February 24, 2015

Immigration at the 2015 Oscars

This year's Oscars unmasked Hollywood's most dubious views

Despite stirring support for the spirit of Selma, and big prizes for Hispanic film-makers, it was the unfortunate throwaway remarks which will linger longest after the 87th Academy Awards

By Steven W Thrasher
“Who gave this sonofabitch his green card?” Sean Penn demanded before presenting Mexican film-maker Alejandro González Iñárritu the best picture Oscar for Birdman, giving a whole new political dimension to the racism of the 87th Annual Academy Awards.

Penn, who starred in Iñárritu’s 21 Grams all the way back in 2003, probably thought it was a funny joke with an old friend. But racism from friends assumed to be benign can be the worst kind, especially at an awards show: just ask black author Jackie Woodson, whose “friend” used presenting her with a National Book Award to make a watermelon joke.

The incident highlighted Oscar’s uneasy relationship with race, which was on full display throughout last night’s ceremony. Along with Tinseltown’s fraught relationship with American militarism, Penn bookended a politically awkward and often uncomfortable evening, which started with host Neil Patrick Harris making a joke about Hollywood celebrating its “best and whitest”.

Four hours later, Penn reminded the world that white supremacy is never far away in America, and it’s at its most insidious and powerful when wielded by self-proclaimed Hollywood liberals–like Penn.
And:Hollywood likes to think it is cutting-edge on social issues, but it’s usually very conservative. So it was good to see Glory’s musicians provide at least reference to what the hell has been happening in America between Happy and Everything is Awesome.

And Penn’s penultimate moment of the broadcast was its lowest point, when he brought to the fore not just the simmering, weird way race was near at hand with several African Americans who weren’t nominated. He showed that white supremacy in Hollywood needs to assert itself even in the face of minority exceptionalists who are nominated and actually win–that it needs to remind a brown film-maker receiving the Academy’s highest honor that he is still a sonofabitch with a green card, ostensibly stealing work from good white folk.

In a way, Penn did us a favor: he exposed Hollywood’s faux liberalism for what it truly is. Hollywood has an uneasy relationship with racism, feminism and militarism because it will exploit all of them to keep making money. It is not concerned with diversity or economic justice, except to the extent it can feign interest in any of them to perpetuate its own power.
“Who gave this son of a b*tch his green card?”: On the Oscars stage, there’s no such thing as a joke between friends

It doesn't matter if Alejandro Inarritu thought Sean Penn's joke was funny—the Oscars belong to the people at home

By Erin Keane
According to the Associated Press, Iñárritu brushed off concerns others voiced about Penn’s joke after the ceremony. “I found it hilarious,” Iñárritu said. “Sean and I have that kind of brutal (relationship) where only true friendship can survive.”

There’s no reason to believe that’s not true—as comedian Sara Benincasa tweeted last night, “Innaritu and Penn are both rich successful dudes who probably bro down in piles of money and make fun of each other.” As is their right! Friends know where the line is that they allow each other to cross and none of us know the particulars of their “brutal” friendship. My own family includes several different nationalities, and cultural differences do come up, and when they do, sometimes we joke about them, as is our privilege as private citizens with functioning senses of humor.

But Sean Penn wasn’t pulling his buddy’s leg at an afterparty or backstage. He planted himself front and center on stage and made a groaner of a green card joke at the climax of a long and weird ceremony that capped off a long and often intense Oscar campaign season that left many viewers furious over an #OscarsSoWhite and acting and directing snubs for “Selma.” None of that necessarily is Penn’s responsibility to ameliorate, but would it have killed the guy to keep the ethnic jokes to himself until he and his friend were safely off-screen?

I’m sure Penn just felt excited to see his good friend’s name in the envelope and responded the best way he knew how, with a comment that he perceived as fond. But even if the Oscars are Hollywood’s biggest night of the year, once the stars are on stage during the broadcast, the awards cease to belong only to them. Iñárritu might have been the man of the night, but this wasn’t a private party, or even a Comedy Central roast where the form explicitly calls for brutal personal jokes that cross the line of good taste. The Academy Awards are really for the viewing audiences at home. Isn’t that the contract behind this spectacle? They put on designer finery and learn to pronounce each others’ names and walk up on stage without making an ass of themselves, and we watch and clap and tweet and fawn and criticize and generally remind them that they’re still relevant in a world where television in all of its mutating glory is fast overtaking their industry in relevance, quality and diversity. And when an A-list star makes a tasteless joke in the middle of all of that, it can’t just be a personal gag at a close friend. Penn’s immigration joke went out to the whole viewing public—many of whom struggle with immigration status challenges that Iñárritu will not likely face again, if he ever did.

