I Hurt an Entire Culture, and All I Got Was This Stupid T-shirt

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This cloud was constructed using the most popular terms from all tweets with #RacistSportsLogo sent out between 10:15 am and 12:15 pm on Feb 7th (first part of the symposium)

I was a little offended at first.

Not on the behalf of Amerindians, either. I have four years of Aboriginal Studies and most of a History degree under my belt, so you’d think I’d be a major supporter of getting rid of racist logos. But, walking into the “Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports” symposium (whew!) , I wasn’t totally convinced.  All I could think to do was play devil’s advocate.

You see, I’m a sports fan.

I was preoccupied with other issues, too.  I was wondering what and where the “other side” was.  I remembered the time my own high school removed its offensive Indian Head mascot (I was a 10th grader, a history student, but also a cheerleader. There were mixed feelings.). An audience member even suggested that “these guys” (ie. sports fans) were “ignorant” and just sat around watching sports with their “beer bellies.” Are-you-kidding-me?

To my defensive mind, the dialogue felt like this: Sports fans support racism. Sports fans spit on and yell at protesters. Sports fans send death threats to well-meaning decision makers who fight for Native peoples. College-aged sports fans get drunk and disrespect a culture to an unforgivable level.  Sports fans just don’t get it, do they?

Awkward.

As I live-tweeted some of the great points made by the presenters (none of which I disagreed with), I also drafted a tweet to express my discomfort: “As a young, white, sports fan, I feel awk. Want to be considered a possible part of the solution, not just the problem. #RacistSportsLogos”

Then I remembered first year Native Studies. I remembered a First Nations presenter who discussed patience, listening, giving yourself time to think, letting others speak first.

I deleted the tweet. I just listened.

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This cloud was constructed using the most popular terms from all tweets with #RacistSportsLogo sent out between 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm on Feb 7th (second part of the symposium)

And when I listened, this is what I started to notice:

I noticed how people were so sensitive about depictions of “Indians.” And, I realized, they should be. These people are rebuilding. We are looking at cultural genocide victims, after all. We have an obligation to listen to them and portray them respectfully because it’s the right thing to do.

I heard pain in peoples’ voices as they recounted personal experiences.  The father, whose confused little boy asked “Isn’t that what we do at Pow Wow? Are they making fun of us?” in response to people “cheering” at a sports game.  Those who were harassed relentlessly when they raised the fact that they were personally offended.  People should be allowed to ask for mutual respect from powerful institutions like schools, leagues, and sponsors without fear or risk of cultural deprecation.

I heard the word “Ownership.” That one really made me think.

I noticed that how much intense and brave work people are doing every day to work towards a better understanding, of not only Aboriginal history but contemporary identity. No doubt, we need to support that.

Mostly, though, I noticed that there are  people hurting.  I noticed Natives who are trying really hard to express themselves honestly and to have a legitimate contemporary presence.  People who have gone through so much, people who are trying to pass something meaningful on to the next generation–and people who feel demeaned by a stadium full of people yelling “REDSKINS!” as they try to do this.  There are people hurting.  As Rev. Graylan Hagler said: “When someone saying ‘ouch,’ we don’t ask them to justify why they’re hurting. Regard their truth as truth.”

“Ouch,” he said. “Means ‘Ouch.'”

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This cloud was constructed using the most popular terms from all tweets with #RacistSportsLogo sent out between 3:45 pm and 5:45 pm on Feb 7th (third part of the symposium)

And so, I asked myself, what do DC Football Fans have to lose? Their identity. Their collective memory of the team. Their traditional clothing (see also: hats and jerseys). Their symbolism. Their rituals.

Well, gee, doesn’t that sound familiar?

I’d think sports fans, of all people, should be able relate to how deeply symbols can manifest in our lives.  How important a team is to a community.  How important it is to let that team be inclusive and, you know, not racist.

Personally, my teams are a part of my identity. I really, really don’t want my identity to be rooted in something that hurts people. I don’t want to be cheering with something that isolates or demeans someone else. Sports are fun, and I want  them to be fun for everyone. We all should be open to listening and to changing a name, or a symbol.

Teams in and of  themselves aren’t about their names. Oh, fans, you must feel that.  If the DC Football team had a new name, all that would really change is the t-shirt you have in your closet, or the hat that you wear, or the specific word you yell out. If you define your team spirit or identity by those things, then you need to reassess your fandom. Surely, there’s more to your loyalty than that. And surely, you want your Native brothers and sisters to be able to cheer alongside you without feeling uncomfortable or disrespected.

