May 27, 2010

Yale grads wear "silly" headdresses

Ivy League Graduation AppropriationSunday was "Class Day" at an Ivy League university, and I sat with 5 of my family members, watching my little sister graduate. Class Day tradition at this school dictates students wear "funny hats" along with their graduation robes (the traditional mortar boards are saved for commencement the next day). As I waited for my sister to enter through the gates (she was wearing a flower wreath), my dad grabbed my arm and said "AJ, look at the jumbotron."

I had to seriously pick my jaw up off the floor. I mean, imagine--dragon hat, football helmet, captain's hat, glittery baseball cap...warbonnet?! I felt completely disrespected and embarrassed.

To these graduating students' credit, I will point out that out of 1,300 graduates, there were only two headdresses that we saw. Considering how "trendy" the headdress look is right now, and the fact that they were told to wear "crazy hats," I'm actually surprised there weren't more. But I would still argue that two is too many.

This is also the perfect illustration of how Natives are placed in a "fantasy" category, along with wizards, magical creatures, and other forms of "dress up" costumes. Indians aren't "real." They are imaginary people, perfect for playing pretend--they can't possibly be contemporary people sitting a few rows behind you at a graduation ceremony.
Another attendee at the event--at Yale--adds some details:

Persisting....[S]ince this event is less formal than graduation ceremony, seniors have the option of "wearing ... flamboyant, lovely, SILLY, inventive headgear" (an email sent to me describing the event). It was in this festive and joyous atmosphere that two non-native individuals decided to wear feathered regalia as their SILLY headgear.And:Obviously, ethnic heritage can NOT and should NOT be represented in a SILLY manner. I am at the moment writing an essay/letter to individuals with higher authority in Yale to describe how utterly humiliated, enraged, and dishonored I felt throughout my graduation ceremony.Comment:  I've often said Americans put Indians in the same category as cavemen, pirates, and fairies--i.e., mythical or semi-mythical fantasy figures. Glad to see someone else making the same point.

For more on the subject, see The "Honor" of a Plains Chief and Why Hipster Headdresses Aren't Okay.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

But Indians are magical. And when whites join in, they get some of that magic too. They can be quite noble. There's even a uniform. But don't anger them.

Okay, there are so many Indian tropes it's ridiculous.