Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Hey, dude, can I trade my wampum for some PBR?
May 26, 2010 2:39 PM   Subscribe

The latest trend in hipster culture is the appropriation of Native American culture, here seen at San Francisco's recent Bay-to-Breakers race. The participants might ask, but why can't I wear a hipster headdress? Threadbared has a round-up of bloggers' concerns about the appropriation of Native American culture.
posted by desjardins (241 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
want to murder everyone
posted by Burhanistan at 2:45 PM on May 26, 2010 [18 favorites]


I don't... I... what

First Sayid gets a nice white celestial bride, now this. I can't handle reality this week.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:46 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


This post is just another slight against hipsters, who everyone knows invented Native American fashion.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:47 PM on May 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


Indeed, at 2:42 of the Outkast video, I did wonder what had just happened.
posted by klausman at 2:47 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So The Village People are back in fashion?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:48 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, Racialious (warning, contains Ke$ha)
posted by desjardins at 2:49 PM on May 26, 2010


Didn't see this linked: WHEN NON NATIVE PARTICIPATION IN POWWOWS GOES TERRIBLY WRONG

Also, I live in H*****r ground zero in Chicago and haven't seen these feathery abominations yet on the "streets" as it were
posted by jtron at 2:50 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh man two in one day i cant take it
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:50 PM on May 26, 2010


I can't handle reality this week.

It's all a flash sideways of some well intentioned time traveling hipster detonating a hydrogen bomb at Plymouth rock.
posted by iamck at 2:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


In this corner, the overly earnest, easily offended, respect-my-PC-authenticity.

And in this corner, the overly earnest, self-interested, I'm-authentic-because-I'm-ironic.

It's a psychographic collision! Thrills and spills! Tears and recriminations!

UFC 114: When Douchebags Collide!

Order now on pay-per-view.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [32 favorites]


And now, a very special LATFH moment (I'll stop spamming my own thread now).
posted by desjardins at 2:51 PM on May 26, 2010


I'm sure America's truckers are relieved to see this fashion turn.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [20 favorites]


I had a computer virus all weekend, but I'm now getting caught up, and in between this and the teen werewolves, I'm pretty much ready for California to secede. Their electoral votes aren't worth keeping them around anymore.
posted by Caduceus at 2:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, many of the people in those photos do not look like hipsters (although it's hard to tell, what with the lack of skinny jeans and fixies ha ha). They look like all the douchebag frat boys I went to college with. They would happily beat you up if you suggested they were hipsters.

(The college I went to used to have an Indian as its athletic mascot, and the cheer was "wah-hoo-wah." It was done away with in the early 70s, but some people just can't let that shit go, and when I was there in the 1980s I had lots of encounters with douchebag frat boys in Indian t-shirts who wanted to argue about how it was honoring Native Americans. Even as Native Americans at the school said, no, really, it's not an honor - please stop.)
posted by rtha at 2:52 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think they ever rocked the headdress, but Adam and the Ants were appropriating Native American culture way back in '81.
They had kind of an Indian-Pirate-Highwayman thing going on.
posted by Flashman at 2:53 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was a kid I saw a movie in which one sorority girl said to another, "Really, darling, Indian jewellry went out with the Indians." I don't know why that line stuck with me. Maybe it was because my dad had given me The Long Death: The Last Days of the Plains Indians.
posted by No Robots at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2010


When are people who enjoy being offended by things going to get around to being offended at Steampunk on my behalf?
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


Seriously though, this is a joke, right? desjardins, you arranged this with these bloggers to "have one on" with the Metafilter, yes? Ha! Ha! Very funny! Now joke is over, yes?
posted by jtron at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2010


Let's just take it as a given: tacky, at the very least.

And then the blogger pieces about it just point the musket right at their own moccasins and pull the trigger. Oh, yay, the last one ends with a bingo card! Because few things are more helpful to discourse than to show you have anticipated questions and reactions but, lacking the ability to actually deal with them in a meaningful manner, you can just package and dismiss and nobody will catch on.

Given how embarrassing they are, bingo cards are long overdue for the dustbin. Still, where would we be without condescending summations of the the stances of very people we are theoretically supposed to be talking with? Note: I don't use "educate" there, because that's another fantastically patronizing thing the left indulges in without quite realizing how much of a turnoff it is, thereby negating the effort.
posted by adipocere at 2:54 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I can't even. It's not like appropriation is new, and the Outkast video is pretty much old news, but it's as aggravating and depressing as ever.

I've found that it's one thing to deal with people who are intentionally being offensive, because they know there's a line and they are crossing it intentionally. With them, it's sort of like dealing with trolls--I know what to do with that.

But people who think that their individual personal choices don't affect others make me mad. It's one thing I have had the hardest time communicating to my students--what we are taught to think of as personal choices don't happen in isolation from patterns of oppression and power, and they affect more people than just us. Blarg.
posted by Tesseractive at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


Artw: when it comes to people claiming Steampunk (you heard me) who've never read any Jules Verne or the goddamn "Difference Engine," rest assured there is someone in the Midwest getting all boiled up about it
posted by jtron at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Phoenician heritage activists decry hipster trend of wearing purple. "Purple is not just a fashion choice -- purple garments dyed from crushed snail shells were awarded only to the most exalted members of our society," said Burt Smith, who is half Phoenician. Etc. etc.

The men's tie was appropriated from traditional Croatian war dress. Oh no!

Our fashion environment is a pluralistic melting pot. Shit comes from everywhere. Things can be deemed interesting and worn for many different reasons. Whether ones ancestors might have worn something similar is not an important class of reason.

FFS.
posted by grobstein at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


can we skip all the abominably predictable h☆ hatred as given and move on to discussing whether this is appropriation is offensive or not?

which, my opinion being, it is. Though it's supposed to be a throwback ironically to racist attitudes of the 60s and 70s, it ends up looking like plain old racism so, if you're listening young hot rockstar girls cut it out (Hint: they are not listening).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:57 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


And take off your turquoise jewelry
Shake your medicine rattle
And fill a sock with an herb
Put on your fringe skirt
Come sit down next to your man, he's hankering for some company
Come sit down next to your man and let him cough in your ear
''cause you bring me sticks and stones
You bring me everything
Take off your turquoise jewelry
Shake your medicine rattle
''cause you bring me sticks and stones
You bring me everything


--Camper Van Beethoven
posted by sourwookie at 2:57 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Actually I just completely changed my mind. =P
posted by grobstein at 2:58 PM on May 26, 2010


I thought it was decided that we hated hipsters because of their androgyny. I can't tell if these hipsters are squaws or warriors!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:58 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hmm that's tough. The headdresses are crossing a line to my sensibility, but beaded shoes and earrings? What about silver Indian jewelry/turquoise? Southwest prints? Ponchos?

I wear mocassins because they're good shoes, and have a tee-shirt with a Choctaw kid wearing a headdress that I got from the Choctaw Nation setup at a powwow. What about the modern conception of a powwow? Is that okay? What if hipsters show up?

I don't know when to be outraged here. On one hand Indians (usually preferred in my experience to Native American) certainly are the victims of a successful ongoing genocide, but on the other the culture has been so diluted in so many ways that it's hard to tell what ever actually meant anything. We think of Indian silver work as "authentic," but that didn't show up until the Spanish forced them into it sometime around the 1880's. They didn't ride horses until White Man brought them. Etc.

Not only that, but lots of the traditional beadwork and weaving in the southwest is so much like traditional Uyghur, Tibetan, and Mongol as to be indifferentiable to a layperson and sometimes to anyone but an expert. Is it okay to wear Tibetan hair beads? What about Mongol hair beads? Panama hats?

IAAI
posted by cmoj at 2:58 PM on May 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


I wonder whether this will spread to Australia, with the local hipsters (known locally as "coolsies", or at least they were five years ago) incorporating Aboriginal tribal dress into their attire.
posted by acb at 2:59 PM on May 26, 2010


The latest trend in hipster culture...

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!
posted by hellojed at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


To be fair, many of the people in those photos do not look like hipsters (although it's hard to tell, what with the lack of skinny jeans and fixies ha ha). They look like all the douchebag frat boys I went to college with. They would happily beat you up if you suggested they were hipsters.

I hate to beat this drum in every "hipster"-related thread, but she calls them "hipsters" here because hipster-as-category does not exist; it's a rhetorical device more than a coherent collection of signifiers, that functions almost entirely to create an Other rather than contribute to a good-faith conversation about the person in question.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2010 [84 favorites]


Does this mean little Johnny Horne was the first hipster?
posted by griphus at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The men's tie was appropriated from traditional Croatian war dress. Oh no!

I thought it was a Viking thing, a symbolic sacrifice to the hangman god Odin.
posted by acb at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Occidentalism?
posted by GuyZero at 3:00 PM on May 26, 2010


On the radio this morning I heard of a bit of Native American culture that seems ripe for hipster adoption: the avoidance of $20 bills because they honor Andrew Jackson.
posted by jamjam at 3:02 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have some reservations about this post.
posted by fixedgear at 3:02 PM on May 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


That, TBH, seems a much more righteous cause than getting all upset at someone rocking a Village People look.
posted by Artw at 3:03 PM on May 26, 2010


Humans have been (mis)appropriating different cultures since the dawn of sapience. How is this even slightly a concern? Yes, it sucks when you see something you hold dear done badly or inappropriately, but this is what humans DO!

Put it this way...bagpipes are quintessentially thought of as Scottish, but they were invented in the Middle East.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:03 PM on May 26, 2010


so... people DO know about the Mardi Gras thing right? There's some serious NA appropriation going on during that for years, and what about Jazz, and hiphop and fricken hell isn't Chuck Norris appropriating Asian culture with all his waaaaahhh *crack*.

Truth be told though, one of the most annoying fellows I knew at college was the white dude who went around in NA leather garb and tended to get all mystic at the drop of an eagle feather.

yadda yadda yadda
posted by edgeways at 3:04 PM on May 26, 2010


im just going to knock a lot of these questions out because im the authority on everything as of right now k?

but beaded shoes and earrings?

those are fine

What about silver Indian jewelry/turquoise?
Southwest prints? Ponchos?


totally fine

mocassins?

kinda 2006 but go for it


Is it okay to wear Tibetan hair beads?


sure but tibet is too 90s to even consider


What about Mongol hair beads?


Baller

Panama hats?

barf

incorporating Aboriginal tribal dress

look for this to hit japan big in 2014

any more questions?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:05 PM on May 26, 2010 [14 favorites]


On the radio this morning I heard of a bit of Native American culture that seems ripe for hipster adoption: the avoidance of $20 bills because they honor Andrew Jackson.

I just try to spend them extra quick
posted by grobstein at 3:06 PM on May 26, 2010


How about wearing green and drinking beer on St. Paddy's Day?
posted by scrowdid at 3:06 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's an idea: Try wearing that shit and walking around southeast Calgary, or the north sides of Edmonton and Winnipeg, or just about any part of Regina or Saskatoon, where REAL "INDIANS" live, and see what a happy reception you get.

It's funny that in Western Canada, where we see actual First Nations people every single day and our cities comprise actual aboriginal slums, you don't see moronic white people "dressing native" for a larf. What these assholes are doing is like the Japanese trendies who used to tan ultra dark and get perms to look "black." The only white people you see pulling this crap are German tourists during Stampede who've read too much Karl May. When the see natives selling and smoking crack next to LRT platforms their heads explode.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:07 PM on May 26, 2010 [32 favorites]


Greg you should join me in celebrating being a h☆

WE'RE HERE
WE'RE HIP
WE WILL GIVE YOU FASHION TIPS
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:08 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why are we discussing fashion? These people are showing their solidarity with the Native American Intifada.
posted by Benjamin Nushmutt at 3:08 PM on May 26, 2010


Are they reappropriating native american culture or The Village People?
posted by mullingitover at 3:09 PM on May 26, 2010


Many years ago, my dad and I were watching tv, and Kathy Lee Crosby was on wearing something like an Indian warrior's chest armor. He growled, "Goddammit, everybody wants to look like an Indian...but nobody wants to eat like one."

We lived in what used to be Comanche country. There's not much to eat except lizards, insects, cactus, and nuts. There's game, but it's not as easy to kill deer or turkey with a bow and arrow as you'd think.

Now, every single fucking time I see Indian clothing...I think of him saying that.
posted by Xoebe at 3:11 PM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


This just halts my brain right in its tracks.

I'm some small part (great great grandmother) Blood indian (part of the Blackfoot confederacy) and I'm interested in that culture, although my family has been utterly acculturated for 2 generations now (my grandmother's father was an itinerant herder in Alberta & Montana and they pretty well wandered the plains from job to job in her early youth before they settled down & became Mormons when she was about 5 or 6 -- she's alive still -- 95 now, so this is living memory in my family, but my dad & I both grew up all white).

I feel attached to that heritage in some small ways, and can understand the things the Blackfoot held sacred, amongst these, war bonnets & eagle feathers.

Suddenly, although I've never gone further than sticking a few owl, hawk & parrot feathers in my fedora hatband now & then, (all found at the bottom of open-air pits after rapelling -- I collect them, and they're totemic to me in a small way, as dropping a 600-foot pit is sure as hell a rite of passage) I find out I'm just another goddam ironically ignorantly mis-appropriating hipster douhebag.

Pardon me while I go outside and have an existential crisis.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:12 PM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


How about wearing green and drinking beer on St. Paddy's Day?

You mean, like if it were British troops in Belfast?
posted by No Robots at 3:13 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not enough to take lives and land, half the names of places, but also the mockery and "in good fun" is also necessary to flaunt your privilege.