I’ve always been of the opinion that if something means a LOT to someone else, and your concerns are trivial, you should give at least an inch. Your concerns may not feel trivial, because you’re attached to a team.  You have something to lose, sorta.

But think of how much Natives have to lose. And had to lose. And did lose.

I think we owe them respect. And that respect starts here.

Consider this your official invitation to be part of the solution.

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Why Technical Difficulties are Secretly Awesome.

I’ll just come out and say it: I have a not-so-secret love affair with technical difficulties.

Actually, I have a not-so-secret love affair with just about anything that messes with the usual formula.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally buy into fabricated media events.  If the TeeVee claims something is a “big deal,” that’s usually good enough for me. I’ll bring the dip. We can yell at the screen.  Time to compare beer commercials, friends!

Yes, I love the Super Bowl. I woke up at 4 am to watch Canada face Russia in the World Juniors.  A girlfriend and I were glued to mesmerizing colour-changing maps on election night.  And, of course, I’m down for half-watching big debates (I mean…if you’re watching them, too).

I even watch awards shows. I am forever cynical about entertainment industry elites hanging out and patting themselves on the back, but: ohmygawd Tina Fey and Amy Pohler are hosting?!  Also: my favourite show really needs to win. And: dat dress (!!).

You see what I’m saying. Sometimes, I even tweet about these things. Yeah, I’m one of those people. Shameless.

My main attraction to these media events (besides the fact that they’re, you know, fun) is my  big ol’ soft spot for live television.  After all, I have been there–and I miss it.  I have hung out in the control room. I once tried (awkward teenager style) to keep everything together backstage.  I have whispered into more than one headset to fix more than one glitch just in the nick of time.  Boredom, stress, breathe, we got this.  

I have seen the red light.

When I watch live television, I always have this mini-awareness of what is going on behind the scenes.  It takes the form of an inner narrative, full of quirky crew members and missed cues and shouts of “The show must go on!” (okay, that last one doesn’t actually happen in real life). Obviously, this narrative gets super interesting when connections fuzz, microphones fail…or, say, when there is a twenty minute blackout right in the middle of the Super Bowl.

Cough, cough.

I like the glitches. They make us all just a little bit more aware of what is going on behind the scenes.  It’s a subplot.  We can watch problem solvers covertly move to fix whatever went wrong.  Glitches make us realize just how many people and extensive technicalities are involved in making a media event.  When the “stakes” are so “high,” just one small error can change the whole situation. Maybe it’s a human error, maybe a technical error.  We shouldn’t know, really, because their job is to keep us from knowing.

I like to know.

Now, I don’t need to know what is going wrong, exactly. It’s always best to avoid the blame game.  But don’t you think it’s healthy to be aware of just how much is going on, period?  Glitches are our friendly reminder that a lot of people are involved, that they are talented, and that they are unbelievably valuable to things running smoothly (or, at least recuperating smoothly).

When the big inauguration screens at the Washington Monument started cutting out, it was ironic and disappointing…but it was also kind of enlightening. I looked at the faces around me, trying to figure out how to react to this. We were suddenly aware of our dependence on the people who set up the screens, streams, and footage.  We may not have been overly impressed at that moment, but it sure added to the subplot. Somewhere, someone was kicking themselves and wondering what to do.  A few dozen other someones were probably scrambling to fix the glitch.  It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting to think about during the President’s first speech, but it was worth thinking about.  And in the end, I was able to just watch the speech later.  No harm, no foul.

So, yes, the lights went out during the Super Bowl. I laughed at the commentators as they awkwardly tried to fill 20 unexpected minutes, and I chatted with the friends around me: “What just happened? Do they have a back up generator? Can you imagine being the people on staff right now?”

Maybe I’m being nostalgic about my control room days.  Or maybe, I’m a shit disturber who just likes when stuff breaks.  But overall: keeping it interesting, keeping things imperfect, and keeping us aware of one another’s efforts?

That’s pretty awesome.

Four Things I Couldn’t Live Without (and the 4 lessons they taught me)

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Black heels meet the favourite things, in true Shaunanagins style.

This is the first in a series of three posts–I actually have a top ten (pictured above) but dividing it up seems like the best way to go.

