All the RE5 discussion needed was a Nice White Gamer

Dear Nice White Gamers,

I am glad that you, unlike the Not Nice Gamers, understand that we don’t live in a post-racial world. It’s nice that you’re able to see the the word “racism” in the same paragraph as “video games” and not launch into the “it’s just a game!”-type knee-jerk reactions that can be summed up as, “”Gamers want games to be taken seriously until they’re taken seriously, and then they don’t want them taken seriously” (hat-tip: Kieron Gillen via Brinstar).

But, Nice White Gamers, you do not deserve the plate of cookies you’re passing around. And, even if you did deserve those cookies, you should not be passing them around. This is because (among other reasons) white people patting other white people on the back for being aware of racism is, in itself, kind of racist.

If a post, written by a Nice White Gamer over a year after the first criticism (made by a POC 1 I might add) was linked in the gaming blogsphere, that offers a shallow interpretation and no links to the more in-depth criticism that has been posted is “the first time I’ve read people actually thoughtfully examine the perception problems of RE5”, you need to stop and think about why it is that you are ignorant of the plethora of writings made by POC (especially when a simple google search of “racism” and “Resident Evil 5” will at least give you a starting point). I’ll give you a hint, it’s something referred to in anti-oppression circles as privilege.

On that subject, it is a Nice Person fallacy that “considerate” conversation is praiseworthy in every situation. Yes, I know we’re taught the whole “you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” line, but “politeness” isn’t a neutral concept. Praising someone who said something bigoted for phrasing it and/or the ensuing discussion “politely” privileges politeness over not saying something bigoted. It puts you on their side instead of the side of the non-privileged individual/group that was targeted by the bigoted remark.

Let me give you a tip, from one Nice White Gamer to another: you aren’t as nice as you think you are. Being one small step above the Not Nice Gamers, who are blatantly racist and/or deny that racism is still a problem, is not praiseworthy; it’s the bare minimum. And, as long as you continue to be satisfied with having only the bare minimum level of awareness, your continued cluelessness regarding oppression and how it operates (and how you, as a white person, benefit from racist systems) will continue to perpetuate harm on POC. In the grand scheme of things, that puts you not on the side of anti-racism, but rather on the same side as the Not Nice Gamers.

For those of you who want to raise the bar and confront your own racism and privilege (in the process hopefully becoming an ally), I’ll give you some advice. Take a breather from posting your thoughts on racism and start doing some reading on the subject. Lurk in forums that regularly have discussions on race, racism, (and for bonus marks, other issues such as gender and sexuality), but don’t participate in those discussions until you have at least a base level understanding of how racism/oppression works and how people (including you) wittingly and unwittingly contribute to it.

Even if you aren’t interested in raising the bar, for the love of little green apples, at least have the decency to keep your thoughts (as they are on something you know very little about) to yourself. If you think a discussion on racism is something you want to post about on your blog, then link what other people (preferably POC) have said on the issue. But don’t act as an authority on the issue (or allow yourself to be praised as one) and don’t act as if your thoughts are new or revolutionary when they’re not (hint: linking other people who have said similar things avoids this misconception).


A Pissed off Anti-oppression Activist Gamer Nice White Lady

1 POC stands for Person/People Of Color; it is the current standard in most anti-oppression movements for referencing anyone who isn’t white. Sometimes, especially in feminist spaces, you will see the term WOC, Woman/Women of Color. Note to Nice White People: know these terms, use these terms.

* My title is a reference to the “What These People Need Is a Honky” trope, which can be summed up as:

White guy flees from his own culture for personal reasons (to set him up as different from those with white privilege). White guy meets natives. Natives educate white guy. White guy learns the way of natives, possibly also converting a native person who was originally doubtful of him, thereby proving white guy’s worthiness. White guy fights for naties. White guy makes dramatic escape while the native guy dies, possibly trying to help the white guy. The movie then ends with a dramatic coda and captions that inform the audience that despite white guy’s triumph, the Situation Remains Dire.

The key to all this is that the entire movie is about the white guy’s personal growth and realization and that people of color serve only to further the white guy’s epiphanies.

I leave it to you, Nice White Gamers, to figure out the connection between that and my open letter.

The New Yorker gets a 0 on the Swift-o-Meter

Racism is satire when “progressives” do it!

I am not a regular reader of The New Yorker, but I have never been a huge fan of their cartoons. Some of them have made me chuckle, some of them have made me roll my eyes, and many more have just provoked a, “Okay…” kind of blah reaction. But, I am sorry to say that they have joined the ranks of all those other jerks who create something bigoted, present it without any obvious criticism, and then dare to call it “satire”.

That cover is not satire.

I understand the reasons why people are calling it satire, but their explanations fall flat when you’ve seen the same arguments used to defend insulting articles/pictures/etc that only serve to reinforce the status quo.

Satire isn’t a synonym for “mockery”. It isn’t something that is easy to do right, and it certainly isn’t accomplished by simply rehashing elements that have been used by a group that’s in political opposition to the person doing the satire. It’s not enough to say it’s satire because “everyone” knows the object of mockery is ridiculous, especially when there are plenty of people who obviously don’t.

