Archive for the ‘diversity’ Tag

Public Education in One Picture   10 comments

Finding Unity in Division   Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking about societal cohesion because in Daermad Cycle (my fantasy series), the secret for overcoming the advancing Svard invasion is for the Celdryans to ask the Kin to join them in the fight.

I set that up in the first book The Willow Branch. “A healer must mend a fractured kingdom and bring two enemy races together before a greater threat can destroy them both.” Now I have to start bring it about.

The problem is that the Kin have every reason not to trust the Celdryans. The Celdryans pushed them off their lands into inadequate mountain enclaves and have maintained that exile by fomenting bigotry in Celdryan children for generations. Now that it is convenient and necessary, the Celdryans can’t expect the Kin to just join them and then later see themselves once more subjugated by the Celdryans.

Image result for image of societal cohesionThat’s the problem with deeply divided societies. They are often divided because of entrenched mistrusts borne of a huge amount of disrespect. Yeah, maybe the Celdryans think it would be better for the Kin to join them in fighting the Svard because it gives both groups a chance of prevailing, but the existing division has worked better for the Kin than previous attempts at cohesion have. Demands for inclusion sound like demands for their subjugation, which makes them feel threatened.

It’s something we ought to be considering in the United States right now. Approximately 40% of the country voted like a minority group and swung an election. I had a guy on the Alaska Dispatch the other day ask me “What should Hillary supporters do to reach out to Trump voters and bring about unity?” Not being a Trump voter, I couldn’t really answer him. Instead, I suggested exactly what I’m saying in this post.

If you want cohesion with a group within your society that you have previously treated like crap, demanding cohesion (sometimes called “unity”) is not how to go about it. In fact, it’s probably counter-productive. Nobody wants to abandon their own identity to become someone “other” and submit to majoritarian dominance. Those who are now stomping their political feet and demanding that they be allowed to stay in charge after they lost an election are only making the divisions deeper.

Stop talking about unity and cohesion and try listening for a while. Try showing some respect to those “unskilled illiterates” in the “flyover states” who mine the energy that heats your home, grow your food, and provide so many things in your life that you take for granted. Get to know some of them as — gasp — equals. Walk for five minutes in their shoes. Get to know what is important to them and, more importantly, why it is important to them. Pause and ask yourself if you really know what the best lifestyle is or are you just clinging to your own social niche because it’s all you know.

If you really want to build a harmonious, unified society, take one for the team.  Discard your anger, swallow your pride, and show out-groups unilateral respect and friendship. Let them teach you for a couple of years and then see where you stand on the other side. Your new friends might have come to accept some of your position and you may have come to accept … or at least understand … some of their positions.

Whoa, that sounds like “cohesion”.

Posted November 28, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in culture

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Diversity Wins   Leave a comment

Getting into discussions with people on the internet over the last week has resulted in being accused of “opposing diversity”. Really?

I am a very diverse person – part-American Indian, part-Swedish, married to an Irishman, and living in the second most-diverse state in the Union. You can look that up. Alaska is second only to Hawaii in racial and cultural diversity.

Still, diversity is a really — well, diverse topic. There are many types of diversity. Diversity of occupation, diversity of art and musical taste, diversity of outlook, diversity of residence, and, of course, varying kinds of racial, religious and ethnic diversity. There are even diversity of economic and political systems. There are literally thousands of kinds of diversity.

The Founders were not majoritarian in their viewpoints, but held the opinion that geographical diversity was important. They enshrined that belief in the Constitution by creating the Electoral College to give special weight to diversity of geography. We know what they meant by it because they wrote about in the Federalist Papers and in their letters. The prevailing view was, “If too many (geographically) diverse voices veto you, you can’t get elected, not even with a majority of the votes.”  Having been brainwashed by a steady stream of “democracy is best”, that view may seem strange to some of us who live in big cities where the population is, but to those of us living in smaller population states, it sounds like wisdom.


Something that most people do not know is that Democrats now control at least one legislative house in only 17 states. Yeah, the reach of the party is shrinking dramatically. If the Founders, who were 18th century thinkers on the subject of diversity were to see this now, they would say that, in terms of geography, the Democratic coalition is remarkably non-diverse. If you look at the numbers or just this map, you can see that much of Hillary Clinton’s majority came from New York and California. By the way, it also puts to bed the lie that the GOP is just a “Southern rump party,” as some commentators have reiterated nearly nonstop since 2008.

