Saturday, August 9, 2014

Native American Princess Syndrome

Native American Princess syndrome is an illness that requires healthy doses of honesty and empathy to recover from. 

Symptoms of Native American Princess syndrome

1Believing that "one drop" of Native American ancestry makes you, a White person, a Native American. 

This is your attempt at being a "special flower" while still benefitting from looking White. 

You're mindlessly subscribing to a kind of Native American One Drop Rule for Whites, except you secretly believe the small % of alleged or real NA "blood" you have is a social advantage, rather than a curse (like African ancestry, for example).

2Claiming to be a descendent of a "Native American Princess". 

There is no such thing. That's a Europeanized (White-washed) myth.

3Fetishizing NA culture.

You, as a man or woman who is overwhelmingly White, do not have to have all three symptoms to be stricken with NAP syndrome. For example, you may not be afflicted with the ignorance or deception that is #3, but may still suffer from #1 or #2, or both. It's a disease that spreads quickly, causing Whites who overhear you to pretend they too are NA. But you can stop this embarrassing social contagion before it spreads any further. Arm yourself with facts and face reality.

Symptom #1  (Whites IDing as "Native American" only)

Native Americans are largely invisible in today's Eurocentric America. NAs have relatively limited political power, thanks to atrocities visited on them by yesterday's Whites. 

The fact that most are isolated on reservations, make them easy targets for Whites, who continuously appropriate their culture/s and identities, including false or unverified claims of a Native ancestral ethnic heritage. NAs aren't typically present to correct a White person who says, "Yeah, I'm Native American. I have a great-great-great-grandmother who was a Cherokee Princess." 

While this syndrome owes its title to ignorant references to non-existent Princesses, it befalls both men and women. 

While White people have the right to ID themselves as (only) Native American, it's basically inaccurate, and it's often quietly recognized by others as disingenuous. Quite a few Native Americans find it insulting.

Curiously, the NA One Drop Rule doesn't seem to apply to people who actually do have a considerable amount of NA ancestry. People who look European but claim that one of their parents is fully Native, for example, risk social distancing from other Whites. The claimed percentage of NA ancestry needs to be kept significantly low, since Whites don't want to jeopardize their White privilege. Also, the burden of proof is eased when an alleged or real NA relative is a distant one.

Symptom #2  (Embracing fictional relatives who were "Native American Princesses")

When people claim to have relatives who were "Native American Princesses", they reveal a shallow understanding of and interest in Natives and NA culture. There were no Native American princesses.

Again, due to a relative lack of NA presence in White American society, some people feel emboldened to re-invent NA people, often imagining all tribes as docile and peaceful, or all as "noble warriors"; and most or all NAs are imagined to be wise and spiritually advanced. 

Some Whites are so entranced by their fantasy "Indians", they take it further and find a way to try and claim that mythology as their own. The honest approach is to openly acknowledge one's overwhelming Whiteness and White privilege; to admit one's White privilege was attained through a legacy of White savagery, enslavement and genocide. But people with NAP syndrome want to fall asleep to those facts and re-invent themselves as political naifs.

Symptom # 3   (Fetishism)

The fetishism aspect of NAP syndrome includes objectification of NA people and any objects related to their tribes. Few NA fetishists seem to have visited a reservation. Few have been in the company of people who are fully NA, and if so, very briefly: maybe a trip to a tourist spot, like Sedona, AZ. Most keep company with other Whites and have no NA friends, despite their NA fixation. When a fetishist claims to have donated to a NA charity, s/he typically can't name the agency/s. A couple probing questions usually reveal basic ignorance about NA tribes.

Clarifying Questions

If you want to rile people with NAP syndrome, ask them: Are you aware of your White privilege? Do you know how you attained your White privilege? Do you understand that Natives and others continue to suffer for that White privilege?

When they deny that NAs suffer for their White privilege (if they admit to White privilege), just remind them they live their lives on stolen land. When they say, "It's not just Whites who live on that land!", remind them again who stole the land, imported slaves to work on the land (for them), and still dominates the land.

Reasons the NAP-afflicted don't claim African ancestry 

Blacks, despite enduring hundreds of years of White oppression in the US, have more or less integrated into White-dominated American society, compared with Native Americans. The complex history between Blacks and Whites, including ongoing tension and competition, makes them frenemies. There's little incentive for frenemies to romanticize each other's cultures or claim one another's ancestry. 

Plus, as stated above, most Whites don't want to lose White privilege by claiming Black ancestry. 

Why some AAs claim to have NA ancestry when they don't

In my opinion, one reason some Blacks will talk openly about their real or alleged Native ancestry, but not White ancestry, is that they aren't as eager to implicate themselves as the possible "product of rape" due to a real or hypothetical distant White relative who was quite likely a slave master. Still, appropriation of another group's people and culture is still appropriation. Whether White or Black, sticking to the truth, the known facts, is preferable. 

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