Settler’s Guilt, Part IV

…I think a good rule of thumb is when you feel defensive about something, you should at some point take the time to try to identify WHY.

Comment from âpihtawikosisân
JUNE 21, 2016 AT 12:03 PM

The post featuring this comment was based on my discussion of my reaction to reading an article on non-native people not being supposed to wear headdresses. I was feeling slightly annoyed, unable to pin down why exactly I was feeling annoyed. The author invited the reader to check out the Cultural Appropriation Bingo Card, and I hit the jackpot with a mega-super-duper Bingo.

…I think a good rule of thumb is when you feel defensive about something, you should at some point take the time to try to identify WHY.

Comment from âpihtawikosisân
JUNE 21, 2016 AT 12:03 PM

(And then she was kind enough to comment on the post that I wrote about it. I like comments. Thank you!)

If you’re following along at home, the first item on the Bingo card is: ‘Don’t you have something more important to worry about?’ (I’m reading the Bingo card right to left, top to bottom.)

That’s not official-looking enough. Let’s try again.

Don’t you have something more important to worry about?

There we go. That’s the good stuff.

Let’s dive deep into the lizard brain to examine why this thought might resonate with me.

If I have to be honest, this would be the thought that I would most think when someone was passionately telling me about something. This one spans the gamut, because it doesn’t have to relate to cultural appropriation. There are a wide variety of times that I might think this, and could relate to all kinds of issues.They’re too numerous to list, at least without laying completely bare what makes me fear that I am secretly an asshole. My internal voice tries to silence lots of passionate people about lots of different issues.

Please note that I say my internal voice. To my recollection, I’ve never once actually said this out loud to any person. I’ve never wrote this as an online comment to any person. These words have specifically stayed in my head, because some part of me knows that they’re offensive.

Except that the point is that the words are there, in my head, existing.

…I think a good rule of thumb is when you feel defensive about something, you should at some point take the time to try to identify WHY.

Comment from âpihtawikosisân
JUNE 21, 2016 AT 12:03 PM

(It was about time.)

Why do I feel defensive enough to think: Don’t you have something more important to worry about?

Jeez. That’s a good question.

I’m not even sure how to approach it. Do I look at each of my possible examples, wondering what specifically offended me about each one? Or maybe is there a common thread that I can grasp that touches on all of them?

If I think the thing, then it’s probably something like this. “Why are you talking about [subject]? Don’t you have anything more important to worry about in your whole blessed life? Haven’t you heard about Syria? Or the Brexit?!? Get angry and upset about those important things, not whatever it is you’re blathering on about.”

So, two things:

One, I’m trying to change the subject; and

Two, I’m making a value judgement about what IS and ISN’T a worthwhile topic of passionate discussion.

Put like that, what for me is just a knee-jerk reaction starts to seem sinister to the person having to listen to me.

Even more sinister is if this knee-jerk reaction happens to several people simultaneously, and particularly if that knee-jerk reaction happens to involve a critical mass of people with enough clout in a country or community (aka privilege) to actually be able to enforce such a value judgement.

What does this have to do with Cultural Appropriation?

Let’s link this back to the purpose of me writing this article in the first place, the Cultural Appropriation Bingo Card.

How am I appropriating a culture by thinking this thing?

Having done much thinking, the only thing that I can conclude is that thinking/saying this doesn’t mean that I am in the middle of appropriating a culture. What it does mean is that I am trying to shut down the conversation about cultural appropriation that might give me tools to understand what I might be doing wrong.

The act of appropriating a culture while simultaneously trying to silence any dissent could reasonably be called oppression.

Conclusion: Replacing “Don’t you have something more important to worry about?” with listening

I have come to the conclusion that “Don’t you have something more important to worry about?” as a reaction to someone’s impassioned arguments about an issue is basically oppression.

Rather than saying or thinking oppressive things, what could I do?

I could do enough research on the subject to decide if I agree or disagree with the points being raised. Having done such research, I could engage the author/speaker in measured debate about the points they brought up.

But that’s a lot of work! What if I’m too lazy to do that?

I guess I could just simply listen. I could absorb the message that the author/speaker is trying to impart without trying to silence anyone.

(More helpful is following up listening with making changes, as appropriate.)

To anyone who’s made it this far. Thank you for listening to my train-of-thoughts ramblings. You are always welcome to tell me if I am completely wrong about something. Have a good day!

 

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