The Democratic Party today is more likely to stress the relevance of ethnic and racial diversity, if the talk is about diversity. Non-Democrats are more likely to count other forms of diversity far more than the Democrats do. Democrats are concentrated in particular cities and occupations, far more than Republicans are. There is nothing wrong with that. I’m really big on the choosing your own lifestyle thing, but it is another way in which Democrats are less diverse.

When it comes to views about the relevant forms of diversity, I have found through personal exploration that non-Democrats hold more diverse views than Democrats do. That doesn’t really surprise me because a non-Democrat is more likely to focus on something other than racial and ethnic diversity while Democrats typically see diversity as only being relevant in racial and ethnic discussions.

Many Americans do not think racial and ethnic diversity is the diversity that should command so much attention. They are more open-minded than that. They voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and then voted for Trump this time around. Twenty-nine percent of Latinos voted for Trump, by the way. I suspect many of those voters do not see Latino vs. non-Latino as the diversity line that mattered most.

I’m not defending the GOP point of view. I’m simply noting that Democrats champion diversity while themselves typically holding a more narrow view of diversity and that it appears to be hurting them in the political arena.  They view themselves as more concerned with diversity, but then they are highly disrespectful of anyone who isn’t like them.

Democrats need to realize that the forces of diversity won when Donald Trump was elected President … not because Trump is the lion of diversity, but because his voters represent many diversities.


I know it’s hard for those who have supped too much contemporary political rhetoric to accept that their definition of diversity is what lost in this election, but as the Democratic Party does some soul searching, it might want to consider this critique. They lost the election because they refused to value rural and exurban voters. They called them “clingers” and “religious nuts”, “hillbillies” and “deplorables”. More than anything else, they called them “racists”.  And that highly diverse population of denigrated Americans turned out an incredible election result. I’m not saying it was a good election result, but it slapped down the arrogance of the Democrats and progressives.


And, that …. was a good thing.

Posted November 25, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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Integration by Appropriation   Leave a comment

Growing up, my life reflected a lot of cross-cultural exchange and cultural appropriation. I never really gave any of these things thought because it was just life here in Alaska to parents who came from two different backgrounds. My father was Swedish American. His father was born in Stockholm. His mother was born in Ohio, from parents who were born in Gotland. Dad grew up in a lumber mill town in Washington State where a large population of Swedes meant that he grew up speaking Swedish and English in equal measure. As an adult, he traveled widely in the Merchant Mariner service and first married a Creole woman and then my mother.

Image result for image of kuspukMy mother grew up in Montana and North Dakota. Her father was born in North Dakota, to Canadian immigrants of Irish and Welsh stock. Her mother was born in Michigan of an Irish immigrant father and a “French Canadian” (code word – Indian) mother. My mother swore they never really faced racism growing up — there were too many Metis around on the plains, but once they got to Seattle, she was surprised to discover that they were considered different. She was equally surprised when she moved to Alaska with her first husband that nobody really cared in Alaska and there was actually a law here that said they couldn’t. It was 1946. Mom arrived in Ketchikan less than a month after the nation’s first anti-discrimination law was passed.

Alaska is an extremely diverse state. About 20% of the population are Alaska Native and about 40% total are non-white. So, nobody should be very surprised, I think, that my parents were comfortable with the diversity within their marriage. They each brought their own backgrounds to raising me. Dad put candies in my shoes for St. Lucia’s Day and Mom told bedtime stories filled with windego (though that is not a Wyandot tale) and the island on the back of the Turtle. Dad made some cool Christmas cookies from Sweden and Mom made a mean colcannon for St. Padrick’s Day. Dad being a chef and Mom a diner waitress, they loved good food and so we ate at a lot of exotic restaurants. That seemed like the sole purpose of visiting Seattle when I was a kid.

