July 09, 2014

SF Giants to ban headdresses?

Sell Out, Die, or Survive: What We've Learned From the SF Giants Fiasco

By April NegretteLast week at a San Francisco Giants game, I and a male friend, Kimball Bighorse, were thrown out of AT&T Park. We were not thrown out for being drunk and obnoxious towards other fans; nor for starting a fight or laying hands on anybody. We weren’t even thrown out for being that one person who doesn’t know you don’t touch a ball from the stands while it’s still in play. We were thrown out for telling a non-Native fan to take his costume headdress off, on “Native American Heritage Night” of all nights.

Although I wish this had been an isolated event of racism towards Native people, it’s only one of many examples of the issues we are trying to combat currently. Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington R*dskins, has stated that there are “real issues” and “real-life needs” of Native people that we should be focusing on, not this trivial name. He’s simultaneously right and wrong.

Of course there are other, more physical, needs of Native people. But how are we supposed to combat youth suicide rates, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse when our children grow up seeing themselves are as inferior and their cultures depicted as comical? How are we supposed to be taken seriously when trying to negotiate land, water and treaty rights when society views us as subhuman? High school students make posters for homecoming that say things like "Go Bulldogs, Beat the Indians." Without those land, water and treaty rights, how are we suppose to combat poverty and homelessness when we have no means to do so? You either sell out to American society and culture, you die, or you survive to fight another day.

Fighting another day to me looks like standing up in the face of ignorance and the misunderstandings because of our cultural barrier. It’s like what they say at the airport—If you see something, say something. I’m not saying to start a brawl or humiliate some stranger who doesn’t understand the implications of their actions; educate them instead. If you come at people from a loving place you are more likely to be heard. One man I approached actually took his headdress off—without me asking—and gave me a hug and thanked me for explaining it to him.
San Francisco Giants Made Colossal Error in Warbonnet Fiasco

By Andre CramblitThis year they seem to be doing well on the field. It is off the field that they have problems. Ironically on Native American Heritage Night two American Indians (April Negrette and Kimball Bighorse) were accosted by SF Giants security over a headdress that was being worn by a non-Native fan. They were wronged and physically harmed during this unnecessary and preventable event. Both parties should have been treated in the same manner by Security: Bighorse and Negrette should not have been the only participants to be forcefully handcuffed, detained, and asked to leave the game. I feel that Mr. Bighorse and Ms. Negrette, were punished for speaking out about the harms of Native mascotry while the true wrong-doers were allowed their dignity, their bodies and their well-being to be uninjured.

Native Americans should be able to not only attend events free of harmful cultural misappropriation, in addition to being able to speak out about the desecration of Native cultures, people, and sacred items. American Indians have the same right and protection of the 1st amendment, as do other US citizens. Additionally, we have the Indian Civil Rights Act and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. These acts provide additionally support to Natives in exercising their rights. Speaking up should not have to be an act of courage.

Security for the Giants organization at ATT Park treated the parties involved in this dispute differently. Ignoring the concerns of the Native peoples involved in this incident highlights the lack of awareness around freedom of speech concerning Native Americans. It is my hope that the Giants organization will educate their personnel on how this has been an example of HATE SPEECH, as much as wearing blackface, and should be treated as such.
Below:  The headdress in question as photographed by Negrette.

Change in policy?

This incident could lead to a first in major league sports:

San Francisco Giants considering ban on culturally insensitive attire

By Erik BradyThe San Francisco Giants are considering a policy that could prohibit fans from wearing items such as fake headdresses in what American Indian activist Suzan Shown Harjo believes would be a first for a major-league sports franchise.

The proposed policy, which is still in the working stages, could potentially say that fans who wear culturally insensitive attire to games or use culturally insensitive language could be asked to stop by Giants security or potentially be asked to leave the stadium.

Staci Slaughter, Giants senior vice president, communications, and senior advisor to the CEO, said the Giants have policies about obscene language and offensive signs.

“We are considering expanding the policy to be more explicit about culturally insensitive signs and articles of clothing,” she told USA TODAY Sports.
A critic tries to question the proposed policy:

Without Feathers: The Flap Over Native American Regalia at the Ballpark Reveals a Deeper Hypocrisy

By Joe Eskenazi[I]n a hypothetical situation resembling the one on Native American Heritage Night, a ballpark ethicist is in for a challenge. If a person who appears to be a Native American and a person who appears to be some other race are wearing identical Native American outfits, would it be considered "arbitrary" to single out solely the second individual as "culturally insensitive"?

Perhaps so, says Moskovitz. "That might be deemed arbitrary. They're both expressing something. There's a vagueness problem."

That vagueness would allow the Giants to potentially take action against fans wearing just about anything. But, in all likelihood, the people wearing the most offensive clothing of all will get a free pass.

Giants' spokeswoman Shana Daum admits that, "given what transpired on Native American Heritage Night," ballpark policy was due for a change. So, what would happen if a fan gallivanted into the stadium wearing a shirt or a cap depicting a caricature of a leering, Indian Sambo with fire engine-red skin?

Well, Daum says, that could be a problem. "If it was offensive to someone in the park, we'd have to take a look," she says.

Well, it is offensive. To a lot of people in the park. And it's also the Major League-licensed logo of the Cleveland Indians.
Comment:  Eskenazi seems to think this change in policy would be difficult to enforce. But is it really a change? I bet the stadium security would object to shirts showing a lynched black man, an aborted fetus, Muhammad as a terrorist, a long list of racial and sexual epithets, etc. I'd be amazed if they were free-speech purists who let people wear literally anything.

What Eskenazi seems to object to is adding racist and stereotypical Native images to the (probable) class of banned words and images. Because he isn't used to thinking of his beloved Native icons as racist and stereotypical. Well, too bad for him. His ignorance of what constitutes a racist or stereotypical problem is his problem, not ours.

Case studies

Let's go through the hypothetical examples he offers.

Eskenazi's first case is easily answered. The issue is stereotyping Natives by wearing Plains headdresses. The vast majority of Natives aren't from a Plains culture. And if they were, they wouldn't have earned the right to wear a headdress anywhere, much less to a casual sporting event.

So it doesn't matter if the wearer is Native or not. In something like 99.99% of the cases, the person shouldn't be wearing a headdress, period.

A rule that correctly targets the 9,999 people out of 10,000 who shouldn't wear a headdress isn't "arbitrary." On the contrary, it's so well-defined and precise that it may be the least arbitrary rule in the stadium.

Again, don't wear a headdress unless you're a Plains Indian who's earned the right to wear one. That includes any young non-Plains Indians who think it's hip to wear one.

Eskenazi's second case is the interesting one. Should the Giants ban apparel with Chief Wahoo logos? I'd say yes, because they're racist and stereotypical.

But I doubt the Giants would agree. They suffer from the same myopia as the Cleveland Indians and everyone else in Major League Baseball. That will change as the protests against Chief Wahoo continue.

No comments: