By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
(CNN) - This November, events nationwide celebrated the traditions, fashion and food of the nation's 566 recognized Indian tribes as part of Native American Heritage Month.
But a few high profile missteps surrounding the use of indigenous cultural imagery made bigger national headlines than any heritage month event.
First it was the release of No Doubt's Wild West-themed music video "Looking Hot," featuring teepees, fire dances and singer Gwen Stefani on horseback, a feather crowning her long blond braids. Then, supermodel Karlie Kloss walked the runway in a floor-length feather headdress, skimpy leopard-spotted bikini and turquoise jewelry at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.
Both instances sparked allegations of "playing Indian" for profit, leading No Doubt and Victoria's Secret to publicly apologize. The gaffes also reignited debate over where to draw the line between cultural appropriation and appreciation and the extent to which non-Natives should represent Natives in mainstream media and pop culture.
Opinion: Just say no to "playing Indian"
The conversation is important, because acts of cultural appropriation are not simply isolated incidents of "hipsters in Navajo panties and pop stars in headdresses," said Sasha Houston Brown, a member of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska. They are byproducts of "systemic racism" that perpetuate the idea that there's no such thing as contemporary Native culture.
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a CNN.com contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist.
By Ruben Navarrette, CNN Contributor
San Diego, California (CNN) - On a recent trip to Mexico City, I had barely made my way down the concourse and arrived at the immigration processing area when I got stumped.
Signs pointed the way to two lines: one for "Mexicanos" ("Mexicans"), another for "Extranjeros" ("Foreigners.")
I stood there for a few seconds, unsure of where to go. Growing up in Central California, I had been called a "Mexican" my entire life. It's ethnic shorthand in the same way that my friends in Boston refer to themselves as "Irish" or my friends in New York describe themselves as "Italian." Later, I settled on "Mexican-American."
But, this was Mexico. And, in the homeland of my grandfather, there was no need for shorthand or hyphens. I was simply an American. I speak Spanish, good enough to handle either end of an interview in that language. But I don't have the vocabulary of a native, and I can't shake my American accent.
So I took my U.S. passport and got in the line for Extranjeros.
By Dan Merica, CNN
(CNN) – It may not sound very powerful, but gay rights activist Debra Peevey said that a two-inch green button played a major role in convincing voters to legalize gay marriage this month in her home state of Washington.
“Another Person of Faith Approves R. 74,” said the button, which refers to the ballot initiative that wound up legalizing gay marriage in Washington.
As faith director for the statewide pro-gay marriage campaign, Washington United for Marriage, Peevey and her team distributed 5,000 of the buttons. They were conversation starters, she said, ways of letting people know they could relate to one another on the intimate level of religion. And that being religious didn’t meant you had to oppose gay marriage.
“We had people clamoring for the buttons,” Peevey said. “People of faith all over the state wore them. It amplified that perspective that people of faith do, in fact, support marriage equality.”
This year, voters in Washington State were joined by those in Maryland, Maine and Minnesota in handing big victories to the gay rights movement. In the first three states, voters legalized gay marriage. In Minnesota, they rejected a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage.
After watching dozens of states adopt gay marriage bans in recent years, gay rights activists hope this month’s victories mark a national turning point. And to help push other states to follow suit, they are holding up efforts like Peevey’s as a blueprint for how to successfully incorporate faith into future gay rights campaigns.
Editor's note: Michael Kimmel is distinguished professor of sociology at Stony Brook University and author of "Guyland" and "The Guy's Guide to Feminism," among other books.
By Michael Kimmel, Special to CNN
(CNN) - Some years ago, I appeared on a well-known television talk show opposite four "angry white men": four men who believed they had been discriminated against in the workplace by affirmative action programs initiated, they argued, by feminist women.
Each man told his story of how he was qualified for a job or qualified for a promotion that he did not get because of this putative reverse discrimination against white men. One ended his remarks with a line that served as the title for this show: "A black woman stole my job," he declared.
Asked to respond, I had but one question for these guys, a question about the title of the show. Actually, my question was about one word in the title of the show. I wanted to know about the word "my." Why did the men think it was their job? Why wasn't the title of the show "A black woman got a job" or "A black woman got the job"? The answer, I argued, was that these men felt entitled to the position, and that any effort to make the workplace more equal was perceived, by those men, as a loss.
I thought of those men recently while reading Suzanne Venker's addled rant against feminist women as the source of the unhappiness that saturates male-female relationships. I thought of how painful it is when you are used to having everything to now have only 80%. What a loss! Poor us! Equality sucks when you've been on top - and men have been on top for so long that we think it's a level playing field.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – It makes sense that since the start of the recession, the birth rate in America has been declining.
