January 29, 2012

A week's worth of stereotypes

A Week in the Life of the Stereotypical Indian

By Vincent SchillingWhen Kevin Costner came out with Dances with Wolves, the attempt at political correctness with the portrayal of Indians was at least regarded and refreshing. But we are in 2012 now, and I don’t feel like we have much progressed. Unless you consider Indians are now at least as cool as the werewolves portrayed in the Twilight movies.

So over the course of one week–I decide to pay very close attention to the stimulus that entered my brain regarding the definition of an American Indian person. I don’t know if it was coincidence–much like if you have ever ridden in a VW bug and you suddenly notice all of the other VW Bugs on the freeway–but I was absolutely amazed at what I experienced from all visceral fronts.

It started with television, of course. I was watching an episode of Storage Wars, when the auctioneer is talking with the other guy that has purchased a unit of Native American artifacts. I was frustrated that ancestral property was being sold for a few hundred bucks but then fuel was added to the fire; unsurprisingly within 30 seconds the comments about scalping started. And so began a telling week.

In my car driving all over Hampton Roads in Virginia, the NFL team adopted by the region is the Washington Redskins. Bumper stickers, T-shirts, jackets, sweatpants, window decals all made their way into my brain for what seemed a hundred times a day. I have been tempted many times to hire a graphic artist to create a giant decal of other “skin-color”–Skins characters alongside the Redskins logo–but then I fear coming across as racist. Truth be told I don’t want to offend another ethnicity–but why is it okay that we are still portrayed this way?

The week continued, I went to a local thrift store–admittedly a guilty pleasure of my wife Delores and myself–and once again I was surprised at the amount of American Indian “education.” In the first glass case sat a large plastic Indian chief next to Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus and a few aisles over was a cheap dream catcher in a plastic bag with a 99 cent tag. I also saw a lunch bag with Indian markings and found in a stack of comic books Daffy Duck with an Indian headdress standing next to a tipi on the front cover.
Comment:  I'd do this weeklong test myself, but I rarely go out and I monitor the media constantly. Anything I see would be unrepresentative of the whole.

For more on the subject, see "Little Things" Have Big Consequences and Natives Experience Racism Every Day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, stereotypes about Indians are simply insane. I don't mean insane as in the way all racists are insane. I mean insane as in turning into animals (Twilight, Wolf Lake)? Seriously? Considering "I'm a shapeshifter" is the Navajo version of "I made love to the Devil last night": 500 years ago, it'd get you killed, but today, you'll get passed off as a crank.