Of course, conservatives responded to this as well as Selma in a racist way:

Trump Weighs In On The Oscars: 'It Was A Great Night For Mexico, As Usual'

"There was a lot of conservative-hatred there. There was no question about that," Trump said. Yes, there's no question that Hollywood hates the conservatives' bigotry against blacks, women, gays, immigrants, et al. Trump nailed it for once.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at the Oscars.

February 23, 2015

Race at the 2015 Oscars

In Their Moment of ‘Glory,’ Common and John Legend Showed the World Why the Selma Struggle Truly Is ‘Now’

With their electrifying acceptance speeches at Sunday’s Oscars, Common and John Legend affirmed the connection between the civil rights struggle portrayed in Selma and the fight for justice that continues today.

By Peniel E. Joseph
Despite being nominated in only two categories, Selma stole the Oscars Sunday night by virtue of a best original song victory that was preceded by an electrifying performance of the song, “Glory,” by John Legend and Common.

The musical performance added heart and soul to what was an otherwise pedestrian Academy Awards telecast. Accompanied by dozens of backup singers doubling as marchers and a set re-creating Selma, Ala.’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, along with portraits of both the real-life civil-rights-era demonstrations and their cinematic counterparts, Legend and Common shut down the Academy Awards. The audience of Hollywood heavyweights, including Oprah Winfrey and an emotional David Oyelowo—the actor who played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma—was in tears.

But the triumph wasn’t over. A few minutes later, Legend and Common bounded up the steps to the stage, after being awarded the Oscar for best original song, where both artists eloquently dedicated their victory to America’s ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial justice. Legend kicked things off by recalling their recent performance at the Edmund Pettus Bridge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday demonstrations that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
How Common and John Legend’s performance of “Glory” fired up Oscar night’s idling empathy machine

The stifled ceremony came alive when "Glory" stirred something frustrated, something human inside the stars

By Sonia Saraiya
It was Streep’s reaction to Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech that first signaled to me something different about the night; until then, it had plodded along desperately, with Neil Patrick Harris doing a lukewarm job holding together a show that was bored with itself before it even began. It’s not uncommon for winners to get political in their acceptance speeches, as Arquette did, calling for equality for women. It is uncommon for well-heeled members of the audience—including front-row, A-list guests Streep and Jennifer Lopez, to her left—to respond with anything other than mild embarrassment. The Oscars, like much of Hollywood, are typically the Blasé Olympics: Losers smile and clap through their disappointment, awkwardly long speeches are played off with soothing orchestral music, and even the most liberal firebrands are expected to put on a nice dress and/or a suit and sit quietly throughout the proceedings. But here was Streep, leaning so far forward in her chair she might have been at church, and stabbing emphatically at the air in support of Arquette’s speech. Next to her, Lopez looked flabbergasted, but in a good way. And this, on a night where the entertainment was dull, the winners predictable, and the first true victory of the night went to a charming Polish man totally uninterested in heeding the playing-off music. It was, as far as the Oscars go, a powder keg waiting to blow.

The performance of “Glory” was the spark. Best original song is a category that invites spectacle, typically in the guise of artists from vastly different genres coming to the same stage and breaking the Oscar host’s rhythm with 90 seconds of a song. By now, though, Legend and Common have gotten very good at their stage game—they performed at the Grammys, too, earlier this month—and after rather minimalist performances from Adam Levine, Rita Ora and Tim McGraw, Legend and Common performed with dozens of extras on a reproduction of the Edmund Pettus bridge. The extras came down the steps of the stage to the carpet, and for a moment it seemed like they might storm the aisles, singing “glory, glory” and marching for freedom. They didn’t. But unexpectedly, the audience rose to their feet en masse, and this after the standing ovation for J.K. Simmons came in fits and starts.

Standing ovations aren’t exactly rare at the Oscars—though they are rare for a category as marginal as Best Original Song. But the fervor of it was unlike anything I’ve seen before—at least, as it was picked out by the producers of the show. David Oyelowo, the star of “Selma,” was openly sobbing in his seat (directly in front of Oprah). Actor Chris Pine, seated elsewhere, had tears streaming down his face. Presenter Jessica Chastain was visibly moved. Immediately after the performance, “Glory” won best song, and the entire audience stood up again. Was it motivated by guilt, or by an especially good performance of the song, or something else entirely? I don’t know, but once the artists finished their (very moving) speech, the audience stood up and applauded, again. (Pine was one of the first to spring to his feet.)

It wasn't just Common and Legend. Everyone at the ceremony was aware of Hollywood's racial issues from the beginning. If they weren't, host Neil Patrick Harris made them aware.

Neil Patrick Harris's jokes on whiteness of Oscars unsettle some viewers

By Alan YuhasA string of jokes about diversity at the Academy Awards and controversial nominee American Sniper made Neil Patrick Harris’s first year hosting the Oscars a controversial one–even before the ceremony reached its halfway mark.

