The fact that anyone would think it is ok to appropriate, stereotype and fetishize American Indian culture is disturbing particularly in light of the efforts American Indians have made at CSUSM.
Vine Deloria, Jr. was a critic of the field of anthropology and provided much evidence to support his criticism. This is why he valued American Indians gearing up for battle in the intellectual arena.
“The problems of Indians have always been ideological rather than social, political or economic ... [I]t is vitally important that the Indian people pick the intellectual arena as the one in which to wage war." --Vine Deloria, Jr.
The actions of these CSUSM graduates sets back the progress this field has made.
His words have never been more significant.
I would encourage these students to return to the CSUSM campus and take a Native Studies course, engage with our American Indian Student Alliance, visit the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center and dialogue with our Office of Tribal Liaison. Perhaps now the powers that be will understand that a Major in Native Studies is required and courses in American Indian studies should be required by all of our students to graduate.
I hope that the entire CSUSM community understands how truly offensive and inexcusable this party was especially in light of recent racist antics by others on campus against the Latino community.
Joely Proudfit, Ph.D.
Director, California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center
Director of Native American Academic Strategic Planning
Director of Native Studies & Associate Professor of Sociology and Native Studies
The commenters on this posting argued various points in depth:
You all need to grow up and think outside of your liberal tree hugging box! It was a celebration, not a holocaust. ARE ANY OF YOU PEOPLE BLEEDING? did we make any remarks or do anything to offend the indian society? NO! Im sure you all have dressed up for halloween. soooo before you go and get all judgmental, maybe you should take a deep breath and really focus on other things you can do with your time!!! use that "ANTH GRAD DEGREE" you worked so hard to get and help out on a reservation or maybe go volunteer at a homeless shelter. GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE.
Maybe you guys should spend less time looking up people's facebooks and instagrams and use your time and energy to do something USEFUL towards your program! Such a waste of people's tax dollars to have professors sit on Facebook and bash someone's pictures do what your paid for and grade some papers or donate your extra time to your organization and GROW UP!
I will use Jessica Borders' comment in my FB as an example of how my students should NOT think. Thank you for your limited knowledge not only about history but also about current issues that, certainly, you are reproducing in this forum.
This professor absolutely did the right thing by exposing this cancer. I could a write a book in response to the absolutely ignorant comments by the insensitive commenters on this post, in their feeble attempts to justify cultural appropriation, & in doing so, perpetuate the oppression of Native peoples. These mindsets are a poison in the greater society & contribute to the continued subjugation of Indian Country, as well as the sexual assault of Native women. Guess what, we will NEVER get over it. Continue to fuel our fire until this inferno erupts in your face. We will be idle no more. The difference between you ignorant, insensitive individuals & us is that we have the deepest stake in confronting these oppressive & racist views. Have some respect for the original peoples of the land you walk on.
By not removing these photos you are putting your job, and Cal State San Marcos at risk of a lawsuit for violating the rights of those you are slandering in a public forum.
Some back and forth on whether this is worth protesting:
How much 'calm discourse' would you be having, Jack, if the same group of people who'd just burned down your house then had a "homeless housefire survivors"-themed party? You throw the "*we* didn't do it" excuse around like you aren't doing it RIGHT NOW. Telling native americans they shouldn't be upset that the people occupying their country thinks it's LOLarious to dress up like stereotypes of them. Public ridicule is exactly what should happen to people who act like asses.
Jack, if this bores you so much, why are you even here? Considering how head-up you are about the "threats" against these girls and their OH SO TERRIBLE "public shaming" I'm not sure where you think your hyperbole begins and ends? And finally, you know, the rampant genocide, cultural bleaching and subsequent shaming and appropriation of native americans has *actually happened*, is still happening, and you're helping perpetuate it. So that sounds "real" enough to me.
When you are working in the field of anthropology, pursuing a graduate degree in anthropology, have to list your bachelors degree on applications, and are assessed based on the quality of the program where you obtained your degree, and have dedicated yourself to the discipline this does matter. Specifically it affects the credibility of current and past students at CSUSM when it becomes a public issue. In addition when you are working in the field as an anthropologist and people have negative and misrepresented perspectives of anthropologists because of people doing things like this it matters. These are minor issues compared to how this affects the Native Community though, but maybe people should realize their actions have real consequences on personal, cultural, political, and professional levels. Speaking out on issues in a public forum is important as well because personally I dont feel people that act in this way should represent anthropology because this is everything anthropology isnt. Lets also remember the party attendees labeled the photos in connection with CSUSM and the Anthropology program so once the images were circulated we became associated with the issue.
I responded to some of these issues and others as follows:
Are you serious with the legal threats, people? Reposting and commenting on "private" photos is absolutely covered under the fair-use exception to the Copyright Act. End of story.
"Did we make any remarks or do anything to offend the indian society?" Yes, you stereotyped Indians as primitive people of the past. You did it with the costume itself. No remarks are necessary; the costume itself is objectionable.
Your references to the Indian culture or society only prove the point. You apparently think all Indians are the same. So your comments here reinforce the costume's implicit message. Namely, that Indians are nothing but feather-wearing savages.
You sent this message to party attendees, and anyone who viewed your "private" photo, whether you realized it or not. And you're still sending this message by defending and excusing the photo. The message is that it's okay to stereotype Indians.
To the know-nothings who wondered if Natives are protesting every Halloween costume: No, because there are millions of these costumes. But I've seen activists protest hundreds of similar examples of stereotyping. What does that tell you?
You weren't aware of this long history of protest? Despite being or associating with anthropology students who should know better? Whose fault is that? Stop braying like asses and educate yourself on the subject.
With all the ducking and dodging, I don't think any defender of this photo has addressed the core issues. 1) Is this costume a racial stereotype? 2) Is it okay to stereotype a racial group? Answer yes or no to these questions and then we'll discuss your position.
To the idiots who used the "two wrongs make a right" argument: Seriously? Stereotyping all Italians as gangsters, all Irishmen as drunks, and all Jews as money-grubbers pretty much ended in the 1960s and '70s. A few exceptions don't disprove the rule.
Yet Indians face the same level of racist stereotyping constantly--almost unabated since the Civil Rights era. And you're defending such modern-day minstrel shows.
Is there any way we think "bullying and threatening" (i.e., criticizing) these girls will help our cause? I dunno...is there any way these girls would rethink their offensive behavior without criticism? If so, tell us the way. Tell us how to end stereotypical if not racist "cowboys and Indians" parties permanently and we'll do it.
"Perhaps calm discourse and private instruction rather than threats, intimidation and public ridicule?" Which parts of Joely Proudfit's initial message weren't calm? About the strongest thing she said was that she's disappointed and disturbed. She intentionally held her tongue to reason with you and you reacted like idiots anyway.
If those mild words bother you, you're not open to calm discourse. You're trying to halt the criticism rather than engage with it. Nice try, but no sale.
Sorry, Jack, but censorship never solved anything. If you don't like the criticism, tell the grad students to stop the behavior causing the criticism. In other words, stop blaming the messenger and act on the message.
Summing it up:
1) People can behave like racists without "intending" to cause harm. As always, racism is about the outcome, not the intent.
2) White people don't like to be criticized for acting on their white privilege. When confronted with their bad behavior, they'll excuse, defend, or deny it.
3) Even well-educated anthropology students, who should be the least likely people to exhibit this behavior, can make fools of themselves. That demonstrates how far we have to go, unfortunately.
4) Since I didn't mention the young women's names, and don't know their names for sure, this is not about shaming individuals. It's about educating the masses--everyone who reads this.
5) Perhaps nothing will get stereotype-minded people to change their attitudes. But you can bet they'll think twice before dressing up as Indians again. That alone is an accomplishment.
For more on the subject, see Debauched "Indians" on Caesarian Sunday and Racist "Make Me Indian" App.