Gregg Deal: People don't want the truth about being indigenous

A performance piece by artist Gregg Deal explored racist mascots. Photo by Charlie Jackson via Gregg Deal / Twitter

Artist Gregg Deal, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, explains why he fights against racist mascots:
Recently, I had an exchange with a gentleman about my work. My art makes me sound like I am complaining, he said, and playing the victim. “You should spend less time trying to convince everyone that you are a victim and spend more time helping your people to get over it and assimilate to American Society”. My response to him was informed and educated as I broke down the very long message he sent me. I countered his points, raising new ones while remaining respectful and non-confrontational. He, however, took it as an affront and told me that I sound like an arrogant ass. Translation: I didn’t expect you to sound intelligent and that offends the colonialist attitude that you are, in point of fact, a lesser person than I am. The interactions I’ve had in my life with people like this are cookie cutter. They are easy to see coming, and they result in the same outcome.

Before you roll your eyes, let me say this: I am not complaining about this or any other exchange. These are statements of truth. These are real stories about real conversations. And while people who are political conservatives rap about how annoying and prolific PC thinking is, they often decry statements of truth from a person of color as whining instead of accepting them as truthful statements from someone who is intelligent and with a free thinking mind. They seem to believe that the only legitimate statements come from them and from their assumed position of authority, not from those who are perceived as inferior and thus have no equal footing on which to stand.

And therein lies the problem. How can a dialog happen between two people or parties when one party lacks respect for the other? Even worse, how can you have a dialog when one of party doesn’t even realize they don’t respect the other? In this way, logic and critical thought is denied Indigenous people in discussions of race, equality, or social change. For example, when I say something concerning Columbus Day, someone who is enveloped in the American Flag, celebrating its warmth and mastery, will only hear the words “genocide”, “murder”, “rape,” and “greed” without taking into account why those words are being used and what the statements before and after those words meant. While people use Indigenous images for their sports teams or to make statements about how the government conducts themselves and oppresses, they are quick to anger when Indigenous people speak their truth. They simply can’t hear or be bothered with this information because, well, an Indian speaking truth as it pertains to them, their communities, or families, just sounds militant and unreasonable. The issue is that you don’t like to hear the truth that lies behind being Indigenous in America. Even modern America.

Get the Story:
Gregg Deal: Anger, Aggression and Grab-assing Indigenous Identity (Indian Country Today 10/26)

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