April 11, 2008

April Fools' joke on Indians

It's been quite a month for racism against Indians. There's been the UND sorority party, the shock-jock diatribe, and now a stereotype-laden "spoof" of diversity.

When attempts at humor fail, censorship not answerThe article entitled “Indians Take Over Bridges’ Office” in the recent April Fools edition clearly represents an attempt at humor that failed. It didn’t fail because it displayed painful ignorance about the complexities of Whitman’s institutional commitment to diversity, or because it insulted our efforts to work toward greater racial and ethnic communication and understanding on campus. It did those things, I “got” the point, and I remain committed to doing this important work. Rather, I believe the article failed because—in its desire to make fun of me and our efforts—it revealed shockingly simplistic, stereotypical attitudes about our Native American students and their ancestors.

In describing a fictitious takeover of my office by tribal members, the article used characterizations of Native Americans as savages (“scalpings will increase”) and ridiculously misrepresented the name of an alleged local tribe (the “Walla Walla Navajo”). In doing so, the article continued the long, painful, and not-funny history of depicting Native Americans in the most negative light and conveying disrespect for, and misunderstanding of, their tribal organizations.
Comment:  Unfortunately, the school seems to have taken down the original column. Therefore, we can't see its racist spin on Indians in all its "glory." We have to rely on analyses such as this one.

It's amazing that people still think they can stereotype Indians in the name of "satirizing" stereotypes. Get a clue, you witless Whitmanites. When you write about Indians scalping people without editorial comment, you aren't satirizing anything. You're repeating and reinforcing a negative stereotype for perhaps the millionth time.

Below:  An illustration from another student article about Indians.

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