Harris began with a self-conscious joke that quickly won praise from critics and viewers for taking on the lack of diversity in the Academy head-on, saying: “Tonight we celebrate Hollywood’s best and whitest, sorry … brightest.”

But several subsequent jokes directed at black actors in the audience, including Oprah Winfrey, Octavia Spencer and David Oyelowo, fell flat and changed the tenor of the ceremony.
And:The conclusion of many was that Harris’ approach to diversity and controversy, while perhaps laudable for the attempt alone, didn’t work. Grantland’s Rembert Browne took issue with the Oscars organizers at large, tweeting an imaginary thought-bubble of its organizers: “If we sit Kevin Hart close enough, it will totally make up for the Selma thing.”

Writer Julieanne Smolinski similarly felt that Harris and the writers were verging on desperate for approval from minorities whom had been largely excluded from the ceremony, tweeting: “‘I have black friends!’–the Oscars”.
Conservatives = racists

Meanwhile, conservative sniped in their usual illogical ways:

Sean Hannity and others are freaking out about “American Sniper’s” Oscar loss

It was a "predictable" outrage by "liberal" Hollywood that American Sniper and Selma both won only one Oscar?

Yeah, Hollywood really showed its bias by honoring the apolitical Birdman and Grand Hotel Budapest rather than black rights (Selma), gay rights (Imitation Game), or nerd rights (Theory of Everything).

No, really...Hollywood is biased toward the apolitical. According to the studios, racism is always about one person, usually an athlete, breaking down barriers. It's never about centuries of white male Christian supremacy.

Then there was this racist reaction:

Fox 8's Kristi Capel Dropped "Jigaboo" On Air This Morning

It's okay...she says she didn't even know it was a word. She often utters random syllables. You can't blame her if they accidentally form a racial slur.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at the Oscars.

February 22, 2015

Misty Upham in the 2015 Oscars

Here are my Facebook comments on the 2015 Academy Awards. The big issue for fans of Native movies was whether actress Misty Upham would appear in the In Memoriam tribute.


Entertaining Oscar ceremony so far.

Lots of brown people getting screen time on the ‪#‎Oscars‬ to make up for the lack of them in the movies.

As usual! So much diversity on the #Oscars show!

Nice to see the Village People performing Everything Is Awesome. But seriously, a few years ago, you would've seen an Indian chief and others in ethnic costumes. Progress!

‪#‎Oscar‬ acceptance tip: Don't talk about getting a free donut at your local bakery when you have only seconds to thank everyone who helped make your film.

Oprah Winfrey, Lupita Nyong'o, Octavia Spencer, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis...so many black actresses who aren't starring in movies or getting ‪#‎Oscars‬ this year!

Good times if you're a black actor too. Less so if you're any ethnicity but black or white. ‪#‎Oscars‬

Casting directors, check the ‪#‎Oscars‬ if you want an actor of color! They're all there!

Thank you, Edward Snowden, for exposing the excesses of government. ‪#‎Oscars‬

So much talk about the struggles that continue today! The ‪#‎Oscars‬ are un-American!

Who hates America more: Oscar or Obama?

The sound of music

Redemption for John Travolta pronouncing "Idina Menzel"! Our long national nightmare is over! ‪#‎Oscars‬

Awesome comments by Common and John Legend. I'm glad someone can talk about race since our president and politicians can't. ‪#‎Oscars‬

The Sound of Music...best movie ever! ‪#‎Oscars‬

Nice classical singing by Lady Gaga...unlike almost every singer today.

David Oyelowo wasn't nominated for Best Actor? Selma should've gone colorblind and cast Bradley Cooper or Benedict Cumberbatch. ‪#‎Oscars‬

That's what often happens when the main character is Latino, Asian, or Native. Why shouldn't it happen when the main character is black?

I think I'll make a movie called 12 Years a Slave Movie--the searing struggle to get a slavery movie made. It's a lock to win an Oscar.

Now I gotta call my mom because J.K. Simmons said so? Geez.

Next year, it's the Galaxy Trio's turn for an Oscar!

Birdman and the Galaxy Trio


Misty made it! Diversity among the dearly departed!

Other than her, I don't think any other Natives appeared on-screen at the ceremony. As usual, the question is why 1-2% of the performers aren't Native to match the Native population.

And poor NPH! Alas, the reviews for Harris's hosting weren't kind:

Neil Patrick Harris’ painfully boring Oscar night: How did a great host get it so wrong?

I don't think he was on-screen enough to call him boring or painful. But nothing he did was special or memorable either.

For more on the subject, see Hollywood Still White in 2015 and Another White Year at the Oscars.

