“The commodiﬁcation of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spice, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture.”—bell hooks, “Eating the Other: Desire and Resistance,” 1992
Adoption as a Tool of Genocide
The Indian Adoption Project was a federal program that acquired Indian children with the help of the prestigious Child Welfare League of America; a successor organization, the Adoption Resource Exchange of North America[…]
“People have heard of the boarding-school era and know it was bad, but they don’t know our adoption era even exists,” said White Hawk, who was taken from her family on the Rosebud reservation.
Two Native people interviewed prior to the summit said they were separated from their families after hospital stays as young children, one for a rash, the other for tuberculosis. A third was seized at his baby-sitter’s home; when his mother tried to rescue him, she was jailed, he said. A fourth recalled that he was taken after his father died, though his mother did not want to give him up. A fifth adoptee described being snatched, along with siblings, because his grandfather was a medicine man who wouldn’t give up his traditional ways.
“Indians had no way to stop white people from taking their kids,” said yet another interviewee. “We had no rights.”
The aim was assimilation and extinction of the tribes as entities, as their younger generations were removed, year after year—just as it had been with the boarding schools, said White Hawk on the Association on American Indian Affairs report.
“We can’t be afraid to use words like genocide,” said summit participant Anita Fineday, White Earth Band of Ojibwe, managing director of Casey Family Programs’ Indian child-welfare programs and a former chief judge at White Earth Tribal Nation. “The endgame, the official federal policy, was that the tribes wouldn’t exist.”
As many as ONE THIRD of all Native children in North America were separated from their families between 1941 and 1967, according to a report by the Association on American Indian Affairs.
“Haven, which is close to campus and invariably brings one into contact with many of the poor black people who live nearby, and found myself walking behind a groupof very blond, very white, jock type boys. (The downtown area was often talkedabout as an arena where racist domination of blacks by whites was contested on thesidewalks, as white people, usually male, often jocks, used their bodies to force black people off the sidewalk, to push our bodies aside, without ever looking at us oracknowledging our presence.) Seemingly unaware of my presence, these young mentalked about their plans to fuck as many girls from other racial/ethnic groups as they could “catch” before graduation. They “ran” it down. Black girls were high on thelist, Native American girls hard to ﬁnd, Asian girls (all lumped into the samecategory),deemed easier to entice, were considered “prime targets.” Talking about this over-heard conversation with my students, I found that it was commonly accepted thatone“shopped” for sexual partners in the same way one “shopped” for courses at Yale,and that race and ethnicity was a serious category on which selections were based”—bell hooks, Eathing the Other: Desire and Resistance
“For white boys to openly discuss their desire for colored girls (or boys) publicly announce their break with a white supremacist past that would have such desire articulated only as taboo, as secret, as shame. They see their willingness to openly name their desire for the Other as afﬁrmation of cultural plurality (its impact on sexual preference and choice). Unlike racist white men who historically violated the bodies of black women/women of color to assert their position as colonizer/conqueror, these young men see themselves as non-racists, who choose to transgress racial boundaries within the sexual realm not to dominate the Other, but rather so that they can be acted upon, so that they can be changed utterly. Not at all attuned to those aspects of their sexual fantasies that irrevocably link them to collective white racist domination, they believe their desire for contact represents a progressive change in white attitudes towards non-whites. They do not see themselves as perpetuating racism. To them the most potent indication of that change is the frank expression of longing, the open declaration of desire, the need to be intimate with dark Others. The point is to be changed by this convergence of pleasure and Otherness. One dares – acts – on the assumption that the exploration into the world of difference, into the body of the Other, will provide a greater, more intense pleasure than any that exists in the ordinary world of one’s familiar racial group. And even though the conviction is that the familiar world will remain intact even as one ventures outside it, the hope is that they will reenter that world no longer the same.”—bell hooks, Eathing the Other: Desire and Resistance
“Cultural appropriation of the Other assuages feelings of deprivation and lack that assault the psyches of radical white youth who choose to be disloyal to western civilization. Concurrently, marginalized groups, deemed Other, who have been ignored, rendered invisible, can be seduced by the emphasis on Otherness, by its commodification, because it offers the promise of recognition and reconciliation. When the dominant culture demands that the Other be offered as sign that progressive change political change is taking place, that the American Dream can indeed be inclusive of difference, it invites a resurgence of essentialist cultural nationalism. ”—bell hooks “Eating the Other” Black Looks
Commodification of Otherness
I see so much cultural appropriation and cultural commodification/consumption on Tumblr it is sickening. I understand that most likely the majority of people doing it do not understand what they are doing, therefore I am not going to go off or call people intentionally ignorant mofos.
