This is my official statement and sharing of information and situation I’ve experienced due to the on-going controversy of Ravensburger, Winnetou and the “bad faith” arguments, “strawman” examples and false equivalents on Native American stereotypes, cultural appropriation and misrepresentation, and the inherent racism and Eurocentrism at the root of those behaviors and practices. This is what our documentary “Forget Winnetou! Loving in the Wrong Way” is about, by the way, not an analysis of May’s work as yet another writer erroneously reported, the latest was in David Baum’s interview of myself at Stern.de.
I believe this continues to be a deliberate escalation of discrimination and hatred of anyone rejecting the contemporary cultural abuse and misuse of Native American cultures & peoples, which many in German media has exacerbated through subjectivity and the spread of misinformation, incendiary unfounded assertions, and race/ethnicity assumptions. And more specifically, the situation has been used to forward so-called, “White Rights”, especially white CIS men, which in actuality means the discrimination, oppression and/or silencing of all other ethnicities and groups except (in this case especially) Natives who fit Eurocentric stereotypes and support anti-Blackness, homo- and transphobia and Eurocentrism. etc.
I have recently met with members of “Natives in Germany”, a quite new group of persons of Native and Indigenous heritage here in Germany, which is entirely different and unassociated with the Native American Association of Germany. (Read NAAoG’s statement here, which I fully support.) First Tagesschau in the interview with Tyrone White (Lakota) misattributed his association with NAAoG, which error was duplicated by SternTV in its 28 August 2022 broadcast, which myself, Tyrone White and others refused to participate in, due to its adversarial format, which indeed resulted in what might be term a show of white male privilege, arrogance and condescension.
I also am not a member of NAAoG, but have worked in cooperation with its chairperson on several projects in the last decade and will continue to do so. While the “Natives in Germany” may overtly have a different style and method than NAAoG and partially than my own, I support their joining the important resistance and fight against racism, cultural appropriation, and stereotypes, which has been ongoing for decades in Germany. To fight such a pervasive historic and social crime as racism, it takes many types, methods and solutions by both Natives and non-Natives, and any human beings to end this plague. To reject the structural white supremacist ideology and patriarchy who believe it is their right to violate and/or control other peoples rights, narratives, histories and bodies, this includes everyone, including their own peers, past and present. It’s all connected: Reproductive rights, racism, sexism, ableism, etc.
I believe this is an important time in Germany’s perspective on “accepted” forms of racism and sexism, such as that against Natives and Indigenous peoples. As my documentary, work record and other material showed and shared from a variety of sources, both Native and non-Native, its critically important for all of us to move forward together in a spirit of restorative justice, and not the continued fetishization, fake ownership of and misrepresentation, misuse and misattribution of Native cultures, traditions and peoples. This also applies to and supports emancipation and self-representation by any marginalized or minoritized peoples and groups, to a help heal our world and create a better future for all our children.
It is time to symbolically #ForgetWinnetou, and work together with Native and Indigenous people with a spirit of cultural humility so that respect can develop in healthy ways mutually beneficial, and not in the culturally abusive, Eurocentric way much of Germany has perpetrated for decades.
Violence & Hypersexualization of Native Girls and Women
In particular, those who claim wrongly that stereotypes are harmless, that “playing Indian” and stories are just fairytales that have no impact on real life, and that it’s all just a part of German culture. They say, “How dare anyone protest?” “How dare this be taken away because of being overly Politically Correct?” Being PC is something I do not believe in and not just because it is an activity and idea created by white people to cover up the structural racism that has never gone away since colonialism and the first invasions of the renamed Americas. Mostly only white people were deceived by the PC control device, which I discussed the long term effects of actually increasing white dismissal of POC challenges to racism, exclusion, stereotyping, etc., find that article here, “Today’s Cultural Appropriation and the Long Term Effects of Politically Correct.”
I have never called for or supported the banning of Karl May’s books, but the Ravensburger books should NEVER have been produced. YEARS AGO they and other publishers were advised and pressed to discontinue usage of stereotypes, and other cultural appropriative and misrepresentative material not only by Natives and POC, but many other organizations and individuals working in cooperation to reduce Germany’s societal crime of racism that absolutely goes beyond the oversimplification of the White/Black binary. Ravensburger’s ignored that.
Ravensburger was advised BEFORE production of these books that including racist, sexist slurs like squ*w was absolutely unacceptable, besides the stereotypes and misuse of Native cultures. They ignored that, too. So this is not “cancel culture” or about banning a book instead of using it to educate. Obviously, they are not only refuse respectful education but believe reproducing or introducing racist, sexist slurs is acceptable. This just an excuse to use slurs and say, “Oh its just historic!” It wasn’t right then, and it isn’t right now. And all the terrible coverage done by #Tagesschau especially and #SternTV only exacerbated the situation, NOT our challenging racism and sexism.
The protests and demand for removal and banning of the term “squ*w began decades ago in North America, supported by many Native nations, peoples, non-Natives and objective researchers on the etymology of the term, its origin, historic and contemporary usage, which was deemed racist, sexist exploitive and reductive. On state and local level, and now on national levels supported by Senator Debbie Haaland (Navajo/Diné), President Biden and many, many others who wish to the end of any sexualized derogatory terms for Native women, who continue to suffer sexual assault and rape higher than any other demographic group, with over 90% of the perpetrators being non-Native men.
