Although published in 2017, I just came upon “‘Anthropology is a white colonialist project’ can’t be the end of the conversation” by Ghassan Hage, and found myself once again interrogating the anger that welled up from the core of my “Native Anthropologist” being.
I find the ending to this otherwise interesting and useful article entirely problematic. Identifying anthro as a tribe, while common, also serves as a way to justify exclusionary behaviors and perpetuate rights of inheritance/inclusion to those who “err” but “respect their elders.” No, I don’t have to accept all of those horrid, racist, misogynist dead guys as my Ancestors. They did not bring me to this discipline, nor do they sustain me. They are not sources of inquiry for me, and most serve only as object lessons for what not to do in anthropology or life.
In my mind this “tribal” fall back position seems akin to the recent eulogizing of a soft spoken leader who also contributed to the deaths of thousands from AIDS, waged a racist campaign, and promoted international wars, both secret and direct. Maybe he was nice to the very narrowly restricted group of people who knew him, but his policies brought suffering and death to many, and it is his professional being I am here to judge. So too, I see no reason to buy into the toleration of problematic figures in anthropology.
I do believe that anthropology (and even governments) can be decolonized, but not by falling back on worn out tropes and pre-emptive forgiveness, and not by continuing to tip toe around that which is unforgivable.
The bottom line is that unlike our lineal/blood families, we are not born to this “tribe”, we choose it. And that makes all the difference.
We need to be organized, put differences on hold, or at least not let relatively petty quarrels divide us. The scary people may hate each other, but they still vote as a block. They show up, if only to beat us. There’s no sitting this out, no “I’m not political” or “They’re all the same, why bother.” We not only have a common enemy, we have common interests, desires, and visions. They’re not identical-that’s ok. They’re enough for us to organize behind and win. Then we can hash out our differences. This is an intersectional cause: leave your ego at the door and work it out.
Is this the system of my choice? Hell no! But I’m here; X marks the spot, and I spent many years preparing for “The Revolution” while watching the disintegration of an increasingly hypocritical and corrupt system. I saw early on that most people don’t want revolution/change: they just want to be on top or better off within the familiar. They want to survive; they want to hold onto the illusion of the myth of The American Dream.
Disappointment can’t make you turn away, it requires us to use every tool available to us until “revolution” evolves.
We have to do better. These are the times that try our souls: united we stand, divided we fall hard, lose our remaining rights and become virtual, if not actual slaves to people you might mock, despise for their vulgarity and biases, but who will continue to kick your/our collective asses.
Work, work, work…
“July 28, 2018 NYT
What Happened to the Country That Made Us Citizens?
By NAUREEN KHAN
Growing up in a friendly Dallas suburb, I never imagined the hostility lurking beneath the surface.”
The above is in today’s NYT. I haven’t read it because after reading this plaintive blurb, my inner voice was screaming: “Black people!! We told everybody!” “Black people, First Nations people, American History, Freud…”
WTH white people and white people wannabes? How desperate were you, ARE you to live outside of reality? How extraordinarily prejudiced that you subvert or ignore whole, gigantic swaths of history and the present? How willing to sell your soul for a lie openly labeled as a made in the USA “DREAM“? How willing are you and have you been, to watch human beings and their children kidnapped; degraded; criminalized; beaten; pillaged; raped; bad mouthed; murdered; victimized by ethnocide and genocide, and yet stand aloof or in judgement because in this fleeting moment it’s not your poor white/light brown/darker-but-wealthier brown ass being victimized? Has your Dream become our nightmare?
Of course you should seek better lives for your kids, but that doesn’t necessitate buying into lies and abuse.
So no, I won’t read this nor any of the other late-to-the-party “realizations” and sad stories because you know what? BELIEVE BLACK PEOPLE. We run the gamut of human brilliance, foibles, and foolishness, but if there is one thing we excel at, it’s recognizing and calling out racism and its subsets and intersections, because you know what else? We and our First Nations cousins have been victims of atrocities for hundreds of years while you watched, occasionally clutched your pearls, looked away, or even applauded. You knew, you just valued your own possibilities of entre into whiteness more than our lives. You knew, you know now; you are and have been complicit in condoning and upholding white supremacy and I’m fresh out of pity. So, sit down in the back, own up to your culpability, be quiet and learn: we have much wisdom to impart.
Oh, and screw you all for the past 500 years.
He who does not oppose evil, commands it to be done (Leonardo Da Vinci)
This was inspired about two weeks ago by a friend who seemed to want to control my memories. I think it’s pretty common, but it rubs me the wrong way. I understand not allowing outright lies or even disrespect, but no matter how close we are to folks, we know them differently than do others.
I’m sure my dubious reputation as a relatively friendly, fairly feisty, determined-to-be curmudgeonly crank is in no danger, but I want you to promise me that after I’m dead, you will not forget those contrasts in my personality. I promise that I will haunt you if you try to cover me with false ideas of perfectionism.
Don’t diminish me by glossing over my less than wonderful traits: I worked hard to learn how to speak up for myself, to curse, and to embrace anger. I like my sometimes twisted humor and have no desire to be portrayed in a one dimensional, sanctified way. I don’t want to be silenced in life and I don’t want the silence of the tomb to be the end of the complex human that I will have been. I can accept that I might be entirely forgotten- I’ve done nothing that rates immortality- just don’t make me over, for however long my name conjures up a picture in anyone’s mind. Enjoy the contradictory stories and opinions: consensus is not required, I changed over my lifetime and treated various people differently. I am as I can/should be.
My mistakes are mine
My struggle remains real
It took many years for me to recognize the inherent violence in perfectionism and ideologies of “sweetness” and being “good” that are thrust most particularly upon women, but just as damagingly, on the various subaltern peoples in societies that hold fast to the notion that we are inferior and must therefore strive harder to be better. It is a dehumanizing concept that supports racism and the institutionalized oppression of the many people who are literally beaten into simplistic characterizations, whether it be the “thug” or the “model minority.” Every stereotype is a diminishment of the complexities of human lives and a deterrent to human be-ing.
So have the laughs remembering the stupid things I did (please never forget jumping from a horse at a fairly high speed or crossing streams by swinging from vines in Dominica- I did that!) or the petty, snarky (yet hopefully witty) comments. Remember the failure to sometimes be there in some way when I might have been needed; the (many) times I ditched social events in favor of solitude. Maybe I’ve helped a few people, certainly I’ve hurt some. I hope I’ve been kind more often than not: I admire gentle souls and see the immaturity in my own restless, sometimes thoughtless spirit. I abhor liars, phonies, and respectability politics, but respect good bullshit, a well told story, and politeness. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of friends who’ve loved me enough to “pull my coattails” when I’ve gotten too narrowly focused or have been just plain wrong, and I can only hope that they’ll outlive me and keep anyone inclined to whitewash my memory from spoiling the party or trading in real memories for Disneyfied bull. Don’t try to control the way others who knew me saw me: they have their stories, their own relationships. But thanks for wanting to come to my defense, I appreciate the love.
I want my life to reflect my growth, my human be-coming, and memories of me should do no less. If you were lucky enough to have had the Anjana Experience, accept no substitute!
#Popeye ain’t got nothing on me.
PS I do expect to be around for another twenty years, so please don’t get freaked out and call me or start eulogizing me now. Respect the rant for what it is!