February 21, 2015

White people aren't called terrorists

White People Aren't Called Terrorists Unless They Liberate Animals, Apparently

By Mark KarlinIt has been clear for years that the US government and mass media's application of the word "terrorism" is highly subjective. If the US kills civilians in drone attacks it is, according to the White House, not terrorism; it's self-defense. If a white male gun enthusiast kills three Muslim students, it's not terrorism; it's a dispute over parking.

The examples of how violent acts committed by nation-states or white males are not terrorism are virtually endless. That doesn't just apply to the United States, of course. It is the prerogative of white eurocentric culture to attribute violent acts--even on a large scale--of members of the dominant classes to individual pathology rather than "terrorism." BuzzFlash at Truthout is hardly the first site to point out that Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 children and adults in Norway in 2011, is generally described as an extremist, radical or mass murderer, but not a terrorist. On the other hand, the term is often used automatically when a Muslim commits an act of violence.

Breivik's acts, however, actually mirror those of the killers in Paris and Copenhagen, who were immediately branded as terrorists because of their Islamic association. According to an article on the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) website, "At the time of the massacre, Breivik said his actions were 'cruel but necessary' to save Europe from Islam and multiculturalism." In short, he had an agenda to "terrorize" Norway and Europe based on his notions of Aryan supremacy. Yet, no government, to our knowledge, warned its citizens of the terrorist threat of Aryan supremacists after Breivik's carnage, even though he slaughtered nearly 80 people - mostly children at a camp on an island.

This double standard about who is labeled a terrorist and who is not is indicative of the malleable use of the term by Western nations in order to manipulate public opinion.
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Americans Worse Than ISIS and Right-Wingers Ignore Right-Wing Terrorism.

February 20, 2015

Conservatives want to brainwash kids

Conservatives are trying to indoctrinate our youth in many ways. Every argument about teaching evolution or school prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance is about this. So are the attempts to politicize the textbook selection process or to ban ethnic studies as "divisive."

Lately, conservatives are trying to brainwash kids by straight-up changing the curriculum to emphasize Christianity and capitalism. Or by eliminating education altogether.

The latest examples of this:

Will Right-Wing Extremist Documentary Be Required Viewing in Florida?

By Tanya H. LeeD’Souza answers the charge of genocide this way: “In the two centuries after Columbus, the Native American population declined by 80 percent. But it wasn’t due to warfare. Rather, as historian William McNeil points out, they contracted diseases—measles, typhus, smallpox, cholera and malaria, to which they had no immunities. Now this is tragedy on a grand scale, but it’s not genocide because genocide implies an intention to wipe out a people.”

ICTMN asked three university professors to respond. Dr. James Riding In, Pawnee, associate professor of American Indian Studies at Arizona State University, says:

“D’Souza does not understand what genocide is. There is a UN convention that was adopted in 1948 that defines genocide. What the declaration on genocide says is that it’s the killing of members of a group… or causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group…[or] inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part… [or] imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group and forcibly transferring children to another group.

“All of these things happened to Indians. Yes, a lot of Indians died of disease and the population of the Americas declined over 90 percent after the arrival of Europeans. A big part of that population decline is attributed to disease, but there were survivors.

“Those survivors were trying to hold on to their culture, their beliefs, their way of life, their philosophies about life that had been developed in the distant past and were supposed to continue on indefinitely. What United States colonialism did was disrupt the future of Indigenous Peoples.”

Riding In notes, “U.S. policy was genocide. It was designed, to use the jargon of the time, to kill the savage and save the man. Well, there was a lot of killing of the man along the way. And women. And children.”

Oklahoma’s demented fight against AP history

A new bill would fight teaching "what's bad about America"

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
It may not be true that history is written by the victors, but in certain places, they’re making a hell of an effort to make sure it’s at least taught by them. In Oklahoma this week, a legislative committee took aim at Advanced Placement U.S. History classes in public schools.

House Bill 1380, introduced by Republican Rep. Dan Fisher, would “give sole control of curriculum and assessment to the state,” with particular regard to Advanced Placement classes offered for students to earn college credit. Fisher happens to be a member of the ominously named Black Robe Regiment, a group whose aims include “To educate all people and restore to its rightful place the Church in America (indeed, the entire earth)” and “To provide educational materials for use in the Church and for the American Public to restore our American History and the History of the American Church, so as to restore what has been lost by way of deception and historical revision.” Fisher claims the AP curriculum emphasizes “what is bad about America” and neglects the concept of “American exceptionalism.” College Board representative John Williamson, meanwhile, calls Fisher’s objections “mythology and not true.”

The simplistic notion that kids need to be taught “exceptionalism,” a pervasive and often flat out inaccurate, bathed-in-glory vision of American superiority, has led to multiple educational skirmishes over the past few years. In Colorado last year, a Board of Education member took issue with AP History’s “overly negative view” of slavery, noting, “Yes, we practiced slavery. But we also ended it voluntarily, at great sacrifice, while the practice continues in many countries still today!” In North Carolina this past December, the State Board of Education held a debate over the AP US History course’s omission of exceptionalism in its 70 page framework. Similar battles over educational “ideological bias” and the “negative aspects” of history have waged in Georgia and South Carolina.

Ignorance is bad for everybody. It only lowers the collective IQ when lawmakers still push to teach “intelligent design.” It similarly should never be a matter of any dispute that the Inquisition and the Crusades were bad ideas, and to take offense over pointing that out is inane. Likewise, these targeted, strategic attempts to force students—students who are intellectually sophisticated enough to take on college level coursework—to accept a propaganda-based curriculum is detrimental to critical thought as a whole. It should be absurd to promote any educational agenda that pushes jingoism as a lesson plan. It should never have gotten this far. And the reality of life in the 21st century is that we are sharing this planet with the rest of its inhabitants. It’s not just dumb and wrong to teach kids that we’re better than the rest of the world, and to attempt to conspicuously leave our past misdeeds from lessons—it’s bad diplomacy and it’s bad business. That’s not teaching exceptionalism; it’s teaching entitlement—not a useful quality on the global playing field.

There’s a profound insecurity at the heart of any agenda that presumes that if kids aren’t spoon fed a black and white fairy tale of our national greatness, they’ll have no pride or loyalty. Arrogance isn’t patriotism, and education isn’t indoctrination. And anyone who doesn’t comprehend that difference doesn’t just need a history lesson, he needs a dictionary.
Fox Host: 'There Really Shouldn't Be Public Schools' Anymore

By Ahiza GarciaFox host Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery suggested getting rid of the nation's public schools during a discussion on Thursday's "Outnumbered."

Kennedy's comments came during a segment about an Oklahoma bill, approved by a House committee, that seeks to eliminate AP US History. The bill asserts that the current iteration of the course doesn't show "American exceptionalism," instead highlighting "what is bad about America."

"There really shouldn't be public schools, should there?" Kennedy said. "I mean we should really go to a system where parents of every stripe have a choice, have a say in the kind of education their kids get because, when we have centralized, bureaucratic education doctrines and dogmas like this, that's exactly what happens."
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Christian Curriculum Praises Trail of Tears, What Conservatives Consider Objective History, and Ethnic History Corrects American History.

February 19, 2015

"Seminole Spirit" = "savage swamp mermaid"

Victoria's Secret Photographer, Model Present 'Seminole Spirit' Imagery in NYCAn exhibit of photography that may elicit a variety of reactions in Indian country opens today at Stephan Weiss Studio in New York City. Called "Seminole Spirit," it consists of highly stylized photos taken in the wetlands and swamps of Florida by Australian shooter Russell James, who is most famous for his photography of Victoria's Secret models. A number of the photos feature Victoria's Secret Angel Behati Prinsloo, while others depict landscapes, alligators, and the Seminole people.

The project was undertaken in cooperation with the Seminole Nation of Florida, under the guidance of Chief James Billie and medicine man Bobby Henry.

"I didn't want [Prinsloo] to be representative of the Seminole, of course," James says, according to Gotham Magazine. "But I went to Seminole land and I shot things like the way they build, the way a man holds his hands—all these things [about] Seminole culture. Then I took Behati and created a fantasy character that I call Seminole Spirit. She represents this thing, this movement that I call relevant, modern, cultural, all of these things combined, and that's how Seminole Spirit came about."
The 10 nude photographs of Prinsloo, which represent less than one-third of the material, are bound to grab the most attention. Of the experience, Prinsloo who is currently ranked 15th on the "Money Girls" list at models.com, said that "We painted my body gold as we tried to capture an idea we had of what ‘Seminole Spirit’ is […] I felt like a savage swamp mermaid on Seminole land, crazy."Comment:  A gold-painted savage swamp mermaid? Sounds stereotypical to me.

Talk about your exotic others. Indians as mermaids, fairies, swamp dwellers, savages...this "Seminole Spirit" is a one-woman Peter Pan menagerie. She could star in the next Pirates of the Caribbean as the movie's supernatural monster.

Does photographer Russell James, not to mention Chief Billie, realize that Seminoles are doctors, lawyers, and teachers? Why would you want to reinforce the idea that they're otherworldly creatures who live in a magical world of spirits and demons? That's already what people think, and now they've reinforced the idea.

