Ok, here we go!
|See that thing on her head? Yeah, that's not cool.|
|Not cool either, not at all.|
Lets start with this: Native Americans are diverse. To say "Native American culture" is incorrect, there are numerous tribes and they are all very different. They speak different languages, wear different clothes and have different customs and traditions. Lakota people are not Mohawk people who are not Cherokee who are not Navajo who are not Ojibwa... It would be like saying French and Italian people are the same because they're on the same continent.
Secondly, Native Americans are real people that really exist. Like right now. They're not mythical beings from the past, relics from long ago that were systematically eradicated by the US Government (oh wait...). Despite the best attempts of some people (white people) they survived and still exist today. They typically wear mainstream clothing, speak English, use modern technology and blend into society so well I doubt most of us would be able to pick them out. Do a Google image search for "native american" and see how many old black and white images and paintings come up. Count out loud how many modern images you see, goofy racist costumes and white hispters don't count.
So why is it that pretty much all representations of Native American people and cultures are represented as big nosed, red skinned, buckskin clad, warbonnet wearing, war whooping, tomahawk throwing caricatures in popular culture? If you think that image of Native Americans isn't hurtful, think again. In pop culture Native Americans are usually only featured in pieces that focus on the past and they are represented as past beings. This is hurtful because it makes us think they don't exist and that this really isn't hurting anyone. In reality it is holding us all back.
Many of us wouldn't dare paint our skin black, put on leopard skins, stick a bone in hair and run around holding a spear yet quite a few think it's perfectly ok to go around and "play indian" dressed in a warbonnet and face paint and carry tomahawks or bows and arrows. In fact, warbonnets and moccasins are like totally trendy right now. Yeah... it's TRENDY to dress like a stereotype of another race. Also, every damned Halloween I see at least one person dressed as a Native American, a completely gross stereotype of a Native American that is. Ladies, that Poca-Hot-Ass costume is bad and you should feel bad. REALLY BAD. You're no better than a jack ass in black face.
Thirdly, in particular reference to the warbonnet or feathered headdress, these are sacred items that are earned. They are not trendy accessories to be bought. To the cultures that wear them they hold a deep significance. I can't say it better than an actual Native American woman, a Cherokee named Adrienne. Please visit her blog- Native Appropriations: But why can't I wear a hipster headdress? Please take the time to read this if you haven't already, I mean it, READ IT! No teal deering allowed!
Lastly, we need to address the "sexy squaw" stereotype. Native women are stereotyped as highly sexualized beings. Take a look at Karlie Kloss up there... I'm not saying Native American ladies can't be sexy, I'm saying that showing them only as hyper sexual is damaging. Native American women are a very sexually abused group, I believe the stomach churning statistic is 1 in 3 NA women will be sexually assaulted. It's disgusting and presenting only these images of NA women don't do anyone any favors. When you look for images of a Native American woman what do you see? 1 2 3.
Why is racism against Native Americans "acceptable racism"? Why do people think that it's ok to mock Native cultures and claim that you're honoring them by showing them as a single entity lodged in the past? Why is it ok to have them as sports mascots that show them as angry or goofy warriors? It's "acceptable racism" because Native Americans are under represented in pop culture and American students are under educated about them and the systemic genocide they endured. It's time to change this. Educate yourself, educate a friend.
Last words, I swear, I'm done: To choose to wear a warbonnet is not a matter of freedom of expression or fashion choice when it hurts others. Stop being selfish and think about how you're setting the entire human race back.