The willful usage and defense of such indefensible decision to use the term in a children’s book no less, is interconnected with other examples of contemporary racism, misrepresentation and erasure of the genocide, ethnocide and mass sexual assaults, rape and abuse of Native young girls and woman (and Two-Spirits) since Europeans first invaded. Ravensburger’s non-apology and excuse is reprehensible, and the attempt to introduce usage of the slur to a new generation. Deliberate misinformation has been circulated by German media, which has escalated antagonism, misunderstanding and hatred against anyone rejecting the continued cultural abuse and misuse of Native cultures and peoples.
The Flood of Requests to Native Americans on the Winnetou/Ravensburger Controversy
In the last days, Natives mostly, but also other POC experienced a flood of requests to mostly answer the same questions, but “Forget Winnetou! Loving in the Wrong Way” documentary, completely ignored by German film distributors, funders, studios and agents despite it winning awards answered those and MORE. Ask yourself why is that? Our documentary still doesn’t have a German or European distributor, and never had backing to broadcast on TV etc. while those by white male directors and producers especially, are quickly accepted and shown such as at 3sat. Structural racism indeed!
From 24 August:
Interview Red Haircrow: “Das Problem an #Winnetou: Ein Psychologe über #Rassismus und die deutsche Obsession mit dem Wilden Westen” – @Tagesspiegel
Neu bei @sternde: “Mitglied der Chiricahua Apache/Cherokee verurteilt Neuauflage von Winnetou: “Hier geht es um Geldmacherei” #ForgetWinnetou
These questions are from an actual request.
- How do you feel about the portrayal of Native Americans in Karl May’s Winnetou book?
- What are the consequences of this portrayal for Native Americans in real life?
- What would art (books, movies, etc.) have to look like that adequately represents Native Americans?
- What do you think about Germans wearing indigenous jewelry or children dressing up as Native Americans for Mardi Gras?
ALL of these questions have been answered repeatedly last month, last year, 2 years ago, 5 years, even 10 and 20 years ago! This is a waste of time and energy at this point, especially for Natives & POC, and shows clearly that by majority, Germany has not listened or pointedly ignored what Natives, other POC and allies have said for decades. The education system, the film studios, the writers etc. have ignored them in very Eurocentric, white privileged ways that are covertly/overtly white supremacist in ideology. How so? Because they pointedly place “white” needs, feelings, thoughts and beliefs (white male especially) as the most important, penultimate deciding factor on behaviors, whether it continues hurt or harm others and themselves.
There has been few exceptions in the past years besides these. Notice the type of writers/journalists?
1. “The Frankfurt Book Fair Sheds Light on Germany’s Strange Obsession with Indigenous Culture” by Francesca Bianco at Montecristo Magazine (Autumn 2021)
2. Why Germany can’t quit its racist Native American problem by Elizabeth Schumacher at Deutsche Welle (February 26, 2020) Article.
3. Stereotype im Kinderalltag: Was Federn, Pfeile und Prärie mit Rassismus zu tun haben by Daniela Martens at die Tagesspiele (October 16, 2020) Interview
4. The Indian Citizenship Act at Claudia Friedrich at WDR5 Radio Studios (June 2, 2019) RADIO
There is distinct, deafening COGNITIVE DISSONANCE and/or deliberate misdirection. Conversations are not moving forward because of such bad faith, circular discussions, aka “debates” wherein Natives and other POC are asked to “debate” with those who are apathetic “devil’s advocates”, who try to downplay or “good people on both sides” the issue or outright defenders of racism. In all of it, it is seeking to continue control over all narratives relating to Native Americans, whether fictional or non-fictional, which continues to cause discrimination against Natives in society.
Just one example is the fact Germany believes other cultures should have a center and support to share their cultures and history with others in German society. Good, right? However, Native Americans have been many times rejected when applying for funding for this and told, “There are enough such places about Natives in Germany already, another is not needed.” When every one of those is WHITE created and led, and are overwhelmingly misrepresentative and reliant on stereotypes and Eurocentric interpretations of Native peoples and histories. There are NO Native American cultural centers in Germany, by Natives for Natives and everyone. This is blatantly and egregiously discriminatory, Eurocentric and structurally racist in method and effect, demonstratively proving Native “fairytales” and white supremacist ideology can and do affect society in the worst ways.
Appropriation vs. Appreciation Falseness + “There’s more important things Natives should focus on!”
This nicely summarizes many points BIPOC like myself and other Natives & POC have said and shared for decades.
For those who wish to progress & create positive change? I’m for it but….
My response to the request I mentioned and to others using the same retreaded rhetoric:
“From personal and professional experiences I know these are highly complex issues, and no one individual or group is exactly the same in why they accept or reject the continued misuse of Native cultures, fictitiously or in daily life. In my writing, my lectures and psychological counseling, I always include that fact and am very well aware of the spectrum of experiences. Therefore, I respectfully decline to repeat and share the same information I’ve been asked dozens of times in the last two days (Tagesspiegel, Stern, ) and the past twenty years (my bibliography). This is a personal choice, and in no way is intended nor should be taken as a negative opinion on anyone who does choose to participate. You are welcome to share this statement in part in the correct context or as a whole.
Instead, I will continue to move conversations forward on how to stop perpetuating stereotypes, how to make interculturally positive changes now and in the future, and work together with like-minded others to make a better, more respectful society for all ethnicities, cultures and peoples, especially for all children. If at any time in the future (the company) has a question(s) or is interested in cultural consultation, education and cooperation, I am available for inquiry. https://flyingwithredhaircrow.com/.”