Category Archives: On Appropriation

Thanks for the severed head. You proved my point

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[Note: The image above has been making the rounds of social media recently. Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations pointed out on Facebook that the image "makes a powerful statement against Indian mascots. Believe it or not, this guy has been at it for three years."]

By Guest Contributor Adrienne K.; originally published at Native Appropriations in 2010.

Game 4. Philly Flyers vs. Chicago Blackhawks. The Flyers score a goal, and VERSUS tv shows this guy. This guy, holding an impaled, severed, Indian head. On national tv. Close up on his prop:

So disturbing, so graphic, and just what I wanted to wake up to on a Saturday morning. Truly sickening in the literal sense.

This proves it, without a doubt. Native American mascots are demeaning, stereotyping, and harmful to Native people. The Blackhawks logo is often touted as a “good” image–not evil or stupid looking, nothing like chief wahoo or the other blatantly racist images. But “good” image or not (and I still stand that no Indian mascot is a good mascot), clearly this demonstrates the danger when fans are given control over a mascot and image. There is no excuse for this man’s actions.

That’s one area mascot debates rarely cover–the actions of rival team’s fans and how they affect Native people. When an entire arena is shouting things like “Beat the Indians!” “Scalp the Redskins!” “F*@! the Blackhawks!” Can you imagine how it would feel to be a Native person hearing those things?

Even more upsetting about this image is the American history behind beheadings and scalpings of American Indians at the hands of whites. Into the late 1800′s, the california government offered bounties of 5 dollars per Indian head brought into city hall. The heads of great Indian leaders were kept as souvenirs by the US military, or strung up in trees or on posts to serve as a warning to other Indians who dare disobey. Scalping, a practice commonly associated with blood-thirsty Indians, was actually more widely used by the European settlers, and bounties were offered for Indian scalps as well. This proclamation from 1775 calls for scalps from Native men, women, and children–offering different rewards for each.

That’s why this makes me even more sick to my stomach.

We could also talk about how the TV station decided it was ok to air the image of this man, multiple times, or how the security at the arena let him through with that spear, and what those actions say about our society, or, per usual, draw the comparisons to other groups. Would a tv station air an image of a man carrying around an impaled Black head? Asian? Latino? No.

I’ve been getting a lot of emails lately about the Chicago Blackhawks, I’m assuming because of all the publicity with the Stanley Cup. A couple of people sent over this image:

Apparently the Chicago Tribune puts feathers on the homepage every time the team has a game. The feathers are pulled from the Blackhawks logo itself:

There have also been a few editorials circulating about the logo, and whether it’s time for a change. This one, from the Star, is pretty spot on. I talked a little bit about the danger of mascots and the psychological implications for Native students in this post about Tommy Tomahawk at Stilwell HS in OK. I recommend a read of Stephanie Fryburg’s work I link to in that post.

Even die-hard hockey fans can fall under the anti-hipster headdress manifesto.

So, overall, I guess I can–in a twisted and sick way–thank that Flyers fan. Anytime anyone says there is no harm in Indian mascots, I’m sending them that picture.

Offensive Logo has got to go: http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/article/815709–cox-offensive-blackhawks-logo-has-got-to-go

Flyers Fan celebrates with Impaled Head: http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/blog/puck_daddy/post/Flyers-fan-celebrates-goal-with-impaled-Indian-h?urn=nhl,245889

Original pictures of the fan are from The Starter Wife: http://blackandgoldtchotchkes.com/

Earlier:

Meet Stilwell HS’s new Mascot: Tommy Tomahawk-http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/01/stilwell-high-schools-new-mascot.html

Tommy Tomahawk Update: http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2010/01/tommy-tomahawk-update-school-board.html

Suggestions For The Future: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition

by Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joseph Lamour

Emily DiDonato in Namibia. Image via SI.com.

I’m sure by now you’ve heard or you’ve read articles about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition fail that swept like wildfire through the tubes and pipes of the internet. We have enough “WTF, mate?” articles about this most recent cultural appropriation fail, and unless I’m breaking a story–which I’m clearly not since this happened last week–I like to add something new to the conversation. I took a look at the (offending) pictures from this shoot and, frankly, regardless of the use of race props, most of the (again, offending) pictures are just terrible.
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Reverse Oppression: A Fad That Needs To End

By Guest Contributors Paul and Renee of Fangs for the Fantasy; originally published at Feministe

It’s not a new idea–we’ve certainly seen it raising its ugly head in media repeatedly, but it’s become popular again–the “flipped prejudice” fiction. Victoria Foyt’s racist Save The Pearls did it for race and we now have the homophobic versions: a Kickstarter for the book Out by Laura Preble and the film Love Is All You Need. I hate linking to them but they need to be seen. They both have the same premise: an all gay world that persecutes the straight minority.

So that’s more appropriating the issues we live with: our history, our suffering, and then shitting on it all by making us the perpetrators of the violations committed against us. How can they not see how offensive this is? How can they not see how offensive taking the severe bigotry thrown at us every day and throughout history–bigotry that has cost us so much and then making our oppressors the victims and us the attackers–is? This is appropriative. This is offensive. It’s disrespectful–and it’s outright bigoted.
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Get Fierce With ‘Genocide Chic’

By Arturo R. García

Not long after Adrienne Keene’s column last week, comedian Daniella Pineda sent us this spot-on mock advert subverting “Urban Infitters” and the like.

The video’s only 1:37 long, so I don’t want to spoil it, but here’s the set-up: designer DW Díaz (Pineda) walks us thru her new line, inspired by a recent viewing of Legends Of The Fall, and her realization that “Native Americans are so cute!” And from there things turn toward the fashionably horrifying. Enjoy!

On Being Feminism’s “Ms. Nigga”

Like, late night I’m on a first class flight
The only brother in sight the flight attendant catch fright
I sit down in my seat, 2C
She approach officially talkin about, “Excuse me”
Her lips curl up into a tight space
Cause she don’t believe that I’m in the right place
Showed her my boarding pass, and then she sort of gasped
All embarrassed put an extra lime on my water glass
An hour later here she comes by walkin past
“I hate to be a pest but my son would love your autograph”
(Wowwww.. Mr. Nigga I love you, I have all your albums!..) [...]

For us especially, us most especially
A Mr Nigga VIP jail cell just for me
“If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake”
Just got some shoe-polish, painted my face
They say they want you successful, but then they make it stressful
You start keepin pace, they start changin up the tempo

—”Mr. Nigga,” Mos Def featuring Q-Tip

 

Recently, I was invited to speak at a major feminist event.

It was for a cause I cared deeply about, and I would share the stage with some of the best recognized figures in feminism.

And yet…I hesitated.

Less than three years ago, I would have jumped at this opportunity, delighted to be invited, honored to be included, proud to make my contribution. But that was then.

Now, I read the email with a healthy dose of suspicion.  Why did they want to invite me? They mentioned receiving my name on referral from another marquee named feminist, which made me wonder why the referral was needed.  Did they really need more speakers at this late date? Or did they need to add some color to yet another stage that was sure to be full of white women?

I also instantly felt guilty.  Was I projecting? Over reacting? After all, this was a short notice event. Isn’t the cause more important than my waffling feelings about mainstream, movement oriented feminism? Why was I instantly suspicious of their intent? Can’t I give people the benefit of the doubt for once?

The emotional see-saw over my decisions to participate in feminist focused events has been my constant companion for close to a year or so now, but it took on a new dimension when Jessica Valenti decided to leave Feministing.  That night, I was at a cocktail meetup, when one of my friends grabbed my hand and asked if I heard the news.  I’m a lot more removed from the blogosphere at large these days (our transformation is all consuming at the moment) so I hadn’t seen or heard about the post.  My friend, who is another African American woman, told me to take a look as soon as I got home.  “Basically,” she said, “it was all about her this whole time -she got hers so fuck us!”

So Jessica Valenti’s official departure from Feministing (and Renee’s subsequent response) is why I was actually spurred to write this post, but the problem goes back far longer than just that.

