October 31, 2014

Cultural appropriation for Halloween 2014

It wouldn't be Halloween without the racist and stereotypical appropriation of ethnic cultures. As usual, Indians noted many examples of people selling or dressing up in inappropriate costumes:

17 Redface Costumes You Can Buy: Walmart Really, Really Doesn't Get ItChange comes slowly, and while many in the United States are waking up to the racism of Native-themed sports mascots and Halloween costumes, it is the lumbering giants of commerce who will probably be the last to see the light. The NFL won't take action on the Redskins until advertisers and the media reach a tipping point. We can analogize that with a big-box mega-lo-mart like Walmart, which isn't likely to do the progressive thing about Halloween costumes until it's the best business decision.

How far out of touch is the U.S.'s largest retailer? Inspired by the "fat girl" Halloween costume fiasco, we rooted around the "Native American/American Indian" costumes and found dozens of stereotypical getups—that was expected. But the product descriptions! It's the voice of white privilege smirking at the quaintness of a minority culture. Were these written in the Mad Men era?

15 People Who Plan to Be a Native American This HalloweenWell, it's nearly Halloween, which means it's that time of year again when cultural misappropriation runs amok; when you end up at a party and some one comes clad in faux Native American garb, i.e. a chicken-feathered headdress and multi-colored racing stripes on his face. Invariably, the man's date comes costumed as a "Pocahottie," and is completely oblivious to the plague of violence against indigenous women in North America. So, folks, here are 15 people who have publicly expressed their interest in dressing up as a Native American this year.

As usual, several postings denounced dressing up as Indians for Halloween and explained why it's wrong. Here's a selection of them:

I am NOT a costume![W]hen you wear an “Indian” or “Savage” or “Native American” costume you are basically stereotyping a culture, you are also making their culture a historical reference that sends a message to everyone: Native Americans no longer exist, only in history books and old western films. You are not recognizing the present day Native people who are professors, doctors, actors, and nurses who still identify with their Native culture and are successfully existing in the modern world.Is your costume racist?‘Indian Squaw’ outfits are almost always sexualised. To wear this is to ignore the fact that for Native American women, the rate of sexual assault is twice that of the national average in the USA. Women of colour are more likely to experience violence and sexual abuse than white women. And if their cultures and traditions are constantly sexualised and objectified, if they continue to be considered ‘exotic’ rather than human, this won’t change anytime soon.What Hazmat Suits, Ray Rice, and the Washington Redskins Have in Common With Human TraffickingIn a study titled "Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots," researchers found that high school students who were exposed to common American Indian images (e.g., Chief Wahoo, Pocahontas, Chief Illinwek) had lower self-esteem and lower sense of worth to the community; and college students exposed to these same images identified fewer achievement-oriented goals. The images and portrayals that society offers marginalized populations may have implications for youth development, and they may invoke a larger discussion of the role that these images play.Halloween: The Season for Culturally-Insensitive FashionThe argument that you can "try on" a cultural identity for a day and then discard it speaks to the ability of being able to return to your special place of privilege. You can take off your headdress and sleep at night, knowing that you don't have to wake up the next morning to confront a history of colonialism and genocide that has left your community living in an impoverished reservation, having to deal with segregation, racism and gross cultural misrepresentation in the form of films, sports mascots and holidays. As the "We're a Culture, not a Costume" Campaign put it, "You wear the costume for one night, we wear the stigma for life."The Perils of Culturally Appropriative Halloween Costumes“Aren’t there bigger issues to worry about,” my Facebook acquaintance asked at one point. Part of my essay addressed this question like this: reducing a minority group to a Halloween costume is only one symptom of the majority culture’s inability to see us as people, and tendency to reduce us to stereotypes. There are other symptoms, many of them more present, more real, more hurtful. But an insult is not painless just because it is not a slap, a kick, a police dog sicced on you at a protest march.Comment:  For more on Halloween, see Gerard Butler's Girlfriend in a Headdress and Party City Stereotypes Indians.

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