Seriously, imagine if folks made hats with foam Twin Towers burning and rocked it, ironically.

Mass murder always seems funnier when it's not your own.
posted by yeloson at 3:14 PM on May 26, 2010 [41 favorites]


so... people DO know about the Mardi Gras thing right?

Prettiest thing I ever seen
Mardi Gras Indian down in New Orleans
Sewed all night and he sewed all day
Mardi Gras morning went all the way
posted by fixedgear at 3:16 PM on May 26, 2010


From the third link:
Well then, Miss Cultural Appropriation Police, what CAN I wear?

If you choose to wear something Native, buy it from a Native. There are federal laws that protect Native artists and craftspeople who make genuine jewelry, art, etc. (see info here about The Indian Arts and Crafts Act). Anything you buy should have a label that says "Indian made" or "Native made". Talk to the artist. find out where they're from. Be diligent. Don't go out in a full "costume". It's ok to have on some beaded earrings or a turquoise ring, but don't march down the street wearing a feather, with loaded on jewelry, and a ribbon shirt. Ask yourself: if you ran into a Native person, would you feel embarrassed or feel the need to justify yourself? As commenter Bree pointed out, it's ok to own a shirt with kimono sleeves, but you wouldn't go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar. Just take a minute to question your sartorial choices before you go out.
posted by desjardins at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2010 [10 favorites]


The only thing less interesting than "trends in hipster culture" is "bloggers' concerns".
posted by dobbs at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


Devils Rancher, you earned those feathers. That's the difference.
posted by No Robots at 3:18 PM on May 26, 2010


I can't tell if these hipsters are squaws or warriors!

"Squaw" really isn't an appropriate word to use in this thread.
posted by hippybear at 3:18 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks, No Robots.

Okay, This guy sums it up in one sentence:

"Would these girls have dressed in blackface to go to a African American community gathering? Wear a sombrero, poncho, and drawn on mustache to a Ballet Folklorico concert?"
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:19 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


CAN WE PLEASE!

GO ONE DAY!

WITHOUT TALKING ABOUT!

FUCKING HIPSTERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, new rule -- if you want to talk about hipsters, you should be required to unambiguously define what the fuck exactly a hipster is. And no, "young employed urbanite who isn't me" is not a valid definition.
posted by Afroblanco at 3:20 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


you wouldn't go out wearing full kabuki makeup to a bar

Man, these guys are really hating on the 80s!
posted by Artw at 3:22 PM on May 26, 2010


Okay, fine. 2 sentences. Brain. hurts.
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:22 PM on May 26, 2010


There is a rare opportunity to be had here, it's one that I think we should carefully cultivate, and do everything in our power to make certain it happens; We need to get hipster indians into a land war with wannabe cowboys.

This could be the solution to so many problems.

So many.
posted by quin at 3:23 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


And now, a very special LATFH moment (I'll stop spamming my own thread now).

I was going to post something about how this trend is at least a year old because I saw a bunch of people wearing these at Pitchfork last year, and then I clicked this link and one of them is the very first picture. I remember him being the kind of person who loves yelling things at his friends two rows behind him instead of just watching the band like everyone around him was trying to do. So this isn't the only thing in life where kids like this don't care about how they come off.
posted by jackflaps at 3:25 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


if lady gaga was a hipster, would EVERY post on mefi be about lady gaga being a hipster? just asking...
posted by HuronBob at 3:25 PM on May 26, 2010


Didn't we already have this. Exact. Same. Thread. Earlier today? MetaFilter sure is predictable.
posted by jivadravya at 3:26 PM on May 26, 2010


wannabe cowboys

Hasn't that been a gay subculture for decades now?
posted by acb at 3:26 PM on May 26, 2010


I thought it was decided that we hated hipsters because of their androgyny. I can't tell if these hipsters are squaws or warriors!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:58 PM on May 26


I know your just trying to be funny but squaw is an offensive term that demeans Native women.
posted by Sailormom at 3:28 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


When are people who enjoy being offended by things going to get around to being offended at Steampunk on my behalf?

I'm with you.
posted by Ratio at 3:29 PM on May 26, 2010


All right, that tears it. For the rest of the year I'm going to dress as Hitler in clothing 2 sizes too small.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:31 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


cmoj: “I wear mocassins because they're good shoes, and have a tee-shirt with a Choctaw kid wearing a headdress that I got from the Choctaw Nation setup at a powwow. What about the modern conception of a powwow? Is that okay? What if hipsters show up? ... I don't know when to be outraged here.”

Well, I think the point is that apparently many of the small residual tokens of racist caricature, which mainstream culture in general stopped featuring some years ago because their racism became obvious to everyone, are being adopted ironically by certain young people seem to think that ironical racism is all right. Yes, things like beaded garments, images of actual headdresses, moccasins, and ponchos are enough part of our shared culture now that I think they're pretty universally not a caricature or an emblem or racism. But when people put on makeup and shitty leather fringe and stick a feather in their headbands... isn't it hard not to see it as a comic sort of fun-having?

Any instance of offense or racism really can only come down to intent. A lot of the racism (and sexism) that we see in society isn't strictly intentional; it's mostly borne from a general lack of awareness of tragic or heavy shit that somebody's referring to comically, thus disrespecting other human beings. I don't imagine any of these kids are thinking to themselves: "gee, I sure hate Native Americans, how about I make them look as bad as possible?" But the silly getups indicate a general disregard for a heritage, a history, and the part we've all played in it.

I think people sometimes think it's okay to do this kind of thing because the ironic adoption of racist and sexist stereotypes has often historically been a way for people who face bigotry to deflect the hate and empower themselves. The classic example, of course, is the word "nigger." It's easy to see this and say "oh, we're past the racism, so it's okay for me to do it ironically, too." But it's really not – it shows disrespect, and it degrades and cheapens a shared experience.

The word "hipster" is probably a red herring, but I think it was probably a good idea to mention it up front like desjardins did just to get it out of the way, since it was bound to come up. The point really has nothing to do with what music you like or what age you are or whatever, and this isn't just another "hey let's hate on hipsters" moment. In fact, that would be the wrong thing to do, since it's easy to say you're not a hipster and duck the criticism that way. The real point here is that it's not cool to ironically adopt racist stereotypes, and that the fact that you're being ironic doesn't make it okay unless you're doing it in a private or controlled setting where you can be certain that everybody knows that you're being ironic. Otherwise, you're just sending mixed signals, the strongest of which just happens to be abject racism.
posted by koeselitz at 3:32 PM on May 26, 2010 [67 favorites]


Humans have been (mis)appropriating different cultures since the dawn of sapience. How is this even slightly a concern? Yes, it sucks when you see something you hold dear done badly or inappropriately, but this is what humans DO!

Humans have been stealing from each other since the dawn of sapience. How is this even slightly a concern? Yes, it sucks when you see something you hold dear taken from you, but this is what humans DO!

Humans have been hitting other in the face since the dawn of sapience. How is this even slightly a concern? Yes, it sucks when you get hit in the face, but this is what humans DO!

Humans have been engaging in racial discrimination since the dawn of sapience. How is this even slightly a concern? Yes, it sucks when you are targeted by racial discrimination, but this is what humans DO!

etc.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:33 PM on May 26, 2010 [12 favorites]


Is this just the latest step towards ironic black and white minstrel shows?
posted by ob at 3:33 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did someone somewhere already make the "Native American Apparel" joke? I'm not reading through all the links just to find out.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:35 PM on May 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


I have gone around and around with koeselitz about stuff but he's got pretty much the most cogent, clear comment in this thread.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:35 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


wannabe cowboys

Hasn't that been a gay subculture for decades now?


You should attend a few IRGA events to see just how "wannabe" some of those gay cowboys really are. You might have your opinion changed.

Is this just the latest step towards ironic black and white minstrel shows?

Dear gods, I hope not. I only sat through Bamboozled once, but it completely changed the way I look at a lot of depictions of race in our culture.
posted by hippybear at 3:36 PM on May 26, 2010


Have we learned nothing from 70's hippysploitation half-Native, Navy SEAL, Billy Jack?

The Legend of Billy Jack
Billy Jack Goes To Washington

Anyone who embraces The Ways of The People will be embraced by The People!

is 1/64 Cherokee
posted by GameDesignerBen at 3:37 PM on May 26, 2010


The photos were nothing short of sickening.
posted by l2p at 3:37 PM on May 26, 2010


Are they reappropriating native american culture or The Village People?

This is exactly it...the kids wearing these things are appropriating the naive appropriation of the 70s attitude towards NAs rather than actual NA culture. It's kitsch, which of course doesn't help when you're confronted with an actual Indian going "WTF R U DOING".

My employers found this out the hard way last summer. We throw a series of parties at a pool at a hotel. Many kinds of people go to them, and they had various themes based on Camps (Space Camp, Horror Movie Camp, Jesus Camp, etc). One week, running out of ideas, we decided to have Indian Summer Camp. People would wear headdresses and garb in the spirit of, so we thought, cheesy 60-70s movies about or related to indian stuff. We thought about hippies wearing indian stuff at Woodstock, bikers wearing feather-adorned helmets, Paul Revere and the Raiders singing "Cherokee People". We were going to have games and prizes based on various stereotypes of Indians that were big in the 70s also which I will not go into out of embarrassment.

Then someone from a NA defamation league found out about it and started a campaign to get our party shut down. They posted comments all over our website and called our hotel. In comments section we tried to explain ourselves, but realized quickly that we could not. We apologized sincerely for being tone-deaf and changed the theme of the party (which got rained out anyway because karma is a bitch). Representatives of the league, in a bout of unnecessary coolness, came to the next one we threw and we had a lot of educational and friendly convos about why on earth we thought such a thing was a good idea.

In reality, though we thought it was obvious that we were merely mocking the pop-cultural appropriation of native stuff, that the situation of Indians is still so dire in this country that it is impossible to make that choice without being hurtful. If you don't give a shit about hurting people then go for it. But since we genuinely thought we were being celebratory or subversive, we failed miserably. There's just no way to do it right.

Is Cher being racist in this picture? Are the Village People racist? Who can say? That was 30 years ago. What we can say is that whether or not an indian person can tell you are aware of the pop-cultural history you are co-opting, to them it still feels like shit. So, cut it out. The end.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:38 PM on May 26, 2010 [42 favorites]


Is Cher being racist in this picture?

Well... Cher has Cherokee ancestry, so probably not.
posted by hippybear at 3:41 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]



This dude: "Hey, you were taking my picture!"
Me: "yeah, is that ok? I wanted to get a picture of you and your friends in headdresses for my blog."
Dude: "you're wearing a snuggie! Can I snuggie in your snuggie?!"
Me (wearing a leopard print snuggie at the time): "um, ok?"
Dude (as rubbing his face on the sleeve of my snuggie): "so soft."
Oh... kay...
Is Cher being racist in this picture?
Isn't she part Indian or something?
posted by delmoi at 3:42 PM on May 26, 2010


I agree with the statement that most of the "racists" were not hipsters. They were not wearing Native costumes to be ironic, they really did think they were cute. Bay to Breakers gives people a chance to play dress up again. Of course, ignorance is no excuse, but I honestly think most of those pictured in the blogs simply did not know any better.

move on to discussing whether this is appropriation is offensive or not?

I am not a Native. While my part in the discussion might be welcome, it's not wholly relevant. None of this directly offends me. After reading more from these links (thanks desjardins) I think that displays like this are very insensitive. But I have no context for being offended. I need someone who is having their culture or beliefs diminished tell me how it effects them before I can form an opinion.

When hipsters start wearing camo colored yamakas and day-glo teffilin and tell me they are cute, then my opinion on what is offensive would be more relevant. In fact, I'm sorry I brought that up. I hope a representative from American Apparel is not reading this post.

To lighten things up a bit, I think it's a good thing the Smurf population is not upset over B2B. From what I saw, they should be outraged. Pukey Smurf. Public Urination Smurf. Dry-Hump-Everybody Smurf. They were a disgrace to the proud, blue people.
posted by chemoboy at 3:43 PM on May 26, 2010


posted by Potomac Avenue Are the Village People racist? Who can say? That was 30 years ago. What we can say is that whether or not an indian person can tell you are aware of the pop-cultural history you are co-opting, to them it still feels like shit. So, cut it out. The end.

Felipe Rose's father was Native American (Lakota Sioux).
posted by mattdidthat at 3:43 PM on May 26, 2010


Is Cher being racist in this picture?

Well... Cher has Cherokee ancestry, so probably not.


Cher Sarkisian? Can we do the Armenian genocide next?
posted by fixedgear at 3:46 PM on May 26, 2010


This seems more like a GYOFB kind of post to me.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:47 PM on May 26, 2010


hippybear: "Well... Cher has Cherokee ancestry, so probably not."

War bonnets were worn by plains indians, not Cherokees.
posted by mullingitover at 3:49 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cher Sarkisian?

Yes. Her mother was part Cherokee. Her father was Armenian. I'm sure when the kids start appropriating Armenian dress ironically, we can discuss your topic of choice.
posted by hippybear at 3:50 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


TBH I probably find people who claim to be Scottish or what the fuck ever after multiple generations of disconnect more annoying than I would people putting on a kilt for the hell of it.
posted by Artw at 3:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


1. Hipsters* in San Francisco do indeed rock Native American styles, but I haven't seen headdresses or anything that egregious. Mostly it's jackets or shirts with patterns, often just a strip or a small piece. Feathers are occasional accessories, but again I haven't seen any sticking out of headbands: earrings, feather motifs, etc. The Bay 2 Breakers douches look like the regular Bay 2 Breakers douches ...

