Raging Native Women and Why You Should Listen To Us

This was initially a Facebook post by an Anishinaabekwe and Algonquin friend of mine. I have reposted it with her permission.

“it wasn’t anger that I was feeling when i wrote this..it was the keenness of insight, it was the clarity of truth telling, it was the power of breaking out of bondage of oppression and exploitation.” (bell hooks: mind, body, soul: keynote speaker)

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started lookin up bell hooks on youtube and oh my…another few hours just fly by. damn but is it ever sweet. was listening to this part about how she was when she was younger and immature and although i feel no need to justify my anger, i’m becoming more and more aware that as much as it has kept me alive, it isn’t too useful for communicating!!

she talks about being an ‘angry black woman’, and i can see how that characterization gets imposed on native women too, who are finding our voices in a climate of racialized sexism.

i remember the times i’ve been angry, at times what i’d even call violently angry, and i saw how that explosion caused people i love to withdraw and shut down, or become defensive. i never took that lesson and applied it to how i explode in anger at racist and sexist attitudes.

bell hooks was saying, ‘its like someone has thrown you a hardball, and you just want to slam back with that hardball’…this anger that rises up in me that just feels like it could blow me apart and take everything around me out with it. It sounds like a scream, and it looks in my mind’s eye, like a hurricane. And what’s whirling around in its center are all the rememebered and body-deep memories of trauma and violence inflicted not just on our people, but on all oppressed and exploited peoples whose struggles are bound up in our fight for freedom. it is both cleansing and terrible, pure as a child’s, and full of the flaws of my humanness and immaturity.

that intense, red hot anger is the constant state of my existence being around white folks who are not interested in confronting their racism, which i find to be the majority of white activists, though not all. and it wears me down, or forces my soul to become hardened and calloused and worse, blinded and necessarily ignorant of the day to day racism that threatens the integrity of my body and my self with a thousand small wounds.

and i haven’t had the life experience to learn to translate that anger into something that invites communication. i’ll get there for eventually but right now, i’m young and immature–but neither of those qualities invalidate this anger, nor should they disqualify me from being heard or listened to. i do not need to be as articulate as bell hooks, or as experienced as linda hogan, or as male as ward churchill, for you to take me as seriously as you take them because they fit your paradigm of what criticisms show up on your radar.

of course we can’t live 24/7 being around those who are exclusively safe, but good community organizing requires a relationship of trust and respect–racism and sexism kill any possibility of either. i think we need to understand that we have the right to say that because we desire solid trust and respect in our organizing, and in our communities, and in our movements and in our resistance, that until confronting these unconscious demons of racism and sexism become agenda-worthy priorities, then we ourselves cannot prioritize our involvement in spaces which are made unsafe by the refusal, outright or subtle, to unlearn these destructive patterns.

there’s been a lot of conflict, online and offline, about the shortcomings of the white left, not just in Kitchener but across the movement. as much as i see the reasoning in arguing why these discussions shouldn’t ‘go public’ because it might negatively affect the movement, those of us who have been pushing it down and pushing it down ‘for the sake of the movement’ and at the expense of our own safety and sanity, especially as people of colour and as women, are painfully aware of how these unresolved issues already have been ‘negatively affecting the movement’ for a long, long time.

a strong movement is an honest movement, just like a strong friendship is an honest friendship. and in all honesty, i’d rather risk compromising security by publically challenging the places in this movement which need to grow and change, than risk a movement that is so riddled and weakened by oppression and exploitation that it isn’t worth protecting at all.

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“In my 20s and early 30’s, I was most obsessed with finding words to explain systems of domination, to critique and to find a voice to express militant resistance. My voice was at times shrill, and piercing—full of the pain, feelings of powerlessness in gender, coupled with awareness of the chokehold dominator culture had on my consciousness. In those days, that voice was often interpreted by the status quo as angry, and more often than not, too angry to be worthy of being listened to or heard. Allies in struggle, liberal and progressive, were often eager and still are, to portray people of colour coming to their voices as always and only angry. For radical white folks who had not fully unlearned their racialized sexism, their projected image of an ‘angry black woman letting it all hang out’ was often superimposed over the reality of voices that were simply boldly speaking truth to power.”

-bell hooks (mind, body and soul: keynote speaker)

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Posted on December 15, 2010, in Indigenous Struggles, Women's Liberation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Raging Native Women and Why You Should Listen To Us.

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