The thing that the satire is mocking needs to be blatantly and obviously ridiculous and wrong. And not just to people who already see the subject as ridiculous and wrong. Satire needs to expose the logical fallacies of the object of ridicule, not simply summarize them.

If the satire can reinforce a person’s conviction as easily, if not easier, than it can shake it, then it is not satire. It’s just mockery, and mockery whose target is ambiguous at that.

Via Feministe.

At this rate, there won't be any games left for me to play

I have been feeling rather unhappy with Capcom for a while, but this takes the cake:

Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi tells Kotaku that calls of racial insensitivity haven’t affected the game’s design. Takeuchi tells the site that the team didn’t “set out” to make a racist or political statement and he feels there was a misunderstanding about the initial trailer.

Takeuchi says there are Arab and Caucasian targets for Chris Redfield’s bullets in RE5 and insists they were always going to be included in the game — despite the initial trailer showing a less ethnically diverse group of zombies. We’ll have to take a “wait and see” approach on whether Japanese developers will continue to fuel the fires of black/white racial tensions across the ocean.

I know Japan is pretty racially ignorant (from my experiences, but here’s a wikipedia entry on the matter), but Capcom is an international company, serving an international audience. The fact that it seems that their research only involved going to the location (without, you know, spending like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from) is bad enough. Takeuchi’s tactic of “it’s not racist because I didn’t mean it!” is infuriating, but expected. I am also not appeased by the inclusion of Arab and Caucasian zombies, because:

  1. An American killing an Arab. UH, HELLO? How is that not problematic given the current anti-Muslim (which, to the average anti-Muslim American translates to “Arab”) climate in America? And, I mean, with the Afghanistan and then Iraq wars, which made international news, it’s not like Takeuchi has an excuse not to know about those tensions.
  2. Adding a sprinkling of whities to get gunned down isn’t some magical panacea for racism. It doesn’t address the What These People Need Is a Honky problem, and it doesn’t change the way that the black people, even pre-infection, are portrayed as savages.

I have loved the Resident Evil series, even with all of its problems. I have done my best to play the games, even though I suck at survival horror (mostly because I spend most of the time thinking, “OH NOES TEH ZOMBIE IS GOING TO GET ME!!!111eleven”). I could tolerate stupid shit like Jill being sexualized and put in a dress for RE3, Ashley being completely useless in RE4, and the fact that they apparently thought there’s no difference between Mexican Spanish and Spanish Spanish. I didn’t even mind so much that all of the protagonists were dayglow white (after all, it isn’t like that’s unusual). The abominable trailer for RE5 wasn’t even enough to convince me to not buy the game.

But I can’t take it anymore. I feel like I have no other choice but to boycott Capcom because I simply cannot support what they’re doing.

Capcom/Takeuchi no longer have an excuse. They can’t claim ignorance, because they’ve been made aware of the issues and still chose to ignore it. They quite simply don’t care that their game is problematic from a racial angle. And I can’t support that. I can’t support people who willfully engage in racism even after the racism is pointed out to them by multiple people because they can’t fathom that, in their lack knowledge regarding racial tensions/issues, they could unintentionally create something racist.

I’m about to be twenty-six fucking years old. I’ve grown up. Is it so wrong for me to wish that the games I love would grow up with me?

Earning the privilege to be trusted

Following up on some thoughts that relate to what I said in Feminist Infighting, I wanted to talk about something that karnythia said in her post, Seal Press, Amanda Marcotte…Proof That Feminism And Racism Go Hand In Hand:

I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist.

karnythia, and indeed every woc, have no reason to take calls of solidarity from white feminists seriously and every reason to mistrust them. It’s not even like this string of incidents was the first one ever, or even the first to occur in the blogsphere; it’s just the latest blow up in a long, racist history of uneasy tension between white feminism and woc feminism.

Most white feminists, yes even the ones who are protesting the loudest here, understand that men aren’t automatically entitled to the benefit of the doubt. They get that, in order to be an ally, a man has to put his money where his mouth is and actually act like one. He has to deal gracefully with the mistrust of feminists who have been hurt one too many times by men professing to like women and to be an ally. He also has to accept that some feminists will only ever view him as an interloper because of the long, sordid, and often personal history that comes with gender relations. No one is saying that it’s fair, but part of being an ally is understanding that the little unfairness that he suffers not only is rooted in real, valid causes, but also doesn’t outweigh the unfairness that the women treating him unfairly have suffered.

And yet, while white feminists are more than happy to apply those standards to men who are trying to be allies, they are all too often unwilling to apply them to themselves. Their white privilege tells them that the root of all oppression is gender oppression, and that it’s the almighty vagina (ie. the possession of one) that creates a solidarity between women. The myth of “universal womanhood” is a powerful one, to be sure, but it is also a convenient way to shield yourself from having to question your own privilege — whether that be white, hetersexual, able-bodied, cissexual, or whatever combination you fall under.

Frankly, it’s up to us white feminists to earn the trust of woc feminists by actually being allies. If we want to earn the privilege of using words like “solidarity” and “sisterhood” then we — not just some individuals, but white feminists as a whole — need to stop giving lipservice to the idea and actually, you know, stop defending our racist behavior. We need to stop thinking only in terms of ourselves and our own personal oppressions, hurts, unfairness, whatever.

Feminism isn’t about you. It’s about all women from all backgrounds and that means that sometimes you’re going to have to suck up your own wounded pride and admit that you did something racist. Or ableist. Or transphobic. If you want to be on your high horse when you talk about sexism, then you need to walk the walk when it comes to areas in which you have privilege. Full stop.

And, until white feminists get to that point, woc feminists like karnythia will have every reason to mistrust us.

Suggested Actions for White Feminist Allies from Katie

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is several years old and may not reflect the current opinions of the author.

On my blog, I had just linked to an excellent and common example by BrownFemiPower of white women getting credit for helping women at large when they’ve actually done a lot of harm to women.

How did they do this harm?

By forgetting to ask themselves whether women in a population group would be disproportionately hurt (compared to men in the same population group) by whatever actions they’re advocating (be they immigration actions, medical funding actions, military funding and policy actions, etc.)


Today, BrownFemiPower saw another instance of white women getting credit for helping women at large when they have, by forgetting to apply their feminist knowledge to all their advocacy of various policy positions, done a lot of harm to many, many women.

Short summary:

  • White feminists were getting mocked by conservatives for not criticizing misogyny conducted by non-whites against non-whites strongly enough.
  • White feminists wrote a nationally publicized letter saying, “We do too! Hell, we FOUND that misogyny and were the first to tell the non-white perpetrators that they should stop it!”
  • BrownFemiPower retorted (unfortunately, in a venue that isn’t nearly as highly publicized) that
    1. they shouldn’t even worry about whether they’re criticizing misogyny conducted by non-whites against non-whites until they’ve spent a heck of a lot more time criticizing misogyny conducted by whites against non-whites (usually through foreign policy) and
    2. they did NOT find the non-white-on-non-white misogyny mentioned by conservatives and they were NOT the first to tell the perpetrators of that misogyny to stop it–the VICTIMS did both.

Quotes from BFP’s post:

her little list of wrongs that “American feminists” stand against was the most irritating…

Hm. Who could Ms. Pollitt *possibily* be talking about here?…

Do you think it’s the U.S. government that is currently enforcing horrific immigration laws that are degrading and violating women and their families–-IN KATHA’S OWN DAMN COUNTRY?…

Why the particular emphasis on “Muslim countries?” Does Ms. Pollitt think that “Muslim countries” are particularly hostile to women’s rights for some reason?

Even as her own country imprisons 8 year old girls and deports their mothers?

Fact: it’s feminists who first identified atrocities against women around the world–female genital mutilation, forced marriage, child marriage, spousal violence, rape– as violations of human rights, not family matters or customs of no state importance.

Actually, Ms. Pollitt–it was the women who *experienced* those actions that first identified the violence being committed against them.


Please, please, please, please, please–if you’re a white feminist, consider my suggestion for action instead of signing Ms. Pollitt’s letter:
Next time you’re around white feminists who are upset that the right wing is saying, “You don’t do enough to stop non-white violence against non-white women!” STOP them from retorting with a, “Look at all we’re doing!” and, worse yet, a resurgence of interest in taking that kind of action.

Tell your white feminist peers only to tell the right wing commentators, if they must retort at all:

“I’m sorry, but you’re wrong to assume that that is our job. Our job is to stop white violence against white women and white violence against non-white women. And we will work on those issues in the proportion that they exist today.

“Though we may lend time and resources when and to the extent that they are asked of us by non-white women, we refuse to claim that it is our job to ‘stop’ non-white violence against non-white women.

“Thank you for listening, and please follow our bulletin for the amazing work we are doing stopping white violence against white women and white violence against non-white women in the coming months!”


Two posts feminists should read

First up is a post at AllyWork on the qualities of an ally. It’s an anti-racist focused version of a paper from the Gay and Lesbian Action Council called “Qualities of a GLBT Ally.” On the list of what makes a person a good ally to people of colour are being someone who: works to develop an understanding of issues facing people of color; understands how racism and other patterns of oppression operate; works to be an ally to all oppressed people; and chooses to align with people of color and represent their needs, especially when they are unable to safely do so themselves. The rest of the 12 point list is a must-read for… well, anyone who doesn’t want to be seen as racist, really.

The other post is by Donna at The Silence of Our Friends, More on Full Frontal Feminism and really speaks to one of the repeated themes of this blog, which is that feminists can’t just be in this just for ourselves we have to be committed to ending oppression for everyone.

