Thanks for Nothing

Terese Mailhot

We’ve heard your rhetoric, white person, and we’re still not buying the idiots who prevail in popular culture today. Look at Donald Trump and Anne Coulter, and on the left, people like Bill Maher, who are lauded for being honest and telling it like it is. Some consider this an uprising. In an era of political correctness, these people are unafraid to speak their minds and offend, but to me it seems like the same old white man rhetoric Natives have been hearing for years. While Natives have some of our own rhetorical pitfalls, we should be more vocal in the face of this new/old trend of ‘telling it like it is.’

While Anne Coulter believes herself to be Native American, she’s also exploiting the terrorist attacks in Paris to promote her awful anti-Muslim agenda. Her opinions appeal to the lowest common denominator of the American population: the under-educated, angry, white racist, who thinks Manifest Destiny was positive for our country overall.

While she’s saying Muslims ruin the world, Donald Trump is trying to ethnically cleanse the US. What I find most abhorrent is that these people are lauded for their honesty as if it’s refreshing to see old white racists spew their hate without regard. One only has to look at the comment section on any story about cultural appropriation on any news site to see idiocy is alive and all too common in America. The core of our country was founded on hypocrisy, deceit and exploitation, why wouldn’t these people be popular among the default race.

Natives aren’t surprised by their rhetoric or their opinions. For generations we’ve bore witness to these types of people, and there was even a time when their thinking was common thought. Being the direct descendant of a people who were born free from the American dream feels unique, because I can see the rhetoric for what it is: white people doing the same old white things that brought them here. They have to instill fear and promote hate and anger, because it’s the whole fabric of this nation. Without hatefulness and fear mongering, America would be a decolonized space, where people could have access to land, food, and shelter, no matter their class or color.

It’s not just characters on the right who need to spew their tired rhetoric, but people on the left as well. Bill Maher, known for being a cliché, ‘I’m better than you and there is no God,’ liberal, recently insinuated Native Americans were lazy liberals for being outraged at cultural appropriation and Indian costumes on Halloween. While I understood his criticism of people who rant instead of ‘do,’ I could not get past the idea that what he was saying was what old white men have been saying for generations, “Get over it.” We get it, white guy, you have no idea why we’re angry and it bothers you that we think you’re offensive. People who don’t want Natives to be offended by costumes are just way too sensitive. How ironic. If the argument is we are feigning offense to feel like we’re doing something, what of the people actually doing something who are offended? White people want us to ‘get over it,’ but it’s next to impossible to get over things that still exist. Voter suppression, our children being taken away, quality of water, and so many other issues must be tackled before we can ‘get over it.’ We are fixing the damage settler colonialism did, but we have a long way to go, so be respectful and patient.

It’s not like Natives don’t have access to lazy rhetoric to make life less complicated. I see Natives often resort to the idea that before colonization, Natives didn’t have abuse, neglect, disease, or pain. We can’t rely on such a simplistic overview of our people. Western culture made everything about binaries: good and bad, black and white. Really, Natives are a people so dynamic and complicated that the West still struggles to understand our ways. Even myth has been sullied by the West, before colonization our stories weren’t all moral tales, it’s only the white professor who teaches Native literature who believes we didn’t have story for story’s sake. Yes, white people ruined so much, but if we imagine all Natives were good before colonization, we are not seeing our own people in the full light they deserve.

If we don’t become more vocal, against these people ‘telling it like it is,’ and against ourselves for falling victim to the idea that the world is full of binary, then we aren’t doing the decolonial work I believe is necessary. It’s necessary to be vocal, outraged, opinionated, and ourselves, because for far too long the Anne Coulters and Donald Trumps of the world have been too influential. There should be more of us, and fewer of them, and I believe it’s possible for us to gain exposure if we simply speak more. For years, I’ve seen the damage of Indian boarding schools and The Indian Act. The damage against us has at times made my own voice feel weak and uneducated, but I’m done with all that. Native people are the first voices of this country, and we carry with us the wisdom and knowledge of so many.

Terese Marie Mailhot is from Seabird Island Indian Band. She has been featured in Carve Magazine, Yellow Medicine Review, and Burrow Press Review. She’s a student at the Institute of American Indian Arts and she is an SWAIA Discovery Fellow.

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natsera's picture
Thank you for a very important message. I like the idea of abandoning the view of black and white when it concerns very nearly everything we encounter in life. And I would certainly like to see more authentic information about Natives in our schools -- it would really be nice if children, no matter where they live, were taught about their local Native people and their customs and philosophies and ways of life. I also love your attitude toward decolonization. We can't turn back the clock, but we CAN turn our country into a place where, as you say, people could have access to land, food, and shelter, no matter their class or color. Because in the end, it's not race that matters, but our common humanity. Brava, Terese!
Alamosaurus's picture
Personally, I think both of them are fools. Ann Coulter has also published diatribes against science, particularly evolutionary biology which she doesn't even understand. The worst of the lot is someone who calls himself Daniel O. Pace--which is not even his real name. He is the author of a proposed constitutional amendment that would strip everyone not of western European ancestry and deport them. The only exceptions would be Native Americans who would be confined to their reservations. One of his supporters went even further and said he would deport Native Americans as well--but to where? Sarah Palin suggested deporting Native Americans to "Nativia", wherever that is. And Ayn Rand said it was O.K. to seize Native American land by force and kill their occupants if they resisted because they did not practice individual land ownership, only tribal ownership.

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