Journalistic bias and Ethnocentric media

En San Juan, militantes pro aborto quemaron una imagen del Papa – Infobae.

It’s rare for news like this protest of 17,000 feminist activists against 1,500 male Catholics, protesting the Catholic church policies toward women, to trickle into the US media stream. Actually, I found this referenced as a throw-away line in a Salon article. I have more thoughts on why USians don’t get much in the way of world news, but first I’d like to break down the article according to my Journalism 101 class (I’m not an expert, and this is just basic, college level journalism deconstruction).

From the translation:

“Some 17,000 women marched Sunday through the streets of San Juan for the 28th National Women’s day. Feminists from around the country met over the weekend to discuss women’s rights, trafficking, violence, and abortion. Some activists marched in bras or topless.”

The aforementioned Salon article outlines the disruptive power of women’s autonomous nudity right here. I suggest reading it to understand why the protesters chose to march in bras or topless.

Back to the deconstruction of the news piece — early in the article, the protest was cast in a slightly more violent light. This is one way journalistic bias that can slip through, intentionally or not. Basically, most people don’t read through to the end of the article (and often not even the middle). So you put the eye-catching stuff in early on and hope it hooks them to read further.

However, oftentimes people don’t read further, so they’re left with the eye-catching mental image and not the more complex, layered truth that may be evident later in the article.

They could have chosen to put something different about the event that was also eye-catching, or something that cast those protesting the protesters in a violent light, but they opted to go with the narrative of violent half-naked women shouting slogans. So this is what was early in the article, I believe the 3rd paragraph: 

“While burning an effigy of the Supreme Pontiff, the free abortion activists were running in circles, jumping and shouting slogans against the Church such as, “Not one more death from illegal abortion,” “Get your rosaries off our ovaries,” and, “If the Pope were a woman, abortion would be law.”

Later, the description is less violent and more academic. The protesters did get angry and engage in physical protest activities, but they also met to discuss the academic and scholarly feminist/ gender theory.

In the original article, there’s a link to explain what “gender theory” is, which I find interesting and cool. I wish more USian articles would link to information about gender theory and language when discussing these topics, but perhaps it’s a result of differing journalistic styles or assumptions about the education of the reading audience? I’m not sure.

“During the meeting, the self-summoned women discussed in workshops on topics such as, “Women and bisexuality,” “Women of the native peoples,” “Women and Work,” “Women and Health,” “Women and trafficking,” “Women trans,” etc. An entire theme crossed by “gender theory.”

Now, this is pretty much one paragraph of the article — the rest is focused on casting the women as violent and discursive, as is the choice of photographs. Consciously or not, the tone of this article is reflecting a bias against women generally and feminists specifically.

Perhaps it is a bias on the part of the reporter, perhaps the editor. Perhaps it’s just that this bias/ tone is what has been guaranteed to sell the news in the past, so despite the personal views of the reporter and/or editor, they chose to write, edit, and run the story in a manner that depicts the feminists in a negative light. Whatever the reason, I admit that I am both amused and frustrated by the representation of the 1,500 Catholic men guarding the church:

“Opposite the cathedral, a group of Catholics who made a human wall to prevent the desecration of the temple had to endure insults, spitting, and paint stains.”

This is accompanied by a picture of men, arms linked and rosaries in hand, singing in solidarity as an enraged, wild-haired woman in a tank top screams in the face of one of the men.  The message (both verbal and nonverbal) is that these men are there in peaceful solidarity, protecting their values against the violence of out of control women.

The reality is that women are finally breaking under a 1,000 years of religious and political oppression which has been traditionally sanctioned and reinforced by the Catholic church (which at one point in history taught that women were not actually human beings with souls, and could not therefore be saved.)

What is interesting is that at no point are either of these narratives explicitly outlined — they rely on preconceived notions (ie, that you believe the women are violent and out of control, and therefore read the men they are opposing as peaceful and innocent in their protection of an institution that has historically damaged and even now continues to work against gender equality), or reader ignorance (a lack of awareness of the role of the Catholic church in suppressing gender equality, a lack of awareness on gender and feminist theory, a lack of understanding how gender stereotypes reinforce limitations on both men and women).

A pastor is interviewed, and he complains about the behavior of the women. The quote is actually, “Pero si no se respeta la vida menos se van a respetar los edificios, si no se respetan a sí mismas en sus acciones cómo van a respetar la vida de los demás,” which google translate renders (bolded) as:

“He also termed the graffiti they made of abortion on several walls of the city, “disrespectful,” saying, “life is not respected unless they are going to respect the buildings, if not respect themselves in their actions how they will respect the lives of others.

I wish I knew more Spanish, because I don’t know nearly enough to translate that accurately. I’m assuming the pastor said something along the lines of, “These women are not showing respect for the buildings, which means they don’t respect anyone else, which means they don’t respect themselves.” I cannot think the pastor is actually trying to say he doesn’t respect their lives unless they respect his buildings. That would be insane, because buildings are buildings. They’re objects, not people. Women are people. Clearly the two do not correlate, so I’m going to assume this is just some weird fluke in translation and give that pastor the benefit of the doubt on this quote.

Anyway, despite the problems in translation there is a clear message that comes through at the end of the article. After complaining about the graffiti and how ungrateful the women were to the city for hosting their conference (because they protested sexism at the church), the article then reports that government officers in San Juan are cleaning up the damage done by the feminist protesters — the clear message being that responsible men are cleaning up after irresponsible women who damaged the city.

It’s a pretty interesting article, and journalistically it’s structure in a fairly basic manner. It utilizes the appearance of non-bias (hey, just reporting what happened, here!), but the language, tone, and events they chose to report are steeped in bias. Notice that the protest is cast as women vs. men — women are only mentioned in terms of the conference and active protest, while men are only mentioned in terms of resistance to the activities. The women’s slogans are quoted (but no individual woman is interviewed). Men were interviewed for response quotes.

Women of the city were not interviewed to give their perspective. Male feminists involved in the conference and/or protest (if there were any) were not interviewed or acknowledged. Conference organizers were not interviewed. Even for such a short article, the focus could have been altered, but they chose to present a gender divisive narrative of peaceful (protecting) men vs. violent (damaging) women.

This is a perfect example of how a seemingly unbiased, straight-news article can be rife with bias through the presentation, assumptions, and writing style. No matter what news you’re reading and watching, be aware that there is always bias. Always. Liberal, conservative, documentaries, whatever. The reporter has to choose what to record/ report, and in doing so they are also (consciously or unconsciously) choosing what not to report.

This is true everywhere in the world, of course, but the problem is amplified in US media. We have several issues facing us: First, the major media outlets (all of them, liberal and conservative) are own by six corporations. Second, our media/ entertainment laws have been relaxed, and certain entertainment programs are often mistake as news programs by average USians.

Many of the daytime pundit programs on American news channels are not allowed to run on the “news channels” of other countries, because they’re not news. They’re opinion. They can run on entertainment channels, but not news channels. In the USA, the media corporations have successfully lobbied for a blurring of those lines, which means that news and opinion are all mixed up in programming and channels.

A USian can turn on their television or computer at 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night and watch the reporter who usually reports their 6 o’clock news opining on what that news means. Because the reporter is the same face and voice that reported the actual news, and because the reporter is sitting at a desk on a set that is either the same as their news desk, or very similar to it, the USian subconsciously views the reporters opinions as having the same factual weight and validity as an unbiased news broadcast. 

Finally, the news circulated in the USA is very ethnocentric. The major news outlets as whole do their damndest to keep the news stream focused on USA drama and gossip and weather and politics. And of course, it’s all reported with the inherent bias I discussed earlier, which furthers divisive attitudes in the USA so that the USian people are working against each other instead of together.

Which means that I — and other USians — need to actively educate ourselves and keep up on outside news media sources in order to be a true citizen of a global, international world. And the difficulty with doing that is that news is depressing, which means most people get kind of burnt out just on the USian news cycle and don’t bother to look outside our country for news.

Why is the news depressing? Well, my journalism professor says the reason is that because puppies and kittens and love and acts of kindness don’t make the news cycle — the out of the ordinary stuff is what makes the news cycle, the fires and tragedies and protests and murders and deaths. He said the silver lining to this is that because news documents change, “new” things, a changing world, the constant coverage of tragedy means that we still live in an inherently un-tragic world.

In other words, when stories like, “Happily wed couple welcomes a baby into the world,” dominate the headlines, it would be because it is news. It is out of the ordinary. It is something people do not personally experience on a regular basis, and therefore will pay money to read or view a story about. As long as tragedy dominates our news cycle, the inverse correlation is that happiness and peacefulness tends to dominate the daily life of the average world citizen.

That was my journalism professors view, which I like … but I also think is a bit simplistic and rosy, honestly. I think that what would actually happen if the tragedy overran the daily happiness and peace of citizens is that the news machines would stop functioning, because one of the first things to go in a downfall of a society is communication systems. And because USians turn a blind eye to world news, I don’t know that we would even notice if the news media stopped functioning in any other country, or if we could even tell.

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Tax Justice | Saturday Workshop 3 | WPC-14

**DISCLAIMER**

Notes & Copyright

[Personal Note: This is the last workshop of the weekend, so the last of the WPC-14 workshop posts. I may post my final paper for the associated independent study course, as well.]

Tax Justice

Facilitators: Jax Hermer and Zeke Spier

Facilitators introduce themselves. Jax is here on behalf of an organization called Resource Generation, which helps affluent youth use their funds for social justice. Zeke works with a social justice group (don’t recall the name) and works with a lot of diverse racial/ class groups who often deals with these types of questions.

They asked us to go round the room and introduce ourselves by name, preferred gender pronoun, and why we’re here.

Jack (prefers male/ he) is an accountant by trade. He loves numbers, hates taxes. Says numbers/ accounting are neat and orderly, but taxes are political and not at all orderly or sensible.

Me (female/she) interested in social justice, has an accountant in the family so kind of here sideways.

Then they all spoke too fast and I didn’t get their names.

Wxx (pref: female/ she) likes accounting and numbers | Wxx (pref: female/ she) is a Greener student helping with the budget and learning about taxes, has become interested in politics and the rhetoric around it | Aprilla (pref gender neutral) interested in taxes/ how confusing they are/ why don’t they make sense/ why is she still getting refunds? | Wxx (pref: female/ she) feels like she has a Robin Hood mentality toward taxes and wants a more nuanced understanding | Wxx-– wants deeper understanding of taxes; doesn’t get it | Wxy (pref: male/he) wants a deeper understanding of wealth, race, and taxes | Kitti (pref: female/ she) says taxes and social justice dovetail with both of her jobs and she has an interests in the subject. | Linni (pref: female/ she) reflected on the unequal distribution of wealth and the inequality in our country, and is interested in learning how taxes impact that | Pat (pref: none, does not believe in gender pronouns) is trying to have an economic theme to his workshops and this workshop fit for this timeframe | Kris (pref: female/ she) says this is pertinent to her life right now as she is going to college in NYC and feels like people think of welfare in terms of government funded programs, but not corporate tax breaks. | Aaron (pref: male/ he) is interested in learning more data to back up his beliefs about the tax system and what those more knowledgeable than him are doing about it.

Zeke explains why they asked about preferred gender pronouns (which is that it’s the polite and respectful thing to do, and that it’s presumptive to assume you can tell someone’s gender identity by looking at them), and says Disclosure: They are not tax experts and cannot give tax advice. Then he and Jax begin introducing terms and definitions.

Taxation Terms & Definitions

  • TAX:  It is something we have to pay to the government. Required to fund government services.
  • RACIAL WEALTH GAP:  This is the disproportionate distribution of wealth held by white people and people of colors. Result of discriminatory laws and policies that unfairly benefit the group in power.
  • FLAT TAX SYSTEM:  When everyone pays the same amount of tax, regardless of income or wealth.
  • REGRESSIVE:  Where the tax rates decrease as income rises. Regressive taxes in Washington state would be sales tax, and a Federal regressive tax is payroll tax, which caps out at a certain income and does not charge taxes for income above that amount.
  • PROGRESSIVE:  When the tax rate increases as the amount taxed does.
  • TAX BRACKET:  This is the rate of percentage at which the top amount of income is taxed.
  • MARGINAL TAX RATE:  Pay the same rate at each tier of income (for instance, imagine tax rate is 10% up to $20,000 but 8% for 21-40,000 and 5% for 41-60,000. So if you earn $60,000, the first $20,000 wld be taxed at 10%, then the amt after that would be txed at 8% and 2% consecutively.). US uses marginal tax rate system.
  • CAPITAL GAINS TAX RATE:  Taxes paid on earnings from investments, which in US is much, much lower than the taxes paid on income and property.
  • EFFECTIVE TAX RATE:  Percent of income actually paid after deductions and exemptions are calculated. It is how much you actually paid in taxes at the end of the day, after everything is accounted for.
  • DEDUCTIONS:  Before you pay taxes on income you get to take certain deductions (property taxes or charitable giving or having kids). Deductions are for taxable income.
  • EXEMPTIONS:  Certain activities that are not taxed, like municipal bonds, mean that the income is not taxed either. Exemptions are for non-taxable income.
  • ESTATE TAX:  Inheritance tax, essentially. It is not taxed at all below 5 million. An accountant did clarify that while the inheritance itself is not taxed, the gains/ income/ investments from it can be taxed.

Zeke say it’s complicated on purpose, and that’s part of the racial and class disparity inherent in the tax code. People who have access to accountants and lawyers can game the tax code, but people who don’t have that access can’t figure it out on their own and are hosed (financially speaking). Also Zeke says the argument commonly used against an Estate Tax is that it’s basically double taxation, which is unfair. He says this is a new idea, historically speaking.

Zeke and Jax unveil a graph with three lines on it. The purple line traces the stop marginal tax rate from 1913 – 2013. The pink line traces the amount of the wealth that is held by the top earners (the 1%). The green line traces union membership. Zeke tells us the first Federal income tax was written in 1913. At that time, the Marginal Tax Rate was 20%, and 18% of the wealth in society went to the top 1%.

They split us into groups and ask us to discuss amongst ourselves what historical events may have occurred to causes the spikes and dips on the graph.

Groups

My group consists of an Accountant, the girl who likes accounting and numbers, and a dude who came in after the introductions. The numbers girl says she doesn’t know much about history, but she guesses wars and stuff caused most of the dips. I gave a brief overview of my understanding of the wars, taxes, and union movement since the introduction of the Federal tax code. The accountant said he was already familiar with the history. The groups then merged back for the class presentation.

Presentation: First Quarter | 1913-1938

During this time, we saw WWI, the growth of industrialization and manufacturing, the birth of radical social justice movement in response to income disparities; unionization; the New Deal, the Stock Market Crash, and the Great Depression.

Zeke says before the income tax was implemented in 1913, the government collected duties and tariffs to pay for their wars and programs. The top spike of a 75% MTR in this time frame was on incomes of about $77 million or more a year. It was about paying for WWI, and the government asking the extremely wealthy to chip in and do their part. That was seen as a patriotic duty. He pointed out that although Social Security and Welfare were passed, they primarily benefited white workers. Colored and agricultural workers were excluded from the programs and protections.

During this period, the MTR gets as high as 75% and as low as 25%. The amount of wealth going to the top 1% was as high as 25% of societal wealth and as low as 20%. The idea of lowering taxes to strengthen the economy is not a new idea. It is a very old one. It happened during this era and did not help — in fact, it deepened the income inequality and contributed to the Great Depression. He also touched on the unionization and labor movement through the Flint Sit-Down Strike, and how the labor movement improved the income equality situation.

Second Quarter | 1938-1963

This era saw the Spanish Civil War and Hitler/ WWII. Ideals of patriotism and contributing to the war effort were present in financial discussions and the rise of the labor movement. After the war, the GI Bill allowed many white veterans to get college educations, house, property, and so on. After WWII was the threat of the Cold War/ red scare, and the anti-communist/ labor sentiment. This was also when the Civil Rights Movement really took off.

During this time, the top MTR was 94% on incomes about 2.5 million. In today’s money, that means you could earn 10 million on top of that, and you would only get 5 million of that earned 10 million. The unionization rate at this time was as high as 29% of the population. The amount of wealth going to the top 1% went as high as 10% of societal wealth and as low as about 8%.

This era saw a very high MTR, relatively low income inequality, and racial income inequality gap increasing. This is the time when the white middle class really grew. Someone suggested that the economic security accompanying this rise is what gave white folks the space and lack of stress to focus their attentions and emotions on the Civil Rights Movement and racial equality.

During this time there was full employment and high employment. The workers had more power, which meant the wealthy/ businesses/ corporations had less. They had to negotiate with workers. 1953 saw the lowest unemployment rate in history (2%).

Discussion

Another attendee pointed out that this time frame is when the international monetary fund was created/ started, and that this fund facilitated the eventual outsourcing and exploitation of workers.

Zeke and Jax are questioning/ doubtful of this assertion, stating the impact of the international monetary fund is seen in the next quarter.

Attendee backtracks, says it started in the 1950’s as a positive way of restructuring other nations, but the seeds and power structures were there for the future worker exploitation.

An accountant says the extremely high MTR created incentive for the wealthy to keep their money in investments and such in order to hold onto the wealth and pay fewer taxes. Further, many of the extremely wealthy began sequestering their money into the corporations they owned in order to grow their wealth in a non-taxable way — a move that led to the growth of the corporation.

Return to Presentation

Jax/Zeke take control of the discussion again and refocus on their lecture. They specifically address race, the Japanese internment and the dispossession of Japanese farms/ homes/ businesses occurred in this era. This was also when the rise of the Bracero Program occurred, a government program to bring in Mexican workers on temporary visas as farm and agricultural labor, which meant they could not unionize or their visas would be revoked and they would be deported.

Third Quarter | 1963-1988

Vietnam War; explosion of social justice movements (anti-war, Civil Rights, feminism); lack of access to gas lines and gas shortages; the oil embargo, massive inflation; 3 recessions in 12 years; Regan broke the unions (Air Traffic Controllers); corporations began getting involved in politics and policies.