Here’s what struck the deepest chord with me in that post:

There are very few white allies who are trustworthy, who will do the right thing when it is at odds with their own wants, needs, goals. I am convinced that most of the major white feminists, including bloggers, have no intention of dismantling the patriarchal system, they want to join the power structure, have power over other people, and have a higher position in the hierarchy. That’s why they only wink and nod when it comes to issues involving other oppressed groups then tell us to shut up while they go about their important business of getting the things that are only to their advantage, and eventually (*wink nod* never) they will get around to our “pet issues”. Paying lip service to anti-racism is always to their advantage, gives them the warm fuzzies, and leads their readers to believe they are actually progressive instead of as selfish and self serving as conservatives.

The problem of paying lip service to equality isn’t confined to any one movement, but feminism is my movement and we have the tools, and the knowledge, to be better than this, damnit. Perhaps feminism that caters to privileged women (white, cisgendered, straight, etc) is easier to grasp and less challenging to follow in some ways, but it’s just as Donna said: you can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools.

Lakota Sioux women’s shelter needs help

IMPORTANT NOTICE: This post is several years old and may not reflect the current opinions of the author.

All text from the Pretty Bird Woman House blog.

In May of this year, the progressive netroots pulled together to save a tiny women’s shelter on a Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. Thanks to over 680 strangers who donated a combined $27,000, Pretty Bird Woman House was able to keep its doors open for the duration and provide emergency shelter for 188 women and 132 children.

But just last month thieves broke into Pretty Bird Woman House – literally smashing holes through the walls. They stole the computers, the television, clothing, toiletries – all donated. Then arsonists set fire to the building.

Pretty Bird Woman House remains open, without a house, in an unheated, donated office. The tribal council has done all it can afford to do. Without a house, this sanctuary will die.

Pretty Bird Woman House needs another netroots miracle to survive. There is so much in the world we are powerless over. For Pretty Bird Woman House you can make a difference, make the world a better place, right here, right now, today.

Origins of Pretty Bird Woman House
In October of 2001 a monster in the body of a fifteen-year-old boy stalked the Standing Rock reservation in South Dakota. Since his tenth birthday he had racked up twenty-five separate criminal charges, included among them was torturing a kitten to death. Another incident involved his shattering a beer bottle over the head of an eight year old. Thirty one year old Ivy Archambault had the misfortune of being home asleep when he broke into her house intent on burglary. Before the night ended he kidnapped, raped and beat her to death. In the six years since this crime was committed, he has never been charged with the murder despite eyewitnesses willing to testify, thanks to a nightmarish maze of confusing tribal, federal, state and local jurisdictions and laws. (Sources: Indian Country News, Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Citizen’s Equal Rights Alliance)

Ivy Archambault’s murder might well have passed from memory without any impact. But Jackie Brown Otter, her sister, had other ideas; she envisioned a shelter, a place where threatened women could go. A base for the fight to prevent these crimes and when they occur, seek justice on behalf of the victim. She wanted to name this place with her sister’s Lakota name: Pretty Bird Woman. Over the course of three years she and a small group of women struggled to make this happen. Then, in late 2004, the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence came through with a grant and hired Georgia Little Shield, a nurse with ten years experience in the domestic violence as Director of Pretty Bird Woman House.

Georgia Little Shield knows a little about domestic violence:

I’m a survivor. I was abused as a child. It was real bad. I almost succeeded in committing suicide – you see, back then, the only place I had to go was to die. There was nothing, no shelter, no counseling on the reservation, nowhere I could turn. There was no help for me and I just wanted to die. No woman should have to go through that. No woman should feel that way…

Nobody’s going to talk for these women but us. We have to help them. We have to let them know, there is help. We don’t have to tolerate it no more. We have rights.

Georgia started in October 2005. The local tribal district government donated office space and on January 5th, 2006, Pretty Bird Woman House opened for business and has not closed since despite a constant struggle to survive.

Scope of the Problem
Standing Rock Reservation is not particularly friendly to women. According to the Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice – The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA:

High levels of sexual violence on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation take place in a context of high rates of poverty and crime. South Dakota has the highest poverty rate for Native American women in the USA with 45.3 per cent living in poverty. The unemployment rate on the Reservation is 71 per cent. Crime rates on the Reservation often exceed those of its surrounding areas. According to FBI figures, in 2005 South Dakota had the fourth highest rate of “forcible rapes” of women of any US state.

Amnesty International was told of five rapes which took place over one week in September 2005. Many survivors reported that they had experienced sexual violence several times in their lives and by different perpetrators. There were also several reports of gang rapes. One survivor and activist told Amnesty International that people have become desensitized to acts of sexual violence. A common response to such crimes is blame, but directed at the survivor rather than the perpetrator.

Making things worse, Standing Rock Reservation has a tiny police force to patrol all 2.3 million acres. At the time of the murder of Pretty Bird Woman, Standing Rock had only one police officer on duty during the night shift. As a result, it took over a day for anyone to even come out to start to investigate the disappearance. Since then the night patrol has doubled in size… 2 officers for 2.3 million acres each night.