Yes, “couldn’t live without” is an overstatement. Basically, these are the items which would make it into my suitcase no matter what (or where). There are reasons and stories behind these things, most of which translate into serious “lessons learned”…lessons which pretty much explain why these items are even with me. After all, I haven’t even had most of these things for more than a couple years.

Too bad. I could have used them.

1) Cucumber cleansing milk (from The Body Shop)

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What it taught me: If it’s the right product, and the right price, you should probably buy two.

I worked at the Body Shop last year, and quickly learned that their skin care lines are amazing. My best find during my time there was this cucumber cleansing milk. It was $4, it smelled fresh, and it softened my skin instantly.

Oh, and they discontinued it.

I don’t wear a whole lot of make up, so it takes me awhile to go through my perfect shade or find the right skin care product. After I run out, I almost always discover that my products are discontinued. With this moisturizer, it was a double heartbreak–come on, $4? When will I find that again?

Needless to say, I’m making this bottle last.

The cucumber toner is still available through their website’s outlet section (presumably on a “while supplies last” basis). I would get one if I were you. Maybe two. Then go to the mall and buy your favourite lip colour, if you have one, or stock up on your foundation shade. Because if your skin is as pale or annoying as mine (sexy, right?) then you probably don’t want to lose your secret ingredients–and you probably will.

2) Homemade, wood burned Canada flag

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Lesson learned: Appreciate other people’s talents.

Think about how hard it is to draw a maple leaf. Now imagine wood burning it.

Let us all have a moment of silence to remember the Canada flag drawings we have effed up in our lifetimes.

(Thanks for the Christmas present, bro.)

3) TiCats hat

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What it taught me: If you want to connect with someone, you need to find a way to care about the things they care about.

It was Christmas break. As my family gathered together, my mother turned to ask me a rather out-of-the-blue a question. You could tell this one had been bubbling up for quite some time; Limited segue, loaded tone, genuine curiosity.

“Okay, Shauna. I know you do, but…when exactly did you start watching sports?” She turned to my father, adding: “I watched Football with her, like, a few months ago and she seemed to really know what was going on.” Back to me. “How did you learn that? When did that start?”

I offered several explanations. I played touch football for a couple months in middle school, didn’t I? The neighbor boy and I used to throw a basketball around sometimes, and “Well, mom, I’ve never missed a Superbowl.” But as I traced back in my memory, I could find only one explanation: because I love my brother, that’s why.

I’ve always enjoyed watching sports, but I have only been following actual teams for a few years. I think it started with some uneasy phone calls back at the beginning of my University life. Time after time, conversation fell flat with 3/3 of my brothers. I missed them terribly, but we had nothing to really share. The only lead I had was with the youngest, who kept trying to talk about sports.

Sports. I like sports, right? Watching hockey is fun. I’ve always been interested in football. We could totally connect over this. So I turned on Sportscenter, Googled some NFL stats, watched a few games. I gave him a call.

Then he started calling me. We messaged each other during a game. Now, our relationship sounds less like “So, what’s new…nothing…yeah…okay…” and more like this:

A 13 year old's response to my email asking "So, is the Pack back?" after they won a game in September. I don't care how much/little you know about sports, this is hella impressive.
A 13 year old’s response to my email asking “So, is the Pack back?” after they won a game in September. I don’t care how much/little you know about sports, this is hella impressive.

Clearly, he cares about this. I found it to be something I could care about, too–there were sports I liked, I fell for a franchise, I started following up. I was already interested, but I honed in on the interest because it was something he loved. Our relationship has never been better.

After helping me to build a friendship with my little brother, football helped me build yet another bridge–this time, with my grandfather. For the first time, here we were: same city, same team, same ability to be glued to the game. Quick visits turned into NFL/CFL marathons stretching to 8 hours.

The best part? I ended up having inside jokes and a solid relationship with my grandfather, who I barely saw for the first 20 years of my life. My grandmother’s sighs of “This is a silly game. Why don’t they just give them all a ball so they stop fighting over that one?” in the background were hilarious. It was so easy. We just had to share something.

Truthfully, I inherited my TiCats fandom from my dad, who inherited it from my grandfather. I carry it through not just because I like it, but because the people I love like it–my brother, my dad, my grandfather, even a couple childhood friends. I carry it because it matters to my relationships. I’m clinging to commonality. It’s one of the best calls I’ve ever made.

(…also, I’m more than a little emotionally involved when it comes to my teams.)

4) Red lipstick.

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Lesson learned: It’s called “classy is as classy does.” And it works.

Okay, so maybe not everyone is a fan of red lipstick. But please, try to understand: this is no ordinary lipstick. Pictured here is a lipstick infused with lady superpowers.

This lipstick is my secret weapon. If want a productive, no-nonsense, superwoman day, this is step number one. Then comes a pencil skirt. Then a pair of pumps. The hair goes up. The coffee comes out. Being an attractive, busy, shit-together lady is a go.

I will forever defend the power of red lipstick and a little black dress. And no, I’m not talking about its powers in the MRS department. The red lipstick isn’t for dates. It’s to signify go time for me–red lips and heels happen when I’m doing homework, doing dishes, filling out applications, and working through to do lists. Things just get done when my ladyself comes out.

Yeah, I’m kind of a lipstick feminist. Classy is as classy does, friends.

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As I mentioned, this is the first in a series of three posts on “Things I couldn’t live without (and the lessons they taught me).” What would make your list? Comment below with your list, or blog your own version and throw up a link!

The Truth About Hockey: It’s All in Our Stories, Folks

I’m getting sick of getting sick of the lockout.

What I mean is, I’m getting sick of pretending that I care about the NHL. I don’t care about the NHL. I like that the NHL combines great players/franchises, and that it keeps hockey entertaining.  That’s about it. Every other thing I like about hockey, about the league, my favourite team…it comes down to stories.

These stories belong to me.  These stories belong to hockey, too. But they do not, and I’m realizing this more and more, belong to the NHL.

Here’s why I “care” about the NHL:  Because I still remember when I started cheering for the Sens instead of the Leafs.  Because one time, I rescheduled a date when I realized Ottawa and Montreal were facing off that night (I lived with a Habs fan at the time. This was serious business.).  Because in second year, I picked up a contract job at the All Star Game and it was awesome.  Because I made it to Scotiabank Place for a cheap student game night when I had a cold (and could barely talk, let alone cheer). Because after a long day, Hockey Night in Canada is just the best.

These stories may be completely drenched in the NHL, but that’s not what they’re about. They’re about people.

They’re about sipping hot chocolate as Krissy digs out her old jersey, or begging Michelle to come out to the pub because “this one’s a BIG DEAL.” They’re about long distance calls home to hash out the highlights. They’re about meeting folks from New York, Boston, Toronto, Montreal—and connecting with them, just because we’re all hockey fans.   They’re about cheering with people I’ve never even met, just because of seat proximity (or, some nights, the simple hashtag #GoSens).

If the Lockout has shown me anything, it’s that these memories (NHL-affiliated as they may be) do not revolve around the league itself. At their core, these stories are about the sport, community, and whatever weird passions are involved in me caring too much about scores and stats.  NHL or no NHL, I have been waking up at 4 am to watch the World Juniors.  I have been reminiscing on my ball hockey days with my little brother, who still retains a mini stick collection.  And long before I worked at the All Star Game, I volunteered for a local TV station.  (It was 2008.  My hometown hosted the Ontario Hockey League championships. I worked cameras and graphics for the postgame show. The Kitchener Rangers made it to the finals. We lost to the Spokane Chiefs, and the cup snapped in half as they held it up. I laughed hysterically, even though my still heart hurt a bit from the loss.)

I remember this. I remember cuing up highlights, and watching missed games alongside the local hosts (I still revel at their endless knowledge of the game).  I remember when, in one of my slower moments, I finally understood what an offside was.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the NHL.

Neither does the fact that this morning, my little brother busted in and turned on my light at 3:55 am.  This was exactly 5 minutes before my alarm was set to go off, and 35 minutes before Canada faced the USA in the World Juniors.  I had worn my red and white Canada scarf to bed.  “Bed,” by the way, was a 2 hour nap between 2 and 4 in the morning.  Classy is as classy does.

Why?  Because I watch hockey. So does my brother. And if the World Juniors are being held in Russia, then I’m microwaving pizza and mocking pregame blabber at an ungodly hour. It’s that simple. And in the end, it’s about us—he and I, the country we love, the game…me singing obnoxiously to bug him, smeared make up, early morning Diet Coke.  Who cares about the NHL?

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What I care about is right here.