December 21, 2011

Toy headdresses at Beadniks

An Iñupiaq-Athabaskan woman lays out the problems with phony Indian headdresses and costumes simply and effectively:

Toy headdresses: racist and offensive

By Rhonda Anderson• Selling a headdress as a dress-up toy is promoting stereotyping of Native American cultures. This perpetuates the myth that Indians wear feather headdresses and war bonnets.

Such toys suggest that Native Americans are in the same group of make-believe characters such as fairies and pirates. Putting Native Americans in a place of existing only in history and fantasy is extremely damaging to our children.

Stereotyping and caricatures of Natives do nothing to represent the more than 560 distinct cultures in the U.S. and more than 630 in Canada who are thriving, who dress in mainstream clothing, and who do not wear traditional clothing every day.

• A feather headdress is a spiritual and religious item. It is meant for men to wear, it is often hard-earned, and it has significant meaning behind it, such as achievements, honor, and respect.

Headdresses are considered sacred and even used as protection when worn during ceremony. They are not toys. They are not costumes. “Toys” like this take away the honor and respect. I recommended to the clerk to include technicolor Pontiff hats and some bright yarmulkes to go with the display.

• It is racist because you are singling out a race. You are belittling and collapsing a race into a small package for purchase and in doing so you have made it okay to portray the people who are members of that race as you see fit.

This assertion of power is fanning the flames of colonization; it makes it okay to take land from a people who are a figment of imagination, from a proud race that is no longer (in your line of sight).
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Racist Costumes = White Privilege and "We're a Culture, Not a Costume."

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