Further compounding the problem, Amnesty reports on the legal nightmare facing the victims, their advocates and the police:

Tribal and federal authorities have concurrent jurisdiction on all Standing Rock Sioux Reservation lands over crimes where the suspected perpetrator is American Indian. In instances in which the suspected perpetrator is non-Indian, federal officials have exclusive jurisdiction. Neither North nor South Dakota state police have jurisdiction over sexual violence against Native American women on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. State police do, however, have jurisdiction over crimes of sexual violence committed on tribal land in instances where the victim and the perpetrator are both non-Indian.

This legal mess has produced three distinct and uniquely horrifying results.

Police agencies often work at cross purposes when it comes to investigating and prosecuting the crime.

“When an emergency call comes in, the sheriff will say ‘but this is Indian land.’ Tribal police will show up and say the reverse. Then, they just bicker and don’t do the job. Many times, this is what occurs. And it doesn’t always get resolved, which means no rape [sexual assault evidence] kit, etc.”
-Juskwa Burnett, support worker for Native American survivors of sexual violence, May 2005

Georgia Little Shield told me that when her daughter was beaten by her husband, the husband, remorseful after hitting her daughter, took her daughter to the hospital and asked to be arrested. As emergency workers rebuilt her daughter’s shattered nose the police argued over who was responsible for handling the crime. Finally, the city police gave the husband – who was still wearing the t-shirt covered in his wife’s blood – his car keys and told him to just go home, nothing was going to happen. And nothing has.

The next result is the predictable outcome of this legal mess – women do not report rapes and domestic violence because when they do, they will suffer victimization by the system. Georgia Little Shield told me: Women don’t report because not a darn thing will be done for them. The Amnesty International report bears this assertion out:

Amnesty International’s interviews with survivors, activists and support workers across the USA suggest that available statistics greatly underestimate the severity of the problem. In the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, for example, many of the women who agreed to be interviewed could not think of any Native women within their community who had not been subjected to sexual violence.

So this is the battlefield on which Georgia Little Shield and her tiny team fights. She tells me that there are police officers there who want to help and want to prosecute but cannot do so. So essentially, the three women who work for Pretty Bird Woman House work alone.

Services Offered by Pretty Bird Woman House
What can Pretty Bird Woman House do against all of this injustice? Small miracles, one day at a time. In the first ten months of 2007 Pretty Bird Woman House accomplished the following:

– answered 397 crisis calls

– gave emergency shelter to 188 women and 132 children

– helped 23 women obtain restraining orders, 10 get divorces, and 16 get medical assistance

– provided court advocacy support for 28 women

– conducted community education programs for 360 women.

These impressive achievements achieve a new stature when put into the context of what happened to Pretty Bird Woman House during the exact same time frame. In April, the grant from the South Dakota Coalition Against Domestic Violence ran out. Georgia Little Shield’s salary ended as did the phone service (including crisis line). Pretty Bird Woman House had a staff of three, Georgia Little Shield and at that time, one part time advocate and one volunteer advocate. They were waiting, hoping for a Federal grant to come through at the time they ran out of funding. By the complex rules of the grants, that should have ended Pretty Bird Woman House right there because they could not have provided the services (the crisis line) required to receive the Federal grant. Georgia Little Shield prepared to continue work without pay, realizing that she would not even have the gas money to drive into town many times.

Pretty Bird Woman House needed over $25,000 to make it until September when the Federal grant might kick in. Raising that kind of money on Standing Rock seemed an impossibility. Tribal government remained supportive of the shelter but had no further resources to share after donating a small building at the end of 2006. Further compounding the problem, the three staff members of Pretty Bird Woman House needed to spend their time helping women, not scavenging for non-existent funds.

The Progressive Netroots Miracle
At this time this situation came to the attention of Daily Kos user nbier(I’m not clear how) and he created a chip in page for the effort and followed up with a series of diaries trying to raise funds. And then a miracle happened. Other Daily Kos members diaried about this: flautist, sarac, njgoldfinch and frontpager Devilstower jumped in. From Daily Kos the news spread virally and Christy Hardin-Smith at Firedoglake, mole333 at Culture Kitchen, DB at Queen of Pentacles, William Neuheisel at Creative Evolution…. and many more I have missed kept the torch lit.

The result? Over 680 strangers donated $27,500…

This money functioned as the operating funds for the shelter from May through September of 2007. The Progressive Netroots paid for crisis phone lines, Georgia Little Shield’s salary, a financial advocate for the shelter, court costs, operating expenses, food, clothing, toiletries and other incidental expenses. This money literally saved the lives of women on the Standing Rock shelter:

I just got off the phone with Georgia Little Shield, Director and Advocate at the Pretty Bird Woman House. Over the weekend, the shelter received a call from a woman who needed to be evacuated. If this had happened on Thursday, the shelter would not have been able to do much more than take the call. But because of your efforts, Georgia was able to tell this woman: “Don’t worry about the money–we have money coming. Just get out and come in.”

In late September the Federal grant was awarded, paying the salaries for Georgia Little Shield and two more full time shelter staff/advocates. The future of Pretty Bird Woman House seemed assured. With the support of the Tribal Government, a shelter to house women in danger and the federal grant the pieces had finally come together and the women of Standing Rock had a permanent sanctuary.

This security proved illusory.

Losing the House
Georgia Little Shield described the abandoned building donated to Pretty Bird Woman House by the Bear Soldier District government in late 2006 as being able to house one family and two single women at a time with room for office space on the bottom floor. While not luxurious by any means, it had all the necessities; running water, electricity, telephone lines, a small amount of storage and shelter from South Dakota’s harsh winter. The biggest drawback lay in the fact that the building’s remote location made it difficult for the small police force to quickly respond.

The first signs of danger came when Pretty Bird Woman House offered shelter to a woman whose batter had a record of extreme violence. Fearing for her safety, they transferred her to a shelter off of the reservation. The next day someone cut the shelter’s phone lines. Police did not have the manpower to come out and see the cut phone lines and eventually the phone company fixed them.

Shortly after this unknown men entered an adjoining abandoned building. They kicked and tore a hole through the drywall wide enough to walk through and looted the shelter of anything they could carry: televisions, computers, clothing, toiletries (all donated or purchased with donations) – literally anything that could be carried. This happened in broad daylight while the shelter was empty – the staff were all absent transporting women to court or other shelters. Clearly the perpetrators watched the shelter for such an opportunity.

After a second break in, local government and Pretty Bird Woman House realized that the shelter could not function safely. The staff moved out and returned to the unheated donated office space. The day after they moved out the crisis line got a telephone call:

Lady, your shelter is on fire, they are burning down your shelter.

Arsonists had thrown some kind of molotov cocktail through a basement window, setting fire to the building.

This blow dealt a terrible setback to Pretty Bird Woman House. Some of the grants they depend on require that they provide shelter to battered women and their children. All the advantages they gained – not having to make three and four hour trips transporting women to neighboring shelters (assuming those shelters had room), having a stable base of operations, having the extra time not spent driving, or calling to place women doing grant writing – all of these advantages vanished.

While Georgia Little Shield maintains a stoic resolve that Pretty Bird Woman House will survive regardless, others wonder if the shelter can make it. Some feel the shelter has been targeted (sorry for the “some say” construction – anonymity is a real concern for these people) for destruction.

Fears and Hopes for the Future
Georgia Little Shield has modest dreams for Pretty Bird Woman House:

I want to have a shelter and four paid advocates. Two advocates would focus on sexual assualt – currently we must travel 120 miles to get rape kit. We need two advocates for domestic violence as well. Domestic violence calls make up most of our crisis calls, but sexual assault requires a lot of resources. I want to be able to teach women’s safety classes, parenting classes, offer assistance in getting GED’s, have a place for women to look for jobs on line. These are the kind of support services I want to offer.

She has not forgotten the men who batter either:

I want to offer them classes to help them stop being violent. Anger management and things like that. Hopefully it would make a difference.

Georgia Little Shield hopes these things can happen but the most important goal for her:

Pretty Bird Woman House must be self sufficient. I have chronic heart problems and diabetes… my health is real bad. I just want to make sure Pretty Bird Woman House will be able to continue without me.

What Your Donation Buys

Pretty Bird Woman House already has two potential replacement houses in mind. Both offer significantly more space than the previous building. Georgia described how they both had full basements, storage room and would house more than double the families and women than their previous building. Both buildings have yards which means possible playgrounds for children.

One house has a major advantage in location – a police station across the street.

Because of difficulties obtaining loans (banks are allergic to both Native Americans and poverty) the best solution lies in purchasing the house outright. The Tribal Council could hold the mortgage but coming up with the mortgage payments every month creates an ongoing problem. Since both houses are on the market, they could be gone anytime. Depressed property values on Standing Rock mean that $60,000 gets the house. An additional $10,000 is required to make them secure, with proper fencing, video cameras, reinforced doors and other measures. Neither house is in great shape, but both offer shelter and that remains the bottom line for the survival of Pretty Bird Woman House.

This is urgent for many reasons:
– Pretty Bird Woman House cannot serve the women who need help now – if neighboring shelters are full battered women and rape victims needing a place to go have nowhere at all.

– the lack of a shelter disqualifies Pretty Bird Woman House from many grants

– the situation requires Pretty Bird Woman House to stretch its resources to the breaking point – it cannot be sustained.

Once Pretty Bird Woman House has a permanent home, the future looks much brighter. Again, they will meet the criteria for grants. The permanency of a home opens many doors for them and makes a huge impact on the future of the shelter. Beyond this, a permanent women’s shelter on Standing Rock creates an infrastructure to begin to tackle the nightmares detailed above. That infrastructure will function to erode the resistance to change. In a very real sense a women’s shelter is the foundation upon which progress can take place.

In short, if we meet this goal, Pretty Bird Woman House should not need constant fundraisers by the progressive blogosphere.

Please: DONATE NOW. Pretty Bird Woman House is a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization.