The top 1% is angry about the high amount of taxes they’ve paid and their funding for social programs for poor people. Reagan tapped into this anger by introducing the myth of the Welfare queen and the claim that poor people were gaming the system. By feeding their anger, he gained their political and financial support. They used the Southern Strategy (racism) to get poor white people to vote against their own best interests. This was also when promotion of the “me” generation with an eye to reducing/ preventing social justice and student movements was strong. Reagan and his ilk introduced the concept of “Trickle Down Economics.” The popularity of this idea tied into the growth of the political ideal that all taxes are bad, no matter what. Historically, that was considered a very unpatriotic view, but Reagan and the angry wealthy introduced concepts like the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and financial deregulation with taxes as the bogeyman. This era also saw the war on drugs and resultant mass incarceration of minorities.

During this time, the top MTR was as high as about 70% in the 1970s and as low as 60%. Unionization started the era at a high of 18-20%, but dipped as low as about 16% by the late 1980s. The amount of the nations wealth going to the top 1% was about 8-9%.

FOURTH QUARTER | 1988-2013

NAFTA, which connected to the international movement of exporting jobs. The repeal of Glass-Steagal in 1999, which led enabled financial institutions to get into their creative protections and risky investment strategies. The Tech Boom bubble and crash in the 1990s, and the mini bubble followed by the post 9/11 crash. 9/11, Iraq, and Afghanistan. The housing crash in 2008 — which was the single biggest decrease in wealth in the Black American community in the entire history of the US. Black American wealth had been seeing a steady increase/ dip/ increase pattern since 1964, and their wealth was primarily concentrated in housing and property. White people’s wealth tends to be more in investments. With the housing crash, Black Americans saw a 3-1 loss of wealth comparative to whites. Welfare reform in 1996, the restructuring of the bankruptcy laws, the Bush tax cuts, etc. etc. Lowest union enrollments ever, rising cost of tuition, and explosion of predatory lending practices.

In this time, the MRT has gone as high as 35% and as low as 25%. Income disparity has seen as much as 20% of social wealth go to the top 1%, and union membership has been as low as 10%.

Discussion | Personal Impact and Future Visions

XX:  Most concerned about tuition and the impact on students. She is going to increase her participation in social movements and protests.

XX:  Is union and is working on some union initiatives.

XY:  Social movement and justice are improving and there should be more change than ever, yet 53% of people still vote republican and he is confused.

Me:  Yay union, don’t throw baby out with bathwater, need to organize retail sector.

Class Goals

  • Work on local stuff like the initiative regarding Washington income tax.
  • Educate students on tax history, and keep learning for ourselves.
  • Figure out different way to fund education rather than through property taxes.
  • Get involved with tax reform movements.
  • Encourage financial literacy.
  • Educate and organize the youth.

Healing Orientalism: An Exploration of White Supremacist Spiritual Practices | Saturday Workshop 2 | WPC-14

**DISCLAIMER**

Notes & Copyright

Healing Orientalism: An Exploration of White Supremacist Spiritual Practices

Facilitators: Chilan Ta and Michelle Kleisath, April 13, 2013

[Personal Note: My stupid tablet unexpectedly turned off and I lost first 1/2 hr of notes. Basically, there are two presenters. Chilan Ta came to Buddhism through her family and culture; Michelle Kleisath came to Buddhism through travel and curiosity.]

Kleisath relates how living in Tibet and then Seattle highlighted the differences between Tibetan/ Asian Buddhism and American Buddhism. She found herself wondering why Tibetan/ Asian Buddhists do not meditate, but it’s so central to American Buddhism. Sought answers, and was really disturbed by the answers. The white American Buddhists were dismissive of the understanding/ awareness/ faithfulness of Tibetan Buddhists in their answers, saying things like Tibetan Buddhist didn’t really understand their own religion, or took it for granted and weren’t very faithful. Kleisath was disturbed by this and began investigating the issue for her thesis. She shared two personal experiences that illustrating cultural differences between American and Tibetan Buddhism.

Experience the First

An Asian friend went to the home of a white American male, and walked in to see Tibetan decor all over the walls. She feels small and shamed at seeing how much of her cultural history he is aware of, and how she doesn’t have that kind of culture and history in her own home. She feels like less of a Tibetan, and intimidated by his knowledge/ fascination with her culture.

[Personal Note: I imagine this would be like going to India or Japan and discovering that they are intimately aware of aspects of my country’s religious and historical events in a way that wasn’t even on my radar. I’d feel really off kilter and a bit panicky that someone might ask me a question thinking I’m an expert when I’m really not.]

Experience the Second

Another Asian friend went to the home of an American woman, and needed to use the bathroom. When she went in the bathroom, she couldn’t use the toilet because her hostess had placed a statue of Buddha right above it. She was in great discomfort, and could not explain to the hostess how sacrilegious and awful it was for fear of rudeness.

[Personal Note: It is also kind of odd that Westerners are so happy to hang pictures of Jesus in their bathroom. I wouldn’t shit in front of my husband, so why an image of my god? Seems disrespectful. I’m  an atheist and I wouldn’t put someone elses’ religious iconography in my bathroom.]

Kleisath explains the history of cultural approbation and imperialism regarding Buddhism. Sacred caves in China, British explorer discovers giant statues of Buddha and cuts the heads off to take back to Britain, heads now in British museums and archives. Wealthy elite use the Buddha heads to decorate their homes/ show how well traveled and cultural they are. Jump forward a few decades to the Vietnam war. Elite white men joined the Peace Corps to dodge the draft. This put them in Tibet during the transformative social movement in the US and the trauma of Vietnam. Same time frame has elite young Asians dealing with the trauma of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, and they joined forces. The elite Americans pushed/ campaigned through college programs etc. to get the Tibetans (people and culture) imported to America, which is how we ended up with Americanized and misunderstood ideas of Buddhism as taught through the lenses of the elite/ wealth experience.

Small Group Discussion

My group: Zach, Dylan, Bob, myself. All white middle-upper class. Zach and Dylan do not practice Buddhism and are surprised at the history just shared; they were unaware of it. Bob does practice Buddhism (apparently a sort of Christian/ Buddhist mixture) and claims to know most of the history just presented. He is uncomfortable with their casting of American meditation (kneeling/ sitting, mindful contemplation) as an American interpretation, not a traditional Buddhist practice. He is uncomfortable. Says the lens he is hearing this through is a lens of questioning why you’re engaging in Buddhism and the value of meditation. Says he came to workshop because he felt confronted by title and wanted to lean into that discomfort. He says so many mainstream religions have oppressed and practiced cultural approbation, but the spiritual is still valuable and meditation is very meaningful. He feels uncomfortable with negativity toward Buddhism.

