“Indigenous Knowledge Gushers” and Harmful Patronizing Relationships
Clearly, relationships mediated and sustained through a skewed power dynamic are dangerous to people outside the immediate relationship. It has been my experience that there is little that is more dangerous than patronizing relationships. To engage with and sustain a patronizing relationship serves to fortify oppressive structures versus truly revolutionize them.
Within the context of an outsider’s need for Indigenous knowledge (IK), if one’s moral code is bent because of their selfish needfulness they fail to have the guidance of a moral code. I have found that non-Indigenous people who selfishly bend their moral code for greater access to IK dangerous to Indigenous people.
Previously I have recognized that allies and friends interested in the emancipation of Indigenous people are in need of guidance and a framework to think and act through. Along with this blog previously I have offered my Ally Bill of Responsibilities. I have also written a short blog about some of my experiences where non-Indigenous people were selfish and patronizing in their need for IK in a way that was harmful to me and others. Here are the links to this work:
Recently I encountered a situation where a “traditional person”, or better said “someone who likes to think and sell themself as a traditional person”, informed me that they do not like the work I do as a critical thinking Indigenous scholar: that is where I critically examine, think, and talk about the questionable selfish and patronizing relationships that many non-Indigenous people engage in that ultimately hurt Indigenous people. Of course this “traditional person” did not name it as such. Rather, what they did was spin the very reaction others have to the work I do in their own favour. Clearly some Indigenous people prefer to be patronized rather than see genuine change for Indigenous people.
Alternatively stated, many non-Indigenous (and for that matter Indigenous people) negatively react when asked to critically examine how they are engaging with and sustaining what I call “Indigenous knowledge gushing practices”. It is precisely this negative reaction that people have that was spun against me in an effort to get me to stop doing what I do. I have come to recognize this process of spinning people’s negative responses as the ultimate manipulation. Of course some people do not like being asked to critically examine what they are doing. They are needful and have no problem gaining IK void of critically thinking and engaging in ethical practice that is mindful of the larger political context that Indigenous people are situated. And of course some Indigenous people, such as the Indigenous spinner discussed, do not like having critically informed non-Indigenous people as it takes away from their own needfulness for affection. I assume the affection makes them feel good.
Regardless, it is my contention that critically informed allies and friends are best even if in the beginning they prefer not to be asked to critically think about what they are doing. That said, even if I am not liked for delivering the message that Indigenous Knowledge gushing practices are dangerous and an interference to genuine emancipation I will continue to do the work I do. Let’s face, patronizing relationships serve the hegemonic status quo: that being oppressive power structures. Thus I must gumption the moral courage to do what others prefer me not to do regardless of the negative responses and potential manipulation by spinners.
The good news is I am hearing from a small minority of critical thinking non-Indigenous people who are genuinely grateful for guidance in their effort at being a good friend and ally to Indigenous people. I have come to realize that they too are annoyed with the patronizing relationships that interfere with broader community politics and the self-determination of Indigenous people. These informed friends and allies know full well that the emancipation of all oppressed people will not take place through dangerous patronizing relationships.
Clearly “traditional people” who label critically thinking Indigenous scholars and the work they do as “negative” or “difficult” are manipulative, selfish, and have a bent moral code. After all genuine traditional people and critical thinking scholars have the same goal: the emancipation of Indigenous people.
In sum, Indigenous people are in need of genuine critical thinking friends and allies rather than what I have come to call “Indigenous Knowledge Gushers (IKG)” who patronize for their own needfulness.
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