2. Just like it's important to understand What We Talk About When We Talk About Hipsters, I think the specifics of the appropriation are important. There isn't a bright line that delineates appropriation from non-.

* I know them when I see them, perhaps being one myself. Not the best definition but the best I've got for now.
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was going to post this to the blue but someone beat me to it. I linked to it an one of my answers to this Askmefi question.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2010


Associated AskMe of the day: Am I singing an offensive song to the children? (SFW camp song about "Indian chiefs")

A good summary of the issues can be seen in the Native American mascot controversy that started in the 1960s. This writeup from a race and ethics class covers some mascots, including Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians. This article is a good summary of issues with Native American mascots, including:
"Why is an attractive depiction of an Indian warrior just as offensive as an ugly caricature?"
Both depictions uphold stereotypes. Both firmly place Indian people in the past, separate from our contemporary cultural experience. It is difficult, at best, to be heard in the present when someone is always suggesting that your real culture only exists in museums. The logos keep us marginalized and are a barrier to our contributing here and now.

Depictions of mighty warriors of the past emphasize a tragic part of our history; focusing on wartime survival, they ignore the strength and beauty of our cultures during times of peace. Many Indian cultures view life as a spiritual journey filled with lessons to be learned from every experience and from every living being. Many cultures put high value on peace, right action and sharing.
The same that is said about mascots could be said about modern trivialization of Native Americans, either directly or as some ironic nod to the Village People and the 1970s.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Insert obligatory "what if they used the n-word ironically?" here.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:57 PM on May 26, 2010


I was going to post this to the blue but someone beat me to it. I linked to it an one of my answers to this Askmefi question.

Sorry for, ahem, appropriating your link. That's where I found this stuff.
posted by desjardins at 3:58 PM on May 26, 2010


I'd really like us to develop a better collective phrase for this than "hipster", because all of the large-fake-glasses-wearing bright-blue-flannel people I know are feeling like we're diluting their particular sort of silly frivolity.

It's terrible. I can't tell who I'm supposed to be deriding right now. Is a hipster a hipster if he drinks Yuengling instead of PBR? Is homebrew hipster or not? What liquors are hip and which ones make my friends squarely part of the normal-people society?

(To make matters worse, one girl does claim to be a hipster, but she loves Miley Cyrus and the JoBros and Sex And The City. So I think she might be a hipster poseur.)

One thing I'm curious about is where you, individual MetaFilter user, think we should draw the line re: appropriation. Because clearly some times it's cool to appropriate somebody else's culture/style for your own purposes (like when white British guys appropriated blues music), and other times apparently it's offensive to do so. What makes appropriation appropriate? Is it earnestness and sincerity? Does it have to be appropriation that respects the original culture? Or is there something else?

I haven't seen people walking through the city in headdresses, but if I had I don't think "ironic racism" is an idea that's crossed those people's minds. People do things they think might be fun or cool without really stopping to think whether or not what they're doing is offensive. And that thoughtlessness is a societal issue that's worth having a gripe with, but it's certainly not the same as consciously and whimsically trying to be "ironic." I think that a lot of the people griping about irony are way overestimating the level of thought that goes into this.
posted by Rory Marinich at 3:59 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also want to make it clear that this is not in any way a callout of taff or a judgment of her AskMe question.
posted by desjardins at 3:59 PM on May 26, 2010


I know it has some problems of its own, but if we're going to be ironically appropriative, maybe we could go with Fighting Whites gear.
posted by immlass at 4:01 PM on May 26, 2010


So everyone appropriates from every culture, which makes every appropriation a-okay. There is no difference between an American hip-hop band sampling beats from Nigerian drummers and Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi. There is no difference between you wearing that t-shirt or those earrings you bought at a powwow and some white dude in face paint yelling "Scalp 'em!" at a football game. Do I have that right? And that anyone who's offended by Mr. Yunioshi or the "scalp 'em!" guy are just thin-skinned uptight overly PC folks who just need to get over it. Okay.

but I honestly think most of those pictured in the blogs simply did not know any better.


I agree. And it's hard to dispel that ignorance when every time you try to explain why it's hurtful, offensive and disrespectful, you get accused of being PC and trampling of freedom of speech and told that everyone appropriates from every culture so this is okay.

In reality, though we thought it was obvious that we were merely mocking the pop-cultural appropriation of native stuff, that the situation of Indians is still so dire in this country that it is impossible to make that choice without being hurtful. If you don't give a shit about hurting people then go for it. But since we genuinely thought we were being celebratory or subversive, we failed miserably. There's just no way to do it right.

Pretty much exactly this. I imagine that those of you who are complaining that people who are offended by shit like this are just being thin-skinned or oh-so-PC wouldn't think it was a good idea to show up at a costume party in blackface or as Mr. Yunioshi-type Asian protrayal or in a Nazi uniform. Perhaps someone can explain to me what's different about drunken white frat boys in feathers and facepaint.
posted by rtha at 4:01 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


"young employed urbanite who isn't me" is not a valid definition

because you included "employed"
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:01 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


chemoboy: “I am not a Native. While my part in the discussion might be welcome, it's not wholly relevant. None of this directly offends me. After reading more from these links (thanks desjardins) I think that displays like this are very insensitive. But I have no context for being offended. I need someone who is having their culture or beliefs diminished tell me how it effects them before I can form an opinion...”

I know where you're coming from, and I sympathize – but this is why "offensiveness" doesn't seem like a very good metric to me when trying to figure this stuff out. Offense is an emotional reaction, and as such people can take offense at almost anything; I've met people who were apparently offended if I didn't like the music they liked. (Speaking of hipsters... heh. Anyway.)

The only really useful criteria here, I think, is justice, and some derivatives thereof. Racism, for example, is clearly unjust. To put on the garb of another culture merely as a kind of silliness or retro fun is racist; whether it's intended or not, using a culture as a costume in this way sends the message that a culture or race is silly or ephemeral enough to lack any seriousness or meaning. I can even see that in the 70s people often thought that they were celebrating an aspect of our shared heritage, but it still sent the message that Native American culture was an accessory, and that's unjust.

We have to be able to judge that, because otherwise we are forced to wait (as you eloquently described it) for someone from the minority in question to tell us how it makes them feel. And since they're human beings, they might feel all sorts of different ways; they might even endorse something that's really quite racist. See, for example, Cher's noxious getup in the photo linked above, which is racist regardless of the fact that she regards herself as part-Native American. (I say "regards herself as" because I don't know how much I buy her credentials, given that "I'm part-Cherokee!" is a pretty popular thing for us non-Natives to believe, even though it's hardly ever true, in my experience.)
posted by koeselitz at 4:02 PM on May 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


rtha clearly hasn't partied with the British royal family.
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


In regards to wearing green on St. Paddy's Day and "smurfs" in B2B: the modern Saint Patrick's Day is close to the modern Valentine's Day - no longer a religious day, but an excuse for festivities, and smurfs aren't real.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:04 PM on May 26, 2010


Sorry for, ahem, appropriating your link. That's where I found this stuff.

You did a much better job than I would have done on the post so I'm glad you beat me to it.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:09 PM on May 26, 2010


The men's tie was appropriated from traditional Croatian war dress. Oh no!

I thought it was a Viking thing, a symbolic sacrifice to the hangman god Odin.


The more you know. In fact the origins of the necktie were the French leisure class fetishistically copying the battle neckwear of Croatian mercenaries fighting in Western Europe, which is not so unlike the use put to headdresses here. On the other hand, the necktie has been only mainstream menswear for a long time, and the people getting fetishized were not ethnic cleansing victims so far as I know.
posted by grobstein at 4:10 PM on May 26, 2010


So this is like, "fashion police" meets "hate speech" or "hate crime" -- sort of "fashion hate crime."

So we need cultural appropriation police to deal with this issue. A "The More You Know" campaign to address cultural appropriation. It seems like a lot of this comes from a pretty innocent place of privilege. Yes, I'm aware of the irony in that. But really, is there a way to point out people's dickish privilege in a way that all parties can come out the better for it? Chastisement and ridicule tend not to create lasting positive cultural relationships. If you plant a sticker on me that says "That's Racist- --well, it's possible we're never really going to be friends, increasing the gaps between people, which doesn't improve anything. Education of this sort is delicate, and too often what people are left with is "well, we're not supposed to wear sombreros, I guess" rather than "using a caricature of a culture to signify that culture without proper context is offensive, so I should choose not to out of respect." The lack of a real understanding of what cultural sensitivity is about is what leads to [insert latest news story about culturally insensitive fraternity party where participants wore [insert culturally insensitive stereotype] and acted like idiots and put the photos on facebook] being so common.

Maybe we should just dispense with clothing and makeup and all adornment altogether. Then we'll only be offending the nudists.
posted by artlung at 4:11 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Hippiessters wore brilliant Mexican chalecos, Oriental robes, and red-Indian headdress. They dressed as cowboys. They dressed as frontiersmen. They dressed as Puritans. Doubtful who they were, trying on new clothes, how could they know where they were going until they saw what fit? They wore military insignia. Among bracelets and bells they wore Nazi swastikas and the German Iron Cross, knowing, without knowing much more, that the swastika offended the Establishment, and no enemy of the Establishment could be all bad."
posted by applemeat at 4:13 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


"when in fact there are 500+ distinct tribes with their own cultures."

And yet, you've decided to speak for all of them.
posted by madajb at 4:16 PM on May 26, 2010


In this corner, the overly earnest, easily offended, respect-my-PC-authenticity.

No, this is different, it really is.

To American Indians, seeing some white person all dressed up in an "Indian" costume is NOT like a modern-day Norwegian seeing someone dressed up as a Viking. The Indians have lost nearly everything in the 500 year encounter. They lost 90% of their population to disease. They lost their lands (and collectively, two continents). They lost their traditional life ways when they were driven onto the reservation. They have mostly lost their languages. For decades they lost their religions, prohibited by law in many cases. They lost their ability to self-govern free of interference. Academic anthropologists took it upon themselves to dig up the graves of their ancestors and publish the secrets of their religious rituals. So much lost to what became the dominant white culture.

For decades they were taught in government schools to be ashamed of their Indianess and be imitation whites. But in the last decades they have turned that around and all over America Indians are at work on the business of cultural revitalization. Old symbols are new emblems of native pride.

And now some drunken douchebag wants to paint his face and wear some feathers and appropriate our culture--the one thing the whites have not already stolen? It is rubbing the Indians' faces in all the ugly things of the past and denying them control of their own heritage. Damn right it is offensive.
posted by LarryC at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2010 [80 favorites]


rtha clearly hasn't partied with the British royal family.

That incident was exactly why I picked Nazi uniform as an example, yep.

posted by rtha at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2010


Phoenician heritage activists decry hipster trend of wearing purple. "Purple is not just a fashion choice -- purple garments dyed from crushed snail shells were awarded only to the most exalted members of our society," said Burt Smith, who is half Phoenician. Etc. etc.


I know you were being clever, but the problem with this comment is that Phoenician culture no longer exists. There are people living in what used to be Phoenicia, but they don't consider themselves to be Phoenicians.

Native American cultures do still exist and so it's not the same thing at all.
posted by lunasol at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2010


This is going to sound incredibly selfish but I, for one, am just so incredibly glad that they've moved on from wearing keffiyehs. Seeing such a politically and culturally important artifact draped around the neck of someone drinking a damned can of beer gave me instant rage-induced dizziness. I'd usually walk up to them, gesture to their keffiyeh and with an earnest look say something like, "I noticed your keffiyeh. Thank you for your support and solidarity. It means a lot to me and my friends." And walk away, balrog, walk away from the hipster. walk away from the hipster.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:19 PM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


erm. That link was supposed to go here.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:20 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're gonna wear a headdress, you might as well have the balls to instead go in blackface and take the beating you damn well deserve.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:27 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't know it doesn't really seem racist to me to appropriate cultural elements from other cultures. Would have been bad to see people wearing kimonos or saris? Is it racist when people in the east wear western clothes? I don't really think so. I can see how you might want to make an exception for Indians, given the history, but I don't think it makes much sense as a general rule.

I mean, the author of the blog was wearing a snuggie. Isn't that mocking white trash?
posted by delmoi at 4:29 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


LarryC:

Looking at your profile it's clear that American Indian culture is your area of study, and that it's something you're passionate about. But I'll ask you, given your comment, what you think the solution is. Complaining about douchebags doesn't make them go away. Calling them douchebags doesn't help, either, because most people who do stupid things are people with good intentions who just haven't thought much about their actions. So all you'll do by insulting them is piss them off and make them more stubborn.

The issue here isn't there're a bunch of racists walking around. The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it. So if you think it's disrespectful, think of ways that you could reach those young douches and get them to maybe think about the cultures they're appropriating.

It's not their responsibility to think about those things. (Though I'm sure most of them will start thinking about such things as they develop certain sensitivities.) Rather, it's the responsibility of the people who are passionate about these cultures to spread awareness and respect, so that people develop finer moral sensibilities.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:36 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Would have been bad to see people wearing kimonos or saris?

I don't know, let's ask some Japanese and (East) Indian people. Women, specifically. Beyond the aesthetics, I don't know what significance they might have to traditional wearers, so I don't know how much of an idiot I would look like.

Is it racist when people in the east wear western clothes?

Is western culture in danger of being marginalized and caricatured? Probably not, considering that nearly every culture everywhere has adopted western wear alongside or in favor of their own.
posted by desjardins at 4:47 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it.