February 18, 2015

KTZ rips off Native designs

Another fashion faux pas involving Native appropriations:

New York Fashion Week Designer steals from Northern Cheyenne/Crow artist Bethany Yellowtail

By Adrienne KeeneI write about cultural appropriation in fashion a lot. I’ve taken on big brands and small brands, arguing that our images and cultural property should be taken seriously. But today, things got personal. Brand KTZ’s Fall/Winter line at New York Fashion Week was “a tribute” to Indigenous peoples. There’s a lot to critique in the line (and I will), but nestled among the 45 looks was this dress:

Does it look familiar? It might, because it is a DIRECT rip-off of my friend Bethany Yellowtail’s design from her Crow Pop Collection. ... If you need a side-by-side:
Notice the form of the dress is the same, with the collar, the length, the shape, and the designs are clearly “inspired” by Bethany’s. Here’s the thing. Bethany’s design is not just a collection of abstract shapes, she utilized Crow beadwork that had been in her family for generations for her design. The colors, the shapes, and the patterns have meaning, origins, and history. They belong to her family and tribe. They are cultural property, not designs that are free for the taking.And:So why is it that Indigenous intellectual property is not seen as “real” intellectual property? Yes, the boundaries are difficult to find and difficult to enforce–but if KTZ had directly ripped off images from, say Valentino, or Yves Saint Laurent, or, shoot, McDonalds or Apple or anyone else, there would be a major case to be made about violations of intellectual property rights, and people would scoff at his lack of creativity. But “primitive” or in his words, “primal” peoples are not ever given the same consideration. Our designs and cultural markers are used to “enhance” white culture, while white cultural artifacts are protected and policed.

The bottom line is this: There should be no representations of us, without us. You want to draw upon Indigenous cultures for your line? Involve Indigenous artists and designers. There is no alternative answer. You love Bethany’s Crow designs? Call Bethany. Collaborate with Bethany. Give her a chance to show at New York Fashion Week with you. The fashion world costs hella money to get a foot in the door, so if you as a designer truly want to offer a “tribute” to Native people? Bring a Native designer up with you.
KTZ's Latest Collection: A Racist Ripoff

By Dr. Jessica R. MetcalfeIf you still don’t understand what the big issue is, please read Jezebel’s A Much Needed Primer on Culture Appropriation, especially when I say this little ditty:"There isn't just one Native American culture. There are hundreds. And there are millions of Native people. And we're being ignored. We're being told that we don't have rights over how we are represented in mainstream America. We are being told that we should 'get over it'–but the people who are saying this don't even know what the issues are. When people know of us only as a 'costume,' or something you dress up as for Halloween or for a music video, then you stop thinking of us as people, and this is incredibly dangerous because everyday we fight for the basic human right to live our own lives without outsiders determining our fate or defining our identities."Pejoski blatantly disregards this basic fact, and creates a mish-mash–combining Navajo weaving designs with Crow beadwork patterns, and Plains bone breastplates with Southwest turquoise jewelry.

And let’s talk about those Navajo designs: one of them is of a sacred ye’ii–the embodiment of Navajo deities–that Pejoski put on a leather corset dress. Red flag #2. There is a colonial history of stealing, selling and buying Native American sacred items.

KTZ Accused of Ripping Off Crow Designer’s Patterns

By Jihan ForbesAdrienne calls Pejoski’s interpretation a “mockery and a celebration of cultural theft.” While it is hardly a crime or an offense to be inspired by other cultures, as we know, it becomes a different animal altogether when the source of inspiration is not given the kind of credit they deserve. Still, it is difficult to say whether or not Pejoski ripped off Yellowtail’s designs (we don’t know for sure if it was Yellowtail’s particular designs or even something he saw on Tumblr or on the street that could have prompted him to design something like this). It is difficult to imagine that someone working in fashion would be ignorant of the highly sensitive nature of borrowing from other cultures, particularly Native Americans. There has been quite a bit of backlash against designers, festival goers and celebrities who choose to don headdresses or put them on a runway. Unless you live under a rock, it’s hard not to notice these instances.‘Native American-inspired’ Fashion Week collection offends and enrages actual Native Americans

By Marjon CarlosAttempting to celebrate diversity by sizably poaching the work of creatives of color sends a message that fashion’s interest is ephemeral and purely surface. But for indigenous cultures, these ornamental elements are part of a long-standing tradition, and often sacred. Style.com praised the clothes for their detailing and “spirit,” but this collection reinforces a painful history of domination, subjugation, prejudice and discrimination that has been blindly truncated into ill-conceived modifiers, such as arrows atop a model’s head. As Keene suggests, rather than ripping off Yellowtail’s designs or the traditional handwork of Native tribes, fashion designers need to actually collaborate and work with Native artisans to curve this continual mishandling and erasure. Instances like KTZ’s collection show that while cultural appropriation remains a weighted subject, what detractors really want in return is simply inclusion.

