Girl jokes about being ‘whitest person ever’ after winning Indigenous scholarship, faces outrage
Social media users expressed outrage this past weekend as Instagram posts surfaced showing what appeared to be a young white student celebrating her scholarship intended for Indigenous youth. The girl’s family says they have a legitimate claim to Indigenous ancestry based on genealogical records, but Indigenous leaders are still skeptical.
Ainsley Whynacht, an 18-year-old still in high school, was announced as the winner of the 2019 Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) scholarship. The scholarship required applicants to submit an essay. NSGEU states in a Facebook post that Whynacht’s looked at “how the lack of access to public services has negatively affected the lives of Indigenous people.”
On her private Instagram, Whynacht makes light about the scholarship, calling it a “random essay on treatment of indigenous kids in school” and jokes about how the scholarship selection committee didn’t notice she was the “whitest person ever.”
In another post, Whynacht is seen holding up a bottle of tanning lotion, posting “its time for ya girl to fake tan or else that’s gonna be embarrassing.”
As backlash began to pour in after her private Instagram posts were screenshotted and distributed widely on the wider social media world, Whynacht was confronted with angry responses and demands to NSGEU to rescind the scholarship she had been offered. Whynacht responded by posting that she had “said I’m sorry already” and “all I did was write an essay.”
Later, in a conversation posted to Facebook, Whynacht attempted to demonstrate her Indigenous heritage by presenting a status card from the Woodland Metis nation, a highly controversial Metis nation that has been at the center of a debate about whether their claims to Indigenous identity are legitimate.
The Woodland Metis have been contested by various Indigenous scholars and groups, having no official Government recognition or recognition by the Métis National Council. The Nova Scotia-based Eastern Woodland Metis, of which Whynacht presented status from, no longer has an active website. The Grand Chief, Mary Lou Parker, passed away in summer 2019 and there appears to be no attempt to maintain the group.
After a Supreme Court decision in 2006 expanded the scope of who could claim to be Metis, the number of people self-identifying as Metis surged by over 125 percent by 2016, with new self-described Metis groups springing up in eastern Canada.
Cheryl Maloney, a Mi’kmaq activist and Professor of Political Science at Cape Breton University, notes the Eastern Woodland Metis have no connection to the cultural heritage or history of the recognized Metis of Canada. “The Metis in Nova Scotia are not actually tied to the constitutionally protected Metis. And if they are, they would be people who come to Nova Scotia and bring their status with them.”
Maloney says the creeping “raceshifting” of non-Indigenous people self-identifying as Indigenous is reflective of an “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality. Maloney says Wynacht’s story is rooted in racism, fraud, and entitlement.
“Nobody wanted to be Indigenous when there was so much racism, and [the Government] was stealing your kids, and the odds were against you—no one was aspiring to live that reality,” Maloney says.
Maloney said she doesn’t know about whether the scholarship can legally be rescinded from Wynacht, but hopes NSGEU learns from this mistake and consults the local Indigenous community in creating future criteria for the scholarship.
“They need to include Indigenous people in these deliberations,” she says. “If they did, they’re likely to get a young person from the community who everyone is looking up to as a future leader. We know who they are. We see them. We have young people who are destined for great things if given the opportunity.”
The Post Millennial reached out to Ainsley Wynacht, and received comment from her mother who called the outrage a “non-story”.
“Ainsley is Indigenous and has provided proof,” she said. She claims the family has documentation from the Universite de Ste. Anne demonstrating their Indigenous heritage.
Ainsley’s mother says the document, a genealogical family tree, demonstrates Indigenous heritage from the Mi’kmaq nation on her mother’s and grandmother’s side.
“It confirmed that we are indigenous. We had to provide baptismal certificates for the three latest generations. We went through the church, sent the baptismal information to the university and they did the rest of the research.”
When asked to see the documentaion, Ainsley’s mother said they would provide the document to NSGEU and The Post Millennial upon the family’s return to their home from their cottage.