Actually, that's part of the problem, because that pretty much describes the last two hundred years of federal Indian law policy in a nutshell.
posted by Dr. Zira at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Native Americans have some rather specific situations to concern themselves with, among them:

1. Mascots (mentioned above)
2. Bogus "Tribal Art" made by non-Indians
3. People inventing Indian ancestors in an attempt to get casino payouts or other benefits

just for starters. So when Indian people get a little touchy about some goofball putting on a Big Chief headdress, they may have a lot of other, somewhat more serious things on their mind, too. They have a right to be touchy.

Minnesota, Wisconsin, Dakotas: some of my best friends are..., etc. etc.
posted by gimonca at 4:51 PM on May 26, 2010


I mean, the author of the blog was wearing a snuggie. Isn't that mocking white trash?

EVERYONE HAS THE RIGHT TO BE COZY AND WARM. That is all.

(I do not have a snuggie, I just wear my bathrobe backwards)
posted by filthy light thief at 4:53 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you're gonna wear a headdress, you might as well have the balls to instead go in blackface and take the beating you damn well deserve.

This.

Would have been bad to see people wearing kimonos or saris?

Different histories being referenced, with very different amounts of baggage.
posted by Forktine at 4:54 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


The issue here isn't there're a bunch of racists walking around. The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it

this
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2010


In a world with a team in the nation's capital that has a name about as insulting as "Darkie" and another sports team in Cleveland featuring a logo only slightly less offensive than a Golliwogg, I really fail to see the ironic hipster humor.

Yes, the '70s were stupid, but they came at the stupid from the direction of respect for Indian culture and spirituality, however misplaced it was. Remember, the '60s still featured scowling Indians as cookie-cutter villains for white-hatted white men to take pot-shots at on Western TV shows. This stupidity doesn't even have that scant fig-leaf.

It would be one thing if American Indians weren't an economic underclass, denied basic rights even to this day, and told it's their own fault for being drunk/fat/lazy/thieving/uneducated/whatever-the-stereotype is... but they are denied those basic rights. They are beaten by belt-buckle cowboys for being "Prarie Niggers" and in town after dark, even in the year 2010, and the State Police are breaking the arms of tobacco shop owners on Indian land - in fucking =Rhode Island=.

Massive disrespect - we don't have buck-toothed, pigtailed Chinese chic, because that shit's insulting and poisonous. We shouldn't have dime store head-dresses and rubber tomahawk chic, either.

(I don't know many American Indians personally, but the ones I do know detest the term "Native American." It's a paternalistic, "we know what's best, we're white and therefore smart" thing that drives them up a wall. If the word Indian is just too old-school, use First People instead - but even that's dicey.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well this brings back the memories. Back in the 80's and early 90's I had a side business selling semiprecious gemstones (not cut stones mostly, but specimens). A big part of our business was the then-ascendant New Age community, so it was in our interests to know that aventurine attracts money and bloodstone is worn for female problems. At the time we developed a lot of friends in various occult, mystical, new age, and yes Native American communities.

At the time there was a big wave of yuppies buying Native American artifacts and, as many actual NA's put it, "playing indian." There was actually something of a love-hate relationship between the communities because the yuppies sucked artifacts out of circulation into private collections and hardly ever really "got" the essence of NA culture, but they also pumped money into the pockets of NA artisans who were more than happy about the situation.

But this very same argument raged -- were these pale interlopers somehow desecrating the very cultures they were raiding by their half-serious homages? One person close to me is a very serious NA activist -- I get an email from her any time there's a development in the Leonard Peltier case -- and she insists not. Of course she'd prefer a more serious and authentic attitude toward native beliefs, but she says many actual NA's aren't much better informed, and if a businessman in Manhattan wants to pay an artist in rural Arkansas for a drum, who's being hurt?

In this case, I can't consult my friend at the moment but based on our 15+ years of association I would guess she would say that of course lampooning a culture is disrespectful, but what is even more disrespectful is pretending that a culture doesn't exist at all. And the thing is, while the hipsters are doing more of a playful allegory of NA culture than anything resembling the real thing, they at least aren't doing it like it was done in the 50's, with the implicit assumption that the NA is always the sidekick, alien invader, or loser.

You could complain that the NA pastiche is similar to Sambo-style archetypes of black people, but the difference is that black people aren't invisible; for most white Americans NA's pretty much are. Black people had their (extremely deep) downs with our ancestors but they weren't confined to reservations and subject to explicit waves of genocide, things which don't just marginalize your culture but erase it entirely. Most people know that a lot of our music is owed to black culture, but few people could name anything we got from the indians. (Which is especially depressing considering one of those things white USians owe indians would be "half the concepts in the Constitution," which were borrowed wholesale from the Iroquois.)

My actual NA friend believes paganism should be syncretic, with cultures and individuals taking what they can use from each other. She's cheerfully adopted things from several tribes other than her own native Cherokee, and she does a lot of Wiccan stuff too. Playing with things you don't quite understand is an essential part of that; you cannot find out if a ritual "works" for you if you don't try it.

Finally, I think there is a big difference between "I'm playing with your culture's concepts because your culture's cool and did a lot of cool stuff" and "I'm playing with your culture to make fun of you, loser." I think a lot of the hipster stuff falls firmly in the first category and you have to have pretty thin skin not to see that. But then, my ancestors weren't confined to reservations and subject to waves of genocide, and I have to admit that might make one a bit sensitive on certain topics. But that doesn't make the sensitivity correct.
posted by localroger at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


I feel, beneath the white, there is a red skin suffering.

(get better soon Adam)
posted by Meatbomb at 5:01 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I understand the criticisms of the criticism, but I for one found the link interesting and I'm glad she's shining a light.

I don't agree with Baby_Balrog, because Kaffiyas are scarves first and foremost, regardless of who wears them. The political or other meanings are what's recent. But anyway.
posted by cell divide at 5:02 PM on May 26, 2010


"To American Indians,"

To _some_.
Others couldn't care less.

It is not appropriate to hold the opinions of a vocal few as representative of an entire group.
posted by madajb at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2010


> The issue here isn't there're a bunch of racists walking around. The issue is there're a
> bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it

Human condition. Most of what is done by every living person is done without thinking. It's not possible that everything that's important to somebody should be important to everybody.
posted by jfuller at 5:10 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah try that anywhere within thirty feet or so of my downtown office and see how fast you get knifed. Seriously, I don't think the Manitoba Warriors, Native Syndicate or Indian Posse are really going to take that very well.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 5:11 PM on May 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it.

That sentence sums up most everything wrong with modern Western society.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:12 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kaffiyehs were passe when I was wearing one as an idiotic teenager in the late eighties. In Milwaukee. I don't know what my point is.
posted by everichon at 5:15 PM on May 26, 2010


five fresh fish:
The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it.

That sentence sums up most everything wrong with modern Western society human beings.
FTFY.
posted by localroger at 5:19 PM on May 26, 2010


Human condition. Most of what is done by every living person is done without thinking. It's not possible that everything that's important to somebody should be important to everybody.

That sentence sums up most everything wrong with modern Western society.

I couldn't agree more with both of you. I think that's the underlying problem here, rather than specifically this misappropriation of headdresses. The questions then become: Is this a problem that has an easy, concrete solution? Is this something that we'll have to struggle with — not just in dealing with others, but with ourselves? When can we ignore this general thoughtlessness, and when is it essential that we actually make a stand?

That latter question's the difficult one. Can we simply ignore this cultural appropriation and focus on appreciating the culture in question? Does that implicitly allow people to be racist and ignorant in a harmful way? I imagine the answer's different for everybody — I have no ties to American Indian culture in any way, so I have no implicit interest here that's not provided by somebody else's arguments; other people are part of the culture in question and so are more qualified to answer.

And of course this is going to be a problem we see more and more of, as information finds newer and faster ways to spread. The Internet spreads news more quickly than television did; social news sites and Facebook spread news more quickly now than they did five years ago. So it's easier to form these shallower bonds, not just with people, but with ideas, like in this case the appropriation of a culture without thinking about it.

The good news is that those supersleek infotubes exist for everybody and not just for people trying to make other people feel bad. It's easier to be educated than it ever was before. Which is one of the reasons why I asked Larry specifically what he thought the solution was. He knows better than I do.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2010


We killed most of the indians, right? This is a sign that we need to kill all the hipsters.
posted by jonmc at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


That second link features a bingo card of responses to talking about cultural appropriation. Is there a set of footnotes explaining why each of them doesn't work?
posted by jacalata at 5:39 PM on May 26, 2010


Alo, I though this was the race where people ran naked. That would pretty much excuse everything.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on May 26, 2010


On a more serious note --

I actually saw a chick in Four Barrel Coffee a few weeks ago wearing a "hipster headdress," and ... it actually didn't look that bad.

I mean, yeah, the people in the OP with the stereotypical "Indian" headdresses look kinda dumb in a Village People costume party sorta way. But the one I saw didn't look like that. I mean, yeah, there were a few feathers, but they looked pretty natural and weren't painted or anything. And the rest of it looked pretty unique, like she'd made it herself. I didn't think it was racist or anything. It was just a silly hipster accoutrement. One of those moments like, "yeah, this city is for freaks, check out that girl who just walked by in a headdress." It almost looked cute on her.

I mean, it's not like Indians own a patent on headdresses. Other cultures have worn them as well.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I now nominate the word "doofuses" when feeling the urge to use "hipsters". That is all.
posted by josher71 at 5:42 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this just the latest step towards ironic black and white minstrel shows

How 2005 of you.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 5:45 PM on May 26, 2010


Rather, it's the responsibility of the people who are passionate about these cultures to spread awareness and respect, so that people develop finer moral sensibilities.

I'm going to try to take a crack at this, because the only way I know to articulate how viscerally offensive this is (meaning the hipsters, not your comment) is through the lens of my own experience. Ready, hipsters? Here goes...

I'm not Indian. I'm not a member of a federally recognized tribe. I'm just an attorney and federal Indian law is my main area of practice, so I've had the privilege of working with tribes and tribal members about whom I care passionately, so I'll just kind of speak from my own limited experience as an outsider.

I won't bore you with a primer on federal Indian law, other than to tell you that generally, tribes are considered "domestic dependent nations." If you don't know what that language means, welcome to the club, because lawyers have been arguing about that since 1832 when Justice Marshall invented it in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, one of the removal cases. Basically, instead of being a sovereign nation, like Japan, or Madagascar, or ancient Phoenecia or the United States, or Canada, or [insert your favorite sovereign foreign government here], tribes are sovereigns that are placed under the thumb of the United States federal government. Congress has plenary authority to legislate in matters of Indian affairs. So imagine that your existence and cultural identity is based in a foreign nation, but rather than being truly independent, your rights both as an individual and as a collective entity are subject to being either expanded or diminished the whims of Congress, in which your nation has no representation. Hell, tribes aren't even parties to the U.S. Constitution, because they pre-existed the Constitution.

So it starts this way: Each tribe has it's own unique history of being screwed, but for the sake of argument, imagine you're a member of, for example, one of the tribes who originally resided in what is now the Southeastern United States. First, your people are removed and resettled from your native homeland to other places, where you make a home. Then the federal government decides that rather than leave you alone to govern your reservation, that you need to become more like white people. They want to assimilate you into good hearty Christian farmers. So they accomplish this by allotting your reservation, dividing the reservation up into individual ownership instead of being held collectively by your nation. Then they sell off the leftovers of your reservation to white settlers, with the idea being that integrating them will assimilate you and your culture. But the BIA, acting pursuant to US law, doesn't just stop at terminating your tribal government; they want to terminate your ability to exercise basic expression of your tribal culture, such as dance.

Then, thanks to reorganization policy in the 30s, things take a turn for the better: tribes start making a comeback, reorganizing their tribal governments, but it's still difficult to do without economic resources. So tribes spend a few decades building enterprises, culminating in tribal gaming, and entering the realm of business and industry, using their sovereignty (e.g., land base and exemptions from taxation) as a basis for building economic power. Now, the white people start complaining again, because why should Indians get special treatment? Why should they be afforded any special privileges, why should they get special treatment different than any other good 'ol American citizen? Because this is the background conversation in many non-Indian inner and external monologues: "Hey, you see, it's all good as long as Indians exist as museum cultures - weaving their baskets and making teepees and turquoise jewelry, but hey - once they actually become economically competitive, they're a threat, and for the love of all that is holy....it's unfair to states, and poor state citizens to have to compete with these tribes and tribal members." It's not overt racism - that would, in a way be preferable, because at least you know what you're dealing with. Instead, it's this insidious view that permeates everything from your average Joe Blow, through the federal courts, all the way up to SCOTUS justices ("hey guys, let's let Sandy O'Connor write all of our Indian law opinions because she may actually have seen an Indian once growing up in Arizona.")

Tribes have and still are fighting to exist and tribes. And when I say tribes had to fight - I mean literally - physically, mentally, and legally - to avoid being terminated in this country. And they're still fighting in courtrooms all over this country - to this day - maybe not for the right to wear a headdress, but to avoid economic termination: To avoid termination of their reservations, their Indian country, their sovereign rights.