What Else Can We Do?
Material donations
If you have clothing, toiletries or other goods (or checks if you don’t donate online) donations you can send them via USPS to:
Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin, SD 57642

If you use FedEx, UPS or DHL ship to:
Pretty Bird Woman House
302 Sale Barn Rd.
McLaughlin SD 57642

If you have ideas for helping, please join the Yahoo Group.

Perhaps most importantly, BLOG. Spread the word. Make it go viral. That is the genius, the magic, of the netroots – our amazing power. No one of us has to do this all on their own. We do this as community. Pass this on throughout the community. Feel free to take anything from my diaries or from the Pretty Bird Woman Blog for this purpose. That’s what it is there for. Please, if nothing else, do this.

Anything you do for this effort is appreciated. You are helping make the Bird in Pretty Bird Woman House into a Phoenix – literally rising from the flames. Please take a second to tell us in comments what you did so we may thank you – and maybe your comments will inspire someone else to give as well.

Georgia Little Shield said:

Someone has to hear these women. Someone has to listen to them.

Let’s make sure someone can be there to listen. Thank you so very much.

Friends of Pretty Bird Woman House Yahoo Group
Pretty Bird Woman House Blog
Amnesty International Report-Maze of Injustice: The failure to protect Indigenous women from sexual violence in the USA

Questions on cultural appropriation

I’ve been participating on the A question about Halloween and costumes… thread over at Roy’s place. Basically it’s a discussion about what makes a Halloween costume racist and to what extent, if at all, we can dress up as figures from other countries.

I wanted to bring some of the discussion over here and see what other people thought. So, first off, the question:

I think Sov raises a good question- is it the generic stereotypes that are offensive, or is it also offensive for someone to dress up as a specific historical figure or character, even if it’s done “in a respectful way”?

And here’s what I said:

As for sov’s question, I’m not entirely sure. It’s definitely better because if you’re taking the time to research the appropriate historical detail chances are you’re trying to be aware and respectful of the original culture and learning stuff in the process.

But let’s take it back to the issue of blackface. Say I was into African history and wanted to do something with that. Say I really admired Yaa Asantewa for how she fought against the colonialists and so I dressed up as her for Halloween or some other event as an attempt to start conversation about her and raise awareness of the history of colonization in Africa.

Would that be blackface?

My instinct says yes. Despite my good intentions, there is the whole history of black-white relations to consider, as well as the ongoing racism and continued use of blackface by the media and individuals. It’s the same reason why white people cosplaying as Drow is problematic, despite the Drow being a fictional race.

Then we take it into Kimberley’s experience [this comment] and ask: is that yellowface? Does it carry the same weight and connotations as a white person dressing up as a black historical figure?

The line here isn’t as clear for me because the Asian American history and experience is different from that of black Americans.

I’m also coming from a different perspective; that of a white woman living in Japan. I don’t have a kimono or yukata here, but I do wear jinbei sometimes in the summer, and if I had a yukata I’d probably wear it to festivals and stuff. When I went on a family spa trip in California I wore my jinbei around instead of the bathrobe because it was more comfortable.

Do I engage in cultural appropriation? If not, how/when would the line be crossed? Does it make a difference that I have a BA in Asian Studies and can speak the language fluently enough that I’m going to be attending school here in the spring?

I really don’t have any answers to this. It’s a really tricky subject that involves consideration not just of current power dynamics and racial history, but also of the context as well as the person’s knowledge and intent.

Cultural appropriation is a really tough subject for me, not the least of which because I am constantly questioning to what extent my privilege is interfering with my ability to make a fair judgment on the matter.

So, readers, I’m taking this to you. What are your feelings on the matter? What about the points I raised, do you agree or disagree? Have you had similar experiences — either with dressing up as someone from a different culture, or with someone else who has done the same?

Here's a noosey-noose to go with your Klan robe

Disney Couture necklace
From the Pirates of the Caribbean “Dead Man’s Chest” collection – 14K gold plated 20″ Noose Necklace.

So, apparently racist iconography is the new couture. Come on, Disney, ARE YOU STUPID? I have no idea what wires got crossed in the company that they could see this as anything but a very, very bad idea. Especially on the wake of the Jenna Six incident.

I’ve had various problems with the company for a long time, but I think I’m with Sara in thinking that it’s finally time to just say “no” to Disney products. Until that company shapes up and, at the very least, stops actively being racist, I’m through with it.

Via Sara Speaking.

More on harassment on the internet

So, the Angry Black Woman posts about an experience she had with a troll who, when banned, continued to harass her. The post itself is worth a read, but (oh so predictably) another troll shows up in her comments to start telling her how bad and wrong she was for informing the guy’s company of his actions online.

Now, I’m not here to talk about that, but rather to highlight two of the comments that came out of it because I think that they make very important points about the kind of harassment that occurs on anti-oppression blogs and why it’s important to not lie down and accept it in the name of “free speech” or “tolerance” that shouldn’t be just a footnote of another post.

