Whiteness

 

I did pick up some artist boards yesterday when I went to Blick. I figured that, until I have some oil paints (thanks Rachel!), I do happen to have a bunch of acrylic paint. And if I’m being called towards painting, I’ve got to start somewhere, right? Last night I sketched out the base triangles on one of the boards. That was the easy part. Now I’ve got to start in with the paint. Perhaps tonight? Tomorrow? Soon.

I did finish reading Ceremony, which I liked and now I’m partway into Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead. I wasn’t sure what to think of this second book when I started it, but eventually I got hooked. I’ve still been thinking about a lot of the things from the first book in relation to Native vs. White. The protagonist is mixed-race, as is Silko herself. There certainly seems to exist in many Native communities a tension between being full-blooded and mixed. Thinking about it myself as someone of mixed ethnicity (I’m about 1/4 Karuk and the rest is mainly European) I think that some of this is due to the fact that mixed Native people embody two very different things. Usually, for myself, I tend to vacilate between a White persona and a Karuk persona. It isn’t anything I’m consciously doing, it is just a way to organize my thoughts and actions. I’ve had people tell me that I have to choose to be one or the other, but the fact is, I’m both. And I think that is what is so difficult. I am both colonizer and colonized. How can I be two such different things all at once? Of course, I believe that this is part of the opportunity that exists with many mixed-race people. Weaving these differences together, mending and repairing.

Aside from all of that, here are some of the quotes I dog eared from Ceremony that got me to thinking down this path:

“At one time, the ceremonies as they had been performed were enough for the way the world was then. But after the white people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies. I have made changes in the rituals. The people mistrust this greatly, but only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong.”

“That is the trickery of the witchcraft. . . They want us to believe all evil resides with white people. Then we will look no further to see what is really happening. They want us to separate ourselves from white people, to be ignorant and helpless as we watch our own destruction. But white people are only tools that the witchery manipulates; and I tell you, we can deal with white people, with their machines and their beliefs. We can because we invented white people; it was Indian witchery that made white people in the first place.”

“The people had been taught to despise themselves because they were left with barren land and dry rivers. But they were wrong. It was the white people who had nothing; it was the white people who were suffering as thieves do, never able to forget that their pride was wrapped in something stolen, something that had never been, and could never be, theirs. The destroyers had tricked the white people as completely as they had fooled the Indians, and now only a few people understood how the filthy deception worked; only a few people knew that the lie was destroying the white people faster than it was destroying Indian people. But the effects were hidden, evident only in the sterility of their art, which continued to feed off the vitality of other cultures, and in the dissolution of their consciousness into dead objects: the plastic and neon, the concrete and steel. Hollow and lifeless as a witchery clay figure.”

“Remember,” she said, “remember everything.”

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