Terese Marie Mailhot: Where's a White savior when you need one?

Terese Marie Mailhot. Photo from Facebook

Writer Terese Marie Mailhot (Seabird Island Band) isn't waiting for someone to open a jar for her:
White saviors just aren’t there for the long haul. I recently sat on a panel of up-and-coming Native writers at the Institute of American Indian Arts, called, “Native and Not: Defining Our Program and Finding Ways to Talk and Listen,” and we all went through the motions of explaining to the non-Native students how to be culturally sensitive: don’t cry when we call you racist, because we don’t want to babysit your white guilt; you don’t need to know everything about our culture in order to respect us as people, etc.

The discussion felt empowering, because, for the first time, Native students at our school were able to discuss in a public forum how difficult it is to be tokenized, objectified, and mined for information. The good feelings didn’t last long, because apparently white people were so upset with the panel that they asked for an “all white meeting,” excluding Native students for what purpose, I still don’t know. I immediately objected, saying if Non-Natives had a problem they should take it to my face, because I’m a rez girl at heart and I only saw red. Only when a white man stepped in to object to the meeting did the facilitator nix it, and that’s when I understood. Even at a Native institution like the Institute of American Indian Arts, there was still much to be learned in the way of discourse and cultural empathy. The man who objected to the meeting was white, but not a savior, merely an intelligent man who saw how asinine an all-white meeting sounded. Really, I could have used a white savior like Kevin Costner that day, to yell out a war cry and call for lunch.

I’m just saying be careful out there. There are a lot of white people with great intentions, who’ve seen Dances with Wolves a few times and think they know what they’re doing. Don’t trust them, because when you need your oil changed, or your grocer won’t redeem a coupon you were really excited about, they won’t be there. We’re on our own at every turn.

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Terese Marie Mailhot: White Saviors Are Never Around When I Need a Jar Opened (Indian Country Today 1/24)

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