The first one is by Nora about the difference between a normal troll and the racist, sexist, etc trolls that come to harass us:

Here is the crux of the issue: I just don’t think that initiating arguments with a troll is actually helping the social problems-
Wait, wait, wait. ABW does not go to these people’s blogs and make anti-racism speeches. They come here and start shit. So please remember — she’s not “initiating arguments” by any means.

The thing you need to remember is that this blog does not operate in a vacuum. Look at the links along the right side sometime. ABW is part of a vast and growing network of anti-sexism, anti-racism, anti-other-oppression blog sites, and she’s only the latest in a long line of textual crusaders. There have been many others since the internet was popularized. Quite a few of the pioneering sites have died — enough that we’ve learned a few things about the tactics of racists on the ‘net. For example,
a) Racists are not ordinary trollers, any more than stalkers are ordinary annoyances. Racists aren’t just out to have some fun by pissing people off; harassment is not an end in itself for them. They’re trying to disempower others, using harassment as a weapon. This distinction is important, because it gives them great incentive to persist long past the time when a troll would’ve gotten bored and moved on.
b) Like harassment, persistence is also a racist weapon. Racists do not go away. When they realize they have free reign, they usually take encouragement from the silence. There are never as many of them as they want you to believe, but to make up for their small numbers, they never shut the fuck up.

c) Racists act out of fear. They fear the loss of their power; some fear the loss of their “racial purity”, some just fear change. Regardless, frightened people are irrational people, and irrational people are dangerous. Would you ignore an irrational person who was coming after you over and over again, and getting worse each time? I don’t care how Zen you are; that’s not smart.
d) All this has the side-effect of silencing the non-racists, who get tired/frightened by the ugliness.
And of course, d) is what kills blogs.

Then there’s ABW’s response, which talks about why taking steps to stop harassment is, you know, a good thing not a bad one:

One of the things we learn as children is that actions have consequences. the fewer consequences a child is subjected to in their early years, the more they get the impression that they can do whatever they want. Same works for adults. If a person spends their day being a racist troll and nothing comes of it, they learn that being a racist troll has no consequences and continue doing so. For minor trolls, the mere act of banning them is consequence enough. They go “Oh, no one likes it when I do that. Ah well, I’ll go away.” Hopefully they go away to be a better person, but my instinct says they go away to be a racist troll somewhere else. If so, my hope is that others will ban them and, finally, the consequences will mount up and either change that behavior or drive them into a small hole where they have no one to talk to but other racist assholes.

The bigger the entitlement, the harsher consequences must be. The guy who replied to my banning him with “I’ll just keep trying to harass her until I get to do it again” was obviously in need of harsher consequences. because he believed it was his right to continue being an asshole on my blog. Well, it wasn’t. This is why I took things to another level. not because I enjoy calling people’s workplaces and informing on them, but because otherwise, they won’t get the message that what they are doing is not okay. Consequences are important.
Sometimes the mere threat of consequences is enough to make people realize where they are in the wrong. or, at least, get them to back off. Michael sent me a note very soon after this post went up to say that he would not darken our doorstep again. He tried his own version of consequences by implying that I had threatened to expose his name and daughter’s name and address publicly (which I did not). He wanted me to take this post down. Maybe he was afraid his employers would see it. He was definitely afraid of me going to his HR department, that was clear.
In the end, I didn’t have to do any such thing. I just had to let him know that I meant business. Hopefully this post will serve as a similar deterrent to others. Now that they know the consequences, they won’t be so quick to think “I can just keep on doing what I’m doing.” That’s the problem with Internet trolling. people think they can do it without any consequences. I’m here to say: you can’t.

Not Michael, this may offend your Zen sensibilities and I’m sorry for that. But it’s not as if I’ve actually physically hurt someone here. Also, even MLK and Ghandi brought consequences. they didn’t just stand around and yell that they wanted equal rights or a free India. they *did* something about it. that something was not war, that something was not physically fighting, but that something was NOT just turning the other cheek. It was refusing to meet violence with violence but instead with protecting one’s self and showing the futility of violence.
I could respond to trolls by just being nasty back at them and that would be the equivalent of meeting violence with violence. Instead, I show them the consequences of their actions. for MLK, it was to bring hundreds or thousands of people to the government’s workplace and to show them that injustice would NOT be met with silence and would NOT be patiently endured. That they were prepared to take action 9though that action would not have been violent). I’m doing the same (though not comparing myself to MLK or anything). Harassment will NOT be met with silence. I won’t come to your house and beat you up or anything, but I will use the resources available to me.

If you’re expecting some deep and thoughtful commentary, I’ll have to disappoint. I’m still technically on blog break. But, really, I think the comments above speak for themselves. Harassment is not okay, and cyberstalking — what Micheal was starting to do — is a crime, people. You don’t have the right to systematically harass another human being, whether offline or on. One would think that this would be common sense, but the 84 responses that the original thread has gotten would say otherwise.

So, in summary, stay in school and don’t harass people because there will one day be consequences that you probably won’t like.