In response to my post “Blackface” at Lehigh University, Mike said: “Well I agree, this is racist. But what is really disappointing is how people dress up as stereotypical native americans (indians) every year for hollowed as well as theme parties and everyone pretends it is just fine and not racist (not to mention how people pick fun and make stereotypes of cattleranchers at ‘cowboys and indians’ parties). And how a student went to class wearing a sombrero, mustache, and pancho on holloween and nothing was made of it. And how holloween is disrespectful to certain people because it is demeaning to people who celebrate Samhain. And how girls dress up like ‘sexy nurses’ implying the job is femine or trivial. Also how lehigh hired a comic to preform during greek week who happens to have an extremely racist show (tosh.o) . And how people would get together in public areas in the dorm to watch dave chappelle eppisodes where he dresses up in what i only would guess would be called white face as he covers himself in white powder to look caucasion.”
There are clearly many issues raised here that are extremely important. In this post, I want to take up the point about American Indians / Native Americans. This issue came up in conversation between me and a fellow WAARP member here at Mount Holyoke.
This country loves tokenizing American Indians / Native Americans. Why is that? Worse yet, why is that so okay? It’s absurd, really. We have the Redskins football team. How would we feel if we had the Blackskins? The Whiteskins? We have teams called the Braves. There are so many teams that there’s a Wikipedia list of them: List of sports team names and mascots derived from indigenous peoples. The longest list within the list is schools who have these names as their mascots. And what message does that send? Can you imagine what would happen if your school (or your child’s school) had a mascot like the Asians? The Whites? The Blacks? The Hispanics? Of course not. But we cheer on “The Indians” at schools across the country. Not to mention the Braves, the Chiefs, the Warriors… even the “Redmen.” What if it was the Blackmen? The Whitemen? The Yellowmen?
(Not to mention the gender issues at play in all of the following as well.) Type in “Indian Costume” to Google. Of course, if you type in “Black Costume” or “White Costume,” you literally get costumes for various things that are white and black fabric. Type in “Asian Costume” and we’re back at the same problem. Now try “Indian Mascot.” Interestingly enough, if you type “Native American” into YouTube, you actually get some videos about and representing the culture. Add the word “Mascot” and you’re back in this conversation, with many examples of exactly what I’m talking about, with some videos even asking: Is this racist?
Or try the Disney movie Peter Pan:
Maybe we should take a lesson from Sesame Street: