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I KNOW WHY YOU'RE SAD.

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On paper, Tuesday was a good day for Democrats. They took the House for the first time in eight years. Several important Governorships (in advance of post-Census 2020 redistricting battles) were won. Notably vile Republicans like Kris Kobach, Scott Walker, and Dana Rohrabacher lost. The high-visibility Senate races Democrats lost (Missouri, Tennessee) were pipe dreams anyway. You already knew that Florida sucks, hard. So you're not sad because "The Democrats did badly."

You're also not sad because Beto lost, or Andrew Gillum lost, or any other single candidate who got people excited this year fell short. They're gonna be fine. They will be back. You haven't seen the last of any of them. Winning a Senate race in Texas was never more than a long shot. Gillum had a realistic chance, but once again: It's Florida.

No, you're sad for the same reason you were so sad Wednesday morning after the 2016 Election. You're sad because the results confirm that half of the electorate – a group that includes family, neighbors, friends, random fellow citizens – looked at the last two years and declared this is pretty much what they want. You're sad because any Republican getting more than 1 vote in this election, let alone a majority of votes, forces us to recognize that a lot of this country is A-OK with undisguised white supremacy. You're sad because once again you have been slapped across the face with the reality that a lot of Americans are, at their core, a lost cause. Willfully ignorant. Unpersuadable. Terrible people. Assholes, even.

You were hoping that the whole country would somehow restore your faith in humanity and basic common decency by making a bold statement, trashing Republicans everywhere and across the board. You wanted some indication that if you campaigned hard enough, rednecks and white collar bloodless types alike could be made to see the light that perhaps the levers of power are not best entrusted to the absolute worst people that can be dredged up from Internet comment sections running on platforms of xenophobia, nihilism, and racism. In short, you wanted to see some evidence that corruption, venality, bigotry, and proud ignorance are deal-breakers for the vast majority of Americans.

And now you're sad because it's obvious that they aren't. Even where horrible Republicans like Walker or Kobach lost, they didn't lose by much.

So I get it. It's depressing. There's no amount of positives that can take away the nagging feeling that lots and lots of people in this country are just…garbage. They're garbage human beings just like the president they adore. These people are not one conversation, one fact-check, and one charismatic young Democratic candidate away from seeing the light. They're reactionary, mean, ignorant, uninteresting in becoming less ignorant, and vindictive. They hate you and they will vote for monsters to prove it.

Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick. Remember the nagging sadness you feel looking at these almost entirely positive results; it will be your reminder that the only way to beat this thing is to outwork, outfight, and out-organize these people. They are not going to be won over and they will continue to prove that to you every chance they get.

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CrystalDave
6 days ago
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Seattle, WA
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6 days ago
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zwol
6 days ago
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This seems like the right place to tell the story of the dude who drove me to the airport the other day. His other job, apparently, was owning a gun store, and when talking about guns his opinions were informed and reasonable , e.g. "banning bump stocks won't stop school shootings, but we should require gun owners to go through safety training and have proper gun safes," ok, I can see that. But then the conversation took a hard right turn into Fox News conspiracy land: all politicians are corrupt, Planned Parenthood spends 10x as much money on lobbying as the NRA, etc. etc. etc. and I just didn't know what to say.
Pittsburgh, PA
tdarby
6 days ago
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Yes.
Baltimore, MD
rocketo
6 days ago
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How many words fit on a sampler? I don’t want to get this as a tattoo.

“Remember this feeling. Remember it every time someone tells you that the key to moving forward is to reach across the aisle, show the fine art of decorum in practice, and chat with right-wingers to find out what makes them tick. Remember the nagging sadness you feel looking at these almost entirely positive results; it will be your reminder that the only way to beat this thing is to outwork, outfight, and out-organize these people. They are not going to be won over and they will continue to prove that to you every chance they get.”
seattle, wa
lelandpaul
7 days ago
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Oh, this is so hard for me. On the one hand, the piece is dead right: This is exactly what I'm feeling today.