But it still needs to stop. Objectification needs to stop. Dehumanization needs to stop. I personally I have seen two main types of appropriation/commodification everyday on Tumblr: Native appropriation and this weird obsession with black women, mainly our hair and skin. (This is not to say that there aren’t other forms of objectification occurring because there is, these two just jump out at me as being the most obvious).
I am so reminded of bell hooks “Eating the Other” essay. It is brilliant and needs to be read by everyone who wants to involve themselves in social justice, anti-racist, sexist, homophobic, etc activism. It talks about the historical obsession white (scientists and academics, mostly) had with black ‘subjects’. How the black body was basically consumed by so much observation and questioning. We were so “different”, so “cultural”, so fascinating that every part of our insides and outsides were up for discussion. And in turn we were dehumanized. We weren’t interacted with as people, weren’t respected as people. Our difference was further proof to (some) white people that they were “normal” and we were “othered”. In short, our difference allowed white people to gain some sort of superficial self “transformation” as they were able to identify themselves by identifying with everything that we were not.
Furthermore, our differences created a culture of consumerism that enticed people to buy into our differences, and literally buy “difference.” Media portrayals of all marginalized groups (but black specifically in hooks case) sell images of “otherness” that appeal to a ‘non-racial and ethnic’ public. For example, the Asian female fetishization, the black male violent rapist image, the ghetto, loud black woman, the strong and wise Native, the spicy Latina or the lazy Latino, etc. These images separate the “normal” from the ‘other’ and create stereotypes that are marketable, that can create societal fear, hate, curiosity, isolation, etc. hooks points out that all of this difference/otherness is meant to liven up the dullness of white culture. This is not to say that white culture is actually dull, rather that the way white people looked at other racial/ethnic groups was with so much excitement and inquiry that suggested that white people themselves viewed their identities as being lifeless and everything outside of their own lives was exciting, exotic, and obviously, different.
The essay is far more detailed than I have just laid out, so absolutely read it for yourself to get a clearer picture. But my main point is that I am sick to death of the consumption. I am annoyed that entire groups of people are being talked about, shared, reblogged, in such superficial, exploitative ways.
The other day I read a post from a non-black girl or woman saying how much she loved black women’s hair and skin and how proud we should be of our “natural” beauty. Now, I understand that she meant this with complete respect. So, to be honest, I am not mad at her. I am more disappointed in society that things like this can be said and we have been taught that it is ok. To talk about my hair as being something so different and beautiful, exotic even, is strange—first and foremost. And after growing up hearing “you have beautiful hair” or “your skin is so smooth” or “Can I touch your hair or skin” it is no longer a compliment if it ever was. It makes me and probably others feel like an animal, or a doll, or just something less than human. I know people think it is a compliment, that they are actually elevating us, making us something greater than a ‘boring’ human, but it’s not. Given our social status in this world, it’s clear that there is no elevation.
It only reinforces our difference in negative ways. Yes we all have physical differences, differences that are not ground in biology (the concept of race I am referring to), and yes most of us want to be accepted for those differences as we also strive for equality. But that does not mean that we want superficial, bodily differences to be pointed out/exploited in ways that are pointless and non beneficial. Telling me I should love myself and my hair (which by the way, who gives you the right to tell me I should love myself?) does little for me or for you. I suppose maybe people feel better about themselves by telling others how they should feel. But really, loving myself, my hair, my whatever is something I had to figure out for myself. That is my conversation between me, myself and I and perhaps others who share my identity. Not for any outside person to impose onto me.
Basically, I appreciate the sentiment. I understand that most people mean well. But please just don’t. It is not helpful. It is not a compliment. And you don’t understand the impact of your words. This doesn’t mean that you cannot call us (or any other marginalized person) beautiful. People are beautiful. But saying that someone is beautiful because of their different black skin, or Asian features, or fill in the blank is not complimentary.
I hope some of this makes sense to people. Know that this is not meant to attack anyone or make anyone feel bad. It’s just knowledge to let people reflect on their actions and possibly make better, more conscious decisions next time.
“The commodification of Otherness has been so successful because it is offered as a new delight, more intense, more satisfying than normal ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity culture, ethnicity becomes spices, seasoning that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture. Cultural taboos around sexuality and desire are transgressed and made explicit as the media bombards folks with a message of difference no longer based on the white supremacist assumption that "blondes have more fun." The "real fun" is to be had by bringing to the surface all those "nasty" unconscious fantasies and longings about contact with the Other embedded in the secret (not so secret) deep structure of white supremacy.”—bell hooks - “Eating the Other” Black Looks
Unintentionally Eating the Other
“This desire for transformation through the Other is not unique to fashion; it is connected to a much longer history of what Black feminist scholar bell hooks (always in lower case) calls “imperialist nostalgia”: the longing of whites to inhabit, if only for a time, the world of the Other. Bodily transcendence through sartorial and cosmetic play is enacted by the consumption of otherness – a “courageous consumption,” in hooks’ words – because it is about “conquering the fear [of racial difference] and acknowledging power. It is by eating the Other,” hooks explains, “that one asserts power and privilege.”
"Get me that little Indian baby!"
Laura looked straight into the bright eyes of the little baby nearer her. Its hair was black as crow and its eyes were black as a night when no stars shine. Those black eyes looked deep into Laura’s eyes and she looked deep down into the blackness of that little baby’s eyes, and she wanted that one little baby.
”Pa”, she said, ”get me that little Indian baby!”
”Hush, Laura!” Pa told her sternly.
”Oh, I want it! I want it! Laura begged. ”It wants to stay with me,” Laura begged. ”Please, Pa, please!”
”Hush, Laura,” Pa said. ”The Indian woman wants to keep her baby.”
”Oh Pa!” Laura pleaded, and then she began to cry. Ma said she had never heard of such a thing.
”Why on earth do you want an Indian baby, of all things?” Ma asked her.
”Its eyes are so black”, Laura sobbed. She could not say what she meant.
”Why, Laura?”, Ma said, ”you don’t want another baby. We have a baby, our own baby.”
”I want the other one, too!” Laura sobbed loudly.
- Little House on the Prairie
^ Laura Ingalls Wilder, folks
‘One desires contact with the Other even as one wishes boundaries to remain intact.’
‘Those progressive white intellectuals who are particularly critical of “essentialist” notions of identity when writing about mass culture, race, and gender have not focused their critiques on white identity and the way essentialism informs representations of whiteness. It is always the non-white, or in some cases the non-heterosexual Other, who is guilty of essentialism. Few white intellectuals call attention to the way in which the contemporary obsession with white consumption of the dark Other has served as a catalyst for the resurgence of essentialist based racial and ethnic nationalism, Black nationalism, with its emphasis on black separatism, is resurging as a response to the assumption that white cultural imperialism and white yearning to possess the Other are invading black life, appropriating and violating black culture. As a survival strategy, black nationalism surfaces most strongly when white cultural appropriation of black culture threatens to decontextualize and thereby erase knowledge of the specific historical and social context of black experience from which cultural productions and distinct black styles emerge. Yet most white intellectuals writing critically about black culture do not see these constructive dimensions of black nationalism and tend to see it instead as naive essentialism, rooted in notions of ethnic purity that resemble white racist assumptions.’
