months now just to make it stretch. It's not like our grass hay by any means, but it's better than most of what's out there.

Which brings me to our current dilemma. We have to raise the money for this somehow. I've already posted these items on Facebook this morning, but I'm going to ask all of our friends and family, here and elsewhere, to help share this. We're promoting the sale of two really spectacular pieces of inventory, true collector's items, museum-qaulity showpieces. And despite the sticker shock, considering the extent to which they will only appreciate in value, the prices are pretty fabulous, too.

First up, an absolutely incredible bolo, handcrafted by famed Navajo silversmith Tommy Singer, who walked a few weeks ago — truly a loss to the world of Native art, and Native silversmithing particularly:
Photo copyright Wings, 2013;2014; all rights reserved.
Spectacular, really deep and uniform hand-stampwork on heavy-gauge sterling silver. The man made his own bezel, cuffs, and tips, all by hand, all sterling. The barrels above the squash-blossom tips are shown in the second photo and feature what's known as micro-chip inlay in natural turquoise and natural coral; the big oval cab in the middle is natural freeform Morenci turquoise from Arizona. 
Photo copyright Wings, 2013;2014; all rights reserved.
The tie itself is heavy-duty tightly-braided leather in a deep rich brown - two pieces, held with hand-made fasteners under the collar. $1,800 + $30 s/h/i. And, again, for people who truly love traditional work, this is perfect; now that our little world has lost Mr. Singer, it will also appreciate substantially in value in the years to come. 

Second, this concha belt from Wings's private collection:

Photo copyright Aji, 2013; 2014; all rights reserved.
Beautiful old-style work; heavy silver, all conchas individually hand-stamped. The belt is high-quality, heavy leather, such dark brown that it's nearly black in color. $1,500 + $25 s/h/i. 

And, of course, we have much, much more, including Wings's own showpieces from his recent on-man exhibition. All of his work and much more are available on our Web site, although please pardon the mess while we finish renovations there.

Sales of these will go a long way toward paying the troops and keeping the beasts fed, so if you know anyone who might be in the market for a gorgeous wearable showpiece, true collector's items traditionally made in the traditional style, please share this with them. Thanks.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Announcing NDN Silver:


Yes, there's a change of name, although the Web site URL remains the same, as does the d/b/a.

Yes, there are a lot of glitches to be worked out, a lot of content to be uploaded, a lot of editing to be done. But the main gallery — Wings's own silverwork — is navigable. 

I'll be working on it all day today, so if you see an issue, give me a day or two before bringing it to my attention. Chances are I already know about it, but it all takes time, and I'm more than a little swamped. [And despite the platform, there will be no comments enabled, for obvious reasons. If I haven't gotten to a particular page yet to turn them off, please don't add one.]

In the meantime, please share the link — this link — with everyone you know. You never know who will need a belated Father's Day gift, a graduation or wedding gift, or simply something for him- or herself. Getting this up and running today is my own Father's Day gift to the love of my life, but I'd like to be able to give him something more substantial, like a few desperately-needed sales.

Thanks, everybody.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Para Ranchos Guayama



And Bobby, and Ana, and little Wings, and Spirit, and all of the other godcreatures and their neighbors who desperately need the rain right now.

If Thunderbird can help from here, he will.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Yeah, there's a hint there.



Or two, or three . . . .

Feet up; ankles wrapped with ice packs; not doing much tonight. We'll see how [if?] I can walk tomorrow.

No, you don't wanna know.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Meet "Lawn Mower."

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.
Also "Goat."

No, nothing yet to report on the big question of the day.  Maybe tomorrow . . . .

In the meantime, I guess last night's NCAI ad ran in only seven metro markets, one of which included Albuquerque. So thanks, a lot, all you peeps forwarding me all those breathless announcements over the last two days, all of which said "televised nationally" or some variant thereof. Wings thanks you, too, for forcing him to sit through ad after ad after ad in a painfully bad game without being able to ride the remote. Yeah, I know: That's how it was no doubt reported, and the press release/actual announcement is typically unfindable on the NCAI Web site, so how would anyone know otherwise?

For those wanting an update, Goat Lawn Mower Ice is doing well. He is not going back onto the antibiotics; we've identified and resolved that issue. He is, however, painfully think again from not being able to eat normally for so long. Happily for him, that simply means that much more time out Hoovering up grass, so before long, the weight should start coming back. Meanwhile, the sand is exiting at a large volume and steady rate.

Maybe a more practical update tomorrow on the Web site. Once it's live, please help me get the word out. Ice is a love, but he's an expensive one (like all the rest of 'em).


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

So . . . um . . . where was the ad, ABC?



This ad, by the National Congress of American Indians, was supposed to run tonight during Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

Got that? During. Not after. Not on a commercial break for the post-game show. Not during the idiotic local news that no one in their right mind watches anyway.

The ad, by the way, was created last year. Under pressure, the networks refused to run it during NFL games. The NBA was supposed to be better than that.

And frankly, I suspect it was. I think it's a network issue — and possibly a local affiliate issue. Which makes it all the more absurd here, since New Mexico has one of the country's highest Native populations.

At any rate, it is 9:50 PM. The game is over (and the Heat lost). And at least one of us has been here every minute, watching for the ad that never ran.

I think it's time to make some noise.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Well, this will certainly bring you back down to earth.

Photo copyright Wings, 2014; all rights reserved.

Bad day today, for a lot of reasons. Less than two hours ago, I was complaining about various things.

And then I heard a horrible sound coming from the highway, the kind of sound you hear when someone traveling at too high a rate of speed blows a tire: the slewing and sliding and skidding back and forth across the road, preparatory to what you know is coming next.