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Human Zoos, Conservation Refugees, and the Houston Zoo’s The African Forest

By Guest Contributor Shannon Joyce Prince

Note: The Houston Zoo uses the term “pygmy” and specifies no particular so called p*gmy ethnic groups.  According to the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Co-ordinating Committee, “This term [‘pygmy’]is used by some communities and organisations, but is considered pejorative by others.”  When I first began writing about the Houston Zoo it was my research-based understanding that as there is no one word that names all the African ethnic groups racialized as “p*gmies” the term wasn’t offensive when speaking of the groups collectively while the names of the different ethnic groups should be used when speaking of them in particular.  In my writings on the Houston Zoo I continue to navigate this issue. Since some communities consider “p*gmy” to be pejorative, I use an asterisk when employing the word when not quoting another source.  When speaking of a particular ethnic group, I use the group’s name, clarifying that the group is labeled as “p*gmy.”  When speaking of the ethnic groups collectively I refer to them as labeled as rather than as being “p*gmy” as I have never been able to find a comprehensive list of all the ethnic groups.

The Houston Zoo has proudly announced a new project, The African Forest, which is set to open December 2010 if we don’t halt it.  According to the Zoo’s website, The African Forest is not just about exhibiting “magnificent wildlife and beautiful habitats.  It’s about people, and the wonderful, rich cultures that we all can share.”  Actually, The African Forest is about exhibiting and teaching inaccurate Western conceptions of African indigenous cultures in a place designed to exhibit and teach about animals.  The African Forest is also about displacement in the name of conservation.

Fairs, exhibitions, and zoos that showcase, market, or teach about Africans and other non-white peoples as though they were animals are called “human zoos.” Only non-whites are exhibited as or alongside animals. Human zoos allowed and still allow targeted non-whites to be redefined as animals in Western, European, or First World spaces in order to justify white past, current, or planned mistreatment of non-white peoples in the non-white peoples’ homelands.

According to the Zoo’s website, The African Forest includes an “African Marketplace Plaza” selling gifts from “from all over the world” and offering dining with a “view of giraffes;” a “Pygmy Village and Campground” showcasing “African art, history, and folklore” where visitors can stay overnight; “Pygmy Huts” where visitors will be educated about “pygmies” and “African culture,” hear stories, and be able to stay overnight; a “Storytelling Fire Pit;” an “Outpost” where visitors, while getting refreshments, will view posters “promoting ecotourism, conservation messages, and African wildlife refuges;” a “Communications Hut and Conservation Kiosk” where “visitors will use a replicated shortwave radio and listen in on simulated conversations taking place throughout Africa;” a “Rustic Outdoor Shower” representing the fact that the fictional “Pygmy Village” “recently got running water” where children can “cool off;” a section of the “Pygmy Village” where children can handle “African musical instruments and artifacts;” and “Tree House Specimen Cabinets” that showcase “objects, artifacts, and artwork.”[i] (This information is difficult to find on the Zoo’s website, so use the web addresses at this endnote if you want to look it up.)

The African Forest is problematic for several reasons.  For example, Africa is not a monolith.  Africa is a continent of fifty-three nations and even more cultures.  So while one may speak of a Ugandan forest, Yoruba marketplace, or Xhosa culture, Africa is such a diverse continent that the idea of, for example, an “African marketplace” is meaningless.

The Zoo’s website specifies that “The African Forest” is really the “central African forest,” but beyond the fact that Africa is not a monolith, central Africa is also not a monolith.  Central Africa contains Burundi, the Central African RepublicChad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Rwanda.  Therefore, it’s problematic that in a website video the Zoo refers to “the culture of central Africa” as though there were only one.  (Furthermore, the Zoo doesn’t bother to name the village it’s creating a Baka, Mbuti, Twa, etc. village.  But as the Zoo is educating its visitors that all Africans are the same and all central Africans are the same, perhaps all so called p*gmy groups are the same, too.)

