So, on the topic of ‘ethnic costumes for Halloween’. A certain poster campaign and the spin off posters mocking the message have once more got people discussing whether or not this practice is racist.
That you don’t understand why I am offended and upset when you dress up as Pocahontas or some ‘Indian warrior’ doesn’t mean it’s just ‘my problem’. The stupid stereotypes both visual and non-visual about native people in this country are seriously scary. The poisoned political discourse, the active and systemic racism and the ongoing attack on WHO WE ARE AS PEOPLES is so horrific and unfortunately well hidden or justified by those who perpetrate and support it, that you cannot claim to be taking a neutral stance when you ‘ape’ us.
I am really sick of hearing about how it’s just innocent fun. It isn’t. It is part of a wider and staggering ignorance about us that is deliberately fostered in Canada’s political, social and education system in order to continue to oppress and assimilate us. Oh sorry, you didn’t know that? Well I just told you. Your ignorance of these facts is meaningless. That you ‘didn’t mean it in a bad way’ is meaningless. Your actions, however, are anything but meaningless.
Just my two pîwâpiskosak. It’s not like I think people will stop doing it.
Another place to read more thoughts on the subject is the Native Appropriations Blog.
A friend linked to this blog post on Facebook, and the typical conversation started up once more about how people should ‘lighten up’ and ‘not choose to be offended’ and how it’s not racist to dress up in a caricature of someone from another culture, it actually honours that culture and some people from that culture thought it was soooo cute, blah blah blah…
My youngest daughter came home from school yesterday and told me that a girl in her group was “dressed like an Indian”. The girl kept ‘war whooping’ in my daughter’s face, and my daughter said she was too scared to ask her to stop. (This is not the only day of the year, by the way, that other kids think it’s hilarious to war whoop and make tomahawking motions around my daughters and other native children. Just like it’s not just on Halloween that some children pull at the skin around their eyes and adopt a ridiculous accent in front of the Chinese and Japanese students.)
Someone needs to tell this other little girl that what she was doing, was not okay and why, but should it have to be my seven-year old daughter? I doubt the girl’s parents can be relied upon to understand the issue and say anything to her, given that they allowed her to wear the costume in the first place. It certainly won’t be any of the privileged people all over the country who angrily defend their ‘right’ to wear racist outfits while blaming those of us who are directly impacted of actually causing racism by bringing it up.
But hey, it’s all in fun and after all, my daughter just needs to learn how to not get offended, problem solved, right?