So now we've got these (predominately white) hipsters, appropriating an exploited culture and accompanying attire, with nary a thought for the tremendous amount of work that has (and continues) to be accomplished to earn the right to be recognized as Indian. Look at those fucking hipsters. They might as well be giving Indians the middle finger, and in turn, it makes me wish they'd "appropriate" a smallpox blanket. But instead of holding them accountable for their offensiveness, we just dismiss them as morons, and sit back and patiently await them to get real jobs, a mortgage, a family, and grow and mature into more thoughtful humans.

tl;dr: It's offensive because, in the words of one Mr. Morrissey "You just haven't earned it yet, baby."
posted by Dr. Zira at 5:45 PM on May 26, 2010 [78 favorites]


One of those moments like, "yeah, this city is for freaks, check out that girl who just walked by in a headdress."

except, she's not a 'freak,' she's a silly trend following conformist who thinks she's a 'freak.'. That's why we all hate hipsters.
posted by jonmc at 5:46 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


except, she's not a 'freak,' she's a silly trend following conformist who thinks she's a 'freak.'. That's why we all hate hipsters.

It was the first time I'd seen somebody sport a headdress who wasn't trying to look like a stereotypical Indian, so I didn't immediately think "conformist."

And I really don't have a problem with hipsters. In fact, I don't even believe they exist. Nobody can come up with a solid definition for what one is, so how can I hate them? I've been called a hipster before, simply because I live in a city and have a job.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:50 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was the first time I'd seen somebody sport a headdress who wasn't trying to look like a stereotypical Indian, so I didn't immediately think "conformist."

This thread should show you otherwise.

And I really don't have a problem with hipsters. In fact, I don't even believe they exist. Nobody can come up with a solid definition for what one is, so how can I hate them?

Spoiled, trendy, elitist young people who think they're fucking artists works for me.
posted by jonmc at 5:53 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: What if hipsters show up?

Disturbing Indian culture appropriation of a hotbox.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:56 PM on May 26, 2010


I'm sorry, but as stupid as these people look, it's not racist, so the guy's sticker campaign is flawed from the get-go.

Racism is defined as:

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Wearing that stuff is certainly offensive owing to the history of the abuses against Native Americans, but it cannot be classified as racist.

If anything the sticker should read: That's Vulgar!
posted by bwg at 6:04 PM on May 26, 2010


Dressing in feathers, how quaint. From the proverbial Wannabe Indian tribe.

An Apache friend once told me that her native friends could always tell a white wannabe in online groups because they always had names like "Moon Over Tall Hill," whereas all real Indians were named "Leonard," or "Pisses Behind Tent" or similar.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:04 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


We killed most of the indians, right? This is a sign that we need to kill all the hipsters.

I gotta say, I'm way more offended by comments like that than a few doofuses making a bad clothing choice. See how you like it when us beatniks come lay a beatdown on you for appropriating our dark clothes/indie rock/disaffected shtick/revival of chain-smoking as leisure activity. Not that I don't love these lolhipster threads or whatever.

From now on I'm not going to wear anything except a plain white T with the words "YOUR CLOTHES ARE MOST LIKELY OFFENSIVE" across the front. In Cooper Black, natch.

Seriously, imagine if folks made hats with foam Twin Towers burning and rocked it, ironically.

Mass murder always seems funnier when it's not your own.

Are headdresses mass murder? I must have missed something, are they pointier than they look?
posted by zvs at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Jonmc was a nonconformist when it was still vinyl.

This thread should show you otherwise.

What, because some blogs posted pictures? And their proof was OutKast back in 2004 and Ke$ha on American Idol, which means the unhippest musician on the unhippest show did it so it must be a hipster trend?

There are more pictures of people dressed as furries online than there are of people dressed like this. If you trusted the Internet you'd think fursuits were a hip trend.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:08 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


On preview: glad we both thought of 'doofuses.'
posted by zvs at 6:09 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


See how you like it when us beatniks come lay a beatdown on you for appropriating our dark clothes/indie rock/disaffected shtick/revival of chain-smoking as leisure activity.

*quivers in fear*
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on May 26, 2010


They're doing this deliberately, aren't they?
posted by carter at 6:16 PM on May 26, 2010


How 2005 of you.

Oh. Jesus.
posted by ob at 6:16 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


People sure do get worked up over fashion.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:17 PM on May 26, 2010


you're just upset that they plucvked you to get the feathers.
posted by jonmc at 6:20 PM on May 26, 2010


I'm no fan of ironic headdresses, or Native American caricatures and mascots or any of the other disrespectful portrayals of Native Americans in mainstream culture. Though I wonder if all of that was done away with, how would Native Americans be represented in mainstream US culture? I guess the optimistic view is that a more respectful portrayal of Native Americans would fill the space formerly occupied by caricature, but I worry that mainstream culture would just forget more of our past.
posted by mullacc at 6:26 PM on May 26, 2010


you're just upset that they plucvked you to get the feathers.

Ah, now it makes sense! They were shouting get plucked!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:28 PM on May 26, 2010


If they're not sniffing at you and claiming they were into misappropriations of culture a year before you thought to dress up, they're not hipsters.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:42 PM on May 26, 2010


Rory, your misapprehension of me and what I'm saying has gone beyond wrong into unintentional comedy, so I'll just say "Welcome to my pay-no-mind list." and be done with it.
posted by jonmc at 6:47 PM on May 26, 2010


[dear hipsters and anti-hipsters and friends and mefites, do us all a favor and don't turn this into a referendum on any one person's personal opinions on hipsterdom. it's a bad movie and ends badly. thank you. metatalk is available to you as always.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


how would Native Americans be represented in mainstream US culture?

Um, as people? We've managed to portray black people for decades now without resorting to Sambo and Aunt Jemima. (Although it can be argued that we still have some distance to go.)

I grew up in Milwaukee, where there is no visible Indian presence (there's a casino now; there wasn't when I was growing up, and no one I know now goes to it anyway). I moved to Montana, where there are large reservations. At first, meeting Indians seemed so exotic for me, but that wore off really fast as I got to know them. Surprise, they're just like everyone else, but with a different cultural background.

I don't recall ever seeing a white person in Montana wearing Indian things, despite the proximity and the fact that there were pow-wows all summer. Probably because they realized it'd be awkward at best and dangerous at worst.
posted by desjardins at 6:56 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


The white person I knew who was most into Native American culture was a security guard named Gary, a Jewish guy from East New York, which when he was young was a poor Jewish/Italian neighborhood and is currently a poor Black/Latin neighborhood. He married a Native American woman he met at a powwow (and adopted her daughter) and had pretty much adopted a lot of the trappings of their culture, even though they were living up in East Harlem. He wore some Native-themed clothes and stuff, but he also loved telling stories of his youth hanging out with bikers and hippies back in the '70's. Then our store switched security companies and I've only seen him rarely since. Hope he's well.
posted by jonmc at 7:10 PM on May 26, 2010


he real point here is that it's not cool to ironically adopt racist stereotypes, and that the fact that you're being ironic doesn't make it okay unless you're doing it in a private or controlled setting where you can be certain that everybody knows that you're being ironic. Otherwise, you're just sending mixed signals, the strongest of which just happens to be abject racism.

See: "Obama Is My Slave" t-shirt incident
posted by jason's_planet at 7:13 PM on May 26, 2010


I think it's fine to wear any individual traditionally native american clothing item including even multiple items simultaneously. It's probably not cool to wear a total native american costume. You can wear a kimono as a robe, but it would be sort of tacky to dress up like a geisha.
posted by I Foody at 7:16 PM on May 26, 2010


It's funny that in Western Canada, where we see actual First Nations people every single day and our cities comprise actual aboriginal slums, you don't see moronic white people "dressing native" for a larf. What these assholes are doing is like the Japanese trendies who used to tan ultra dark and get perms to look "black." The only white people you see pulling this crap are German tourists during Stampede who've read too much Karl May. When the see natives selling and smoking crack next to LRT platforms their heads explode.

I'm going to favourite this, thank you for this in thread and in MeMail and, I don't know, maybe send you a cake.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:20 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think the headdress is likely to take the place of the trucker cap. Really, it's just not a thing that anyone -- anyone -- is going to wear on a regular basis. Is dressing up like a Native American from the 1800s a great idea if you're a white person? It's probably kinda tacky, but I don't know that it's meant to be disrespectful so much as it is a sign that you're too fucking naive/stupid to realize that it could be seen that way. If it's like an ironic thing, then I think that's just terrific, and I suggest that you, a twenty-five-year-old trustafarian, attend some POW-MIA events this Memorial Day weekend dressed in fatigues, a Purple Heart pinned to your camo lapel, and a t-shirt that reads VIETNAM VETERAN. You know, for the lulz. Be sure and let us all know how it goes!!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:26 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


adipocere: "Let's just take it as a given: tacky, at the very least.

And then the blogger pieces about it just point the musket right at their own moccasins and pull the trigger. Oh, yay, the last one ends with a bingo card! Because few things are more helpful to discourse than to show you have anticipated questions and reactions but, lacking the ability to actually deal with them in a meaningful manner, you can just package and dismiss and nobody will catch on.

Given how embarrassing they are, bingo cards are long overdue for the dustbin. Still, where would we be without condescending summations of the the stances of very people we are theoretically supposed to be talking with? Note: I don't use "educate" there, because that's another fantastically patronizing thing the left indulges in without quite realizing how much of a turnoff it is, thereby negating the effort.
"

*cough*
posted by ShawnStruck at 7:29 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some Indian Jewelry.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 7:45 PM on May 26, 2010


The issue here isn't there're a bunch of racists walking around. The issue is there're a bunch of people doing shit and not thinking about it.

I'm not 100% sure these two things are exclusive of each other.
posted by elmer benson at 7:48 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


Um, as people? We've managed to portray black people for decades now without resorting to Sambo and Aunt Jemima. (Although it can be argued that we still have some distance to go.)

UM!!!!!

As people? What does that even mean? Mainstream US culture has embraced plenty of black culture--food, music, fashion, religious traditions, and on and on. But what about Native Americans? Well, we've decided to consider them people too. Nice.

That and we use a bunch of their city names...like, Milwaukee.
posted by mullacc at 7:49 PM on May 26, 2010


160 posts and not one mention of The Prat In The Hat, Jay Kay?

"The band name is a portmanteau of Jam session and "iroquai", based on the Iroquois, a Native American tribe."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamiroquai
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:01 PM on May 26, 2010


[NOT HIPSTERIST]
posted by Houyhnhnm at 8:09 PM on May 26, 2010


Well, we've decided to consider them people too. Nice.


It is nice, when it happens (not often enough). Much nicer than the much MUCH more common defaults of invisibility, or noble savage / lazy drunk stereotypes.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:11 PM on May 26, 2010


Just so no one gets the wrong idea about Bay to Breakers there are about 80,000 participants and a quick GIS (NSFW with safe search turned off) will uh, reveal the prevailing costume motif.
posted by vapidave at 8:13 PM on May 26, 2010


jfuller: Human condition. Most of what is done by every living person is done without thinking.

Much of what's done without thinking isn't right, either, whether it's part of the human condition or not. The state of non-thinking isn't a free pass.

Rory Marinich: It's not their responsibility to think about those things.

Why not? As thinking beings, even if thinking is not a default state, it's our responsibility (or at the very minimum our aspiration) to think, is it not?
posted by blucevalo at 8:17 PM on May 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


160 posts and not one mention of The Prat In The Hat, Jay Kay?

"The band name is a portmanteau of Jam session and "iroquai", based on the Iroquois, a Native American tribe."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jamiroquai
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:01 PM on May 26 [+] [!]


This must be my day for not believing stuff on the Blue. Not that I don't believe you. I just always thought his band name was some wacky word that popped from his head while candy flipping or smoking Buckfast or something.
posted by jtron at 8:24 PM on May 26, 2010


One thing I'm curious about is where you think we should draw the line re: appropriation. [...] What makes appropriation appropriate? Is it earnestness and sincerity? Does it have to be appropriation that respects the original culture? Or is there something else?

I also wonder about this. Why should my enjoyment of someone else's aesthetic accomplishments necessarily diminish them? In elementary school, they taught us to marvel in wonder at the beautiful artistic/aesthetic accomplishments of First Nations cultures. Over the years, my parents purchased lots of neat native art and as a kid I'd try to sketch them and thereby came to appreciate them, I suppose on my own terms. I own a bunch of t-shirts with Haida designs on them, and I love wearing them. p.s. I'm Asian, so it's not like my ancestors did a whole lot to North American indigenous peoples historically.

I think a lot of people, myself included, see so much to love aesthetically about native art, and it's sad that expressing it can get you into such hot water, politically. Obviously the head-dress is pretty over-the-top and I personally would draw the line well before that. But still, would any of you disagree that they are awesome to behold? Who wouldn't wear a head-dress if you could get away with it? They are just awesome.
posted by eagle-bear at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


I mean, it's not like Indians own a patent on headdresses. Other cultures have worn them as well.

Dude, come on.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:31 PM on May 26, 2010


I have to feel that obviously this stuff is easy to take too far, but sometimes it would be like me objecting to maid fetish costumes because of the number of my female ancestors who worked as domestics in exploitation, and the many women who (clad in surgical scrubs or sensible uniforms) work in this feild today and are not sex objects.

But yeah, the 'squaw' and 'savage' stuff should be politely dropped, and teams that insist on an "Indian" theme should consider negotiation with local tribes for a logo that's less of a stereotype. But I wouldn't ask them to drop it, anymore than "Vikings" or "Spartans" are a bad concept, even if their logos will just as likely make a mockery of Scandanavian or Greek history.

Though my perspective might be biased- up here a traditional first people's warrior has the historical association with things like the war of 1812, not "Oh my God, Injuns! Circle the wagons!"
posted by Phalene at 8:39 PM on May 26, 2010


As people? What does that even mean?

I'm not sure what you think I meant. You asked how they should be represented if we took away the caricatures. The answer is... just like we should represent anyone else. As persons with dignity, which I shorthanded as "people."
posted by desjardins at 8:40 PM on May 26, 2010


posted by Afroblanco Other cultures have worn [headdresses] as well.

