June 21, 2010

Zazzle's "Indian name" t-shirts

Another stereotype controversy has been raging on Facebook for a day or so. It involves the online store Zazzle.

As you may recall, Zazzle sells t-shirts featuring Indian skulls in headdresses, among other things. A letter sent to Zazzle explains what else they sell.I am writing on behalf of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. Your "Funny Indian Name" t-shirts are neither funny, nor are they Indian, and if you have any decency, you should take them off of your website, and stop making them. Your shirts are racist, sexist, and ignorant. We expect that very soon you will be hearing from our relatives, friends, and allies, from all over the world, about this matter--about your "funny" Indian name products like "Chief Shitting Bull," and "Screaming Bitch" and "Stares at Boobs," and "Swallows Alot," and "Hung Like Horse," and "Sucks Dicks," and "Humps Like Rabbit." Oh, those are hilarious.

Our indigenous names are sacred, they are bestowed upon us in honored ceremonies--often handed down over many generations, and even speaking our Indian names is considered a sacred act. For you, as ignorant people, to disrespect our traditions in this way, is more evidence of the deeply-seated, malicious, anti-Indian racism still rampant in U.S. society. And no, we can't just lighten up; and no, we can't take a joke about this; and no, we are not taking ourselves too seriously; and no, we don't care if you have a self-hating Indian friend who thinks that they are funny; and no, we don't care if you think that you are part Cherokee and somehow entitled to disrespect all Indian people. And, yes, we get tired, sick and tired if you really want to know, of having to deal with these kind of mindless attacks on our culture and our people, when we have very real life and death issues that affect our communities that must be remedied. If you want to make fun of someone, you should just make fun yourself, if you choose to, and leave us the hell out of it. Just stop it.

Glenn Morris
Leadership Council, American Indian Movement of Colorado


I don't know if Zazzle sells anything itself. It may be just a "storefront" through which others sell their wares. That would explain this note from Morris:We received this reply from Doonies:

I am sorry for any offense that was caused. I have removed the designs from zazzle.com/doonidesigns which is my site, however I am continuing to get threats against me and my families personal safety from people who are writing on your behalf regarding other designs on zazzle.com, I do NOT own zazzle.com and I cannot remove any designs which are not mine. Please help me, and stop the threats and harassment, as I have already complied and removed all offending images that it is in my power to remove.


Comment:  Let's be careful, people. Don't blame Dooni Designs if they've removed everything under their control. And don't threaten anyone's safety. Better to attack Zazzle for not policing the site than each individual vendor for its ignorant racism.

The problem with the shirts

Note that the shirts are all about sex and drugs (including alcohol). They imply Indians are drunk and lascivious--i.e., creatures who can't control their animal impulses. In other words, savages.

If these shirts are supposed to honor Indians, why don't they say anything honorable? Indians might not complain so much if the "funny Indian names" said something affirmative. How about one of these?

  • My Indian Name is Keeps My Promise
  • My Indian Name is Runs with Geronimo
  • My Indian Name is Not Chief, You Ignorant Twit
  • My Indian Name is Unconquered and Unconquerable
  • My Indian Name is Kills White Racists

    Etc.

    Zazzle's shirts are part of the white myth-making we've seen so many times. It goes like this: Indians are inferior to whites. The best people won the battle for America. The remaining Indians are drunken letches who don't deserve whatever we give them. Dirty rotten ingrates, that's what they are.

    How protests work

    Let's review how this controversy is going so far. Indians leading the protest, not Rob...check. Letter-writing, not street demonstrations...check. Protests successfully eliminating stereotypes...check.

    I conclude carping crybabies like Michael Cooke will find some other reason to attack me, since this is a perfect example of my work. I'm not telling Natives what to think, I'm reporting on and supporting their efforts. Duh.

    For more on "funny Indian names," see Heidi and Spencer Adopt "Indian Names" and Real vs. Phony Indian Names. For more on the subject in general, see Why Americans Exploit Indians and Is Cultural Appropriation Okay?
  • 11 comments:

    John Platt said...

    "My Indian Name is Not Chief, You Ignorant Twit" -- Classic.

    You should totally set up your own Zazzle store with some of these.

    dmarks said...

    And you left out:

    "My Indian Name is Dances with Ignorant Stereotypes"

    Anonymous said...

    I have apologized and removed MY designs. I am not responsible for other people's designs. I just want to add that the two designs in this post ARE NOT MY DESIGNS!!!

    I AM GETTING NASTY EMAIL AFTER NASTY EMAIL STILL SAYING DESIGNS ARE UP AND IT NEEDS TO STOP. I DID THE RIGHT THING AND REMOVED MINE.

    zazzle is a collection of individual stores similar to how facebook is a collection of individuals profiles. You must contact them directly to remove items from all stores. Just as you cannot remove things from other peoples facebook profiles, I cannot remove things from other peoples' zazzle stores, only ZAZZLE can.

    If you have issues with designs on zazzle.com please contact them directly at content_review@zazzle.com I do not work for zazzle and i cannot access or remove designs from other peoples stores hosted on their website.

    ~DOONI DESIGNS

    Rob said...

    Okay, Dooni Designs. The letter I posted didn't target you alone. I made it clear that you've done the right thing, and you reiterated the point.

    Stop targeting Dooni Designs, anyone who's reading this. Target only the vendors who still have objectionable items on Zazzle.com. Please!

    GENO said...

    I agree those lame shirts are downright retarded. What is it about Whites who love to promote drugs, alcohol and depravity? Sick minds indeed. If a White fool is wearing a shirt that reads--"My Indian Name is Chief Slaps A Ho." I'm getting the impression that White fella is pervert. Likewise. Then so be it. If they're all about perversions and substance abuse, its a pity. I guess this is why the Mexican Drug Cartels is unstoppable is because of folks like them who promote drug use. Its a shame.

    dmarks said...

    Geno said: "I agree those lame shirts are downright retarded. "

    So now it is OK to bash the mentally disabled, even if Native stereotypes are not OK? Hate speech is not cool.

    Anonymous said...

    What about "My Indian Name is None of Your Business"

    dmarks said...

    So, what Native nations have a "secret name" thing going on, Anon?

    IF said...

    No but Mr. Morris said "even speaking our Indian names is considered a sacred act" so I imagine having your full Indian name on a shirt isn't a good thing. Plus, word play! "None of your business" = "none of your beeswax" and "quit using this in your business."

    Rob said...

    Like "gypped," "retarded" probably isn't a good word to use anymore.

    For the outcome of this story, see Zazzle Removes Offensive T-Shirts.

    Anonymous said...

    Stereotypes are broken by positive actions and threatening people doesn't help...

    I would love to see this type of stuff stop, but it is not the main problem. People will still think what they do until they are proven otherwise.

    We need positive actions to change peoples perceptions but unfortunately, they are drowned in a sea of negative ones.