“only concerned ’bout the ones in my circle / I give zero fucks ’bout the rest.” -Omerettà the Great, For What
This month when rapper, songwriter, and model Omerettà The Great posted a photo array on Twitter that she dubbed “Chocolate Pocahontas,” she unwittingly stepped into a war that Native women fight daily.
The “Princess Pocahontas” myth covers up the real story of Pamunkey Chief Powhatan’s daughter Matoaka – one of kidnap, rape, and colonization. To be clear, we are not talking about Disney sanitizing Grimm’s Fairy Tales to make children’s movies, we’re talking about a real child from a real nation that were both brutalized by colonists. The name alone is enough to set many Native women’s teeth to grinding. Even if you’re not a Pamunkey angered over the larger culture’s erasure of your history, if you are a Native woman then there is a 100% chance you have been reduced and sexualized with the label “Pocahontas.” This is not the title of a Disney movie, or the name from a settler’s Indian Legend, this is a racial epithet.
Omerettà did not understand this when she posted her photo array. Native Twitter (particularly excellent threads from @kima_lynn, @CyborgN8VMari, and @xodanix3 [who has since protected her tweets]) tried to help her understand.
Humility gets people of color walked on, spoken over, and erased; Omerettà is not coming up off being humble. It’s unrealistic to expect a nuanced first response from a twenty-one-year-old with a song called “Zero Fucks” who likes to flip both middle fingers when a camera is aimed at her, particularly on a platform where clapbacks and dragging are often the most enjoyable parts. Further, in a world that called her too dark-skinned and too black, Omerettà had to work to embrace her beauty. It’s a recipe for exactly what happened in her timeline: a lot of noise, accusations, misunderstandings, insults, and blocks.
White folks attack Natives on Twitter all the time, usually in response to being called out on some settler bullshit. We’ve been accused of being a “mob.” Not really, it’s just that our demographic skews young (read, online a lot) and we follow some of the same people looking for community support. When you misstep on issues we care deeply about and struggle with daily, we will be there to tell you exactly how you messed up. While I don’t think Omerettà’s outfit in this array qualifies as a hyper-sexualized “Indian” image (it’s almost demure by current fashion standards), her use of “Pocahontas” – a word that serves to dehumanize real women living today – does. Is “Pocahontas” why Native women are disproportionately victimized with rape and assault, 86% of the time by non-native men? No… but it’s a contributing factor.
I’ve mostly become numb to white nonsense on Native issues. Well, that’s not true – I still get upset and angry, I feel the sadness that comes from contemplating a gulf that I fear can never be bridged. I guess it’s more accurate to say I’m not surprised when white folks attack Natives online.
While plenty of black folks gently told Omerettà she should rethink her choices, the attacks, derision, and dismissiveness black folks directed toward Natives shocked me.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the American Indian Movement and The Black Panthers worked together. Both organizations wanted freedom, justice, and respect for their people, and together they were a force to be reckoned with. The FBI put a stop to that, of course. So here we are, 40-50 years later, and some black folks have bought the narrative that we’re past and not “real Indians,” and have even bought the settler nonsense that Natives owned slaves.
We all have blind spots. I spend much more time listening and reading than commenting because of mine. I hope this doesn’t come across as some white(-coded) dude policing how a black woman presents herself online. I hope that given time to reflect, Omerettà will learn from this experience. I hope that her fans will see that we in the First Nations are not their enemies. I hope that we will see the Black Lives Matter movement’s support at Standing Rock as the model for a new rebirth of intersectional activism.
And I hope “Pocahontas” will be recognized as the settler myth she is.