Which other cultures? Oh right. Hipsters.
posted by mattdidthat at 8:46 PM on May 26, 2010


So eagle-bear, I'm going to assume that because you're Asian you didn't have anything to do with slavery or Jim Crow laws or any of the appalling things that have historically been done to Black people. Are you going to run right out and put on some blackface and dress up like a Mammy and hit the local Juneteenth celebration?

If so, let me know, because I want to be there to watch.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:49 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


But I wouldn't ask them to drop it, anymore than "Vikings" or "Spartans" are a bad concept, even if their logos will just as likely make a mockery of Scandanavian or Greek history.

uuuuuuuuuugggggggggghhhhhhhhhhh you cannot compare the history of dominant Europeans to colonized and subjugated non-Europeans.

Scandinavians were never victims of genocide or rampant discrimination in North America. They were always free to practice their culture and speak their languages. The Minnesota Vikings are named thusly because there are so damned many people of Scandinavian descent in Minnesota. It's not a cultural appropriation; THEY LIVE THERE. I'll leave the Greek issue to someone better informed, but suffice to say they don't have a lengthy history of genocide in the US either.
posted by desjardins at 8:51 PM on May 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


correction: Greeks don't have ANY history of genocide in the US, let alone "lengthy"
posted by desjardins at 8:53 PM on May 26, 2010


a lot of people, myself included, see so much to love aesthetically about native art, and it's sad that expressing it can get you into such hot water, politically.

If the desire to express aesthetic love of native art is really what's motivating these people who play dress-up Indian, then their love isn't worth much. It's not only superficial, it's actively damaging, this "love" divorced from any hint of knowledge or understanding of how such behavior entrenches stereotypes about the people they're supposedly honoring. Newspaper Rock explains it this way:
My claim is that the headdress is stereotypical regardless of how you feel about it. It contributes to the pervasive view that all Indians are equivalent to the Plains Indians of the 19th century. In short, that they're primitive people of the past.

. . . imagine someone dressing as a stereotypical African of the 19th century. Grass skirt, spear in hand, bone through the nose, etc. Would this strike you as offensive, or at least objectionable? The headdress is the same idea--a 150-year-old stereotype--and it's wrong for the same reason.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 8:55 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


posted by Afroblanco Other cultures have worn [headdresses] as well.

Which other cultures? Oh right. Hipsters.


Way back when I was in high school, my best friend wore a huge feather headdress to our senior semi. Something along these lines, but in black. American drag queen/gothic chic.

And embarrassing. We took photos with our dates over at her mom's house, and even though the rest of us had mohawks and spikes in our hair, and even though both of our dates were wearing pants with bondage straps, the rest of us just looked uber uncomfortable. While she was standing there, proud as a peacock.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:59 PM on May 26, 2010


Are you going to run right out and put on some blackface and dress up like a Mammy and hit the local Juneteenth celebration?

This seems like a pretty over the top comment to someone who was trying to genuinely trying to add to the discussion, but maybe I only care because yes I really do think headdresses are awesome.
posted by jessamyn at 9:00 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So eagle-bear, I'm going to assume that because you're Asian you didn't have anything to do with slavery or Jim Crow laws or any of the appalling things that have historically been done to Black people. Are you going to run right out and put on some blackface and dress up like a Mammy and hit the local Juneteenth celebration?

If so, let me know, because I want to be there to watch.


Whoa, okay, let me add some context. I went to school with a lot of native kids, and when I say they taught us to appreciate First Nations culture and art, I mean guys from the community, often parents of my classmates, would come in and take us for field trips around the community pointing out what life was like before the city sprang up. Or they'd show us how to make traditional button blankets that we could treasure and presumably wear. That kind of thing. I wouldn't put this in the same category as blackface, but perhaps this is just me.
posted by eagle-bear at 9:09 PM on May 26, 2010


But I wouldn't ask them to drop it, anymore than "Vikings" or "Spartans" are a bad concept, even if their logos will just as likely make a mockery of Scandanavian or Greek history.

In addition to what desjardins said, a fundamental difference here is that Vikings and Spartans no longer exist. Using them as mascots or logos is using history.

As many people have pointed out, Indians still exist. They are real, live people, not historical personages or groups.
posted by Lexica at 9:14 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


This thread is the Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen of metafilter threads.
posted by humannaire at 9:38 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


next they're gunna take my Urban Poncho away...
posted by atomicmedia at 9:53 PM on May 26, 2010


Here's how to draw the line: you KNOW when you're being offensive.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:54 PM on May 26, 2010


It wasn't uncool when it happened forty years ago. It was an expression of a willingness to live differently, of a different idea of production and consumption, of a desire to live in better accord with the land, the water, the air. The ridicule came from the the press then ... now it's the bloggers? Screw them too. If you really feel it, go there.

Nobody lives on this land better than Indians. You could do worse than emulate their ways. But those ways weren't about a fashion statement, they were about being at one with the rest of the Earth. Wear that dress only if you respect where it came from. Else you're either mocking or empty.
posted by Twang at 10:11 PM on May 26, 2010


But yeah, the 'squaw' and 'savage' stuff should be politely dropped, and teams that insist on an "Indian" theme should consider negotiation with local tribes for a logo that's less of a stereotype. But I wouldn't ask them to drop it, anymore than "Vikings" or "Spartans" are a bad concept, even if their logos will just as likely make a mockery of Scandanavian or Greek history.

The University of North Dakota is retiring its "Fighting Sioux" Indian mascot and team name. This comes after close to forty years of tribal government resolutions; countless incidents of violence and harassment directed at Indian students; and constant uses of (NSFW) vile, racist imagery at both UND and at its athletic rivals.

Nothing the tribal governments nor students ever said made a damned bit of difference to UND. Their argument to keep the mascot came down to some perverted twist on the white man's burden where it was their obligation to "honor" the Sioux with the mascot and as a way to keep money flowing into the hockey program from a casino-owning, Nazi-loving alum. The only reason the mascot is being retired is because the NCAA won't allow its use in post-season play and won't let UND host playoffs and championships.

Negotiation over a less stereotypical logo isn't an option when the mascot is the largest minority group on campus and the majority claims their use of the mascot is an "honor" and has $110 Million on the line.

Had I actually graduated from the University of North Dakota, I'd return my diploma.
posted by nathan_teske at 10:15 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


These things are always highly contextual and dialogic. The particular offense of an appropriation of style has a lot to do with social conceptions about what is expected in the place and time in which it occurs. For example, wearing a black halter dress means something very different at funeral than at a picnic. In the 50's or the 90's or today. Worn by a man or a woman or a 12-year old. Where there's a prior association with the dress (let's say, as seen in a famous movie). Or worn in mixed company. Or with an ex-husband in the room. Who bought the dress. Or if the dress is designer label. Or wool in summer. Or made of cheap plastic. At a formal affair. Or a costume party.

Then you take something as culturally loaded as a headdress, which signals very different things to many different people. And you put it in a social party context, complete with costumes, drinking at 7am, and the theme of anything-goes frivolity and silliness. Worn by an ambiguously defined group of people that are both culturally relevant and contentiously regarded.

I'm not defending these costumes or any other appropriation mentioned in this thread. I personally feel that in the case of the B2B hipsters (and I hope to God they are hipsters, because that would mean they are being ironic by definition and not being intentionally racist jerkwads) their style choices are ignorant at best. And that insensitivity and lack of awareness is a real problem in society today, as others have mentioned upthread.

However, I do want to say this...while citing previous examples of headdresses from other places or times (or other examples of other things; i.e. hippies, 9/11, the use of the n-word, mashups, etc.) can provide some perspective and add to our understanding of the prior history (prior contexts), it cannot be a direct analogical model for how to perceive and analyse this particular use in this particular context. It is where we are today and what we know about styles/groups/cultures/histories the event context in which this appropriation occurs that tells us something about what to think. Which would be very different than what we would think if it were the 60's, Cher, a more authentic headdress, or a race in Milwaukee. These other examples, in that sense, are just strawmen.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:33 PM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been trying to catch up on the early history of the US, being a new immigrant with an easy track through the immigration system thanks to my skin colour. The chapters in the books I am reading focusing on the Indian Removal Act, whereupon people were cheated by everyone around them, murdered, forced into wars, lied to, evicted from their homes and moved west... it's really really uncomfortable reading. Perhaps I'll numb to it after a while. Perhaps it's just because I know my country is massively at fault. But honestly? At this point I find it embarrassing when I see how this country treats it's history. It's embarrassing how it treats it's Native communities*. It's embarrassing seeing a culture of "oh you're overreacting" being directed towards a varied group of impoverished people who are flat out ignored by even the most progressive of discussions about minority rights. This kind of behaviour being demonstrated by young, privileged, white people? This too is embarrassing. It's not the most important discussion to have, but that doesn't mean to say it's not a broken window no one is attending to. We're supposed to be doing better than this by now.

*British Columbia being my comparison, where First Nations are very clearly part of the history and culture of the communities.
posted by saturnine at 10:46 PM on May 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


What seems to be barely touched on in this thread is that it's possible that young people, fumbling to establish a framework for cross-cultural communication, are just out there trying things like wearing headgear from another culture. Don't worry though - let them get a little older, and they'll get cynical enough and give it up. Just like decades ago when we were able to talk all those hellion kids out of their offensive interracial relationships.
posted by scrowdid at 10:59 PM on May 26, 2010


I'm not sure what you think I meant. You asked how they should be represented if we took away the caricatures. The answer is... just like we should represent anyone else. As persons with dignity, which I shorthanded as "people."

That's not an answer. That's a guideline that should be applied to an answer. My fear is that Native American culture has been so marginalized that, aside from caricature, mainstream culture ignores it altogether. My question was just a rhetorical way to express that fear.
posted by mullacc at 11:16 PM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


My fear is that getting hung up on taking swings at people for offences, real or imaginary, involving signs and symbols frequently takes the place of examining or acting on real world injustices.
posted by Artw at 11:24 PM on May 26, 2010


Which other cultures? Oh right. Hipsters.

Quit being a dick.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:27 PM on May 26, 2010


This is the least horrible horrible thing to happen to Native Americans.
posted by incessant at 11:32 PM on May 26, 2010


scrowdid: “What seems to be barely touched on in this thread is that it's possible that young people, fumbling to establish a framework for cross-cultural communication, are just out there trying things like wearing headgear from another culture. Don't worry though - let them get a little older, and they'll get cynical enough and give it up. Just like decades ago when we were able to talk all those hellion kids out of their offensive interracial relationships.”

Sorry – no. I agree that they shouldn't be reviled or accused, but this is about more than just people taking offense or insensitivity or cultural miscommunication. This is about history: my own history as a white man, and their history as white kids like me. It isn't a history I'm proud of, it's not even a history I can take much joy in, but it's mine to live with, and I'll be damned if that past will be laughed off or swept under a rug simply because we, a self-obsessed corporate culture, would like to conveniently forget the harsh fact of the actions of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. And I don't demand that these kids repent, or that they feel ashamed of themselves, or that they crawl into a hole and die; I'd be happy if a few of them just took a while to take stock of what has been done these past years by our people.

And honestly, there's an ease about this thread that might not be best. It's simple to call out 'hipsters' for being callous in their irony; but how many of us has actually developed some personal interest in the Native situation? In what was both a joyous realization and a watchword of warning, William Faulkner said: "The past isn't dead. It's not even past." Words to live by, I believe; we can pretend this stuff didn't happen, but that doesn't make it true, and it doesn't change our sensation deep in our bones that tells us something wrong happened.

For whatever it's worth, though there are plenty of great books out there to choose from, and though it's of course specific to one man in one tribe, I can highly recommend Mari Sandoz's classic biography, Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas. We think about it more now than we once did, but I don't know how aware many of us are of the historical experiences of Native Americans. This book introduced me to a physical and spiritual world I'd never known, and changed my life a great deal in the process. When my father first gave Crazy Horse to me some years ago, he warned me that it'd taken him a decade to read the whole thing through without throwing it across the room in frustration and rage, and he was unable to pick it up for long stretches of time because the whole thing was so horrifying to him. I had much the same experience, but I'm better for it; it's painful to confront the past, and yes, it's a real, actual downer to think about the bitter and brutal tragedy that is our history as white people in America. But precisely that pain and tragedy demands that we keep fighting to remember what happened back there, and to do right by the descendants of the people our ancestors wronged, to now in these latter days finally break the historical trends and treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve as fellow human beings.
posted by koeselitz at 11:36 PM on May 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


But people who think that their individual personal choices don't affect others make me mad. It's one thing I have had the hardest time communicating to my students--what we are taught to think of as personal choices don't happen in isolation from patterns of oppression and power, and they affect more people than just us. Blarg.

You actually have students who come to learn this? Do they have to pay for the privilege?

-----

I grew up in Milwaukee, where there is no visible Indian presence (there's a casino now; there wasn't when I was growing up, and no one I know now goes to it anyway). I moved to Montana, where there are large reservations. At first, meeting Indians seemed so exotic for me, but that wore off really fast as I got to know them. Surprise, they're just like everyone else, but with a different cultural background.

I don't recall ever seeing a white person in Montana wearing Indian things, despite the proximity and the fact that there were pow-wows all summer. Probably because they realized it'd be awkward at best and dangerous at worst.


Maybe not in Montana, but you'll see it in New Mexico and Arizona.
posted by BigSky at 11:36 PM on May 26, 2010


This is about history: my own history as a white man, and their history as white kids like me. It isn't a history I'm proud of, it's not even a history I can take much joy in, but it's mine to live with,

You're having a difficult time coming to terms with this shared white man's history; imagine how these kids might feel. Some seem barely out of their teens, and an age where they're still trying to figure out how to handle vacuuming and not burning the ramen. You're expecting them, at their confusing age, to come to complex realizations about their skin color making them complicit in genocide?

I think it's possible that at their age - and possibly any age - you can be so horrified at the knowledge that you, or dead people who looked like you, or you, currently, now, by the sheer audacity of looking like some other dead or living people, share the blame for such gross mistreatment of fellow humans, that you can experience a behavior paralysis and are not quite sure what to do.

Racked with complex and nuanced emotions like this, I can imagine young people, and old people, fumbling to find ways to connect with one another. You might find it in Crazy Horse's biography - a wise and literate choice. Less developed minds - of which I'm sure there are many - might try popping some feathers on their heads.
posted by scrowdid at 12:39 AM on May 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


This issue is being treated a little reductively in this thread (including in my own facetious remark above, before I realized the discussion would turn so serious).

It's worth being aware that there are non-native people who might adopt certain native signs for non-trivial and non-appropriative reasons that are not just acceptable to, but endorsed by, native communities and leaders.

I wear a very old nanook tooth around my neck that was given to me several years ago by the patriarch of a native family to symbolize my membership in his family's hunting crew (and a host of rights and obligations thereby entailed) -- as a sign of my formal "adoption," in fact. I was actually told it would be better not to take it off except to sleep or shower, and I am asked if I am wearing it whenever I return to their home after a period away (it would be a heinous mistake to lose or forget it; I keep closer tabs on that tooth than I do on my cell phone or laptop, for sure).

To earn the right to wear that tooth, which is said to have shamanic power, I have to hunt, butcher, contribute, and help the family and the community in a hundred ways, in reciprocal recognition of all that I have learned from them, the fact that I stay in my family's home when in their community, that they feed me when I am there, and that the patriarch and his sons have taught me to hunt under exceedingly dangerous and risky conditions (this being the Arctic) where I know they always have my back and will not let me get hurt (=die, usually) on the ice or the water or the tundra, although my limits of endurance and daring are constantly tested (my back currently aches from digging out a goose blind on the tundra a couple of days back). That knowledge allows me to take what would otherwise be seriously risky actions for a city-slicker professor (40 miles from town in whiteout conditions? No problem!) without more than a reasonable (and responsible) level of fear.

Often, at moments when I am sure I am not capable of doing what is expected of me on the hunt, I concentrate on that bear tooth against my chest to remind me of all of this, and it gives me calmness and a sense of power (and reciprocal love, and respect for the animals we eat) I can feel in my heart. And it has carried over into my life in the urban world as well; wearing it daily reminds me that I am capable of more than I think I am if I feel fear or anxiety. I take that tooth very seriously. Wearing it -- or what it symbolizes -- has made me a stronger, braver, more generous person.


Every once in a while , a TSA agent spots the cord around my neck as I am going through airport security and asks me to remove it, whereupon I am always asked what it is, which usually brings several agents over not to harass me but to admire it (it's a damn big tooth, about 3 inches long, and old and burnished and beautiful). I have to explain what it is (while the line behind be grows annoyed) and why I cannot remove it to be x-rayed (so far, so good -- they have always let me wear it through the scanner).

I've had strangers who have no idea what it is ask to touch it for good luck -- it gives off some sort of visible aura to certain people, I think. And it is frequently the object of direct admiration (usually by African or Latin American men, often on the NYC subway - the tooth of a large predator is a similar symbol in many cultures).

I (and my native friends) mostly take a dim view of people who adopt such emblems without understanding what they mean and engaging productively and respectfully in the life of a native community. But my adoptive native family and community mostly see nothing wrong with a white guy from New York wearing such a thing (or a few other items of regalia I sometimes wear) under these circumstances.

Not all sartorial items of native provenance mean the same thing, and this discussion is flattening out a rather complex subject. Some are trivial and meaningless, others perfectly fine to wear in a casual way if you're not native, and others deeply important and reserved for those who have earned the right to wear them, who wear them with knowledge and respect, and for whom wearing them marks a meaningful relationship with and commitment to native people and tradition.

And by the way, every time you put on a parka or a pair of mukluks (Uggs, by the way, look like traditional mukluks to me) or an anorak, you are wearing items of clothing of native (Inuit) design. There's nothing wrong with that from an Inuit point of view, or even with wearing many kinds of native jewelry. Inuits invented technologies for living in the Arctic that have still not been bested by western technology, and those clothes are no more sacred or limited in use than the modern rubber boots and Carharts worn by most Inuit hunters today. They also make some of the world's most beautiful carved objects and most elegant coats, in demand among collectors worldwide.

A shamanic amulet (or the casual taking of a native name that should be formally given to you, another long story) is a whole other deal.

It's all about respect and reciprocity. It's not a black and white matter, and most native people, like most others, can see the world in shades of gray and place a high value on respectful sharing of culture.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:20 AM on May 27, 2010 [30 favorites]


I'd like to echo some of the comments above about intent. While one of my great grandmothers was Blackfoot, you wouldn't know that to look at me. I wasn't raised on a reservation, and I haven't experienced the kind of racism and prejudice a native kid grows up with. My experience with powows and NA cultural gatherings comes from crafting. I've known white crafters to go to these events. They wear finger woven garments or beads that they either bought or made themselves. There are two major differences between these crafters and the young ladies in the Racialicious post (aside from age, experience, taste, body type, etc.): the crafters generally aren't wearing a cheap imitation of native dress, and the crafters know something about both their garments/accessories and native creations that they're viewing.

(Also, did anyone actually get bingo yet?)
posted by crataegus at 2:42 AM on May 27, 2010


LarryC: Yep, yep, yep.

Fascinating. Australians are METAFILTERS MOST RACIST PEOPLE EVER for offending US (but not West Indian) sensibilities re: fried chicken, but Native Americans? They're all, like, whiny bullshit merchants and stuff.
posted by rodgerd at 2:57 AM on May 27, 2010


Stop using the term "hipster." These folks are nothing but a variety urban of middle-class young people with more time than sense. Eventually they will learn that there are other people in the world besides themselves, but presenting this example of ignorance as coming from a single socio-political direction is silly.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:46 AM on May 27, 2010


We'll dealing in a lot of hypotheticals here. I've probably known about as many Native-Americans as anybody I have ever met (the Twin Cities has a huge native population; second-largest urban Indian population; the largest community of them is about 12 blocks from where I am typing this), and I can't begin to presume what they do and do not find offensive, but for a few things I know are seen as sacred or unique to their specific cultures (eagle feathers; etc.) It's not hard to get Indian stuff here -- heck, one of our largest casinos has a very Native theme, and, as I recall, there are a lot of Indian good for sale in the gift shop. A good rule of thumb: If you're not sure, go ahead and ask. Chances are there is a Native American center somewhere in your state. Shoot them an email.

Doesn't come up much here, though. People don't tend to costume up in Native American garb around here. I wonder if the likelihood of actually running into an Indian dressed that way causes people to have second thoughts.

I do, however, think that if you're 1/32nd Anishinabe, or whatever, it's poor form to try and use that as justification for doing whatever the hell you want. Everybody in this country is 1/32nd Indian, if they get to have long enough to decide they are (there used to be a sort of New Age con where they would research your roots and come back and say, yep, Indian, no matter what). Tribal identity is generally based on more complex factors than having a great great grandfather who may or may not have been Indian, and it's good to be sensitive to that. You're not honoring your ancestors by insulting living Indians.

As to the questions of non Irish drinking green beer and dressing in kilts, or whatever; I think we have bigger things to worry about, such as that awful Boondocks Saints franchise. That's done more damage to the Irish-American community than anything in recent memory, just through the sheer force of its tackiness.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:05 AM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The issue here isn't there're a bunch of racists walking around.

Why isn't it, though? If this had been in, say, Americus, GA or Oxford, MS, I think people would have no problem saying exactly that. Why, then, is it different for urban hipsters? Ironic or not, racism is racism. What makes hipsters so special?

A few years ago, when I lived in Seattle, a DJ for the local college radio station was arrested on a domestic violence charge. There were quite few of the Capitol Hill/Stranger-readership people who couldn't seem to believe it because "people like us" didn't do that sort of thing. If he'd been, say, a DJ for a country music station, they'd have had a totally different reaction.
posted by jhandey at 6:41 AM on May 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Seriously, imagine if folks made hats with foam Twin Towers burning and rocked it, ironically.

Well...
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:43 AM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


A shamanic amulet (or the casual taking of a native name that should be formally given to you, another long story) is a whole other deal.

Not to mention that if you actually believe in shamanism, causally toying with amulets can be fairly dangerous.
posted by melissam at 6:54 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Doesn't come up much here, though. People don't tend to costume up in Native American garb around here. I wonder if the likelihood of actually running into an Indian dressed that way causes people to have second thoughts.

The not-insignificant amount of discrimination I’ve witnessed against Amerindians in the Twin Cities probably plays a part. I’ve heard people that are ultra-pc to every other culture refer to the entire population as drunks, bums, mentally ill, or people so screwed up they got kicked off the rez.

And man, death by toilet is far more awesome than anything that ever happened at Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade. Less demeaning, too.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:01 AM on May 27, 2010


Latest trend? I never stopped since the 60s. And it's been in full swing for "hipsters" for at least 8-10 years now.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:18 AM on May 27, 2010


Why isn't it, though? If this had been in, say, Americus, GA or Oxford, MS, I think people would have no problem saying exactly that. Why, then, is it different for urban hipsters? Ironic or not, racism is racism. What makes hipsters so special?

I said above that I don't think "ironic racism" is the intent here. I wouldn't be surprised if "racism" was a subject that hadn't even crossed the minds of the people pictured here. I'm further constantly curious about the fact that irony has become one of the defining traits of hipsters; the fact that all hipsters profess a hatred of "hipsters" doing things ironically isn't I think an irony itself, but rather an indication that people mistake for ironic the things a lot of hipsters do sincerely.

Where you look at those people and see attempted irony, I look and simply see thoughtlessness. I'd bet most of those people you see couldn't be bothered to think about the cultures they were appropriating: They saw somebody else do it, thought "Damn, that looks cool," and went out to do it themselves. Whether they stopped in between to ask themselves if they were being racist is suspect. Thoughtlessness is kind of shitty, and it helps perpetuate unintentional racism, but that's a lot different from people going out of the way to be racist ironically.

I don't accuse people of racism lightly, though I agree with the mindset that even unintentional racism is part of the problem. I've had friends that were varying shades of racist and misogynist and homophobic. I've got relatives who think Obama's a commie Muslim. Very rarely is there malicious intent; it's just a bunch of people who've never had reason to think about the garbage they buy into. The proper approach is to treat them like they're ignorant, not to assume they're doing evil intentionally and are Bad People. We have a lot of people here berating them and treating them like they're not dumbass kids, which is giving them too much credit and placing an unfair burden of accusation on them.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:29 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The not-insignificant amount of discrimination I’ve witnessed against Amerindians in the Twin Cities probably plays a part.

Yeah; it's no accident the American Indian Movement started here.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:13 AM on May 27, 2010


rodgerd: West Indian

You may not know this because (according to your profile location) you are not from North America, but West Indian is not at all the same thing as Native American or Indian as referred to in this conversation. West Indian = Caribbean.
posted by desjardins at 9:14 AM on May 27, 2010


actually rodgerd I just woke up and I'm not sure what you're referring to now.
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on May 27, 2010


Presumably the advert that ran in Australia during the cricket season (is there a cricket season?) that depicted an Australian cricket fan sharing KFC with a bunch of fans from the West Indies. It was pulled, IIRC, by KFC US because it caused a bit of a shitstorm on the internets.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:14 AM on May 27, 2010


>> In addition to what desjardins said, a fundamental difference here is that Vikings and
>> Spartans no longer exist. Using them as mascots or logos is using history.
>
> As many people have pointed out, Indians still exist. They are real, live people, not historical
> personages or groups.
> posted by Lexica at 12:14 AM on May 27 [+] [!]

So, per you, extinct subgroups of Europeans are fair game and inoffensive as mascot names even though Europeans still exist. Well, I'm fine with that. And extinct subgroups of Indians (Yazoo, etc.) would be fair game and inoffensive even though Indians still exist? That may not be where you ment to go with your comparison, but it's where you went.
posted by jfuller at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2010


an Australian cricket fan sharing KFC with a bunch of fans from the West Indies

I think some people get confused as to what is racist and what is offensive. This is a great example. I think most of the people who make claims of racism really do not know what racism is. Either that or that calling someone a racist has become so effective while calling someone offensive is so easily dismissed.

One light skinned cricket fan placates a bunch of dark skinned cricket fans by giving them KFC. The intent of the ad was that KFC can bring rival cricket fans together. The fans happen to come from different parts of the world. In one part their skin is predominantly light. In the other part it is predominantly dark. Was it offensive? Yes, but not to the target audience. The concept that black people like fried chicken is offensive to many people in the United States, almost none of whom care at all about Cricket. But is it racist? No, because the intent never involved race of any kind.

If you are not thinking about Native Americans, or any "race" at all when you wear a headdress, how is this racism? Maybe you are thinking about ironically looking like a member of the Village People. Sure this might be offensive to Native Americans, but this only shows that you consider yourself superior to members of the Village People.

