August 28, 2013

Stereotypical "Indian" in rodeo skit

Unbelievable Public Act of Racism in Rapid City, SD in 2013

By Chase Iron EyesThis can’t be real. Well--we are talking about a rodeo, in the Northern Plains where social evolution is seemingly 30 years behind. On Thursday, August 22nd, 2013, at the Central State’s Fair Rodeo, White people dressed as rodeo clowns, cops and an Indian performed a skit in front of a largely White audience in an attempt at slapstick spoof comedy. I am not unaccustomed to the jackassery of a rodeo clown performance, but this one showcased the level of intelligence (or lack thereof) and ignorance of those who authorized the performance.

To give you an idea of the skit: a rodeo clown enters the arena in an old car making off-hand funny remarks about the rodeo event, soon a cop appears and it is made known that they are in “hot pursuit” of a “lost prisoner” and “the prisoner is now disguised as an Indian” and that they haven’t seen anyone “dressed as an Indian” [around the 2 minute mark]; the clown and the cop mimicking searching gestures, accidentally ignite the car in an explosion at which point a caricatured Indian explodes out of the trunk of the car and the hunt for the Indian is on [at 6:20 of video]. Then the announcer exclaims “LOOK! IT’S THE INDIAN; GET HIM!; GET HIM!” and it doesn’t end there, as everyone breaks into a pop performance of Village People’s YMCA.
Comment:  The so-called Indian is wearing a brown costume, presumably imitating buckskins, and what looks like a toy chief's headdress.

The announcer makes jokes about Brokeback Mountain and Obama, so the performers are aware of racial and sexual orientation issues. In that context, the "Indian" is far from an innocent or thoughtless choice. With a faux Indian as a prisoner, a savage, and a gay performer, they're clearly not taking Indians seriously. Thought the humor is mild if not nonexistent, it's still at the expense of Indians.

Rodeo clowns have been in the news recently because one performed in an Obama mask. Unless that clown ate fried chicken or a watermelon, I wouldn't call his performance racist. I support the right of all Americans to mock their president.

But I would call this skit racist. We're supposed to laugh when a non-Indian dresses as a caricature of an Indian from two centuries ago. How is that anything but a racist stereotype?

For more on the Village People, see Debating Despicable Me 2 and What's Wrong with the Village People? For more on Native stereotypes, see Native Religion = "Spiritual Darkness"? and Aide Calls Indians "Arrow Throwers."

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