My favorite cuisine is Asian. With the exception of really spicy Thai and Indian dishes, I love it all. During the Alaska Federation of Natives gathering here in Fairbanks earlier this month, I wore a kuspuk. I really wasn’t thinking about it. I wore it because we were meeting the ana (Native elder female) who made it for me and I was honoring her, not trying to appropriate a culture. But someone brought it up … was it appropriate for me (a non-Alaska Native) to dress in Native garb? When I was growing up, it was considered very appropriate. It showed respect for the culture and, frankly, kuspuks are comfortable. Today, that zeitgeist is being questioned. Instead of being an exhibition and embrace of cultural diversity, some see it as  an affront to their culture.

When I was a kid, we saw cultural appropriation as a gesture of love within humanity. It was a refreshing deviation from conventional American ethnocentric patriotism and isolation. We weren’t just wearing jeans and … well, what exactly is standard American garb? American Flag trucker hats and Confederate bikinis? Dockers and North Face jackets? Royal Robbins sporting wear? Well, maybe Levis, cowboy boots and a Stetson?

As our culture becomes increasingly politically correct and censorious of “offensive” displays of cultural mimicry, diversity has become less about expressions of humanistic cooperation, and more about competitive oppression.

Wyandotte Nation Chief Billy Friend addresses a packed house at the Grand Opening of the new Cultural Center across from Bearskin Healthcare & Wellness Center in Wyandotte. (Photo by William Swaim)On Saturday night, my son went to a Halloween party. As I was picking him up, I saw a beautiful blonde girl dressed as a Salsa danger. It reminded me a lot of my daughter dressing similarly when she was in high school. The difference being that my daughter is dark haired and really could dance the Salsa. I went home and read a rant by one of my daughter’s college-aged friends about how costumes like this are culturally insensitive to the economic suffering of Hispanic women who had to subject themselves to patriarchal theater. This is the narrative you will commonly hear pushed on many progressive university campuses and blog sites.

Yeah, such killjoy attitudes are kind of annoying, but I actually found the rant outright insulting and abusive. If you want to dress in my tribal regalia, who am I to tell you that you’re not allowed to express your love for another culture? I don’t arbitrarily hold exclusive claim to my tribal culture. Conversely, my daughter is over half-Irish (thanks to the combination of her father’s and my DNA), but she can pass for either Irish or Indian (but not Swedish; like me she is way too dark for most people to believe that of her). When she dressed in Highland dress for dance performances, I suppose there might have been some people with Scottish ancestry who objected to an Native-American-Irish and an African American girl pretending to be Scottish, though nobody ever said anything … I suspect because they were just glad to see their culture preserved by dancers of some technical skill.

These misguided progressive attempts micromanage identity and dictate what types of multiculturalism is tolerable in an effort to socially abolish what they have decided is problematic cultural appropriation makes ethnic relations less harmonious … not more. Of course, it’s not just the far left that has this attitude that seeks to shame (mostly) whites for embracing and adopting cultural differences; that insists they don’t appropriate. The Alt-Right also shames whites for abandoning what was once a rich American heritage and demands that non-whites appropriate European culture.

Neither side wants a free and natural marketplace of voluntary inclusiveness and association. Barriers are not to be breached from either side. And, therein, lies the problem. A world without cultural appropriation is a dull, one-dimensional one without learning or progress. It’s a world where we may peek across the barriers that separate us only in museums and cultural studies classes. How is that helpful to advancing equality or association? Intellectually and socially isolating people from one another is dangerous for everybody, especially culture minorities.

Take it from someone who grew up astride a few different cultures. Culture is spontaneous, and your expression of it should be too. If someone gets angry for you doing it, it may be they have issues they need to deal with.


A word about the photos in this post – 1) is a friend dressed in a kuspuk. I picked her because she is clearly not Alaska Native. 2) is Wyandotte Nation Chief Chief Billy Friend as he addresses the grand opening of my tribe’s new Cultural Center, wearing tribal regalia (yeah, you have to have a sense of humor to wear THAT) Notice that Chief Friend doesn’t look terribly Indian. I believe he has more Wyandot blood than I do, but the DNA just fell a little different. My daughter, who has less blood than either of us, looks more Indian than we do. DNA expression is a fascinating subject. 3) is the Wyandotte nation’s Princess Emilee Willis, dressed in very Western clothing.

Posted November 4, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in culture

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Lela on States Rights   1 comment

Thom Stark and I are engaged in friendly debate about our societal divisions. Last week he offered his take on things. This week, I’m offering two articles in response. Here’s what I wrote yesterday. It will be fun to see which adventure Thom chooses.


