I recommend listening to two great interviews from this past week on the CBC Radio show, Q. Both feature young indigenous artists talking about making it big as part of a new generation of writers, actors, artists, and musicians gaining recognition alongside the aboriginal social justice movement, Idle No More. An encouraging cultural reawakening seems like it’s underway in Canada. Director Tracey Deer and star Brittany LeBorgne talk about the fourth season of their stereotype-busting (and mocking) TV show Mohawk Girls, set in Kahnawake (Quebec). “All of our kids deserve to know our dreams are possible. I’m living my own dream…It’s a wonderful time right now for aboriginal people in film and television,” says Tracey Deer.
Then, Ian Campeau, Tim 2oolman and Bear Witness from A Tribe Called Red discuss the political context and a cultural shift that has put them in the spotlight as positive role models for indigenous kids (role models they never really had themselves). Their music and shows bring indigenous and settler people together in a common experience, with the possibility of building a new kind of understanding. Their unique sound mixes hip-hop and traditional pow-wow drums and vocals. I find the sound captivating: it evokes the soulful, haunting, and uplifting feeling I’ve had hearing drumming and traditional singing at the couple pow-wows I’ve been to, combined with an electronic, night-club-dance party sound AND combined with powerful social justice messages. You should check it out.
“Something’s happened,” A Tribe Called Red’s Bear Witness said, “…you’re seeing it in arts first. Arts are a barometer…You’re seeing it in people being interested in a group like us, remixing pow-wow music. When we started, we asked people, ‘Have you heard pow-wow music,’ and most people, non-indigenous people, said ‘no.’ We’re bringing this thing that people weren’t exposed to at all…and you’d think they would be, considering that this is the music of this land.” When Q host, Tom Power, asked what this wave they’re riding means, Bear Witness, said: “Personally, it’s hope. It’s a huge amount of hope.” Their new album is We Are the Halluci Nation.
I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Robin DiAngelo, a White racial justice educator, speak about White Fragility at the University of Washington this week. After the lecture, I rushed home to find the best DiAngelo YouTube video to share in Weekend Reading. Sadly, I didn’t come across any recent videos, but I did find a fab article.
In her article, DiAngelo defines White Fragility:
White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This paper explicates the dynamics of White Fragility.
DiAngelo also explains how the dominant racism binary makes racism about bad or good individuals instead of seeing it as a multi-layered system that cannot be avoided. This video by the Center for Racial Justice illustrates how we must reshape and reform the race conversation to consider institutional racism and not individualize race.
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As one who lived through the 60s, I remember Tom Hayden, among others, as a citizen activist. He died this week, and to honor his memory, Democracy Now! reran a speech he gave last year. His comments on the power of protest and the need to maintain a historical memory may resonate with those today who work to combat inequality, corporate greed, and other injustices.
John Abbotts is a former Sightline research consultant who occasionally submits material for Weekend Reading and other posts.