March 13, 2012

Racist "Windian" poster

Is This Show Poster Racist?

By Jonathan L. FischerI'm pleased as punch that Windian Records is celebrating its third year next month—as any local fan of garage and scuzzy punk rock should be. But I did a double take when I saw the poster for the shows, which take place April 6 and 7 at Montserrat House: Is that a Native American? With fangs and exaggerated features? And an intoxicated look? Yes, it is all of those things.

But is it racist? One Washington City Paper contributor thought so, and he let the label know via Twitter. To which Windian proprietor Travis Jackson tweeted back, with his usual caps-lock affect: "HOW IS IT RACIST? ITS JUST ART MAN. BESIDES, IM NATIVE, AND IM NOT OFFENDED...HOW ARE YOU?" He added that the fanged, googley-eyed drawing is consistent with artist Ben Lyon's work, which to my eyes is plainly grounded in the early underground-comix style of cartoonists like R. Crumb.

That doesn't mean that this particular show poster doesn't go too far. I asked Jackson to elaborate in an email. He responded, "Its rock and roll. Its art. Its influenced from 50-60's Rock N Roll art and culture. Its nothing new, its been done many times over." Windian Records takes as its logo an American Indian carrying a rather quizzical expression. Jackson, the former drummer of the well-liked garage-rock band The Points, sometimes uses the sobriquet "Beeronimo."

In a second note, he added that he's one-fourth Cherokee; his grandmother was full Cherokee. "That's how the label name windian came about, the white indian is one of my nicknames," he wrote. "I celebrate my heritage loudly, thru rock and roll music and art."


The interesting debate was in the comments section of this article, where Windian (aka Travis?) defended the poster:Straight Edge Forever

"It's rock and roll. It's art" is a really lame answer. I'm really tired of indie artists brushing off the political implications of their art. Or the fallout of their art.

Whether it's Best Coast shilling for the right wingers running Urban Outfitters or the lower dens giving a song to Exxon -- the answer is always, awe shucks, it's just art, man.

Go fuck yourself.

And yes, the poster is racist.


We are a bit upset we are being associated with this. We have done the same thing the last 3 years with no "outrage", not having our art considered racist. I realize in the last couple weeks with Urban Outfitters vs. Navajo Nation a hot button topic, some would be repeat shoppers [you know who you are] have voiced against said retailers [which said retailer has sponsored numerous past WCP events] and feel the need to call out anyone who depicts Natives in poor light. What about the numerous D.C. musicians [I won't name] who have dressed in Native clothing, or glowing show reviews underneath a photo of artist in a head dress? I feel if we are going to be subjected to a negative attempt to sell ad space and improve site hits, everyone who has done this should be called out as well.

In Ben's defense, if you simply look at his art, you will see many comparisons. There is even one featuring a Rabbit with "googely eyes and fangs, appearing drunk." Should Rabbits be offended?

At the end of the day, we do not try to portray anyone in a poor light, like most do in comments such as these dust kicking articles. Stereotyping hipsters with bad indie music, tight jeans, and sunglasses. Are they not human either? I think everyone needs to sit back and think about what they've said or thought, as I'm pretty sure the majority of you have committed some sort of public stereotype to someone else.

Windian = Low IQ

Holy shit, Travis--did you really just compare Native Americans to rabbits? Unintentionally apt considering the way the white people slaughtered Indians for a couple hundred years. Rabbits have probably had it better.

Dude, being one-quarter Cherokee doesn't get you off the hook from being an asshole when it comes to this topic. I don't think you really mean to be one, but there's a serious failure to understand how this poster is super-shitty to Indians. Hipsters being stereotyped isn't the same thing as a mocking a group of people who were victims of genocide. How can you not see the difference?


I did not compare Natives to Rabbits, I compared Ben's art to the "Googelly eyed, fanged appearing drunk" issue that started this. You compared Natives to Rabbits.

You obviously know me, so if you're going to low blows and try to insult me, you shouldn't hide behind your computer.
Hmm. It sure seemed to me that Windian compared offensive drawings of Indians to offensive drawings of rabbits. Which is equivalent to comparing Indians and rabbits.

Windian's other excuses don't cut it either. If we'd known about this poster three years ago, we would've protested it then too. People are becoming more and more aware of affronts like this one because of the spread of social media.

We're also protesting hipsters in headdresses, especially when they're celebrities or images used to sell an event. If we don't catch them all, it's because we have a finite amount of time and energy. And not because we're singling you out for some obscure reason.

Bye-bye, poster!

Fortunately, the outcome was inevitable:Windian

Everyone is right. We changed our poster.

Native American JD

I'm a punk. But this isn't punk. This is flat out bigotry.

Boycott the show.

Native American JD

Along with a boycott of the show, Native Americans in DC should show up outside the show and show that (1) We don't look like that; (2) dehumanizing an entire race through stereotypes and caricature isn't funny; and (3) that artistic license doesn't extend bigotry.

I think I should report this to DC's Human Rights Commission.

Ron The Don

News Flash: Freedom of speech doesn't equal [freedom] from the consequences of your speech. Considering how everyone gets posted and distributed quickly in cyberspace, fallout from something like this doesn't shock me because I've seen it before in other incidents. Listen, art is subjective. What might seen as meaningless in one circle, may be seen a bad form in another circle. I find it ironic when those who label others easily offended are always the one who are offended by the idea that a person's words or actions have consequences.
Comment:  The poster's defenders offered the usual arguments to excuse its stereotyping. One unusual argument is that the poster came from an underground-comics tradition. In those "comix," everyone gets drawn this way, so there's no attack on Indians.

My response to that is: Great. When you draw a comic that portrays every member of every race as a primitive savage, then we'll talk. This artwork isn't that.

Rather, this is a poster by "Windian," who considers himself a "white Indian." It specifically uses Native stereotypes to portray an Indian (or "Windian"). It does not use racial stereotypes to portray everyone equally.

In particular, note the fangs on this beast-like barbarian. Are you telling me everyone in an underground comic gets the same treatment--the same set of fangs? I've read enough comix to say "I don't think so."

Since the poster discriminates against Indians and Indians only, it's racist by definition.

For more on the subject, see Duke's "Pilgrims and Indians" Party and "PocaHotAss" Doesn't Offend People?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

At the risk of Godwin's law, Leni Riefenstahl's movies are art, and we know where that went.

Interestingly enough, "win" was also an acronym used by early-20th-century eugenists for groups like the Melungeons. Considered offensive to this day.