Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Update: Next Millennium Boycott and now Petition.

Just an update on the boycott article I posted a couple weeks ago.

My position still hasn't changed on how the store should conduct itself. While this is considerably an opinion of mine, I have started a petition to help the owners see that I am not the only one of this opinion.

Here are some remarks to the boycott and petition with my answer:

  • I don't want to damage the store's business or reputation. They do a lot of good work for the pagan community.
I can understand why people have responded like this. Next Millennium is a focal point in the local community. For me, this means they should be extra responsible as they are a role model for local pagans. If they partake in something that is offensive and wrong, others will continue to do so.

This doesn't mean that other aspects of the store are equally as harmful, but ignoring the part that is harmful is not how I want my local pagan community to handle situations like these. The only reason this is creating discord is because the owner of the store refused to see the real harm of selling dream catcher novelty items. I will not ignore his position and will continue to speak out against the store for its harmful inconsideration.
Others don't like to engage in conflict like this, but it isn't how I will handle hurtful situations.
  • I don't have anywhere else to shop / it's too hard to shop online / I need the convenience of a local shop.
This is why I started the petition. Voice concern, but if you still need to shop there, I understand. It isn't plausible for everyone to boycott.

I think of this similarly with Walmart. I hate that store, and I try to avoid it as much as possible, but sometimes I can't avoid it due to financial or immediate emergencies. If other people have this same conflict with shopping with Next Millennium--or just don't want to boycott at all--then I can understand, even if I don't agree.

Still, if you agree with the petition, sign it. It doesn't mean you are boycotting the store, but that you don't approve of how it treats Native Americans' spiritual symbols.
  • Cultural appropriation goes on with several different cultures--not just Native Americans! And at many other stores! Just a fact of life.
I don't understand why this is an argument against changing that "fact of life." In fact, I want it to stop with every store and with every person. Next Millennium is in a position to impact new pagans and new members of the occult/pagan community, so I hold them to a higher standard than Walmart or secular store. But that doesn't mean I approve of secular store's harmful stereotyping of other cultures. 

Also, Next Millennium is local. I can walk to the store manager and confront him on the issue. Real change has to start locally and grow from there. 
  • Not everything can be MADE by the parent culture.
It should, though. I realize that money and logistics can make this hard, but the effort is worth it when it corresponds directly to that cultures' wishes. Especially when that culture is actively oppressed in the Americas today. Instead, on top of the racial injustices done to the Native American people, white pagans want to turn Native religions into a commodity that promotes exotification and racism that can tangibly hurt people of the culture. I mean tangibly too. Google around for statistics of Native American people who make it to college, who die of alcoholism, who are raped, etc. Then tell me how selling their culture as a cheap dream catcher purse is permissible.
  • If the symbol is important to people does it matter how it's represented?
Yes. Closed religions are closed for various reasons. Even if the culture isn't closed, the parent culture of the symbol has the right to tell others how their symbol should be honored, viewed, and/or used--if allowed at all by outsiders. In this particular case, Native American tribes have specifics for how to make a dream catcher that includes ritual and century-long oral traditions. Taking that symbol out of that context because one "feels" attached to it is selfish and, most likely, racist. Especially since Native American tribes are racially and spiritually oppressed, in addition to being closed religions that one cannot waltz into.

But unlike other parts of closed religions, Native American tribe members have actually allowed for the sale and outside use of dream catchers only when the dream catcher is made from a Native American artisan and keeps its original symbolism.

Also worth mentioning that people of minority cultures in America are often discriminated against or abused for participating in their culture, whereas white people can wear what they pleased and be accepted.

If that is too much work for you to research and learn to respect the parent culture (even if that means you cannot use the symbol), there are plenty of other symbols that aren't tied to closed religions. Find another one that does not hurt others. 
  • I don't know the store and I don't know if how you are representing them is accurate. I'm going to conduct my own research first-hand.
I appreciate this line of thinking a lot (I will actually be posting about this later today/tomorrow.) I have nothing to say to this, as this is a very valid point. I can only speak of my experiences and what I have seen at the store, but since I lack photographic proof that this is still going on, please challenge me with your own research.

I'm going to link now various resources about this issue. Please take the time to read the following pages and consider what is being written:

About cultural appropriation and closed cultures.
But Why Can't I Wear a Hipster Headdress?
Miley Cyrus Enjoys Dream Catchers, Apparently.
Halloween Costume Shopping: A sampling of racism for sale.
Art piece about dressing up as a "culture."
How the hell is wearing native clothes/ dressing up as a native american racist?
"Racism is not your intent."
"Indian Wannabes"
How to Follow the Eclectic Path, Minus the Cultural Appropriation
What is Cultural Appropriation, and How to Avoid It
On Reverse Cultural Appropriation
If you still have any questions: Cultural Appropriation: THE LONG ARTICLE.

Also read through these blogs:
This Is Not Native!
My Culture is not a Trend 
You Are Not Desi 
Cultural Appropriation is NOT Pagan.
Cultural Appropriation (on Tumblr.)
Racism School

After reading everything and you still don't think cultural appropriation is a problem worth addressing, and that Next Millennium should not do what it can as a pagan leader in the community to stop the promotion of it, I don't know what to tell you.

So my question now to you reader is:

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