And I did know. And just as I was ducking out the door in, I don't know, some futile idea of stopping it simply by seeing it, I heard that even more unmistakable, sickening sound. The one that signals a vehicle's impact with something immovable.

Wings was already running toward me, yelling at me to grab his phone. He had the call in within 60 seconds of the impact. I took Ice back into the pen, shut Griffin inside, grabbed the leashes to corral the other two dogs, and raced after him to the north fence.

It was bad.

It was probably less, but it seemed like 20 minutes before a single emergency vehicle got there. In the meantime, post-schoolday traffic was everywhere, with people stopping —some to try to help, others simply to gawk.

A white minivan lay on its top, upward on the berm, end a mere foot or so from the barbed wire of our fence. All the weight was resting on the roof of the driver's cab. We had no idea how many people might be in it — heartbreakingly, children's grade-school papers and construction-paper artwork had flown out the windows — or what their condition might be, and with tinted windows and thoroughly jammed up doors, there was no way to tell.

Raven came almost immediately when called. She-Wolf refused at first to budge: She knew someone in the van was hurt, and she sat right at the fence, peering intently between the strands of barbed wire, worry furrowing her beautiful furry face. Eventually, she came, too, and I leashed them up and took them back to the house. I would find out later that the reason Wings was already headed my way when the crash occurred was that his blood sugar had just dropped and he needed to eat. Instead, he raced past me back to the hay barn, loaded up crowbars onto the ATV, and headed back, with me following on foot.

Other men who had stopped helped him attach the ATV winch cable to the van's back doors, and after four tries, he popped it open. He didn't even hesitate. The man is a former paramedic, thoroughly trained, but gives little thought to his own safety when someone else is at risk. He climbed in through the back, determined that the driver was alone and conscious, got him to say his name, got him to determine that he could feel his toes, and then assured him that he was not alone, that people who cared about him were all waiting there, that first responders were already on the way, and that he'd wait with him until the emergency crew arrived. And he did.

And arrive they did. By the time it was done, I counted at least 18 emergency vehicles, including the chopper, and I think a couple more might have been out of my line of vision. This was undoubtedly the most excitement in the county all day. It's a shame it had to be something like this. 

The EMS folks had a small crowbar with them, useless on the jammed doors. I passed Wings's large ones through the fence to him, and they used those to jack the passenger door open to see what kind of condition the driver was in and what it would take to get him out safely.

They told Wings they needed to bring a chopper in to airlift him down to Santa Fe. Clearly a very, very bad head injury, at a minimum; no way to tell what else there might have been. The local hospital isn't equipped to deal with this kind of trauma. Of course, there was no question about it.

We went back to wait until the chopper arrived. In the meantime, as I was fixing Wings something to eat, the medics apparently got the driver out. The scream was something I hope I never hear again as long as I live.

It took probably twenty minutes. Police blocked off the highway on both ends while we waited. The helicopter pilot clearly had been briefed well, and just as clearly knew what s/he was doing, taking the shortest route overhead and landing perfectly in the north field. It sent the horses into a frenzy, of course, and I spent a couple of minutes calming them before heading back up to see what was happening.

Another fifteen or twenty minutes, and they had the driver loaded and took off smoothly. They re-opened the highway, and the emergency vehicles began K-turns and U-turns, heading back toward town. A few minutes ago, I took the ATV back up there to see whether they had rescued the school papers that presumably belonged to the driver's children; at times like this, such seemingly little things hold enormous (in every sense of that word) importance for family members. If they were still scattered, I was going to pick them up, dry them out, and hold them for safekeeping until someone claimed them. Instead, I found that the EMS crews had done a truly outstanding clean-up job in a matter of minutes, packing up and taking everything, no matter how small.

All that remains to show that anything happened are the scars in the mud left from last night's storms, deep gouges where the van overturned and came to rest. In a few days, the sun will have dried them, too, and there'll be no visible sign to anyone who didn't see it.

That spot is cursed. No one knows anymore what might once have happened in that place (although, given the history, it's easy to speculate). But it's a site of accidents every single year.

It's time to have Wings cedar me, as he's doing for himself. And time once again to thank the man I love. He's my hero, for this and for so many other reasons.

It's also time to send up a few more prayers for the driver, and for his family, that he'll make it, and without lasting ill effects. We've been doing that for the last hour. If you wanted to do likewise, it couldn't hurt.

Postscript:  Later, Wings told me that one of the EMS crew told him why their arrival was delayed. It was a bad day for them too: a jumper at the Gorge.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

New Mexico Magazine: Now with Cameo Appearances by Wings's Art


Sorry; have to post this. Because I'm proud of him.

This is the cover of the current issue of New Mexico Magazine (June, 2014 edition). Wings had to run some errands yesterday and brought it home with him.

On pages 52 through 55, one of Wings's pieces makes three cameo appearances.

What grabbed his eye was the headline on the left: "Game of Thrones' [sic] Hometown Hero." It's a story about George R.R. Martin, Santa Fe resident, and his purchase, restoration, and reopening of the Jean Cocteau Cinema, the town's beloved art-house 
theatre that closed some years ago. That's the same venue that hosted Wings's one-man show last month.

The article includes several photos of George himself. And in each one, he's wearing his trademark fisherman's cap . . . with one of Wings's turtles pinned to it.

Did I mention that I'm proud of him?

June 9, ETA: When I pulled this together two nights ago, I couldn't get a link for the actual article from the New Mexico Magazine Web site, so I assumed that it was content available only to subscribers. They've apparently since made it available; yesterday, belinda ridgewood sent me the link, which has now been added above. Only one photo, but the turtle makes an appearance.