In contrast, you can say that putting on warpaint and a headdress to go to a Washington Redskins game is racist. You are taking part in a small scale diminishing of the Native American culture by mocking their religious beliefs and reducing them to barbarians. The headdress wearer was mocking a 70s pop-star by appropriating culture. The Redskins fan is mocking Native Americans. Sure, the Redskins fan may not intentionally mean to be racist, but they are making an active choice to paint Native Americans in this light.

Acknowledging that another culture is different than yours is not racist. And adopting cultural symbols, regardless of their original importance does not necessarily make you a racist either. Implying that these differences, or the use of these icons, somehow make one culture better, worse, more, less, superior or inferior to another in any way is racist.

Planting stickers on people who are merely ignorant of their cultural insensitivity is counter productive and obfuscates the issue of racism. Given how loaded the term "racist" is, you cannot confront someone by calling them one and expect any conversation that follows to be be rational or honest.
posted by chemoboy at 11:01 AM on May 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


Where you look at those people and see attempted irony, I look and simply see thoughtlessness.

Actually, I don't look at them and see irony - I used the term "ironic" in deference to the most-offered defense of this sort of thing as done by hipsters. I think they're 100% sincere, but I don't think they're being thoughtless. I think they mean it.

I think it's of a piece with the restaurant featuring non-kosher foods that recently opened in New York City across the street from the largest Hasidic neighborhood in the country, with "white trash" parties (two of which happened in my grad school program, and I seemed to be the only person who found anything wrong with them), and with a hundred other similar things that all boil down to privileged kids looking down on and mocking other groups. I've personally known - quite closely - a couple of people who could only be described as hipsters, and there's most definitely some issues with race there that need to be addressed.
posted by jhandey at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


And again, I'd ask people to imagine this situation happening with the exception that it was being done in some part of the country and by some group of people who you happen to not relate to as much as, say, San Francisco urbanites. Imagine it in rural Kansas or in Appalachia. Imagine it in some nameless Houston exurb. Imagine it in a county that went for Bush in 2008. Change nothing else.

Would we still be giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are not, in fact, what their actions seem to indicate they are?
posted by jhandey at 11:26 AM on May 27, 2010


I've personally known - quite closely - a couple of people who could only be described as hipsters, and there's most definitely some issues with race there that need to be addressed.

I am going to have to agree with the opinion in this thread that this is not an issue with hipsters. First of all, in the 20-ish years there has been plenty of changes in the definition of what a hipster is. I think it has become a term that has become so nebulous that it really has lost all meaning. To some young urbanites in tight jeans it means a different group of young urbanites in tight jeans. Just hearing how people define hipsters in different cities across the US (and the world) it's hard to consider them all one tight-knit social group.

Imagine it in rural Kansas or in Appalachia.

Racism is racism (and cultural insensitivity is cultural insensitivity) regardless of who commits it. Location, socio-economic background, ethnic and cultural background not withstanding.

Imagine it in a county that went for Bush in 2008.

Racism is apolitical, although it is immensely politicized. I don't know of any counties that voted for Bush in 2008. I assume you meant Cheney, but this is still irrelevant. Bringing politics into it will turn this into a political discussion rather than an intellectual discussion.
posted by chemoboy at 12:03 PM on May 27, 2010


I don't know of any counties that voted for Bush in 2008. I assume you meant Cheney, but this is still irrelevant.

Not half as irrelevant as Senator McCain's campaign apparently was.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 12:40 PM on May 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


The not-insignificant amount of discrimination I’ve witnessed against Amerindians in the Twin Cities probably plays a part.

It's not universal, but when it does happen, it's startling.

Many, many years ago I had a college job as a bank teller, part time. There was this one Indian guy who came in to cash a check once a month. Quiet, smaller guy, long hair, dusty jeans, didn't make a big fuss, only kept a little money in savings to keep the account open. The checks he'd bring in were U.S. government checks, like Social Security checks used to be, green punch cards with the Statue of Liberty on them. They had some connection with BIA, exactly what, I didn't know. Every month he'd get cash for the check and be on his way.

A couple of us knew who he was, so we'd always cash the check for him without any fuss. Until one day, he was at my window, and a supervisor was walking by. "You know we can't cash checks without an ID." Well, actually, we frequently did for people we knew personally, and sometimes for more than this one, which wasn't for much more than $100.

He didn't have a picture ID with him that day. I was told to pull him out of line and take him over to the camera to have his picture taken, or else we couldn't cash the check. I was mortified. No budging by the super, this was how it was going to be. The expression went cold on this guy, he walked over to the camera area, we took his picture, I gave him the money. Exactly what his situation was, I don't know, but just walking out didn't seem to be an option for him at the time.

I don't think we saw him again after that.

There's a lot of different directions I can go in while pondering that, but I'll just say that this was a case where "the rules" had been used to turn a perfectly decent guy into an unperson, and I didn't like it.
posted by gimonca at 12:43 PM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


jhandey: I think it's of a piece with the restaurant featuring non-kosher foods that recently opened in New York City across the street from the largest Hasidic neighborhood in the country, with "white trash" parties (two of which happened in my grad school program, and I seemed to be the only person who found anything wrong with them)

I don't understand this example. The restaurant was throwing white trash parties? OK, offensive, but then I don't see the relevance of mentioning the Hasidic neighborhood. Or were the parties a separate example? In which case, how is the restaurant offensive? Because it's not what the neighborhood residents will eat? Well then that's just stupidity/lack of market research on the business owner's part - or not, since most of the rest of the world eats non-kosher. I don't see how it's offensive.
posted by desjardins at 1:24 PM on May 27, 2010


The restaurant and the "white trash parties" are separate items: "I think it's of a piece with [item], with [item], and with [item]."

As to the "non-kosher restaurant," I think the deal must be that the restaurant aggressively billed itself as non-kosher, or chose all the least-kosher items for its menu (there are degrees, after all), etc. It's not simply non-kosher but anti-kosher. Why don't we imagine that it's called "ANTI-KOSHER," if that will focus the point. That might not be "offensive" but it is aggressive. It's making some kind of (perhaps incoherent) statement about those people who live across the street, and it doesn't seem like a positive one. I don't think that Hasidic Jews are generally "offended" by non-Kosher food -- non-Jews can eat whatever they want, after all. But surely they could read the animosity of such a gesture.
posted by grobstein at 1:35 PM on May 27, 2010


The concept that black people like fried chicken is offensive to many people in the United States

It must suck to be black and actually like fried chicken. You've gotta go hide in an alley to eat it, lest someone be offended on your behalf.
posted by fixedgear at 2:03 PM on May 27, 2010


grobstein, if the restaurant is being aggressively non-kosher, then yes, it's offensive to its neighbors. I wasn't arguing that point, I just didn't understand the situation.
posted by desjardins at 2:04 PM on May 27, 2010


As to the "non-kosher restaurant," I think the deal must be that the restaurant aggressively billed itself as non-kosher, or chose all the least-kosher items for its menu (there are degrees, after all), etc. It's not simply non-kosher but anti-kosher. Why don't we imagine that it's called "ANTI-KOSHER," if that will focus the point. That might not be "offensive" but it is aggressive. It's making some kind of (perhaps incoherent) statement about those people who live across the street, and it doesn't seem like a positive one. I don't think that Hasidic Jews are generally "offended" by non-Kosher food -- non-Jews can eat whatever they want, after all. But surely they could read the animosity of such a gesture.

It's called Traif and the food there is actually quite good. I've never heard of any white trash parties there...it's basically a tapas bar specializing in pork, shellfish, and meat mixed with dairy, which have a certain perverse appeal to many secular jewish people.

It's owned by a secular Jewish couple and it's not the only business in the area called Traif. The other is a bike shop that ironically has become a hangout for disaffected Hasids. I doubt the restaurant will become the same because the Hasidic aversion to pork is much stronger than the one against bikes.
posted by melissam at 2:44 PM on May 27, 2010 [5 favorites]


That is fascinating, thank you.
posted by grobstein at 2:50 PM on May 27, 2010


Despite all the attempts to excuse thoughtless people, I still can't see how wearing fluorescent-feathered headdresses and imitation war paint is any different than wearing blackface. And I can't imagine why anyone would care to defend people who do such things.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:37 PM on May 27, 2010


You can't see the difference? One is the wearing of items that are associated with a specific cultural group and the other is wearing makeup to make yourself look like another characture of another ethnitcity. One is done either through thoughtlessness or a misguided sense of perhaps "honoring" a group and the other is done with the express purpose of demeaning or othering.

I understand how they both offend but really you can't see a difference?
posted by Carillon at 6:30 PM on May 27, 2010


Cheesy florescent feathers are a caricature. I see exceedingly little difference.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:06 PM on May 27, 2010


So, per you, extinct subgroups of Europeans are fair game and inoffensive as mascot names even though Europeans still exist. Well, I'm fine with that. And extinct subgroups of Indians (Yazoo, etc.) would be fair game and inoffensive even though Indians still exist? That may not be where you meant to go with your comparison, but it's where you went.

Go Battling Beothicks!

Also, I sort of suspected that someone was going to call me on the Native VS European issue, which suggests that they missed most of my argument in a knee jerk "NOT THE SAME!" What I said was that if the team wants to call itself the Fighting Iroquois or the Mighty Miqmacs, this was good, but "Redskin" was bad.

I addressed the issue with a group undergoing ongoing discrimination with my “sexy maid” comparison.
posted by Phalene at 7:16 PM on May 27, 2010


Blackface doesn't make you look black. It makes you look like an insulting caricature of black people.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:36 PM on May 27, 2010


Yeah I meant that Pope Guilty, sorry if that wasn't clear.

And five fresh fish, perhaps in the extreme example of neon feathers or whatever but in the general case? I see a difference that is important to make.
posted by Carillon at 8:17 PM on May 27, 2010


It must suck to be black and actually like fried chicken. You've gotta go hide in an alley to eat it, lest someone be offended on your behalf.

If you had ever spent time in a Church's or KFC, you would know that's not the case. Black fried chicken enthusiasts stand every bit as proud as their white counterparts.
posted by BigSky at 9:11 PM on May 27, 2010


And you know that when fried chicken enthusiasts stand around, they really stand around!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:17 PM on May 27, 2010


And you know that when fried chicken enthusiasts stand around, they really stand around!

I think this stereotype is particularly unfair. I mean, chicken tastes good. Fried stuff tastes good. Who does not like fried chicken?

And what is up with those Astronauts. I hear they really like AIR.
posted by chemoboy at 10:27 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The more you know. In fact the origins of the necktie were the French leisure class fetishistically copying the battle neckwear of Croatian mercenaries fighting in Western Europe, which is not so unlike the use put to headdresses here.

"Beauty is a French phonetic corruption of a short cloth neck ornament currently in resurgence." - Frank Zappa
posted by krinklyfig at 11:22 PM on May 27, 2010


then I think that's just terrific, and I suggest that you, a twenty-five-year-old trustafarian, attend some POW-MIA events this Memorial Day weekend dressed in fatigues, a Purple Heart pinned to your camo lapel, and a t-shirt that reads VIETNAM VETERAN. You know, for the lulz. Be sure and let us all know how it goes!!

When I was in high school the punks fetishized military uniforms. I bought combat boots and an Army jacket, and I wasn't even that committed to the whole idea (I still like combat boots). I remember tripping on acid the first time with some of my punk friends in the graveyard and being fascinated at how much fun it was to be blasphemous, wearing clothing that other people may have considered to be sacred in some way and literally dancing on people's graves. Well, it was the old part of the graveyard, naturally, so it's not like they're going to be waking up or anything. It was an experience. I finally gave away that jacket recently to another thrift store - it was really showing its age. Military uniforms definitely lend themselves to costumes, although I'm sure it's offensive to some vets, but it's probably going to happen as long as our soldiers dress up in preparation to kill each other.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:33 PM on May 27, 2010


BTW, I'm an old geezer now and was in high school in the '80s, back when punk in the US was new and violent and senseless - which is how it should be.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:35 PM on May 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is a pretty glaring demonstration of one aspect of white privilege: a license to make the people of the world your buffet plate.
posted by threeants at 11:45 PM on May 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Side questions: Are Native Americans as vulnerable to smallpox as they were when Europeans first arrived?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:51 AM on May 28, 2010


I think this stereotype is particularly unfair. I mean, chicken tastes good. Fried stuff tastes good. Who does not like fried chicken?

And what is up with those Astronauts. I hear they really like AIR.


It reminds me of a horribly racist cartoon froma horribly racist cartoonist that I won't link here, suffice to say, it portrayed a black guy drinking malt liquor, holding a kung-fu tape, with some fried chicken, a radio playing hip-hop, and a poster of a naked lady on the wall, with the caption saying it was *Bad Word* Heaven. I thought to myself, "What's wrong with fried chicken, naked ladies, kung-fu movies and booze? I love all those things, it seems like a great evening in!" Even if you aren't into one or two of those things, you're going to be into the rest, at least.

What the hell kind of reject doesn't like any of those things? You gotta be incredibly dull and uptight to not find any pleasure in any of those things to the point you mock someone for liking them. "Ha Ha, you like things that are good!"
posted by Snyder at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2010


Having just purchased a bottle of Pimm's — entirely due to seeing it mentioned here on MeFi — and having just read the Wikipedia entry on Pimm's…

…well, I might be a complete fucking hipster, and should probably just kill myself right here, right now.

Goddamn you, MeFi, for having mentioned Pimm's in the first place, you bastards, you.

Also, it's kind of an icky taste.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:02 PM on June 3, 2010


« Older The Facts In The Case Of Dr. Andrew Wakefield....   |   Borne in the succession of reb... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments