Tag Archives: 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

Twerkin’ in the USA: On Big Sean and Miley Cyrus

by Guest Contributor Lima Limon of LimaLimonArt

Can’t see the video? Here’s a basic transcript:

I’d like to call this blog “Twerkin’ in the U.S.A.”

Now, lately Miley Cyrus has been putting herself ass first into the hip-hop scene. And you won’t guess where that ass showed up next. Big Sean has this song called “Fire,” and I like this song. You know, he raps about overcoming adversity and manages to avoid saying “ass” 30 times for the chorus. SO the message and the lyrics are nice and the beat is pretty on point to match it.

Then there’s the video, which is basically just Miley Cyrus in different slightly revealing clothes, some fire and an exploding flower. Now the visuals are dope and Miley Cyrus is attractive, but that doesn’t really have much to do with the actual song itself. Oh but luckily he explains via Twitter. He says “Miley is symbolic of strong women overcoming heartbreak.”

Vato, you ain’t fooling nooobody with that shit. Let’s be honest that’s not why you did it. Cause plenty of actresses, models, stars, whathaveyou could’ve easily filled that metaphor. Megan Good, Adriana Lima, and apparently Levy Tran is down to do whatever type of music video gig.

So I will give it to you, those visuals were sick and at the very least you didn’t use an exaggeratedly muscular WWE create-a-wrestler version of yourself for your music video. (see Kanye West’s Blkkk Skkkn Head music video) But let’s be real. Big Sean. Miley. Y’all used each other. Sean, you used Miley Cyrus for the fact that she’s currently a buzz word in pop culture right now. So what did Miley get to use from this? Continue reading

The Problematics Of The Fake Harlem Shake

[Editor's note: We know...we know...enough with the Harlem Shake! This dissection by Sezin Koehler was just too good not to share. Consider this a coda to our discussion of the controversy.]

by Guest Contributor Sezin Koehler; originally published at Sociological Images

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 The Harlem Shake is a syncopated dance form that first appeared on the New York hip-hop scene in the early 1980s.  Here is what it looks like:

In 2012 music producer Baueer created an electronic dance tune, unfortunately calling it The Harlem Shake. Baueer’s song inspired an Internet meme in which people rhythmlessly shake their upper bodies and grind their hips in a tasteless perversion of the original dance.  For example:

This fake Harlem Shake meme has become so ubiquitous that it has been “performed” by the English National Ballet and gone further globally with a video from the Norwegian army, and in Tunisia and Egypt, where the song and imitation dance has become a protest anthem.

The irony of an African-American cultural relic being whitewashed to the point where other people of color perform its bastardized version is not lost, and this takes on a whole new level as teams with majority African-American members such as the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets add to the fake Shake canon. Personally, I’ve been “video-bombing” anyone I see incorrectly referring to the new version as the Harlem Shake with this:

A major problematic of this meme is that it takes an already marginalized group in America–one whose history and culture has often been appropriated and co-opted in fetishistic ways by the white majority–and makes a mockery of not just them, but an entire dance tradition.  This is not lost on residents of Harlem, many of whom recognize cultural appropriation and malrepresentation when they see it:

In spite of a number of calls online from African-American writers, artists, scholars, and supporters like myself to bring attention to the real Harlem Shake, every day there is instead a new group adding to the misappropriated dance. When you Google “The Harlem Shake” you must scroll through pages before you reach any posts about the actual hip-hop tradition.

This literal erasure of black culture and its replacement with an absurdist movement and meme needs to be considered in light of African-American oppression and institutionalized racism in the United States. Supplanting the sinuous artistry of the Harlem Shake with frenetic styleless arm-flailing and hip-thrusting is yet another brick in a grand wall of symbolic and structural violence that further relegates an entire culture to the margins, both on and offline.

As the Harlem residents said in response to the meme: “Stop that shit.”

P.S. Here’s how to actually do the Harlem Shake. 

Sezin Koehler is a half-American half-Sri Lankan informal ethnographer and novelist living in Lighthouse Point, FL.

Quoted: An Open Letter To Michelle Williams

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In The Nation, Aura Bogado offers an open letter actress Michelle Williams, who donned braids, feathers, and face paint on the cover of AnOther magazine, in an apparent effort to appear Native American.

By wearing a braided wig and donning feathers, and calling that “Native American” in a photo shoot, you’re perpetuating the lazy idea that Natives are all one and the same. Because you were born and spent your childhood in Montana, I expected more from you. Montana is home to seven reservations, where Natives from more than a dozen state or federally recognized tribes and nations reside—each with its own history, culture and language.

The United States federally recognizes and has established government-to-government ties with nearly 600 Native nations. And while these nations share in common that they constitute the people who descend from the continent’s original inhabitants, they are otherwise unique (and not one of those nations wears braided wigs and feathers as if to represent their people). By dressing up as an imaginary Native, you’re working to conceal both the history and the presence of real ones.

I suppose that, had you chosen to wear a headdress, it may have been worse—but the critique remains the same. As Adrienne Keene eloquently points out, playing Indian not only promotes stereotypes, but violates profound spiritual significances, is tantamount to wearing blackface and prolongs a violent history of genocide and colonialism. You’ve done all of that with your photo-shoot costume. Read more…

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.
Continue reading

A Historical Guide To Hipster Racism

By Thea Lim

Last week at Racialicious HQ, we were delighted to see the term “hipster racism”–coined by our very own Carmen Van Kerckhove in 2006*–suddenly enter mainstream parlance, thanks to Jezebel’s publication of Lindy West’s “A Guide to Hipster Racism.” In a flash, the words “hipster racism” papered themselves across Facebook and Twitter feeds across the continent (and maybe the world?).  Words are wonderful, and when more people have access to language that helps them name the racism of everyday life,  we’re happy.

There was only one glitch. While West linked to one Racialicious post (a short piece Carmen wrote in 2007 about white girls and gang signs) she never once name-checks Racialicious or Carmen…or any of our amazing pals and allies who have been writing about this stuff since the main target was Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls (i.e. a long time ago).

On the one hand, no one takes up social-justice work to see their name in lights and, at the end of the day, the point is just to get the message across, no matter who gives it the signal boost. On the other hand, we’re only human. It hurts when work that we, as a collective, have been jackhammering about for seven-plus years gets credited to someone else. (Seven years, y’all! Back to the dawn of skinny jeans! Before Facebook was open to the public, for cripes’ sake.)

And as our friends at Bitch pointed out, it is also  distressing, though not in the least surprising, that the words “hipster racism” are more palatable, resonant, and listenable when they come from the mouth of a white blogger.  It’s enough to make you get real low and start thinking terrible emo thoughts, like one white blogger is worth more than ten bloggers of colour.

And so! To keep the emo monster at bay and, as an ancient person who remembers all the way back to a long lost time when Racialicious was known as Mixed Media Watch, I decided to quietly slip out of retirement for a moment to revisit just a few of our landmark posts about hipster racism, so as to remind ourselves (and yes, to remind the internet) of all the brotherpucking hard work we have done, lo these many years.

Continue reading

It’s Complicated: DJs, Appropriation, and a Whole Host of Other Ish

by Former Special Correspondent Wendi Muse

Diplo

I’ve been following Diplo for some time, observing his work with appreciation, other times disappointment, and sometimes both at once. Back in the early days, when he was throwing warehouse parties in Philly, and later profiling DJs from around the world on his Mad Decent podcast (now a full-on record label and official site), Wesley Pentz was brazenly admitting to pirate-everything, right down to the clandestinely operated podcast itself. There was something refreshing and almost alluring about the nature of backpacking around the world with a passport and a tape recorder. Often considered a modern-day, musical Columbus, though his reputation for “discovering” new musical worlds would be one that would soon bite him where the sun doesn’t shine, Diplo made a name for himself by appropriating a variety of music and presenting it all with chameleon-like efficiency.

Some of you may know him for his production work on MIA’s first, albeit bootleg, album Piracy Funds Terrorism, a mashed up, remixed set of tracks which would later find themselves cleaned-up and repackaged on the official studio album Arular, or later for the Clash and Wreckx-n-Effect sampling “Paper Planes.”

However, he ultimate climax in Diplo’s fame has been in recent years, arguably months, with his promotion for Blackberry…

…and his collaborative work with UK producer Switch (producer for M.I.A. and Santigold) for the dancehall outfit Major Lazer.

But this month, Diplo’s spike in popularity came from a place slightly removed from his music by way of scathing criticism by a DJ named Iceberg Venus X. You see, much like other forms of appropriation (see: imperialism, colonialism, and popular use of cultural artifacts), a backlash always follows. Continue reading

When Non Native Participation in Powwows Goes Terribly Wrong

by Guest Contributor Adrienne K., originally published at Native Appropriations

Powwow girls

Let’s set the scene: Friday afternoon, Stanford powwow–one of the largest powwow’s on the West Coast. Three Native powwow committee members and a friend are checking in on the vendor booths, making sure things are ready to go, and they come across the group pictured above. 6 non-Native girls, decked out in warpaint, feathers, fringe, and moccassins–playing Indian at its worst. I’ll let my friend Leon tell the whole story:

While we were walking around Powwow on Friday, checkin out the vendors, we saw this pack of little white girls come running in from the street. Now, needless to say, we were shocked at the sight. We pretty much all just stopped in our tracks, and were speechless for a minute, as we looked on in sheer disbelief. After going through a few (angry) options in our heads about what to do, we figured we should have a little fun with it first (especially since there was this crew of little like six year old Native girls who were already making fun of them)…anyways, me and Lisa devised a plan to get this picture of them for you and your blog. So Lisa approached the girls and said “Excuse me girls…” (silence fell upon the land)…”could we get a picture of you for our newsletter?” “Of course!!!” the girls replied with excitement…

So girls, here’s your “newsletter” debut.
After Leon and crew took the picture, the powwow security team talked to them and brought them over to the director of the Stanford Native Center for some education on the issue, so (hopefully) they at least walked away from the experience with a new understanding of their actions. If they didn’t, here, again, is my anti-headdress manifesto.

I was telling my mom about the incident, and she said, “Honey, you can’t be too hard on them. Clearly they just didn’t know any better.” The thing is, they should have known better.

These girls are students at Palo Alto High School. Definitely one of the best high schools in the area, if not the state. It is a high school that turns out tops students who go on to top colleges, and enrolls  children of professors, stanford employees, and other well educated silicon valley execs. To top it off, the school is literally across the street from Stanford. Across the street from a school that hosts the largest student run powwow in the nation for 39 years running, that is home to nearly 300 Native students, that has one of the strongest college Native communities in California.

I would like to think that the combination of those factors would equate some level of understanding, that a high school of their caliber would incorporate some type of curriculum on Native history, or at least a basic level of cultural sensitivity. Clearly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Continue reading