February 17, 2015

Blackhawks logo in SNL's 40th anniversary

Indians appeared once in Saturday Night Live's 40th-anniversary show. Unfortunately, the appearance wasn't good:

SNL 40th Anniversary: Mike Myers and Native Imagery

By Adrienne KeeneI was excited to see a Wayne’s World sketch, because I am a nerd and use #partytimeexcellent as a personal catchphrase…and then noticed something about Wayne/Mike Myers:

Obviously, he’s wearing a Chicago Blackhawks Jersey. But notice the blanket he’s sitting on as well…totally “Native inspired.”

It got me thinking (duh). This screenshot pretty much encapsulates what most folks watching SNL think about Native peoples: mascots and artifacts. Both disembodied symbols that have minimal relation to contemporary Native communities or people. Both representing outsiders profiting from and exploiting our images and our cultures for their own economic gain. Both harkening to a very specific period of time in our cultures–back to the 19th century, when the “real Indians” were around.
These things matter. More than 23 million viewers saw this sketch. 23 MILLION. When we don’t have any counter-representations to show us as we actually are, the weight of these small moments adds up. I know most viewers wouldn’t have even thought twice about the problematic nature of this–but that’s why you have me, right? To scream from the rooftops that WE ARE MORE THAN ARTIFACTS AND MASCOTS? These things aren’t “honoring.” They’re demeaning and exploitative. Final answer.Comment:  Keene adds that the team owner's wife designed the Blackhawks logo while her husband named the team after his Blackhawk Division in World War I. Some people have used that origin as an excuse to keep the name: "The team isn't stereotypical because it's not named after an Indian."

Not directly, anyway. But that only undercuts the claim that the team, name, and logo "honor" Indians. As Keene notes, they're honoring a fictitious version of an Indian--what the owners think Sauk Chief Black Hawk looked like in their dreams. There's no legitimate Native basis for the name or logo.

Keene also tweeted this image:

Writing a quick post about SNL...remember "Native American Comic Billy Smith"? smh: http://www.hulu.com/watch/114928For more on the Blackhawks, see Blackhawks Fans Defend Stereotypical Logo and Severed Head Suggests Dead Indian. For more on Saturday Night Live and Billy Smith, see Native Doll in Saturday Night Live and Cobell Skit in Saturday Night Live.

February 16, 2015

The Zulu Cannibal Giants

Someone posted this item on Facebook:

Buchanan's argument is silly. According to him and his ilk, no one ever meant to insult someone with a joke about a dumb blonde or a dumb Polack. No one meant to insult someone with a skit about Uncle Toms or wetbacks or Chinamen. They were all meant in "good fun," to recognize and "celebrate" the subjects.

Indian mascots are the same thing.

The person responded to my comments with these:

Who are the Zulu Cannibal Giants:

Zulu Cannibal GiantsThe Zulu Cannibal Giants were an African American baseball team (they referred to themselves as a Baseball "Zulu Tribe," based on a concept inspired by the war in Ethiopia) formed in 1934 by Charlie Henry in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Zulu Cannibal Giants gained notoriety for their propensity to turn a baseball game into a comedy performance, much in the same way that the Harlem Globetrotters did with basketball many years later. The Zulu Cannibal Giants decorated their faces and bodies with African tribal paint, went shirtless, wore only grass skirts, used special custom-made baseball bats crafted to supposedly resemble Ethiopian war clubs, and always played barefoot.

Although the team was extremely popular with the public, some black athletes disapproved of the Cannibals because of the stereotype.
I've suggested teams should name themselves the Zulu something-or-others before. I usually go with Spearchuckers because it's more warrior-like. But I never knew a team actually had such a name.

I'm sure the team would argue it was innocently celebrating and honoring Zulus with no intent to offend them. Again, same as any Indian mascot.

February 15, 2015

Battle of Little Bighorn in Twilight Zone

I saw this Twilight Zone episode for the first time a couple of years ago.

The 7th Is Made Up of Phantoms[T]hree United States Army National Guard soldiers (MSgt. William Connors, Pvt. Michael McCluskey, Cpl. Richard Langsford) are an M3 Stuart tank crew participating in a war game being conducted near the Battle of Little Bighorn, the site of Major General George Custer's last stand. Their orders coincide with the route of Custer and his men. As they follow the route, they hear strange things such as Indian battle cries and horses running. As nobody is there, the men examine the possibilities. Connors wonders if they've somehow gone back in time. When they return, Connors reports to his captain what occurred and is reprimanded. The following day the trio goes out and again begins to experience strange phenomena. The captain contacts them via radio and orders them to return to base when Connors tries to explain what is happening. Connors breaks contact and the captain sends his lieutenant and two men to bring them in. However, the tank crew abandon their tank and continue on foot with their side arms and rifles. They find a group of teepees and McCluskey goes to investigate; he soon returns with an arrow protruding from his back. The men climb a ridge where they see a battle taking place below. They join it and are never seen again.

