As someone who is part of the Tumblr NDN community that helped piece the video together, “Shit People Say to Native Americans” with Ali (the lady in the vid) and the others, I feel it is fair to report the backstory on all this.
Prior to that day, and most likely going back to the dawn of Tumblr, the #Native American tag had been one which none of the native/first nations people could go to and not cringe and get pissed looking through.
Tumblr is a vast blogging site that consists of nearly 40 million blogs and over 15 billion posts. Anyone can post whatever they like to Tumblr, although most posts tend to be images. And bloggers can tag these posts by subject matter, thus enabling other users to browse all posts on Tumblr by tag; click any tag you like—#cats, #Obama, #Pittsburgh Steelers—and you’ll find hundreds or even millions of posts.
For many Natives, it was a very frustrating experience to click on tags such as #Native American and find the material to be mostly very UN-Native. The tags were filled primarily with images of non-native hipsters in various stages of being clothed and soberness wearing headdresses, skewed ideas of natives, dream catchers, that damned two wolves story, and other racist stereotypical imagery of Native Americans and First Nations peoples. The tag that ought to belong to us, and that ought to help us find each other, was being used by others, slapped insensitively onto images and ideas we actively dislike.
We filled it to the brim with photos of ourselves as native people so that non-natives and disconnected natives might be able to finally see accurate representations of who native people are. In this process we became a united force, and eventually a community. We decided to take back these tags so that we have at least a safe space online to go to see accurate representations of ourselves and for non-natives to come and learn as well.
It is always a constant uphill battle on Tumblr, as in life, to see accurate representations of ourselves and to have non-natives see us for who we believe we are instead of the caricatures. We have and will continue to do our best to battle the racism and ignorance thrust at us in our daily lives.
As part of our process, we came together one night as a community and began listing off the things that we have personally had directed towards us or have been directed towards people that we know. The Cherokee rolls/bread was a particular favorite that someone had said to someone. The list was part of a larger effort to get people to realize the kinds of ignorant things they often say.
Ali had been gracious enough to pull together the things that we had all listed and put together this video. Going along with the current meme at hand, i.e. the target of oppression dressing up as the agent of oppression and listing off the b.s. directed at them, she agreed to be the face for us on this video as she is aware that she is passes as white, though she is Blackfeet.
We never expected this video to get big outside of Tumblr (considering all that was going on and our fight to have folks realize that not all native people fit the stereotypical image that the Americans and Canadians have of us).
It’s interesting to see that the “you don’t look Native,” “you’re white,” “this video is good, but I wish that a real Native person would have made it” comments keep coming back again and again, as this was a video made part to fight some of that same stuff. But, I suppose it’s is too ingrained into the dominate culture and our cultures as well.
I commend Ali for being gracious to make this video and her courage to deal with the personal backlash that she is receiving as a result of her making this video.