March 16, 2010

No politics in Chasco's stereotypes?

Chasco Krewe mocks Native American culture

Chasco Krewe float is offensiveWendy Brenner recently made news when she denied the float application for the Republican Party. The reason she gave was that floats aren't permitted admission if they reflect certain subject matter such as a political campaign, social issues, or special interest groups. However, the Chasco Krewe, which stereotypes Native Americans and mocks Native American spirituality, meets the parade criteria.

So, if this is true, a white organization's application for an African float would be approved. I can see it now, blackface, spears, and leopard skirts. Or picture this, a Catholic church applies for a float with dancing nuns throwing communion wafers. Nothing wrong, it's only about ethnicity and spirituality, right?

Some time ago, the American Indian Movement's education director, David Narcomey, met with officials of the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce and Chasco officials to explain why the Chasco Krewe float was offensive and racist to Native Americans. The response was a big ho hum. It's too bad that a little social conscientiousness didn't result from that meeting.

The American Indian Movement isn't against parades or other community events that provide fun for families. However, activities that demean other people's culture and spirituality are not acceptable.

It's not only politically correct, but ethically right to ban racist floats such as the Chasco Krewe.

Ruby Beaulieu, director, AIM Florida Chapter, Port Richey
Comment:  The contrast between the Republican float's being rejected and the Chasco Krewe float's being accepted is interesting. As Beaulieu notes, the parade organizers obviously don't think dressing up as Indians is a political statement. That's where they're wrong.

Beaulieu's African example makes this plain. How would it not be a political statement to portray blacks as primitive and superstitious savages? This portrayal would be a direct attack on their battles for social and economic justice. On the very presumption that they were created equal with certain inalienable rights.

The same is true of the Chasco Krewe float. Portraying Indians as primitive people of the past serves to keep them in their place. The minstrel-style mockery helps to ensure that no one will take them or their issues seriously.

"These savages are dead and gone," most Americans think after seeing such stereotypes. If they see real Indians in suits or jeans, it creates cognitive dissonance in their minds. They're unable to process the fact that Indians are alive and thriving, so they seek ways to deny it.

So they accuse Indians of playing the "race card" to get government handouts. They call Indians greedy and corrupt for seeking to open casinos. Perhaps worst of all, they point to the Indians' mixed blood and say they're not real Indians.

According to these naysayers, today's Indians are phonies, frauds, and charlatans. These "Indians" care only about enriching themselves by playing the politics of "victimization." Sending that kind of message is the implicit agenda of those who stereotype Indians.

For more on the subject, see Chasco Fiesta Mocks Indians and The Political Uses of Stereotyping.

Below:  Political propaganda or harmless fun? How does the message change if we remove the Indian from the poster and put him on a parade float? Or on a package, in a movie, or in a sports game?

Answer: It doesn't. The message is the same in each context: "Indians are savages, so beware!"


Unknown said...

I find it interesting that the Chasco Krewe is a club that membership is by invitation only. Before I read that article, I had no idea who or what it was. Their website doesn't give much information on the mission or goals of their group.

I find it disturbing that in this day and age, with educational opportunities and information at your fingertips, people still find the need to create a group based on unreal and fantastical notions of what it means to be Native American. I see a similarity between this group and those groups and clubs that get together to play knights of the round table. Except that, that type of historic reinactment no longer has an impact on modern society's veiwpoint and overall attitude towards a specific group of people. (Unless, of course, one feels the need to put the Renaissance and knights or yor players in the stereotype catagory. Which is a completely different discussion all together.)

I think the point made is very valid. When individuals see it fit or acceptable to depict or appropriate another culture, there seems to always be the problem with proper representation and enforcing stereotypical impression--which inlies the core of the problem.

Rob said...

For more on the Chasco Krewe's implicit message, see Columnist Shows How Racists View Indians.

Linde Knighton said...

Interesting comaparison with the SCA. Most SCA knights are serious historians. The ones that get in the newspapers are often fools. I was in the SCA for many years, and by taking on a Native American persona, I educated a lot of people as to our actual history. And I discovered that many people react badly to having their cherished fictions explode in their faces.