On the other: I fundamentally believe people are redeemable and that we shouldn't write them off. (That's sort of core to Christianity...)

I don't know how to reconcile these two things.
San Francisco, CA
sirshannon
6 days ago
You can’t redeem the unwilling.
lelandpaul
5 days ago
But does that give you the right to stop giving them opportunities to redeem themselves?
sirshannon
3 days ago
Yes. You’re not powerful enough to stop someone from redeeming themselves any more than you are powerful enough to make them redeem themselves. As long as you’re not actively working to prevent them from doing the right thing, you’re good.
notadoctor
7 days ago
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“They are not going to be won over and they will continue to prove that to you every chance they get.”
Oakland, CA
cjmcnamara
7 days ago
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gin and tacos absolutely spot on once again

flavoracle: the-aspiring-maverick: mojave-red: saltrat88: frederick-the-ii: pinetreeanarchism: ...

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flavoracle:

the-aspiring-maverick:

mojave-red:

saltrat88:

frederick-the-ii:

pinetreeanarchism:

thedevitoanditsown:

llleighsmith:

heartmurmuration:

llleighsmith:

i told ya we’ve canceled discourse n we’ve moved on to homesteading skills

it’s just choppin wood and harvesting vegetables and herbs from here on out

amen!

unironically this

Please hit me with more homesteading concept drawings

Good reference material here.

My brain during sane hours of the day: “I have a good job with benefits, a stable social network with supportive friends and family, and I’m a nerd who thrives on advanced technology. Also, I dislike the taste of fish.”

My brain on Tumblr at 3:30am: “Y’know, abandoning all technology and leaving civilization behind looks like a lot of fun! And I could teach the kids how to build a fish trap!”

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CrystalDave
43 days ago
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Anita Sarkeesian, Feminist Frequency Radio

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Our guest this week is Anita Sarkeesian. Anita is a media critic and the host of Feminist Frequency Radio. She has a new book called History vs Women, which she wrote with Ebony Adams.

Subscribe to the Cool Tools Show on iTunes | RSS | Transcript | Download MP3 | See all the Cool Tools Show posts on a single page

Show notes:

Free calendar scheduling
Calendly
“You know when you’re trying to schedule a time to meet with someone, and you do 20 back and forth emails to find the date and time that works for everybody? It is the most annoying thing especially for those of us who are just in meetings all the time. So earlier this year, I found this app called Calendly and what it is, is you just send a link and then the other person finds the time on your calendar and just automatically schedules it. It’s like heaven. The way it works is you put in your calendar constraints. So, if you want to have availability open from nine to five, Monday through Friday, you do that. You can also change it and be like, ‘Oh, I’m not available from one to five or whatever might be.’ It’s very customizable, and then it only shows the other people the dates and times that you are available. It’s awesome. … I think there’s premium versions where you can have more people, but in my experience I’m just using it one-to-one. So, it definitely works that way. I’ve also seen people use it who work in a customer service scenario where they’re scheduling meetings to introduce new clients to their product or what have you, and so they set it up and then they’re just like, ‘Here, pick your time that works.’ I’ve seen people use it for events. So, if you’re at a conference and you’re scheduling a bunch of meetings, you can use it that way for that week to make sure that everyone can just schedule in and it’s not all these back and forths.”

Instapot
Instant Pot
“The Instant Pot is a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker. It’s a multi-tool thing in your kitchen that lets you cook kind of everything. It is remarkable. I actually had the instant pot sitting in my house for a couple of years and never used it, and I finally pulled it out earlier this year, and I don’t know why I waited so long. You can make so much with it so quickly. You can sauté in it. You can do roasts in it. You can make soups. I boil eggs in it. I make the most perfect soft-boiled eggs every time. I love it. .. You could put 20 eggs in it and it will be absolutely perfect every time, because it’s the exact same pressure and there’s no juggling when did the water start boiling and all of that stuff. I come from a family where my mother has every single kitchen gadget known to humankind. I somehow end up with all of these kitchen gadgets, and this is a one-stop shop. You don’t need a rice cooker, and a pressure cooker, and a slow cooker, and all of these different things because it literally does everything. I actually just heard from a friend who for some reason her building isn’t going to have gas for a while. So, she’s switching to the instant pot as her primary tool for cooking. I’m seeing more and more cookbooks coming out. I just got one that was this 25 Affordable Easy Instant Pot Recipes. So, this is becoming kind of a craze and a thing that people are using. We’re seeing more and more experimentation and more and more options of how to use it.”

