February 01, 2012

Debating Drew Barrymore's headdress

When I saw a picture of Drew Barrymore in a headdress on Facebook, I wrote:Stereotypical and offensive to Indians!When she or her people removed the photo, I wrote:Drew Barrymore finally changed her profile pic from her in the chief's headdress and Budweiser apron. Smart move to end one of the worst self-inflicted publicity blunders in memory.This led to a debate with a Native woman who cares about animal abuse but not, apparently, culture abuse. Here's how it went.

Let the debate beginDrew's a cool girl. And a hipster... And there's nothing that hipsters love more than cheap beer and pretending to be ethnic. I'm sure she meant no harm.They never mean any harm.Of course not. Imitation is the best form of flattery. As humans we all have a bit of ignorance. But I think if Drew wore the headress and said, "I have no respect for Native Americans," it would be incredulous. People imitate what they respect. Disperse the lynch-mob. Don't encourage hate. Educate.I educated her when I wrote, "Stereotypical and offensive to Indians!" That statement is factual, not hateful.Not really... A lot of Native Americans aren't so affected by her life. My family doesn't give it energy. I'm not offended. And Natives are the biggest culprits of stereo-typing. How else would the world think to associate beer with Natives?...A huge number of Indians would find a non-Indian white woman wearing a Plains headdress offensive. So yes, really.

Stereotypes like Plains headdresses live on because millions of Americans broadcast these stereotypes in the media: in movies, TV shows, books, magazines, advertisements, etc. Indians who wear headdresses are a drop in the bucket compared to non-Indians who wear them. The latter must outnumber the former by tens of thousands to one.

Whether Drew's headdress affects people isn't something I addressed. But the main effect is on non-Indians, not Indians. It teaches non-Indians that Native culture is something to be stolen and mocked. It legitimizes the ongoing marginalization of Indians.

Truth isn't "hateful"

So my statement isn't hateful at all. And your response about stirring hate is an opinion, not a fact. You're making it up because you don't like people who criticize racism and stereotyping.

I'm confident you can't justify it with anything resembling evidence. People who criticize critics can never prove that critics cause harm. It's all an obvious attempt to silence someone they disagree with.

Fact is, there were few Native political and cultural protests from around 1900 to 1970. And there were few improvements in Native life. Things started getting better only when activists started protesting in the 1960s and 1970s. I was there and you weren't, so I know.

In other words, "stirring hate"--your code phrase for standing up for what's right--produced clear and dramatic results. Not "stirring hate" did nothing. Change happened only when people stopped accepting second-class citizenship and started demanding more.

Besides, racists already hate Indians and other minorities. So who cares if we "stir them up," anyway? Many people aren't filled with hate and will listen to reason. That's why they're giving up their stereotypical mascots: because we've explained why they're wrong.

The same will happen with these hipster headdresses. Tell the world they're wrong often enough and people will start to listen. Indeed, Drew got a few hundred comments to that effect and she ditched the dumb headdress.

In short, people protested and the protest worked. Educating the ignorant solved the problem again. Case closed...I win.

P.S. I'd love to hear your defense of minstrel performers in blackface. That was imitation that wasn't meant to hurt anybody also. Nowadays people rightly condemn it as wrong.

Round 2If they are playing a "clown of darkness" like many characters from medieval era plays, that had nothing to do with African Americans, then I could tell you they are called Night Jacks. And it's not about winning. A lot of people aren't keeping score on things like this while there are elders starving on the reservations, children losing parents to drunk-driving, tribal corruption and meth-labs. You can't control the world. And if everything ethnic culture had a protest when people wore their "costumes" then Natives would be in the wrong as well every Halloween when we dress our young ones as ninjas, European characters, Christian characters, "Italian Mobsters," etcetera etcetera... I've seen my cousins dressed as nuns, geisha and "islamic terrorists." Bottom line is if you have a hissy everytime someone does something silly, your life will be wasted on being angry.We (not I) can control the world enough to get rid of stereotypes like Drew's headdress. You know, the stereotype you're defending. We protested it and it's gone. As Charlie Sheen would say, winning!

It doesn't take "anger" to do it, either. I don't get angry at math errors and I don't get angry at Native stereotypes. I correct them like the mistakes they are. Your mistake if you think emotions are involved.

Indeed, your PETA ads are angrier than my postings, since I'm as calm as Mr. Spock. Why are you stirring resentment between pet lovers and pet haters? And wasting your time "while there are elders starving on the reservations, children losing parents to drunk-driving, tribal corruption and meth-labs"? Does worrying about animals do anything to ameliorate these problems?

In short, why are your protests okay but not ours, for whatever reason you imagine?

By the way, I was talking about the minstrel shows common in America from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. White performers imitated blacks because they thought it was cute and fun. In other words, their motivations were similar to Drew's. Got anything to say about that?

The vast majority of Halloween costumes are generic occupations or creatures, not ethnicities. Pirates, cowboys, princesses, monsters, fairies, ghosts, etc. So you're wrong about that too. If someone dressed as a drunk Irishman, greedy Jew, or black Uncle Tom, we'd protest it. You don't see those costumes anymore because they're stereotypical and therefore wrong.

Bottom line is that if you excuse and apologize for racism and stereotyping, you're part of the problem. They won't go away until people do something about them.

Final word

People like this woman are basically apologists for racism and stereotyping. They obviously don't care enough to stand up when an incident occurs. And when the people who do protest make them look bad, they criticize the protesters, not the original offender.

As you may recall, I've debated the unsupported and asinine opinion that protesting an offense is somehow more harmful than the offense itself. Indeed, I've done it many times. For more butt-kicking on the subject of protesting racism and stereotypes, see:

Taking issue with Rene Haynes
Showband critics = "PC cockroaches"?!
Are t-shirt protests worth it?
Indians shouldn't act uppity?
Indian "species" to blame for racism?
Stereotypes disappear "organically"?
Protesting stereotypes = cop-out?
Protest mascots = victimhood?!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

chaps - pants underneath them = "Castro clone". So at least we can make fun of one of those pictures for that.

More on the current issue, Drew Barrymore's headdress is, um, the words "stupid", "fail", and "tacky" all come to mind. Personally I don't follow celebrity news, though.