November 03, 2011

"Trail of Tears" Halloween costume

Incredibly, someone apparently dressed up as the Trail of Tears for Halloween:

Would you dress as Auschwitz for Halloween?

University students should remember the past transgressions against American Indians

By Katelyn Krause
On the Friday of Halloween weekend, a University fraternity hosted a “Cowboys and Indians” date function at its house, blatantly disregarding requests from the Inter-Fraternity Council and the Minority Rights Coalition to not host parties with said theme. This request to put a moratorium on American Indian themes was first suggested by the IFC in 2009. It came in response to a party by the same frat that hosted this past week’s event in which attendees painted their faces red and acted out the part of scalping other party guests.That was the context. What could go wrong at a fraternity with a theme as unacceptable as a blackface minstrel show? Well, here's what happened:We were told from a source who wishes to remain anonymous that at Friday’s party “someone definitely went as the Trail of Tears.” For those readers hazy on the details of the Trail of Tears, it was a forced relocation of about 100,000 Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Indians. The members of these tribes were made to walk thousands of miles from their homes east of the Mississippi River and restart their lives in present-day Oklahoma. Approximately 4,000 of the 15,000 Cherokee Indians forced to relocate died on the journey, which is nearly equivalent to the ratio of Jews that died in Auschwitz. The dehumanized and decimated tribes were never paid the $5 million for the land officially promised by the U.S. government.

This subjugation of one American Indian Nation is probably the most publicly known, and yet it accounts for only about .0017 percent of the Native American genocide. More than 12 million American Indians were killed in the Native American genocide, which is comparable to the number of deaths attributed to the Holocaust. We at the AISU do not wish to blame anyone for their actions concerning the portrayal of American Indians at theme parties or during Halloween, and acknowledge that even this “Trail of Tears” costume idea probably did not arise from malicious intent. It most likely arose from ignorance concerning the history of Native Americans and the genocide of nearly our entire race and culture.
Comment:  I have no idea what a "Trail of Tears" costume actually looks like. But let's assume someone did indeed wear one.

No malicious intent? The person presumably knew what "Trail of Tears" means or he wouldn't have chosen the costume. So he intentionally chose a costume representing the deaths of 4,000 people.

Ignorant doesn't begin to describe the stupidity of this choice. It's very much like wearing a slavery or Japanese internment or Auschwitz costume. If you understand that these are offensive choices, how could you not understand it about a "Trail of Tears" costume?

I'd suggest the intent probably was malicious. Like people who adopt phony Indian costumes, the message is: "I'm a superior white person pretending to be an inferior Indian one. Indians were primitive and savage while I'm modern and civilized. We kicked their butts and that makes me feel good about my white/Christian/American identity."

But even if the intent was "benign," who cares? So he was an ignorant racist rather than a malicious what? Regardless of what went on in his little mind, the harm was the same. Once again someone told the world that we can freely mock and belittle Indians. In other words, that they're not real people with real feelings. That they don't matter.

For more on Halloween costumes, see Sophie Turner's "Poca-Hotness" and Whites Defend "Right" to Be Racist.

Below:  More Halloween costumes for the terminally stupid:


Anonymous said...

It's even stupider because Andrew Jackson is iconic of America's treatment of Indians. Few individuals are so synonymous with America's treatment of Indians, and none of them were president.

Rob said...

For more on the subject, see:

WILLIAMS:  Costumes put lack of sensitivity on display

This is but the latest Halloween-related controversy on a college campus.

In 2002, three U.Va. students wore blackface makeup to an off-campus Halloween party. Wood points to the swift and forceful rebuke following that episode and wonders why people feel free to take ownership of American Indian images.

In 2005, Virginia Military Institute punished five upperclassmen cadets for wearing insensitive or stereotyped Halloween costumes that included one student dressed as a Nazi, another in blackface as an apparent starving African and two winged fairies in pink, lampooning gays.

Halloween on campus is a national problem, to the point that Ohio University students this fall launched a campaign titled, "We're a culture, not a costume."