I shared my history/ perspective on religion, and my relief that they are not casting Buddhism as either wholly good nor wholly evil. Said it’s good to question narratives and whenever anyone represents a belief or culture as wholly good or wholly evil, they are purposefully ignoring facts that derail their version of truth.

Dylan pointed out that presenters are not saying to stop meditating, just to stop referring to it as a “traditional Buddhist practice.” Points out that she stated several times that meditation as Asian Buddhists practice it is very different from the American Buddhist tradition of sitting and practicing mindfulness.

[Personal Note: LOST MORE F*CKING NOTES.]

Summary of Lost Notes

Basically, we broke for total workshop discussion. Someone liked the presentation and someone didn’t. Someone mentioned the commercialization and approbation of Buddhism and other religions without any deep understanding. Someone said they were involved in one of those interfaith movements that promotes picking and choosing the religious traditions you find most valuable, and this presentation has changed his perspective on his participation in this group. Someone said they really liked Buddhism and it helps their mental/ psychological/ emotional health, and they do not want to stop practicing it just because it’s cultural approbation. Someone else got really angry and confrontational about their terminology of the Tibetans in this history as “elites” and became super yelly about how they suffered and lost a whole lot. Someone who works in therapy talked about mindfulness within the therapy community as a means of dealing with oppression. Someone else pointed out that you can be elite and still have suffering/ oppression happen in your life, and it’s important to realize and recognize that mentioning or acknowledging the elite aspect does not discount the later suffering.

Back to Presentation

Ta supports this by talking about her ancestors. They came to America in part because of the cultural revolution in China, and the shrinking gap between the wealthy/ elite and the poverty stricken when communism came in. Her family fled communism, and were only able to do that because their elite status provided them with the wealth, means, and connections to escape. In this way, they were both elite and oppressed.

Ta talked about the baggage of conservatism, racism, sexism, etc. in Asian spaces, and how they can be very damaging. People often don’t recognize this aspect of Asian culture because they have romanticized the perceived spiritual/ connectedness of the culture.

[Personal Note: An Asian spin on the nativism/ noble savage trope?]

Then she talks about how meditation as Americans practice it totally be beneficial and good and valuable, but it is MISTERMED when it is sold and marketed and referred to as “traditional Tibetan Buddhist meditation,” and that undermines both the actual Buddhist religion and its traditions by ascribing false actions/ meanings/ and values to it. Cracked an off-hand joke that I didn’t completely hear — something about how maybe the elite young white guys learning Buddhism had trouble standing still, so they sat instead and that’s where the difference came from.

Several self-identified American Buddhists in the audience are still confrontational/ upset/ aggressive about the lesson, which is apparent through their mutterings, but they do not actually try to argue back to her.

Kleisath wants to share a final story/ twist. Kleisath and Ta are actually partners and live together. When they first moved in was when Kleisath had just returned from Tibet, and she had put all her baggage on the walls as a means of dealing with how much she missed it. Ta was kind of weirded out by it, but had the attitude of okay, if it makes you happy. Over time, Kleisath realized how uncomfortable and unhappy this made her Buddhist and Tibetan friends, as well as her partner. Made her re-assess why she was doing it, and what meaning it had for her. She decided to take it all down, and shared with a laugh how Ta had not helped her put any of it up, but she sure did help her take it down!

Ta takes over the story and explains how the removal of Kleisath’s Tibetan baggage/ decor left the walls bare and clean, and opened up a space in her home where she finally felt relaxed and able to breathe or even fart in her own home without having Buddha staring down at her. By opening up that space, Ta was finally able to start reaching out and connecting to her own cultural connection with Buddhism forming a mode of neo-traditional practice that links her to her family, race, and heritage while shedding the racism, sexism, and oppression endemic to the religion. She says neither American Buddhism nor traditional Asian Buddhism had afforded her that opportunity, but by creating their own space they were able to create their own traditions.

The Only Good Indian Mascot | Saturday Workshop 1 | WPC-14

**DISCLAIMER**

Notes & Copyright

The Only Good Indian Mascot is a Dead Indian Mascot

Facilitators: Cornel Pewewardy and Shilo George, April 13, 2013

Started with Pewewardy loudly hitting a stretched-skin drum with a leather mallet and ululating in traditional Native American vocalization.

[Personal Note: The drum beats startle me each time. A white audience member is vocalizing with him, apparently singing along. Am I supposed to be vocalizing? Are all of us? Is this expected; desired? I feel awkward and uncomfortable.]

Pewewardy finishes with his song and says a blessing or thought of some sort in his native tongue. Switches to English and introduces himself. He is Comanche and Kiowa. Pewewardy states that regardless of race or culture, it is important to be aware of the history of the lands and the cultures of those lands. He says it is also important to know the stories and histories of your own past, and how you came to the land. The song was a traditional Native American song that is apparently basically a national anthem of sorts for the Native peoples of this land. It is song that celebrates strength and resistance, and mourns loss. He introduces Shilo George, his female co-presenter, who is Tsistitas (Southern Cheyenne-Arapaho). She is a board member of OIEA (Oregon Indian Education Association).

[Personal note: My middle school, Chinook Middle School, used to have an Indian mascot. The year I attended, they changed it from a Chieftain-style stereotype to a totem emblem that was designed by Chinook tribal members working with the middle school students and staff. There were a lot of assemblies and stuff. It was a really cool discussion to have as an 8th grader, and not one I think most 8th graders have. Also, I just now realized I commented on Pewewardy’s last name as interesting/ unique to fellow attendee and I am a retard.]

They counted off around the room: 1, 2, 1, 2. Had all the 1’s form a circle, and all the 2’s form a circle outside the 1’s. Pewewardy says this is “circle methodology” which is an indigenous way of knowing. After this will be the presentation/ slideshow, which Pewewardy hopes will engage not only our consciousness but our “disconsciousness,” which he hopes will help engage us on a social justice and active consciousness level. He also lays out some “culture protocols” for the lecture/ presentation, which is basically to not interrupt and to hold our questions until the end of the presentation. They pass out some blank cards they say we will use at the end of the presentation.