Later, the captain enters the Custer Battlefield National Monument. A soldier reports that all they found was the abandoned tank. The two of them notice the names of their missing soldiers on the monument with the names of Custer's men. The captain states that it was a pity the missing soldiers couldn't have taken the tank with them to the battle.

Comment:  Alas, this episode doesn't include any Indians. Not even Latinos, Italians, or Greeks dressed as Indians.

The captain has the best line when he says to Connors:And if you meet any Indians...if you meet any Indians, will you take it very slow? Because they're all college graduates and they're probably running tests on the soil.So we know the episode has a somewhat modern sensibility. And kudos for including two black soldiers, including Greg Morris (soon to star in Mission: Impossible).

But a few odd things:

  • The "group" of tipis consists of six of them--no Indians, horses, campfires, or anything else. In reality, the Indian camp had some 2,000 lodges. I know that was beyond the budget of The Twilight Zone, but this is ridiculously small.

  • McCluskey approaches the "village," is out of sight a few seconds, and then appears and calmly ascends the slope. Only then do the others realize he has an arrow in his back.

    This is silly on several fronts. Why would Indians shoot an arrow in the confines of a tipi rather than, say, use a knife? Why would they attack a lone, unarmed stranger at all? How did it happen without a single outcry or shout of pain? Why did the Indians let McCluskey go? How is he able to function with an arrow in his back? And why is there no arrow the next time he's shown?

  • A reviewer agrees:

    The Twilight Zone: “The 7th Is Made Up Of Phantoms”/“A Short Drink From A Certain Fountain”It’s not much of a village; just a cluster of maybe a dozen teepees, with no living being in sight. McCluskey (the young one of the three) takes it at face value and offers to go scout the area. Now, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense: it’s broad daylight, there’s no cover, and the three men are already standing no more than a couple hundred yards from the “village.” By this point, Connors and the rest believe that they’re on the trail of General Custer on his last doomed assault against the Sioux, and they’ve decided they’re going to join up with Custer and the others and fight alongside them. So if they believe enough to consider that the Native Americans are real, and that they’re dangerous, why would McCluskey go wandering over without any real reason or protection?

    He gets an arrow in the back for his troubles (although for once, this isn’t immediately fatal), and it’s ridiculous, but it’s also deeply creepy in a way that a more conventionally structured sequence would not have been. We never see a single Native American throughout the episode, just the effects of their passing, and as unfortunate as the story’s politics are (it’s weird to see something these days that treats “fighting alongside Custer” as a worthwhile and heroic goal), that lends the whole half hour a general air of creepiness that makes it compelling even when the writing fumbles.
    The last stand

    Actually, the soldiers haven't decided anything yet. They stumble over a ridge and see the battle in progress. They check their weapons before Connors shouts:All right, fellas...let's do it!This leads to the key point:

  • The soldiers are excited by the battle they see off-screen and say so--but they don't say which side they're eager to join. Would they have been thrilled to die within minutes like the rest of Custer's regiment? Or would they have preferred to help the Indians kill their fellow Americans?

    If the Indians stripped the soldiers of their gear, leaving only their dog tags, the soldiers would've looked like anyone else. Those who surveyed the battle site would've assumed they were part of Custer's troops. So their choice isn't clear.

    I guess the names on the monument imply they joined Custer. It's just funny that no one is willing to say it.

    An earlier exchange offers an alternative and shows the episode's ambivalence:LANGSFORD: All right, Connors. Okay, let's say, let's say that you're right. Let's say that this thing is happening just like you said it is. Let's say that we're gonna follow this trail, just like, uh--well, just like they did it, huh?!

    LANGSFORD: Now what I wanna know is, what's gonna happen next?

    CONNORS: We're gonna wind up at a massacre. That's what.

    LANGSFORD: You gonna stop it?

    CONNORS: Yeah. Stop it, or ... join it.
    In 1963, when this episode was made, people were beginning to realize that the Indians were right and Custer was wrong. Perhaps Serling or someone understood it would sound bad to cheer the killing of Indians. So they filmed the episode but left out any references to aiding or opposing Custer.

    Anyway, I agree this episode is flawed. The producers spent too much time on the opening and not enough on the ending. They should've handled the Indian "village" differently--said it was an outlying camp, and shown arrows fired from afar and missing the soldiers.

    Most important, they should've said which side the soldiers were joining. Either way, it would've made for a provocative message. Viewers could've learned a lesson about doing the right thing...or the wrong thing.

    P.S. You can see images from the episode here:

    The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms--Quotes and Sound Clips

    Below:  McClusky foolisly goes to scout the Sioux "village."