In 2011, it dipped to the lowest rate ever recorded: 63.2 per 1,000 women between 15 and 44, the prime childbearing ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That plunge was led by immigrant women, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released Thursday.
The birth rate for U.S.-born women declined 6% between 2007 (when the recession began) and 2010. However, the rate for foreign-born women plunged 14%, more than in the 17 years before the downturn.
Both foreign- and U.S.-born Hispanic women had larger drops in birth rate than any other group, Pew found. That correlates with larger percentage declines in household wealth for Hispanics than in white, black or Asian households. FULL POST
Editor's note: This article is one in a series examining how attitudes change and people relate across generations. Visit CNN Living for more on Baby Boomers, Millennials and beyond.
By Kat Kinsman, CNN
(CNN) - I was always certain that I'd have my life worked out by the time I was 40. I'd somehow magically awake on my 40th birthday filled with the wisdom of the ages: a solid financial plan, inner peace and a tastefully appointed yet attractive wardrobe that wouldn't just make me feel like I was playing dress-up at work.
As it happened, I did wake up that August morning possessed of new insight - mostly about how mortifyingly delicious birthday-cake-flavored vodka turned out to be, and how hangovers come on harder and stronger as the years pass. I shut the blinds and went back to sleep. An old lady needs her rest.
No one under 38 really considers what 40 and beyond is going to look like for them. They plot the ambitious beginning ("I'm going to become a successful ___") and the triumphant denouement ("Then I'll retire with my beloved partner and we'll spend our well-funded free time by ___"). But they gloss over the mushy middle, where all the day-to-day doing happens.
By Sheila Steffen, CNN
(CNN) - Rachel Noerdlinger says she felt "a big void" when she was in her 20s and went through an identity crisis.
"My parents thought we could be color-blind, and they raised us in an environment where we didn't talk about race," said Noerdlinger, who is black.
'My parents were color-blind'
Adopted by white parents and raised in New Mexico, she grew up without any knowledge of where she came from.
"It was hard. I went through a lot of different confusions."
She is quick to point out how grateful she is for her adoptive parents. And although she would not change her experience, she offers this advice: "At the end of the day, the most important thing to your child's well-being is that he or she is around diversity."
Thirty-nine percent of adopted children in America have parents of a different race or ethnic group. Domestically, transracial adoptions were made easier by the Multiethnic Placement Act in 1994, which essentially keeps race from being a factor in adoptions. Still, the majority of transracial adoptions are international; others are from foster care and from private adoptions. FULL POST
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - Four servicewomen who have done tours in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a suit against the Defense Department Tuesday challenging the military's longstanding policy against women in ground combat.
Some of the plaintiffs led female troops who went on missions with combat infantrymen, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the women.
"Their careers and opportunities have been limited by a policy that does not grant them the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts," the ACLU said. "The combat exclusion policy also makes it harder for them to do their jobs."
By Tristan Smith, CNN
(CNN) - The attorney for a Florida man who shot at a car of teens over the weekend, killing one, says the incident bears no resemblance to the Trayvon Martin case.
Her client, Michael Dunn, is no "vigilante" but did feel threatened and shot out of "self defense," the attorney said.
"There are no comparisons to the Trayvon Martin situation," said Robin Lemonidis, Dunn's attorney. "He is devastated and horrified by the death of the teen."
Dunn, 45, was denied bond Monday on a murder charge stemming from the weekend shooting in Jacksonville. The violence was sparked by a confrontation about loud music at a gas station, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
Dunn told authorities that he had asked the teens to turn down the blaring music from their vehicle adjacent to his, as he waited for his girlfriend to return to the car.
He heard threats from the teens, Dunn told police, he felt threatened and thought he saw a gun in the teens' car. He grabbed his gun and fired at least eight shots, authorities said.
Seventeen-year-old Jordan Davis, among the teens, was killed. There were no guns found inside the teens' car, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.
Ron Davis, the victim's father, said he is devastated and doesn't believe the shooting was self defense.
By Moni Basu, CNN
(CNN) – Anna worked seven days a week as a nanny for the family of a Fortune 500 company executive. She lived with them in their 5th Avenue apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Her day began at 6 when the children woke up and didn't end until 10 at night when she put them to bed and cleaned the kitchen.
She cooked meals, did laundry and tended to the children's needs. She slept on the floor in between their beds. She did not have a single day off in 15 months.
She was hired because of the child development skills she learned as a teacher in her native Philippines. Yet she earned just $1.27 an hour.
Anna's story, documented in a groundbreaking statistical report on U.S. domestic workers released Tuesday, is not uncommon. It said Anna was part of a system of invisible workers - mostly women, mostly minorities and increasingly immigrant - who enable many Americans to function in their own lives.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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