The other day I was in a job interview. I struck up a conversation with my interviewer, a middle aged white male from North Dakota, as he ran my background check. Despite the fact it had come up that I had spent most of my time with people from the local Indigenous community, he proceeded to casually make many remarks that would have made many of my Indigenous friend’s blood boil.
The kicker was when he looked down at the floor in a dejected manner and said, “[The Fighting Sioux] was a great name, but it was *taken* from us.” (Emphasis mine)
Then, at the start of a week of cultural events hosted by the American Indian Student Services in preparation for their Time-Out week Powwow, where you are encouraged to take “time out” from your week and learn about another culture, this banner was flown at Gamma Phi Beta. This is a frat right next to the American Indian Student Services building, a frat that has in the past hosted “Cowboys and Indians” parties.
It reads, “You can *take* away our mascot but you can’t take away our pride.” (Again, emphasis mine.)
Are you serious?
I find it absolutely absurd when white people make remarks like this. I say this as a white person whose Dutch ancestors took possession of land stolen in the Dawes Act. I say this because even a brief examination of history reveals statements like this and the attitudes behind them are absurd, insulting and inconsistent.
We are going to frame the removal of the Fighting Sioux logo as a “theft” from us while we live, work, and prosper on stolen Indigenous land?
We are going to stand up to the “injustice” of being forced to change a mascot while we dismiss, downplay, or mock other groups attempting to address actual injustices?
We are going to cry around about the infringement of the inalienable right of white people to do whatever we want, when for centuries we have dictated the lives of millions of people at the point of a sword or the barrel of a gun?
The logic of Whiteness
While these statements themselves might be relatively innocuous in the grand scheme of things, the logic behind them is not.
The logic behind saying the Fighting Sioux logo was “taken” from white people and similar statements is simple: “We can take everything from you, but don’t you dare take from us!”
This is the logic that has fueled and continues to fuel a lot of injustice in the United States, Canada, and around the world. Regardless of this logic is acknowledge, articulated, or even verbally supported it still shapes the beliefs and actions of many in our society. It is why we support or passively accept many injustices that we would be furious about if they were perpetrated against us.
This is the logic of a self-absorbed child, and those of us shaped by whiteness (including myself) would do well to address it and grow up.