The ironic part of representing all Africa in the context of the central African forest is that certain aspects of both Africa in general and central Africa in particular are conspicuously absent from this “everything but the kitchen sink” approach.  For example, why are the large cities, skyscrapers, boutiques, and movie theaters of Africa missing while The African Forest shows off the village that just got running water?  I am emphatically against the idea that there is anything less modern about a “Pygmy hut” than a glass and steel tower, but the Zoo is only showing aspects of Africa that fit Western stereotypes of “primitivism.”[ii]

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Newfoundland & the Myth of Land Discovery

By Deputy Editor Thea Lim

Reader Johanna sent us this ad:

and kindly typed out the copy for us, which says:

Discovery is a fearless pursuit. Certainly, this was the case when the Vikings, the first Europeans to reach the new world, landed at L’Anse aux Meadows. While it may only be a three-hour flight for you, it was a considerably longer journey a thousand years ago. But it’s a place where mystery still mingles with the light and washes over the strange, captivating landscape. A place where all sorts of discoveries still happen every day. Some, as small as North America. Others, as big as a piece of yourself.

Ok, so we get that Newfoundland-Labrador Tourism is speaking more of discovery in terms of the self/Oprah kind here, not the Columbus kind. But as Johanna notes, there is still something off-putting about fusing the notion of colonisation with pop-psych finding yourself, and that fact that the land is so strange and sparkly.

This ad seems to encapsulate two of the ways that North America cleanses the story of its origin, refusing to acknowledge that our nations are founded on genocide.

The first: calling the Europeans’ arrival in the Americas “Discovery,” rather than Colonisation or Genocide. You can only call their arrival “discovery” if there weren’t any humans here who had already discovered the land. And if you think about, that’s the implication: it was a discovery, because the people who were already here were not considered human by the Europeans.

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Feminist Intersection: On hipsters/hippies and Native culture

By Special Correspondent Jessica Yee, originally published at Bitch Magazine

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Lately I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with the hipsters and hippies, as well as the hippie/hipster “culture” at large, and have become increasingly annoyed at their depiction/co-option of my ethnicity as a First Nations person.

Kelsey pointed me to this post on Sociological Images last week which rounds up some of the latest and greatest of this ever continuing trend.

I know my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles have had to deal with this in their time and it’s certainly not a new thing –but it’s 2010 and not only does it still continue strongly to this day – it’s taken some interesting turns down the erasure of true origins road. This isn’t a hate letter, or reverse racism (as if there were such a thing!). It’s also not an attempt to discourage you from finding out more about Native people – and in fact I strongly ENCOURAGE you to do some actual research and knowledge seeking so you might get our culture right and think twice about things like permission and respect before you act on your appropriation.

So to the hipsters/hippies who appropriate Native culture but aren’t First Nations/Aboriginal/Indigenous, I’m asking you nicely now, to PLEASE stop annoying (the fuck out of) me with the following:

The clothing. Whether it’s headbands, feathers, bone necklaces, mukluks, or moccasins – at least put some damn thought into WHAT you are wearing and WHERE it’s from. I know our people sell these things en masse in gift shops and trading posts, and it seems like it’s an open invitation to buy it and flaunt it, but you could at least check the label to see A. If it’s made by actual Indigenous people/communities B. What does this really mean if YOU wear it?

Organic living and environmentalism as “new” concepts. One of my friends jokes that all Native people should get green energy for free because that’s how we’ve been living for centuries and also taught the colonizers how to live (which may or may not have screwed us in the end). I really do love the resurgence of the green movement and how things are becoming more environmentally friendly – but I don’t need certain members of the movement pretending like they started this or ignoring extreme realities we’re facing like environmental racism and justice. I also think we need actual Native people being in charge of and leading the responses to environmental degradation that are happening in our own territories. It’s not to say we don’t need allyship and support – but it’s also rather irritating when I read an event posting for a cause of some sort for a First Nation where there’s like two Native people in the whole place (who either barely say anything or are supposed to go along with the way the hippies organize without complaint because they’re “doing something for us”).

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