Programmamakers zoeken witte vrouwen met jungle fever
En weer willen mensen de Bijlmer gebruiken als een dierentuin. Patrick Lodiers is al langsgeweest en Lodewijk Crijns ging er op ‘strooptocht’ voor Alleen Maar Nette Mensen. En nu krijgen we de vrouwelijke variant van Holland in da Hood. Castingbureau A Million Faces is op zoek naar witte vrouwen om in de Bijlmer in een appartement te stoppen en te koppelen aan zwarte mannen.
Alsof het eeuwen oude beeld van de overgeseksualiseerde zwarte mens niet al genoeg was zal de multiculturele samenleving ook nog eens de zoveelste trap krijgen volgens de casting call. Dit soort programma’s tonen alleen maar de pijnlijk afwezigheid van historisch besef hier in Nederland. In de kolonies waren het niet alleen de gekoloniseerde of tot slaaf gemaakte vrouwen die door de Nederlandse mannen verkracht werden, maar ook gekoloniseerde of tot slaaf gemaakte mannen werden tot seksueel speeltje gereduceerd .
“To make one’s self vulnerable to the seduction of difference, to seek an encounter with the Other, does not require that one relinquish forever one’s mainstream positionality. When race and ethnicity become commodified as resources for pleasure, the culture of specific groups, as well as the bodies of individuals, can be seen as constituting an alternative playground where members of dominating races, genders, sexual practices affirm their power-over in intimate relations with the Other.
…For white boys to openly discuss their desire for colored girls (or boys) publicly announces their break with a white supremacist past that would have such desire articulated only as taboo, as secret, as shame. They see their willingness to openly name their desire for the Other as affirmation of cultural plurality (its impact on sexual preference and choice). Unlike racist white men who historically violated the bodies of black women/women of color to assert their position as colonizer/conqueror, these young men see themselves as non-racists, who choose to transgress racial boundaries within the sexual realm not to dominate the Other, but rather so that they can be acted upon, so that they can be changed utterly. Not at all attuned to those aspects of their sexual fantasies that irrevocably link them to collective white racist domination, they believe their desire for contact represents a progressive change in white attitudes towards non-whites. They do not see themselves as perpetuating racism. To them the most potent indication of that change is the frank expression of longing, the open declaration of desire, the need to be intimate with dark Others. The point is to be changed by this convergence of pleasure and Otherness.”
—from ”Eating the Other” by bell hooks
The OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Discount) Program
“Qualifying Makeup Artists, Hair Stylists, Nail Technicians, Models, Photographers and other Industry Professionals are entitled to a 20% discount on all OCC Cosmetic Products purchased for professional use.”
Q and A: Eating the Other
Q and A:
Find an example of “eating the Other” in contemporary society. Why do you think this part of culture is Othered? In what ways is it seen as “enhancing” you by consumption? Do you find this example to be problematic? Why or why not?
We see a lot of “eating the Other” when people of predominantly the western hemisphere and Caucasian go to other countries that are usually less wealthy and are people of predominantly darker skin for vacations. During this their stay, they get to eat the foods of the place, and wear their clothes, listen to their music, and do activities there that they otherwise wouldn’t do back at their home. I think this part of culture is “othered” because it shows that people are cultured. In a way it does enhance you because you get to learn ways and customs different from your own and you get to see good things of the land like fresh foods but also bad things like poverty. This example is problematic because although people go on vacations to countries like India, the Bahamas, or Hawaii for example to enhance themselves, it doesn’t really help the people who actually live in that country except maybe monetarily and even then the people in that country are still poor. And then there is the question of does going to a foreign country make someone a better person and I think it’s up to that person to decide whether it does or it doesn’t.