Seems a company called Bedlam organizes provocatively themed parties for young hipsters in Atlanta, Georgia. Their latest brainstorm was a "PocaHotAss" party in honor of Thanksgiving. You know, because of the Pilgrims and Indians.
The idea, of course, was to dress as an Indian and let your wild, savage side go free. Once Bedlam posted the event on Facebook, however, the inevitable firestorm of protest arose.
Critics offered the usual arguments:
Bedlam tries to defend itself
The Bedlam people and their supporters offered the usual excuses and rationalizations:
So the hell what? Most racists don't intend to offend anyone--at least in their own little minds. What matters is the outcome, no the intent.
For more on the subject, see The Magical Power of Intent.
No, there isn't. Racist acts can be large or small. They don't have to be anything as monumental as burning a cross or lynching an innocent person. Clutching your bag or crossing the street when you see a black man is an example of racism even if you do it unconsciously.
As I pointed out, Indians often protest stereotypical Halloween costumes. Indians protested the mistakes and stereotypes in Pocahontas. And Bedlam can't be seriously suggesting a porn title as justification for its party theme.
In other words, two wrongs don't make a right. If that's your best argument, you don't have much of a leg to stand on.
Again, so what? Some plantation owners treated their slaves with the utmost Christian compassion. You're an idiot if you think "racist" means "slavering monster" or "unbearable ogre." It means anyone who discriminates by race--regardless of how kind they are to children and dogs.
Besides, as someone pointed out, Bedlam has hosted parties making fun of gays, women ("hos"), the disabled (a really special "Special Olympics"), and the mentally ill (go crazy at the "insane asylum"). So they're hardly scions of sensitivity.
Rather, it's clear they push the boundaries of acceptability to be edgy and cool. This time they got their butts kicked because of it.
Little knowledge = dangerous thing
As I pointed out, Pocahontas has nothing to do with Thanksgiving. Alas, the organizer's "knowledge" fails on the most basic level. Duhhh.
It couldn't be more clear that Bedlam thinks all Indians are the same. That they're savages who whooped and danced their way through American history from Columbus to Wounded Knee.
Critics responded with comments like: Come up with your own damn theme. It's not our responsibility to help you out of your self-inflicted mess. If you so uncreative that you can't think of anything, maybe you're in the wrong business.
My suggestion was "Harvest a Hot Ass," in keeping with the thinly veiled misogyny of "PocaHotAss." I also said Bedlam considered "Rape a Native Ass"--basically the same idea--but decided it would be offensive. Because that's how sensitive they are (not).
Someone also requested future party themes. I suggested "Masters and Slaves" for African American History Month in February. Because that's roughly the black equivalent of "PocaHotAss."
Perhaps the funniest part of this promotion was Bedlam's alleged goal: "celebrating the culture and fashion inspired by Native Americans."
The "culture" (singular)? This event does nothing to celebrate the thousands of Native cultures across the Americas.
"Fashion"? Even if party-goers show up in their "Navajo" apparel from Urban Outfitters or Forever 21, the event does nothing to teach them about the Wampanoag at the first Thanksgiving or the Powhatan tribes of Pocahontas.
All it does is give them license to dress up in "feathers and leathers" and pretend to be wild savages. You know, like every other unoriginal, clichéd "tribal" event across America. That's the opposite of celebrating Native cultures, you morons.
For more on Pocahontas, see Pocahontas Statue in Previews and Sophie Turner's "Poca-Hotness." For more examples of non-Indians in redface, see "Trail of Tears" Halloween Costume and Fake Indians in West Hollywood.