Lela Markham Davidson Ditch CorrectedI don’t think we need to discuss the evils of chattel slavery any longer, but the Civil War was an unnecessary abuse of federal power. I’m going to engage in a bit of speculative history here. Just prior to the secession, there was a somewhat disorganized move for an Article V convention of the states to propose amendments to the Constitution that would have addressed the slavery issue within a few years. It was one of the reasons the Southern states seceded when they did. The European cotton glut was coming as was the depletion of Southern soils by overplanting. Regardless of the slavery issue, the South was headed for a severe economic depression. if the North had simply waited, the Southern states would have needed help in five years anyway and they might have returned, willing to give up slavery for the security of being part of the union. I can’t prove something that didn’t happen, but a study of conditions surrounding the Civil War suggests the possibility that Reconstruction could have been a voluntary restructuring without the war or the abuse. If not, we’d have another Mexico south of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi – poor, struggling, but proudly defiant – and probably sending illegal immigrants across our border to bring home wages to the Confederacy.

Instead of finding a peaceful constitutional solution, the North prosecuted the Civil War and Reconstruction, which settled nothing beyond that “might makes right” and if one section of a country holds another section’s nose in something disgusting long enough, everyone’s  children won’t miss the rights that they never knew they had. Often their grandchildren or great-grandchildren rediscover them, especially if they read the Constitution and the writings of the Founders. You got to love the Internet for giving us access to those great writings that the public schools worked hard to treat so shallowly when  we were growing up.

States’ rights were part and parcel and guaranteed in the Founding and they didn’t go away. They just got beaten into submission for a century and a half and now they’re back. This time, they have a much more compelling argument. chattel slavery was against American ideals and was bound to fail for economic reasons. Tocqueville foresaw its demise when he floated the Ohio River. Today, liberty – the idea that an individual has a right to live as he or she wishes so long as they are not harming others – is a much prettier ideal. It’s not going to be popular with people who want to be taken care of, but for those of us who aren’t afraid to trust ourselves, it’s a compelling proposal that plays to the Founding principles of the nation.

Centralized government is the enemy of individual rights. Again, de Tocqueville recognized this, noting that a single voice crying to Paris would never be heard in the massive bureaucracy that was the French government in 1820s, but that in the United States, individuals did not need to be heard in Washington because we had local, county and state governments and those were much easier to petition and mostly free of federal control so that they could actually accommodate the individual. If an issue was big enough that we needed a louder voice (to be heard in DC perhaps), individuals in America formed associations and these were very effective. He also noted a tendency in America where individuals and communities would simply ignore laws from Washington DC  that they didn’t agree with. Although admitting that such freedom would never fly in France,  he thought these to be strengths in America that we should not lose sight of.

We have lost sight of them, largely owing to the abuse of the South by the North during Reconstruction. I don’t think we can appreciate how much that has affected the entire country. whenever Alaska mentions that we appear to have a colonial relationship with the rest of the country and that we think we might do better on our own, we are immediately bombarded with the message that such an attempt would lead to war and reconstruction. I always think, “Why?” If we do it peacefully and maintain friendly relations with the country most of us were born in, why does secession have to lead to war? Why can’t a state decide that it wants a little separation from der Mother Counter for its own benefit? Our Founders mostly thought that was what they were ratifying when they signed onto the Constitution.  We lost that after the Civil War and the idea that we must all look to Washington DC for permission to “plant and sow” has gradually infused the society.

Thom StarkI think that top-down system that does not take individual and regional differences into account is one of the factors leading to the extremism we see in the country today. It’s not that red states or blue states are stupid or even equal but that we are refusing to accept each other’s differences as equally valid in a free society. The population centers tend to think their way is what we all should do because they have the concentrated population to outvote those in less densely populated parts of the country, which is reflected in the electoral map. It’s not even the tyranny of the majority – it’s the tyranny of concentration of the population and how our votes are counted. We’ve been in this deadlock long enough to know that it is not a temporary condition. The blue states thought they had conquered the electoral nation, but it looks like the red states are on the ascendency. Which isn’t going to solve anything. It’s the same old tug-of-war. Sooner or later something is going to break and the question is:

Will we find a peaceful solution or resort to civil war again?


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