I'm a big follower of celebrity gossip - one of my summer jobs in college was typing up summaries of Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood for the network honchos. Jessica Simpson has always been a particular irritant, but I've gained sympathy for her since people started piling on her weight and the tabloids began to form her in the image of Jennifer Aniston.
But that sympathy disappeared when she made a rather indefensible remark in response to a question as to whether she would expect an extravagant gift back from her now-ex:
"I'm not an Indian giver!""Indian giver" is a racist slur rooted in ignorance of cultural traditions and entitlement:
One theory holds that early European settlers in North America misinterpreted aid and goods they received from Native Americans as "gifts," when in fact they were intended to be offered in trade, as many tribes operated economically by some form of barter system, or a gift economy where reciprocal giving was practiced. It is also theorized that this stereotype may have been coined or exaggerated by the conquering European groups to denigrate the native people as dishonest and thereby justify their conquest.Simpson has been rightfully called on to repudiate her remarks, and in her defense, she has claimed Native American heritage:
I am Indian, alright?Aside from the really problematic use of Indian: It's not that she couldn't have Native American blood. She could. I've been told that I do. My partner's claimed it. It's that she's using is as a way to write of the white privilege that she benefits from on a daily basis. More than that, she uses whatever her background is to completely excuse racist remarks that she has made by pretending that she suffers from racial oppression.
She wasn't speaking from a position of oppression when she made that remark. Her privilege blinded her, and she made that remark borne of ignorance of how racially loaded that term is. It happens. I still use the phrase "gyp" once in a while, because I'm privileged and thus somewhat racist. Regardless of her heritage, Simpson benefits from white privilege, and that privilege led her to make that racist remark.
I couldn't help but be reminded of this classic post from stuff white people do: claim they have native american blood:
It's also clear that most white people looking for Native American ancestry are hoping to establish a more romanticized connection to Indian-ness. A connection based in, and stuck in, the past, much more so than the present.
These are the white searchers (sometimes called "pretendians") who hope to fill up a certain emptiness in their bleached-out, whitened identity, but want little part of actual, ongoing Native American struggles. Many of them will never go to a reservation to experience the results of white genocidal practices, even if they do find Native American blood in their DNA. They're rarely willing to fight for treaty rights, nor help with such contemporary problems as compulsory sterilization or substance abuse. Indeed, they're rarely willing to even acknowledge these problems, or do much of anything else that goes beyond vague, sentimental ideas of supposedly authentic Indian-ness.