 Slideshow: The Only Good Indian Mascot is a Dead Indian Mascot.

Thesis: The possessive investment in whiteness to maintain American Indian mascots in American schools, media, and sport culture. We must consider and expand our awarenss of and understanding of this issue.

Nomenclature Used:

  • Post-Indian, not Indian. This is very important, Pewewardy stresses. He is post-Indian. He asks we call him by his given name (Namanah; Comanche). States that Indian and Native American and American Indian are terms that were applied to his people by the invading dominant culture; that all the terms (even the p.c. ones) have been invented by the dominant culture.
  • Honor Culture Protocols: Use of terms: Indian, Native, American Indian, Native American, First Nations People and Indigenous Peoples are issues of tribal sovereignity and self-determination. Says inclusivity is a threat to tribal sovereignity, and they don’t want to abide by PC terms coined by the dominant culture to be more inclusive. Points out that they cannot even speak/ pass on their native tongues anymore because English is the language of power — treaties are all in English.

[Personal Note: Brings to mind White By Law and the plight of the Mashpee.]

Slide: Cartoon depicting two modern white kids and a traditionally dressed Native man. The kids are asking the Native which team or corporation (mascot) he is representing.

Crowson’s View by Richard Crowson

Pewewardy asked (and answers) where Indian mascots originated from. It started in the early 20th century animal mascots were spreading among European and American boarding schools as a means to raise team spirit/ school solidarity. The use of Native American imagery as mascots was born out of the confluence of these events. The Native Americans were considered to be less human than whites, and more similar in mind/ manner to animals — therefore they easily fit into the practice of using animals and animal imagery as mascots. Further, when the Native American boarding schools would play against other boarding schools, the commentators/ announcers would refer to those teams as, “the Indians coming onto the field.”

Pewewardy expands on practice of Native American boarding schools. It was an attempt to prove American Indians could be educated and made civilized in a controlled and well-regulated environment. In the 1920s and 30s, an influx of white settlers into lands set aside for Native American tribes forced an exodus of Native American youth from their tribal lands. In many cases, these youth were removed from their homes and placed in boarding schools or with families that forced a native erasure of their cultures.

[Personal Note: That’s the Mormon/ Lamanite intersection right there.]

Pewewardy shows 3 slides naming colleges that have dropped their Indian mascot imagery/ names. No time to write down names; he clicks through too quickly. Talks about the machinery of whiteness:

Seeing

Looking

Gazing

He says people see and look at these mascots through a gaze (lens) shaped by the dominant culture perspective rather than the indigenous perspective. Pewewardy points out that even when colleges get rid of the mascots, they do not try to actually change the conversation by bringing in Native curriculums, teachers, or indigenous histories.

Pewewardy moves onto white identity performances and the exploitation/ approbation of Native culture. Says it’s all about Imperial Nostalgia, and worse, it’s effecting the Native youth in America. Cites when Native American communities invent Indian communities/ identities; when they manufacture signs and ethnic images for the purpose of reliving and re-enacting the past of the American Wild West as it is projected to them through the lens of whiteness.

Examples of this would be when Native Americans term themselves things like “Beaver Nation,” “Grizzly Nation,” or “Otter Nation.” These are recent inventions, and they reveal the influence of the dominant white culture on the Native culture. Native youth are creating new identities based on the reflection of the white lens.

Pewewardy then introduces the white master narrative in language, tropes, and idiom. There is the romanticized myth of “going Indian” or “going Native.” This is a very popular myth in the Euro-American imagination; see Last of the Mohicans, Dances With Wolves, Pocahontas, and the more recent sci-fi spin on the trope, Avatar.

He then (very quickly) reviews some of the stereotypes applied to Native American imagery. Clicked through the slides super-quick, but this is what I was able to write down:

  • The sad alcoholic
  • The New Age Shaman/ Medicine Man
  • The Wise Guide
  • Kemosabe Theory (idea that the Native American theory can only be a helpful subordinate or sidekick, not the hero)

He then address the language of savagery:

  • The only good Indian is a dead Indian.
  • Low man on the totem pole.
  • Better dead than red.
  • Kill the Indian, save the American.
  • Honest injun.
  • Indian giver.
  • Noble savage.
  • One little, two little, three little Indians

Explains the last one — apparently comes from a children’s rhyme that used to read: One little, two little, three little n*ggers, and was changed when that was no longer p.c. — Indian was apparently a valid solution?

George took over presentation to discuss the issue of Native approbation, starting with the earliest introduction for most American kids: Halloween costumes. She takes us through a series of advertisements found online for the costumes, showing that the description of the item is often just as — if not more — degrading as the item itself. Advertisements tell the would-be purchaser that they will, “learn about culture with this Native Indian warrior wig,” or that, “this adult sexy Indian will bring spirits to their knees!“, or that parents should, “prepare little warrior for tribal council with papoose bunting!“. These advertisements minimize the cultural background and erasure of these cultures, while pretending to celebrate it.

Further, they teach the white dominant privilege of seeing this as “not a big deal” from a very young age; telling youth through both word and action that Native issues are not “real” issues, and this is all just a fun game. On top of that, the sexy female Indian costume minimizes and erases the on-going and current tragedy that is the high rate of sexual assault and rape inflicted on Native women, primarily by non-Native men.

She talks about Stanford. Apparently they retired their offensive caricature of the Stanford Indian mascot back in 1958, but Stanford alumni brought it back in 2010. She shows an image of the mascot: A stereotyped caricature of a running Indian with a large, hooked nose; breechcloth; raised tomahawk; two feathers; and war paint stripes. The reason Stanford alumni brought it back was because they believed their nostalgia and perception of the mascot as “harmless” outweighed any other issues: They see it not as cultural approbation but as their right to use.

She talks about how this is an endemic view in America; that the Native cultures have been scooped up by a Wild Wild West/ Americana mentality, and many like to claim a Native presence/ influence. Cites as an example Scappoose, OR. In the 1890s, over 90% of the Multnomah tribe was decimated by fever. The remainder were scooped up and relocated by the US government. This occurred before the settlers even came into the area. Yet even though the white settlers actually never dealt with interacted with the Multnomah tribe, they have a strong pride of the stereotypical/ dominant white lens version the region’s Native American history.

