Monday, October 8, 2012

That's Not Native!

Let me start out by saying that this post has been on my mind for a while, in case you guys hadn't noticed, I've been facebooking (and tumblring) a lot about cultural appropriation. I think it's because Halloween is just around the corner and it seems to me that a large majority of the population can't tell the difference between a culture and a costumeWhile this applies to many cultures, I'm mainly going to speak about how this particularly pertains to Native Americans, because I am one (please hold back on the "you don't look Native" comments I already know) and because I see more people dressed up as Native Americans than anything. So. First some notes, and then I'll give you a brief tutorial on how to tell whether something is Native or not, and coincidentally, whether it's racist to wear it or not. So we begin. Point A. Wearing Native American cultural items promotes stereotyping of Natives as a whole.Basically what you're saying when you wear them is "I don't realize that I'm actually perpetuating the stereotype created by Hollywood that all Native Americans wear warpaint, headdresses, and braids, and I don't really care. All Native Americans are exactly the same. It's not like there are over 500 tribes that have their own cultures. I choose to only recognize them by this one 'accessory'." Also, it creates the idea that Native Americans are in the past and don't have  a place in today's world. I mean honestly, you don't wear your church clothes everyday, why would we wander around in ceremonial attire just to be recognized as a people?Point B. Wearing Blackface is wrong. So is "Playing Indian"What people fail to realize is that pretending to be a race your not is just as bad as wearing blackface. When you do that, you collapse distinct cultures, and therefore assert your power over them. Which, considering the fact that genocide and colonialism still continue today where Native Americans are involved, is NOT okay. For Point C, which is "The items you wear as accessories are deeply rooted in Native American spirituality" I couldn't find any better way to say it than Monica, a girl who runs a blog that I deeply appreciate. "The wearing of feathers and warbonnets in Native communities is not a fashion choice. Eagle feathers are presented as symbols of honor and respect and have to be earned. Some communities give them to children when they become adults through special ceremonies, others present the feathers as a way of commemorating an act or event of deep significance. Warbonnets especially are reserved for respected figures of power. The other issue is that warbonnets are reserved for men in Native communities, and nearly all of these pictures show women sporting the headdresses. I can't read it as an act of feminism or subverting the patriarchal society, it's an act of utter disrespect for the origins of the practice. This is just as bad as running around in a pope hat and a bikini, or a Sikh turban cause it's 'cute.'"Here are some responses that I'm sure you came up with during this whole thing:

I'm just trying to honor your people! Calm down! I highly doubt very many people are honored by a girl in a bikini dancing around in a headdress. Put some clothes on, take the headdress off, and everyone will be happy. I don't think I can say it better than the cartoon on the right.

But I'm just trying to keep up with current trends!
You know what else is a trend right now? Drug use. Oh and teenage pregnancy. Are you trying to keep up with those trends as well? My culture is not a trend. It should not be treated as something that can go out of style whenever someone high up on the fashion social ladder chooses. And please stop wearing "Native American headbands" Hollywood created that whole idea/thing because the headbands helped the actors keep their wigs on when portraying Natives. Y'all just look ridiculous. 

But it's just a Halloween costume. RUH-LAX.  No. It's racism, and cultural appropriation. Because if you're saying you want to dress up as...oh...I don't know, Pocahontas and you end up dressed like the girl on the left, you're doing it wrong. Just FYI: Pocahontas as an adult is normally depicted in European clothing because she married a European man named John Rolfe (NOT John Smith you Disney fanatics) and toured England, where she had her portrait taken. So actually, you should probably dress up more similar to the portrait on the right. 

To recap: Wearing Native American clothing or carictures of their clothing or spiritual artifacts is wrong. It is racist and culture's are not trends for you to exploit. You wouldn't wear black face and walk around like it is normal to be painted like that, would you?


Not Native:

So this Halloween, and every other day of the year as well, please refrain from headdresses, and feathers, and trying to be Native, because I mean, your ancestors killed off all of our ancestors first of all, and ugh, and also, it's just plain offensive. You wouldn't use a word you didn't know the meaning of, why use a cultural object that way?


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