Mar 9, 2014 - Fallin’s Cultural Amnesia, By Jimmy Lee Beason II
If you’re like me and regularly plug yourself into the internet, or as I like to call it “the Matrix”, then you have more than likely seen the picture of Christi Fallin, (daughter of Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin) rocking bright red lipstick along with a faux war bonnet complete with fake feathers, perched atop her bleached blonde noggin. This led to many boos and vociferous social media commentary over the pic and rightfully so. This led to a faux apology from Christi in the form of a “letter” that was kind of an apology but kind of not, which was vernacularly laced with the kind of diction only white privilege can create. The fact she was attempting to defend her idiotic actions only encouraged more criticism from the Native community.
Facebook comments percolated between Natives being apologists for her actions, while others called her a racist. Of course there were the Native and non-Native commentators telling everyone we shouldn’t be offended and to simply lay down and take it, citing new-aged pacifist philosophy. The response from either Christi or some other admin on their “Pink Pony facebook page” are reek with passive aggressive commentary turning themselves into the victims saying others are being “bullies.” Despite all the fake Hollywood persona and glitter, and their sordid attempts at separating themselves from the rest of the Oklahoma masses, it appears Pink Pony and Fallin are still just the same ol’ racist Okies Native people have come to know for the past 100 plus years.
In any case, between this and the mascot issue, Natives are tired of white people hating themselves to the point they want to be Native and let me tell you, being Native can be a hard road so you’d have to be “off the reservation” to want to be like us. But like the late Steve Irwin, it seems white people are not scared to journey into places they don’t really belong, even if it hurts them in the end. Hell, the country was founded on European illegals wandering into hostile “Indian” territory to carve out a life, leaving behind all their flaming worldly possessions back in Germany, England, Scotland or Ireland to morph into ‘Muricans.
But can we really be that upset with Christi’s antics that scream “look at me, I have a rock band!”? Perhaps it’s a little bit of a delayed teenage rebellion phase,(she’s 26) lashing out at her republican mother, who, for the most part has pissed off most anyone with a grain of common sense. With Gov. Fallin’s inadequate handling of the Baby Veronica case with the Cherokee Nation, to furthering policy that is essentially hostile to Native tribal governments, it seems to be a continued tradition within this family to stir up trouble among the Native population.
According to an ancestry website, the Fallin families grand pappies were among the illegal squatters who invaded Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma) in a covered wagon during the great “Land Rush” of the 1880’s. Obviously, the fact the land that was promised to Natives for “as long as the grass grows and the waters flow” was overflowing with European-Americans, including Fallin’s forefathers, was upsetting to those tribes who called the place home. So Fallin’s family has been pissing off Native people for the past 100 plus years!
Instead of taking land that doesn’t belong to them in such brazen fashion, as with Christi’s forbearers, today people like her have resorted to “appropriating” (or as I like to say, stealing) cultural concepts that are important to Native people, like headdresses, to fulfill some kind of cultural void they have within that is a result of their predecessors shedding old world cultural constructs. Taking land wasn’t enough, but now the culture is up for grabs which seems to be a continuation of the cultural genocide endured by Native people since the inception of the country, going back to the Boston Tea Party when white colonials were dressing up like “wild Indians” to throw British tea into the harbor.
But, it does seem Native people are an easy target. We represent a mere 2 percent of the overall population of this country; calls for “boycotts” are almost laughable as a protest tactic. Out of the 380 million people who populate our lands, around 5 million claimed being as either strictly Native or a combination of Native and another race. Of course disease depleted our numbers on top of every other ill you want to throw a dart at, like massacres and war.
Because of this, we have been put under the microscope by everyone from anthropologists to archaeologists to Kevin Costner. But rarely are perpetrators of cultural disrespect like Christi placed under the public lens to be scrutinized for their seemingly erratic behavior. Without going into too much detail, I intend to offer a small, humble explanation as to why white folks can’t seem to stop taking things that don’t belong to them.
According to recent statistics, the people we call “white people”, “Anglos” or “Caucasian” are largely composed of German descendants. The second biggest group is that of English people, with Irish or Scotts-Irish being the third and some Swedish people the level out the fourth group. Historically, these groups forfeited their identities to become “Americans” through the adherence to manifest destiny combined with the illegal squatting of Indian lands. Plus they were multiplying by the boatload. Gradually losing themselves amidst the role of imperialism they were engaging in, in terms of taking over Indigenous territory, they created this kind of generic “American” identity of white nationalism that was manifested out of a need to band together for protection against the “savages” they encountered who, justifiably, defended their homelands from their intrusion.
Within this collective identity, the old robes of Europe were gradually lost and their language developed into the bastardized scavenger language of American English that we speak today. Due to the historical amnesia they succumbed to as a result of this process, many of these European-Americans presently wander the cultural landscape of Indigenous lands like a lost 5 year old at the mall, clinging to whatever makes them feel good. Their attempts at revering and “adopting” aspects about non-white people, whether Indigenous, African-American or Asian, is usually clumsy and comical, which only proves how much knowledge of self they are completely lacking. Typically, when people have a greater understanding of their own self and culture, they tend to be a bit more respectful of other people’s cultures and social belief structures. This cultural vagrancy on the part of many European-Americans, like Christi Fallin, Katy Perry or any other Anglo who wants to ignore their own identity for some reason, can be seen in popular media as well. Films like “Eat, Pray, Love” starring Julia Roberts, depict a white lady escaping a difficult situation in the States, venturing to some place overseas where she winds up trying on the spirituality of Buddhists in India. Instead of making a pilgrimage to the country where her “people” come from, she skips that and attaches herself to a cultural aspect that is largely practiced by non-whites.
Or as in the case of everyone’s favorite film, Dances With Wolves, where the character John Dunbar travels toward the west to find himself and ultimately does this with the help of his Lakota neighbors. They eventually “adopt” him where he learns to speak fluent Lakota, receives a pipe, dresses in buckskin and proves his loyalty to his new Native brethren when he strangles to death another American soldier during a daring rescue attempt. Rather than look to the east and possibly re-discover something about himself in whichever country his grandparents fled, he becomes an American “Native” and eventually abandons the people he came to admire after thoroughly appropriating their culture.
In the case of Christina Fallin and her “Pink Pony” conspirators, they are simply perpetuating a trend that has been taking place since the first Europeans decided to call themselves Americans. But this incident also brings about some interesting observations. On our part, as Native people should we hold ourselves just as accountable for appropriating aspects of European-American culture, in terms of religion, ideology, compulsive patriotism, military service, capitalism, environmental degradation and perspectives we tend to engage in without question? Or are we simply assimilated past the point of fully embracing tribal identities and social structures? Or is all the aforementioned an unavoidable side effect of colonization?
In conclusion, when looking up the Fallin family background on the internet, the ancestry website indicated the name they descend from is the family name “Copeland” which appears to be of Northern English and Scottish origin. My advice to Christina Fallin and all other hipster racists, especially those in “Okie-homa”, is if you want to find some kind of a connection, then you should seriously buy some time on ancestry.com, make a pilgrimage to that country and learn all you can about the culture you were robbed of by the inability of your ancestors to keep your original identity alive. Perhaps that way, you won’t wind up throwing Native people under the bus in your pursuit of yourself and looking like a racist fool while doing so.