packingcubes
Packing Cubes
“I am a little bit neurotically obsessed with packing efficiency. I will sometimes go through YouTube rabbit holes of the best way to pack things. It’s kind of a problem but also I travel so much, and I hate checking in luggage. I don’t like to bring a lot of stuff, so I am constantly looking for more efficient ways of bringing the least amount of things especially when I’m going on month long multi-city trips. So, packing cubes are one of the things that I started introducing into my travels. They’re basically like little bags, and instead of just folding your clothes up and throwing it in the suitcase, you fold your clothes up and you stick them in these little bags, and it lets you pack in more, more efficiently. …You can make them sit in whatever ways, which is this nice tidy collection. So, if you do have to pack a little bit more and don’t want it sort of popping out everywhere, these bags help contain it. I particularly like a brand or rather a style, and the brand that I use is Eagle Creek. They’re a little more stable and structured in size as opposed to once that are more flimsy. You can pack them, you can just fold your clothes as you would and stuff them in or you can roll your clothes. There are lots of different ways to use them.”

genderknot
The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy by Allan G. Johnson
“This is a book that I always have. Once I read it for the first time, I was like, ‘This is foundational and instrumental to my feminism, to my activism work,’ and the reason I love it so much is because it takes these very big concepts of systems of oppression. In this case specifically, talking about patriarchy and distills it down into very easy to understand language. It takes it out of the theoretical academic realm and explains it in ways that’s really easy for folks to understand, and I found it to be so instrumental in my understanding, or the early days of understanding feminism that I highly recommend it to everyone who wants to get a better sense of what is patriarchy. What are systems of oppression? How do they affect you? How do they affect our world, and what do we do about it? .. It doesn’t make it any simpler. It just makes it more accessible. It uses language that we can understand. It makes it more available to more people instead of keeping it trapped in these academic spaces.”

Also mentioned:

history-vs-women-3d
History vs Women: The Defiant Lives that THEY Don’t Want You To Know
“We profiled 25 women who have been erased from history. The book actually came out of a series that we did at Feminist Frequency called the Ordinary Women where we told the stories of five women that we thought were very interesting and that we wanted other people to learn about. So, with History Vs. Women, we obviously got to tell more stories and dive in a little deeper. I think one of the things that this book does is we’re trying to root the fact that women have been written out of history and the erasure of women’s experiences, women’s lives, women’s contributions to our contemporary time and the way women are treated today. So, we write in the book about why you should care about these women. Why you should care about these forgotten stories and how it affects us today and in the future. It was really important to us to be intersectional in the way that we approach the women that we chose. It is intergenerational, so we tried to do a very wide span of history, and we tried to look globally as we could.”

We have hired professional editors to help create our weekly podcasts and video reviews. So far, Cool Tools listeners have pledged $383 a month. Please consider supporting us on Patreon. We have great rewards for people who contribute! – MF

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CrystalDave
47 days ago
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Sandboxing Cycle

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All I want is a secure system where it's easy to do anything I want. Is that so much to ask?
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CrystalDave
65 days ago
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DaftDoki
63 days ago
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Life
Seattle
JayM
65 days ago
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Oh, this is perfect. Must pay some royalties for this for the next microsegmentation conversation. So spot on.
Atlanta, GA
tante
65 days ago
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XKCD's sandboxing circle not only applies to tech.
Oldenburg/Germany
beslayed
65 days ago
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.
Covarr
65 days ago
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You don't have to sanitize your inputs if your application runs in a sandbox that prevents inputs.
Moses Lake, WA
alt_text_at_your_service
65 days ago
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All I want is a secure system where it's easy to do anything I want. Is that so much to ask?
alt_text_bot
65 days ago
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All I want is a secure system where it's easy to do anything I want. Is that so much to ask?

