For realsies

Chatting with Native folks: Dos and Don’ts June 21, 2012

Filed under: family,humor — peachyteachy @ 6:05 pm
Tags: , ,

My son has a friend who has a mom. I’m good with that. This mom needs someone to watch Junior for a few hours, and asked my partner to do the duty. Still all good.

Daddy is a native person, indigenous, Native American–you get the idea.

Soooo, this mom suggested that perhaps they could do a craft project while playing (cute, but really, they will be playing the Wii–it’s a dad, remember?). But wait! They could make–brace yourself–dream catchers!  I am not kidding.  We all got pretty quiet while it sank in that she had actually said that out loud.  To his credit, he did not ask if she wanted to make a reservation for this activity, and whether she would like him to also serve up some fry bread as a snack.  He, like most native people, has heard this kind of thing quite a few times.

Dreamcatchers?! REALLY? It should be enough appalling insensitivity for one play date.  He could beg off the project based on the fact that we have plenty of feathers around, but are low on sinew right now. . .

Fast forward to me checking my texts this a.m. There is one from Miss Dreamcatcher. It reads: “Do you guys have the movie Dances with Wolves?” Pause. Reread. It’s still there. Um, no, we don’t—but I am pretty sure we have the entire Lone Ranger series, because the actor who played Tonto was his cousin!

Is it just me, or does this smack of the essence of asking an African American person in the grocery store to help you pick out a watermelon?  WTF?

Oh, your name is Dutch? What size do you think I would take in a wooden shoe?

Really? You’re German?  I love your beer! Did I draw this swastika in the right direction or what?

I may have to invent the Cultural Sensitivity Filter Hat that flashes tiny neon messages to its ignorant wearer: “Don’t talk. Listen.” “Hispanics don’t want to talk about burritos.” “You don’t even know where Jamaica is, mon, although you have bought jerk-seasoned chicken.”

Just a possibly helpful little rule of thumb: if you find yourself wanting to say something about someone’s heritage that conveys a perception that it is “cool” or “neat,” you may be trivializing things just a tiny bit. Don’t talk. Listen.



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