George talks about how in the 1990s, great strides were made in addressing the offensive nature of these mascots, and many of the mascots were retired. Now we are experiencing a backlash of white nostalgia and a push by whites to bring back the offensive mascots.

Language and Justifications of Native American Mascots

Trope of the Noble Savage — white people claim they are honoring the culture, and point to the nobility/ beauty/ manliness of the imagery to illustrate how it’s a compliment.

cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz

cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz

Redskin – This term refers to the bloody membranes of Native scalps brought back for bounty/ reward by trappers and colonists during the Westward expansion of the United States. The bloody membrane was red in color and associated with all the other wild animal pelts brought in for bounty, therefore termed a “red skin.”

[Personal Note: I did not know that. I thought it was because people were saying Indians have red skin. It makes no sense, but neither does calling me white or Chinese yellow or Africans black. Also, the casual addressing of settlers and scalping seemed to be news to many in the room — I saw a lot of raised eyebrows and shocked looks.]

Public-Use Images: Public-school icons — including sports mascots — are open to community use. Community members can do whatever they like with those images, use them as they see fit, and spread them throughout the community, regardless of how racist or problematic the image may be (and also regardless if the school has retired it).

She then shows a slide with a cartoon depicting caricatures of other minority races, and the tagline: Let’s spread the fun. The caricatures each have a “team name” underneath them, ie: Seattle Asians, Detroit Africans, Los Angeles Hispanics, and Cleveland Indians. The caricatures depict the most outrageous versions of the stereotypical art that has been historically used in America to illustrate these races.

by Tony Auth

cartoon by Tony Auth

[Personal Note: What would a white caricature look like? Would this as effective, less effective, or more effective if the artist chose to depict a white stereotype as well?]

George proposes strategies of change: Social Media, Research papers, speaking out, news articles, etc. She also admonishes us that inaction is still an action — it is the action of complicity. Reminds us that silent racism deserves attention as well.

Pewewardy takes over, says allies should know their own cultural history and have an awareness of their past. It’s important to know where you come from and how you got to where you are.

[Personal Note: I can’t help but think of many of my white-presenting friends who claim Native American or Eastern Spiritual traditions, which they say they have a right to do because a) a spiritual awakening occurred, b) family rumor of distant ancestry, or c) they say they have permission from an actual Native person.

I always wonder why they feel the need to seek out and borrow from other people’s romanticized cultures instead of tracing back through their own cultural history and traditions. Everyone has dark shadows and light places in their past — just because the so-called white cultures have cast a larger shadow doesn’t mean I have to turn my back on my ancestors to appreciate and accept other cultures.]

Then he introduces his article on the defensive tactics and attributions on dodging the dialog of cultural diversity. These tactics are grouped into four subcategories:

  1. Avoidance
  2. Disavowal
  3. Dismissal/ patronizing
  4. Recentering

They return to the example of the Scappoose Indians and a proposed Indian Mascot ban. Talk about the objections/ arguments raised against the ban, and how they meet the above criteria: crab theorist (insults/ taunts/ use of sarcasm); claim that whites are honoring them; please give me a break (whiners/ oversensitive); the strategy of innocent gestures; the distracter (whites bringing up Indian casinos & implied financial success  to subvert discussion from the topic of mascots).

Pewewardy says language has changed, and political correctness is now commonplace. Says people are developing tools/ arguments against this shift by casting political correctness as weak/ namby-pamby/ state control. The tactic of attacking allies for being “politically correct run amok” is a distraction intended to subvert the topic under discussion rather than address it.

[Personal Note: I have always felt like people who argue against political correctness are arguing for their right to use hate speech. I don’t understand why being polite and considerate has become so maligned.]

Drawing on Rhea Almeida’s 2013 work of Hierarchies of Power, Privilege, and Oppression, and James Banks’ Levels of Multicultural Integration, they created a graphic with a “circular multi-level cultural integration approach.”

It says to change the dialog, we need to start/ build from these spaces: a Contributions Approach (focus on heroes, holidays, discrete elements of cultural contribution), move to an Additive Approach (discussing content and concepts in relation to the Contributions), segue into a Transformative Approach (the structure of the curriculum to change the students understanding of concepts and cultures), and lead into a Social Justice Action Approach (which empowers students to participate in conversation/ dialog and create tangible change).

Touched briefly on institutionalized backlash against the movement, such as some House and Senate bills (Senate Bill 215) in Oregan that would erase native culture and limit the conversations.

HOMEWORK

  1. White allies, how do you work within your communities to address Native American mascots?
  2. Are there Indian mascots in your community that no-one is talking about?
  3. If so, why?

Q&A

Guy — Jefferson County, KY is a mascot-free zone. Had a contest with students to pick a new mascot. Wanted to put out there that mascots also are an issue because they engender violence, and that even the attempt to change mascots can result in real and serious violence brought against those leading the conversation.

Dr. P — Acknowledges the violence and the resistance, both physical and psychological. Says his own career in academia was stalled because of this kind of resistance; that dominant culture did not want to read or review his papers. Says the resistance to the discussion can cause very real harm and damages to the lives of those pushing the conversation.

Lady –In OK, a lot of white people compare their feelings of viewing mascots such as the Vikings in a positive light, and wonder why the Natives can’t be likewise pleased/ flattered by the situation. She wants to know how to concisely address that.

Dr. P — Says he will provide online resources for her to look up.

S. George — Adds that a very short answer would be to point out that the histories and power dynamics of the cultures in question are very different.

Dude — Asks if, by erasing negative mascots, will we actually erase negative ideas about Native Americans in the media?

Dr. P & S. George: Response is summed up by them saying they don’t control the media, but believe the influence of such a change would be a focus on the more positive representatives that are currently overlooked/ overwhelmed by the negative representations that dominate the conversation.

S. George brings up two common ways people derail discussions: Trickster (the person is conscious of the issue, but pretends ignorance in order to spark a reaction). Van Winkle (the community/ person is stuck in an antiquated mindset/ era and is not aware of the issue).

Man — He talks about assigning papers to her students about the role of mascots, and references some Seminole College debate. (?)