Sephora’s “Starter Witch Kit” and Spiritual Theft

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PinroseStarterWitchKit

I start most mornings by smudging [for non-Natives: info here]*. I love how the smell lingers on me and in my home and I love that the smell reminds me of Native spaces. It makes me feel safe. The medicines I use were all gifted to me by friends or colleagues, or I have a few special ones that I gathered myself–a sweetgrass braid I made with my students while we were with Oneida tribal members on their lands, a bundle of sage gathered at Sacred Stone Camp with my friend from Standing Rock while we were participating in the movement in 2016. When I burn them, I remember where they came from or who gifted them to me, and that’s important to me and my practice as well. I also smudge when things are hard, or when something has happened and I need to cleanse or re-center. Smudging is grounding to me. It’s centering. It’s personal.

So when I see things like Sephora selling a $42 “Starter Witch Kit” from the brand Pinrose that includes a bundle of white sage, I have…thoughts.

To understand this kit you need to understand that this, like all instances I write about here, is not new. From the earliest contact with Columbus, Christianity and suppressing Native religions was a tool with which colonizers enacted their violent genocide. There are thousands of examples. In the 1500’s, Spanish colonizers operated under “the Requirement,” which forced Natives to convert to Christianity or else, “We shall take you and your wives and your children, and shall make slaves of them, and as such shall sell and dispose of them as their Highnesses may command; and we shall take away your goods, and shall do all the harm and damage that we can.” The California Mission system has a similar history. Mandatory Government boarding schools and mission schools had the explicit mission of christianization and suppression of traditional Native spirituality. The Ghost Dance and Wounded Knee. On and on and on.

In addition to the violent and bloody suppression of Native spirituality through these tactics, our ceremonies were explicitly made illegal, with punishments ranging from fines, to prison sentences, to being sent to asylums for “insane Indians”.  This wasn’t just a threat. It was written into law. The Commissioner of Indian Affairs wrote these “Rules for Indian Courts” in 1892:

“Dances-Any Indian who shall engage in the sun dance, scalp dance, or war dance, or any similar feast, so called, shall be guilty of an offense, and upon conviction thereof shall be punished for the first offense by with holding of his rations for not exceeding ten days or by imprisonment for not exceeding ten days; for any subsequent offense under this clause he shall be punished by withholding his rations for not less than ten days nor more than thirty days, or by imprisonment for not less than ten days nor more than thirty days.

Medicine men–Any Indian who shall engage in the practices of so-called medicine men, or who shall resort to any artifice or device to keep the Indians of the reservation from adopting and following civilized habits and pursuits, or shall use any arts of conjurer to prevent Indians from abandoning their barbarous rites and customs, shall be deemed guilty of an offense, and upon conviction thereof, for the first offense shall be imprisoned for not less than ten days and not more than thirty days: Provided That, for subsequent conviction for such offense the maximum term or imprisonment shall not exceed six months.”

Read that closely–Native peoples would have their rations withheld or would be imprisoned for up to thirty days for simply practicing their ceremonies or being a medicine person.

It wasn’t until 1978–a mere 40 years ago–that Congress passed the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The Act declares that “henceforth it shall be the policy of the United States to protect and preserve for American Indians their inherent right of freedom to believe, express, and exercise the traditional religions of the American Indian, Eskimo, Aleut, and Native Hawaiians, including but not limited to access to sites, use and possession of sacred objects, and the freedom to worship through ceremonials and traditional rites.” (For a good summary of the history of Native religious suppression and resistance, I found this piece by Lee Irwin very helpful)