Jarvis Googoo, a non-practising lawyer in Halifax and a Mi’kmaq from We’koqma’q First Nation, says connection to the Mi’kmaq community is more important than simply having an ancestor or two.
“I know I am distantly Irish, but this does not make me Irish.” he says, “I know I am Mi’kmaq because that is all I know, it is all my family has been.” adding that the Whynachts, or anyone else who believed themselves to hold claim to Indigenous ancestry, needed to approach the Indigenous community—not the government.
“Some claimants say they have one ancestor from the 1800s [so that] makes them Mi’kmaq or Metis. For me, what makes me Mi’kmaq is my mother was Mi’kmaq, and my grandmother was Mi’kmaq.”
Googoo says he hopes NSGEU rescinds the scholarship, “That is scholarship money that should and could have went to an actual Mi’kmaq Indigenous person instead. And if it can’t be recinded, then going forward the NSGEU, or any other organization wants to try and ‘help,’ they need to engage with us and we can teach them how to do it right.”
The NSGEU Facebook page issued a response Friday to the online outrage in a now-deleted post.
“We are aware of the social media posts circulating about the recipient of the NUPGE Scholarship for Indigenous Students, this information has been passed on to the National Union, NUPGE, who administers this award, so they may investigate this matter further,” read part of the statement.
“It’s unfortunate that people say offensive things on social media that they end up regretting,” read the rest of the NSGEU statement.
Prior to the interview with The Post Millennial, Ainsley’s mother said she was unaware of the controversies surrounding the Woodland Metis and had enrolled her daughter and herself with them in an effort to participate more actively with what she thought was a legitimate local Indigenous group.
On her daughter’s comments, she says she knows they were “in incredibly poor judgement,” stating that she had been very upset when she saw them. On her daughter’s reasoning, Tanya says that “she was being bullied for looking ‘too white to be Indigenous’ so she posted that she’d use fake tan to not look so white.”
Ainsley wrote an apology to NSGEU late last week.
“I would like to sincerely apologize that these pictures and their captions were so grossly misinterpreted and I assure you that I meant no disrespect towards the union nor Indigenous people,” said Ainsley in her apology letter.
“The colour of my skin does not erase my heritage, or my anger towards their treatment that I wrote very passionately about in the essay that won me this scholarship,” the apology continues. “Even the suggestion that I would fake my ethnic background is truly insulting for me and is just another example of people not taking my ancestry seriously just because I do not exactly ‘look the role’, as I have been told.”
The $1,500 scholarship goes to the winner of an essay competition who is entering their first year of post-secondary education.
Ainsley’s mother also sent The Post Millennial a sample of some of the death threats Ainsley received as a result of her comments, which ranged from wishes her “family dies in a house fire” to Instagram users messaging her to “eat sh*t you useless wh*re.”
Jarvis Googoo says the threats made against the Whynachts are “plain horrible,” adding, “there is a great and peaceful way to discuss this… Our treaties were based upon peaceful friendship and that is how I like to discuss this and educate.”
The Post Millennial reached out to NSGEU and NUGPE but did not receive comment from them by the time of publication.
The word “woke” has been bandied around in progressive circles since the early 2010s. Ironically, “woke” has become a pejorative term used to denigrate those who signal their virtue without doing much to advance any progressive cause. Woke individuals are, as the rule (that I just invented) goes, more concerned with making themselves look good and using their platform (or building a platform) to abuse others under the guise of combating social injustice.
None of this has, of course, gone unnoticed by the woke progressives who use the term without any sense of irony whatsoever. In an op-ed for the Guardian, writer Steve Rose opines that the word “woke” has been “weaponized by the right.” But whose fault is that, exactly? It’s certainly not the fault of those tired of being moralized and lectured to that they might repurpose the term to mock those who engage in cancel campaigns against any celebrity or public figure guilty of perceived unwokeness.
Citing the Merriam-Webster, Rose says that the term “woke” refers to anyone “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” And much like the term “political correctness,” the term has come to mean the opposite of what it means—or so he claims.
But is that truly the case? Those who elevate themselves through wokeness have little interest in combating social injustices and simply use it as a shield for their own bigotry, and to shut down dissenting opinions. Their wokeness, if it exists at all, is performative.
This isn’t to say that one can simply go about spouting racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted remarks without pushback from any decent and reasonable person. Decent and reasonable people don’t care about being “woke.” “Woke” individuals, as it were, cultivate their entire personalities around the fight for social justice without much to show for it besides preening at everyone else on Twitter.
Wokeness has become a social status symbol more than anything else, and the “Right,” or the “unwoke,” or whatever you want to call us continue to be reasonable people while rubbing our lack of wokeness in the face of those who rally around the hollow symbol.
Case in point: Guardian writer, Steve Rose, attacks actor Laurence Fox for—you guessed it, unwokeness. He writes:
“Laurence Fox nailed his colours to the latter mast this weekend, doubling down on his defence of the privileged white male on last week’s Question Time to a Sunday Times article under the banner ‘Why I won’t date ‘woke’ women’. Toby Young piled in, applauding how Fox was ‘terrorising the Wokerati’, while the Sun last weekend branded Harry and Meghan ‘the oppressive King and Queen of Woke’.”
Rose argues that rather than simply rejecting the concept of wokeness, detractors of the term, like Fox, only criticize wokeness as “way of claiming victim status for yourself rather than acknowledging that more deserving others hold that status. It has gone from a virtue signal to dog whistle.”
On the contrary, any individual who makes claims to wokeness isn’t so much of a victim as they are a participant in the race for social status. Being unwoke doesn’t give you an entry pass into a separate league of oppression.
Laurence Fox has been outspoken in his lack of wokeness, simply speaking his mind and saying it like it is with no regard for how supposedly offensive it is to not be mindful to those who hold wokeness up as a virtue in and of itself. He isn’t claiming to be a victim—like any decent and reasonable person, he’s rejecting victimhood entirely. And it’s working.
A New York Times book reviewer called herself out as unqualified to review the book she was reviewing, and then said the author shouldn’t have written it. The charge against the author is cultural appropriation, the charge the reviewer levels at herself is the maintenance of the white gaze. The weirdest part? She seems to have liked the book. Lauren Groff wrote about Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt, a novel about mother and son refugees from a violent Mexican drug cartel.
It is frankly mind-boggling to see this in print. It should fill us with hope, not anxiety, that the wealth and breadth of human experience allow us to understand the experience of others. People are not as different as we have conditioned ourselves to believe they are. The most imperialist thing of all is to assume that we can’t understand one another because our backgrounds and skin colours are different. The Civil Rights movement fought against objectification based on skin colour, and now The New York Times and their cadre of anxious writers are bringing it back.
Groff found the narrative to be powerful, notes that she felt afraid for the danger the main characters faced but then states this absurd concern:
“But another, different, fear had also crept in as I was reading: I was sure I was the wrong person to review this book. I could never speak to the accuracy of the book’s representation of Mexican culture or the plights of migrants; I have never been Mexican or a migrant. In contemporary literary circles, there is a serious and legitimate sensitivity to people writing about heritages that are not their own because, at its worst, this practice perpetuates the evils of colonization, stealing the stories of oppressed people for the profit of the dominant. I was further sunk into anxiety when I discovered that, although Cummins does have a personal stake in stories of migration, she herself is neither Mexican nor a migrant.”
American Dirt made The New York Times list for highly anticipated books, but even the author questions her own authority to write the book. In the afterword, per a contrasting review from Parul Seghal, Cummins wrote “I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” Seghal didn’t like the book, because she didn’t think it achieved its aims. That’s fair. What isn’t fair is judging a work of fiction by the colour of the author’s skin.
It is a nauseating inclination to question her own inspiration. The colour of her skin has nothing to do with the story she felt compelled to write. Once she had the idea, should she have shopped it around to writers who were “slightly browner” to see if they wanted to tell it instead? Writers have their own stories that they want to tell. Cummins had this one. She told it. Groff had a review to write. She wrote it, but she questioned the validity of her voice, and the author’s, the entire time.
Groff ties herself up in knots, chastising herself for liking a book she thinks she shouldn’t have written about because her skin colour doesn’t give her the authority to do so. To put that in perspective, a New York Times writer, an author, an intelligent, educated, intellectual person, believes that there is more authority in the perceived experience of her skin colour than in her own voice.
Cummins did exactly what social justice rhetoric would say she ought to do—use her place of privilege to speak of the social ills affecting underrepresented voices in our culture. In using her voice to elevate the plight of Mexican refugees, she brings Groff, for one, a greater understanding of that horror.
If authors can’t call attention to anything other than their own experience, if authors have to colour within the lines of their own skin tone, then their only other option is to stop writing, to give it up, to do something else. But ideology cannot dictate our life choices, and the odds are that if Cummins didn’t write this book, no one else would have. Is there no value in telling the story of a mother and child forced to flee their home under threat of death? The story itself is more essential than who wrote it. And for sure it gave Groff some new perspective, even if she thinks it’s poisoned by her white gaze.
Cultural appropriation is a term best levelled at basic girls and boys in madras bikinis wearing native headdresses and platform Tevas at Coachella, not well-researched novels that give insight to the plight of refugees traversing America’s southern border.
This hand-wringing over whether or not we can think for ourselves or have to think in accordance with a mob mentality that diminishes our intellect in favour of social justice norms has got to stop. An author’s lived experience is not their only palette. Skin colour is not authoritative.
Actor Laurence Fox says that “the wokist is a fundamentally racist bunch.” On BBC’s Question Time, he said that the backlash against Meghan Markle was not racist, and called a woman of colour racist for suggesting that his identity means he can’t discern racism.
“The problem we’ve got with this is that Meghan has agreed to be Harry’s wife,” a woman spoke up from the audience, “and the press has torn her to pieces, and let’s be really clear about what this is, let’s call it by its name: it’s racism.”
He decried her view, saying “It’s not racism, we’re the most tolerant lovely country in Europe.”
“Says a white privileged man,” she shot back.
“It’s so easy to throw the charge of racism at everybody,” Fox replied, “and it’s really starting to get boring.”
“What worries me about your comment,” she said, “is you’re a white privileged male.” A round of audience boos rose up.
Fox was clearly annoyed by her comment. “I can’t help what I am, I was born like this,” he said, “it’s an immutable characteristic, so to call me a white privileged male is to be racist. You’re being racist.”
For this, he was skewered in the press and received death threats. Even after “Equity’s minority ethnic members committee… called on fellow actors to ‘unequivocally denounce’ Laurence Fox for comments he made during an appearance on BBC1’s Question Time,” author Shappi Khorsandi spoke against that denunciation.
And Fox wouldn’t back down. Instead, he took to the airwaves with Julia Hartley-Brewer on Talk Radio’s Breakfast Show this morning to expand upon his views.
It was in talking with Hartley-Brewer that he said “I think there’s racism everywhere but I don’t think we’re a systemically racist country. I don’t see a lot of racism, but then I’m a straight white male.” He went on to say that “identity politics is fundamentally racist as well,” because “it’s about silencing opinion,” and “seeing colour everywhere.”
Fox gave voice to what many people have been thinking, that the language of racism and accusations of bias have jumped the shark. Racism had been a charge that could only be levelled by minority racial groups against dominant racial groups. It was a scourge that needed to be rooted out at the highest levels of power to prevent systemic inequity. This project was undertaken by Civil Rights activists, and that work has continued in all of us. As Fox notes, there is still racism.
But the way to fix that racism is not by categorizing everyone into their own little identity boxes and determining what they are allowed to say or think based on the rights and privileges of that identity. The thing to do is to treat everyone like a human being, capable of having their own thoughts and ideas. People must look for the best in one another, not the worst, and not seek out every opportunity to be offended.
Calling someone a privileged white male, said Fox, is a way of “silencing opinion,” saying “you’re not allowed an opinion, mate, you’re white.” Fox has had enough of it, as have so many people.
There are no identity factors that make someone a bad person. Identity factors, such as race, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation should not have value judgements associated with them. For one hot minute, we used to know this. The goal was to look at each other and not parse up individuals into their requisite labels, to not use a person’s external characteristics to determine the worth of their ideas or their rights under the law.
That all turned around with concepts like “valuing differences,” wherein we were supposed to look at the ways in which we were different first, dissect and acknowledge those, before seeking for the ways in which we were the same. How much better it is to find kinship with one another first, before sorting all the ways in which we are different.
Fox’s perspective on racism and identity will most likely continue to be discredited because his identity factors are deemed more essential than his actual perspective. His views are taken with large grains of white cis het male privileged salt. But it’s time to start realizing that the brilliant Civil Rights movement, which told us not to judge someone on the basis of their physical characteristics, has been co-opted by haters who would have us do that very same thing. It doesn’t matter who is being boxed by immutable identity factors and judged by them, it matters that it’s being done at all, and it must stop.
Much of the political dysfunction surrounding the social justice movement is the result of passionate campaigners who rightly identify a problem but then swing to the opposite extreme.
This is the case with ultra-feminists who respond to sexism by hating men, as well as anti-racists who attempt to fight the sad and real history of racism by carping on about “microaggressions.” Perhaps most glaringly, the tendency of activists to vacillate between extremes is on display in the “body positivity” movement, which has, in a visceral reaction to the real problem of cruelty toward overweight people, thrown itself headfirst into science-denial and the glorification of unhealthiness.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the “anti-diet” movement rising to prominence in some woke, left-wing circles.
Take, for instance, the “anti-diet” social club glowingly profiled by The Independent, one of the U.K.’s largest liberal-leaning newspapers. The paper reported (quite positively) on the organization and its founding members, in light of the group planning a “festival” to raise awareness against dieting.
The Independent quoted the club’s founder, Becky Young, as saying: “Diets are still out there, our society is inherently fat phobic and we are all suffering because of it. Diet culture tells you that when you achieve your dream of losing weight you’ll be happy and successful. It sells you a false dream.”
Young continued, saying that society is guilty of “stigmatising fat people” and the “fat experience.” Her organization has amassed 75,000 followers and counting on Instagram, where it boasts to be a “Rebel community fighting diet culture” and promoting “Fat/sex/body activism.” The page’s posts show women, some just slightly overweight and others clearly obese, boasting about their unhealthiness and flaunting health norms, such several posts that explicitly encourage people to “lose hate, not weight.”
This is madness.
Of course, these activists are clearly coming from a good place: No one, especially women, should be shamed or insulted for their body and their weight. And, in particular, sometimes certain gimmick “diets” can be unhealthy or even dangerous. But obesity is still unhealthy, and these activists have crossed the line from “body positivity” to promoting unhealthiness and flouting basic health science.
Obesity literally kills millions every year. It is not “badass” or “fierce” to get diabetes or develop heart disease—it’s deadly.
These particular women are British activists, and the obesity problem is not quite as bad (yet!) in the U.K. as in my home country, the United States. But the American experience shows the perils of glorifying, or at least normalizing, obesity. According to the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control, “Obesity puts individuals at risk for many of the leading causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, respiratory diseases, diabetes and kidney disease. Obesity costs the U.S. about $147 billion in medical expenses each year.”
So no, being overweight is not “beautiful,” “woke” or “cool.” It’s unhealthy and dangerous. Shaming people for their bodies is wrong, but equally misguided is glorifying a medical condition that’s literally killing people every day.
Of course, some will dismiss these “anti-diet” campaigners as fringe figures, a convenient strawman for those of us who enjoy mocking the excesses of the social justice movement. And it is true that such an embrace of obesity is not exactly a mainstream position, even on the woke left.
But such sentiment is growing. From the internet mob that descended on fitness guru Jillian Michaels for merely declining to glorify pop singer Lizzo’s obesity to the 300-pound “plus-sized” model put on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine in 2018, our culture is increasingly glorifying obesity.
This anti-science madness is dangerous, and it must be stopped.