Dr. P — (apparently in response to Seminole reference?) Says some Native Americans will buy into the mascot thing, and that’s an issue of politics and money. Basically the dominant white culture infiltrates the tribe and offers money/ favors to buy their tribal endorsement of the names/ images, which then makes it “okay”. This can cause inter-tribal conflict and is a problematic issue within the Native American communities.

Hippe chickie — Wants to know how she can honor lands and history without co-opting culture. Dr. P asks her to clarify, and she asks, “What if [she] goes to Pennsylvania, for instance, and started teaching and talking about the tribal lands and native cultures of the area — as a non-local white person, is she co-opting their history and culture by teaching about that land and history herself?

Dr. P — Basically says it’s fine, no problems. It’s remembering and honoring the culture/ history, and it’s fine to honor the histories and realities of the spaces we share.

[Personal Note: On that last question, I was super confused. I thought she meant, like, re-enacting tribal rituals, or maybe repurposing certain Native practices/ artwork for personal spiritual growth or pleasure, and I was thinking, “Uh, yeah, that’s totally problematic.” Then she busts out with talking about history as potentially problematic/ native approbation, and I was like, uh, okaaay . . .

Maybe the line is obvious to me, and that’s where my confusion lies, but there is historical memory and empathy, where you research and interview and cite stories and teach a balanced and truthful and often painful or confronting history that does not romanticize or idealize any specific culture or path.

Then there’s cultural approbation, where white guilt leads to painting whites as solely bad and all the cultures they colonized/ enslaved as solely powerless victims who were connected with the earth in an idealized manner.

This is still good vs. bad, we’ve just flipped the narrative from a conquering hero defeating savages (or rescuing noble savages) story to a narrative about the heroic victim eradicated by greedy, evil whites. Both narratives are one-dimensional and flawed in their presentation. For whites to ignore or deny their own histories in order to adopt one-dimensional idealized versions of the cultures and histories they have colonized, enslaved, and erased is not the solution!]

(Belated) Happy New Year!

I had this pre-written post for New Years, based off one of those end-of-year questionnaires that go around, but it was like 45 questions long and my answers were not a sentence apiece. So I decided instead to do this:

13 Things I Loved About 2013

1. In January, my friend Mishka introduced me to her SO at my bday dinner — our varying work schedules had prevented the introduction before. Mishka is the sweetest person I know, and life has thrown some real challenges at her over the past few years. Being able to celebrate her new relationship and pregnancy on my birthday was a great start to a new year. 

2. In February, my beautiful son turned 11 years old. I can’t believe how fast he’s growing. He’s brilliant, funny, clever, verbose, and snarky. I’m so lucky to be his mom.

austin

3. In March, I received my first-ever performance-based raise. 

4. April was a month of much awesomeness — John and I celebrated 12 years of marriage; my good friend Brienne moved back to town; and I had the opportunity to attend the WPC-14. 

John's anniversary gift on his inaugural ride.

John’s anniversary gift on the inaugural ride.

5. In May, I reconnected with my oldest brother, “Drew.” We both apologized for past words and actions, and began the process of repairing our relationship.

6. In June, I received a glowing evaluation (and full credit) in my courses. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting an evaluation that positive. After the eval meeting, I felt like a valued and respected member of the community — someone who made positive contributions to the discussions and helped her classmates. Given that work had by this time devolved into Ms. Boss nitpicking and questioning everything I did, the affirmative feedback regarding my intelligence and assistance was immeasurably valuable to my emotional well-being.

7. In July, we met some amazing new people. They opened their home to us and hosted an awesome 4th of July bbq/ fireworks show, as well as a UFC viewing night. Great food, great conversations, and great entertainment.

We used to spend it with the in-laws, so this is a nice change.

We used to spend it with the in-laws, so this is a nice change.

They reminded me how cool and invigorating social gatherings can actually be (at some point over the past decade, I began conflating social gatherings with family gatherings, and had therefore soured a bit on the concept). July also saw the arrival of Mishka’s daughter Rayne, a beautiful cherub whom I have proclaimed my adopted niece (with Mishka’s blessing).   

8. In August, I was fired because (as my boss explained) our communication styles did not mesh. I was shocked at the time, but it ended up being better for our family. Plus, we were able to use the last few weeks of summer to pack in some serious family vacation time — including a trip to Silverwood and the Grand Coulee Dam, as well as meeting up with Drew for the first time in almost 6 years! 

I love the old-timey photo places.

The three of us at Silverwood Theme Park in August 2013.

9. In September, I tried canning for the first time, and it was AWESOME. Canned peaches, peach jam, peach salsa, applesauce, apple butter, plum jam — I tried it all and I LOVED it!!! 

10. In October, John took me to Wordstock in Portland, and I was able to get into three writing workshops! Afterward, we met up with Drew at McMenamin’s Pub and enjoyed dinner and drinks with my brother.

That's pretty happy.

Wordstock makes me as happy as this GIF does.

11. In November, John started his new work schedule, which has improved his work-life balance and given us more time as a family (and as a couple!). Then we went to Mishka’s for a three-family Thanksgiving dinner, which may be the start of a new tradition!

12. In December, I reconnected with my other older brother, “Eddie,” who I haven’t really spoken with since his divorce! I’ve missed him a lot, and I hope we can also find space to reforge our relationship.

13. In 2013, my life was enriched by the people I love most. The value of relationships — family and friends — was reinforced to me. John and I fell in love again (as we do every year!), old friendships were renewed, new acquaintances were formed, and family bonds were rediscovered.

All these feels are exemplified in the movie, The Heat. In unrelated news, The Heat was the best movie of the year.

I’ve got to admit — it was hard to find things that were happy in the first 6 months of 2013. During that time, both John and I were struggling with high amounts of stress and depression, mostly related to a complete lack of work-life balance. There was also some on-going family stress in there (for John), and some medical issues (for me). During the first 6 months of the year, my family and friendships renewed and refreshed me. They brought me peace and comfort; an escape from the dreary grey monotony of work and pain.

In the second half of the year, as our work, family, and medical situations were alleviated, we were able to pay it forward to the friends and loved ones who had been there for us when we were aching in the dark. Love begets love, and we have been so lucky to be surrounded with love this year.