The fact that our ceremonies even still exist and are actively practiced today is testament to the resistance and resilience of our communities. Our not-so-distant ancestors had to go underground with our spiritual practices, hide them from authorities, or mask them with a veneer of Christianity (see Pueblo communities or Oklahoma Indian Churches for great examples of that). Once, my Auntie mentioned that her Grandpa (my great-great grandpa) was a “nighthawk”–she didn’t know what that meant other than he supposedly snuck off at night a lot. After asking and reading around, I learned that the Nighthawks were the Cherokees in Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma) who were committed to revitalizing traditional ceremony post-Trail of Tears. They held stomp dances and ceremonies deep in the forests of Oklahoma, and were committed to a return to traditional “old ways” in the same period of time where the Dawes Commission was dividing up communally held lands to encourage assimilation. These were not casual gatherings. They were dangerous and had dire consequences if discovered. This is the legacy I carry on when I practice my own spirituality.

Smudging and other Native spiritual practices are still not openly supported in spaces we occupy. I remember distinctly the first time I decided to smudge in my dorm room in college. I sat on the floor and nervously struck a match. I quickly smudged, concentrated not on my thoughts but on my smoke alarm–which decided that even my small amount of smoke was too much. The alarm began to blare as I waved my hands and a file folder frantically trying to disperse the lingering smoke. Then, with horror, I began to hear doors slamming progressively down the hall–BAM–BAM–BAM–BAM–and realized my hallmates doors were automatically slamming shut to contain the “fire” in my room. I ran out into the hall and shouted, “It’s ok! There’s no fire!” as folks came to investigate. My neighbors accused me jokingly of smoking too much pot. I had to nervously explain to everyone what I was doing, showing my shell and medicine. Everyone shrugged and went back inside. Once the smoke alarm stopped blaring the doors were able to be propped open again, and my pot smoking neighbors delivered a gift–a shower cap to place over the smoke alarm the next time I wanted to burn anything.

I was lucky. My dorm staff didn’t care, I didn’t have to go explain myself to the administration, and I wasn’t shamed for my spiritual practices. But it was still traumatic, and I didn’t smudge for a long time. There are Native students on college campuses across the country who are not as lucky. They are kicked out of housing for smudging, have roommates that “report” them to dorm staff, or are explicitly prohibited from practicing their spirituality in their homes on campus. Administrators tell them to “go outside” (where you’re subject to the stares and ridicule of passers-by) or force them to deliver “proof” from their tribe that this is something “cultural.” When Native campus communities want to bless spaces or smudge before events, they have to go through layers of bureaucratic BS to get permission from those in power. (I asked on Twitter for experiences from Native students, you can read some of the heartbreaking and heartening responses here. I think this might have to be a whole separate post.)

I am going so in depth here to show you–that smudge stick is not benign. It’s not about “ownership.” That smudge stick represents the deep pain, sacrifice, resistance, and refusal of Native peoples. It represents a continuing legacy of marginalizing and punishing Native spirituality. So when our religious practices are mocked through these products, or folks are commodifying and making money off our ceremonies it’s not about who has the “right” to buy or sell. It’s about power.

This problem isn’t limited to Pinrose or Sephora. Selling smudge “kits” is a thing. I tweeted about Urban Outfitters selling a smudge kit in 2015, which they pulled, but the company that made the kit still sells white sage on their site with the disclaimer, “Burning sage is a sacred practice, please be respectful when using sage.” Riiiight.

“When you search “smudge” on Etsy, the search immediately autofills with several options, none of them good.

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 1.33.18 PM

Search “smudge kit” and the results return over 2000 options.

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 1.34.25 PM

 

The sale of Native spirituality is easily a million dollar industry–not even including all the culture vultures and white shamans who sell fake ceremony. Who is benefitting from the sale of these products? Not Native peoples.

Finally, we need to unpack the “witch” part of this particular Pinrose kit in question. Remember back when I was writing all about JK Rowling’s “Magic in North America”? Here’s what I said about having Indigenous “magic” in the Harry Potter world of Witches and Wizards, and tied in the selling of these “kits” too:

The problem, Jo (can I call you Jo? I hope so), is that we as Indigenous peoples are constantly situated as fantasy creatures. Think about Peter Pan, where Neverland has mermaids, pirates…and Indians. Or on Halloween, children dress up as monsters, zombies, princesses, disney characters…and Indians. Beyond the positioning as “not real,” there is also a pervasive and problematic narrative wherein Native peoples are always “mystical” and “magical” and “spiritual”–able to talk to animals, conjure spirits, perform magic, heal with “medicine” and destroy with “curses.” Think about Grandmother Willow in Pocahontas, or Tonto talking to his bird and horse in The Lone Ranger, or the wolfpack in Twilight…or any other number of examples.

But we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world (as badass as that wizarding world is). In a fact I quote often on this blog, it wasn’t until 1978 that we as Native peoples were even legally allowed to practice our religious beliefs or possess sacred objects like eagle feathers. Up until that point, there was a coordinated effort through assimilation policies, missionary systems, and cultural genocide to stamp out these traditions, and with them, our existence as Indigenous peoples. We’ve fought and worked incredibly hard to maintain these practices and pass them on.

So I get worried thinking about the message it sends to have “Indigenous magic” suddenly be associated with the Harry Potter brand and world. Because the other piece I deal with on this blog is the constant commodification of our spiritual practices too. There is an entire industry of plastic shamans selling ceremonies, or places like Urban Outfitters selling “smudge kits” and fake eagle feathers. As someone who owns a genuine time-turner, I know that marketing around Harry Potter is a billion dollar enterprise, and so I get nervous thinking about the marketing piece. American fans are going to be super stoked at the existence of a wizarding school on this side of the pond, and I’m sure will want to snatch up anything related to it–which I really hope doesn’t include Native-inspired anything.

Positioning Native spirituality as “witchcraft” was also part of the tactics of oppression I listed early in the post. So along with placing Native peoples as fantasy creatures, it also draws upon that painful history and collapses diverse Native spiritualities onto the same level as magic crystals.

I’m not going to get into Wicca or Neo-Paganism and marginalization of these spiritual practices. I have some feelings about the ways appropriation runs deep for many individuals in those movements which will have to be another essay. But if self proclaimed “witches” want to get on board with helping stop Native spiritual oppression, cool. Just remember your own Wiccan Rede: “If it harm none, do what you will.” Clearly this harms.

Here’s the thing. “Smudging” is a practice that is from Native North American spiritual traditions. Yes, burning herbs, resins, roots, specific woods, incense, etc as cleansing or for prayer is something shared across many spiritual traditions. Across Native communities, we use different medicines for smudging depending on where we’re from. Not all communities use or used white sage or even smudge. They may call it other things as well. In Cherokee we also “go to water” for cleansing, and I didn’t learn to smudge until later in life.

Despite this diversity, the idea of “smudging” is distinctly indigenous to the Americas. White sage, the plant in question, grows in California. The plant itself is not endangered in the US-stamped-on-a-list kind of way, though many online are saying that, but what is endangered is Native peoples’ ability to access and use wild white sage in the ways that they and their ancestors have done for thousands of years. The habitats of white sage in California are threatened by development and increasing wild fires, and now wannabe “witches” and others who don’t know the proper protocols to sustainably harvest and protect the plants could do irreparable harm to an already threatened medicine.

All of this is to say: find out what your own ancestors may have burned for cleansing, and use that. Unless you’re Native, it probably wasn’t white sage. Sorry. I know you’re not used to hearing you can’t have something. But you can’t have this. Before you storm off in an entitled huff, I honestly don’t care what you do in the privacy of your own home. If you’re gifted medicines by Native folks and are taught how to properly use them, more power to you. Just don’t turn around and sell them or sell ceremonies.

What I care about is the removal of context from conversations on cultural appropriation, the erasing of the painful and violent history around suppression of Native spirituality, the ongoing struggles Native students and peoples have in practicing their beliefs, and the non-Native companies and non-Native individuals that are making money off of these histories and traditions without understanding the harm they’re enacting.

So yeah, won’t be shopping at Sephora anytime soon.

 

 

For a similar context-filled post about the misuse of warbonnets: Dear Christina Fallin

(Wanted to give a shout out to @xodanix3 who has been tweeting out some great threads about this in the last few days. Give her a follow or support her on Patreon.)

 

(Also, Hi. I’m back. I missed you all.)

 

*I wrote about the mechanics of how I smudge here but took it out after thinking about it. I don’t need to provide folks a “how to” guide for cultural theft.

 

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CrystalDave
68 days ago
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Seattle, WA
angelchrys
68 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
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The problem of moderation in an unfederated social network and a federated one is the exact same problem, send post

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Online abuse and harassment is not a thing that will ever go away. As long as the web is built to have parties interacting with one another there will be these problems. Many, frustrated with Twitter's refusal to remove Nazi's from their platform, have moved to federated networks like Mastodon.

While that move is driven by unstandable anger about Twitter's platform it won't fix the issue of abuse and harassment that people see when interacting on social media. Nor was it really intended to. Mastodon wasn't created to be a safe space, nor is it really the technology's job to solve the problem of moderation.

Why? Mastodon gives users and instance admins the power to choose what to ban what content to allow and what other instances to federate with or not. What this essentially means is that yet again the onus is put on the moderators and admins to ensure the safety of their users and Mastodon is doing their best by giving the tools to do so.

Folks fleeing to services like Mastodon may be under the false illusion that abuse won't exist on that platform, but that misunderstands the core of the issue on social media. Moderation.

Moderation is not a technical problem. It should not be solved by technical means. It is a human problem that needs humans on the other side of things ultimately to be the real deciding factor.

Speaking with other platform safety teams in tech is a focus of the community & safety team (aka CampS) at GitHub. There remains a common thread of how each company works on harassment and abuse and that is at the end of the day a human generally ends up interacting with the content.

You can use ML classifiers to categorize spam with a fairly high accuracy, but while there's a pattern in spam of trying to get users to see it and click on it that pattern doesn't really exist for abuse. So, you can build a classifier that looks at user input content and says if it's likely abuse or not, but it generally is able to be gamed, manipulated, or generally just confused.

You can try this for yourself, but Perspective API is a tool that claims to be able to tell if a comment is toxic or not. However if you try two common phrases used to demean trans folks:

Did you just assume my gender?

and

I identify as an attack helicopter.

Both get a score of 0.11 unlikely to be precieved as toxic (meanwhile "Fuck TERFs" gets a 0.99 likely to be precieved as toxic score). Why? The classifier has no cultural context for memes that are generally used to harass trans folks, but also these phrases are also sometimes used innoculously to mock transphobic tropes and even if it was trained to recognize these things it wouldn't be able to understand the context.

Cultural context matters and is highly variable in different spaces and regions. Even a trained human without the cultural context of how the trans community is treated likely would not be able to recognize what's happening here, but that gets to the core of the understanding proper moderation needs.

A good moderation team has to be a very diverse group of folks who understand patterns of abuse and whatever internet hate mob happens to be active at any given time (which *gate are we at right now?). However, more importantly the moderators need to know when its appropriate to reach out for information about the cultural context and have the resources and the knowledge to understand how marginalized groups are targeted online.

What can the tech side do? Focus on giving moderators the tools do to their jobs. Allow moderators to easily view reported content in the context in whcih it was initially created. What was it a reply to? Who is the person? How does their identity play into the situation?

Enable users to control their own content. Allow users to block people they don't want to interact with. Give them privacy controls over what content they create and allow responding to that content to be halted at any time.

Increase transparency when not a threat to user privacy. Have editing? Allow there to be an audit log of edits. Who edited the content? When did they edit it? What did they edit (with a chance to expunge this record, but logged somewhere for abuse reports)?

Social problems cannot be solved with technical means, but we can provide the tools to help make everyone's lives easier.

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angelchrys
72 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
CrystalDave
72 days ago
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Seattle, WA
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